Pandit Taranath Rama Rao – my tabla guru

After hearing one LP where Chatur Lal played with Ravi Shankar I hitch-hiked to India in 1965 to learn tabla. I could not find him when I arrived in Bombay but at All India Radio I met the eminent sitar and surbahar player Chandrashekar Naringrekar and told him that I wanted to learn tabla he said ”I know who you should see”, The next day he took me to meet Pandit Taranath in his small flat in Tardeo. The room was filled with small boys playing wonderful tabla and in the middle guruji sat at his harmonium playing lehara and singing compositions for the students to learn. So I stayed for four months spending all day in the circle of students.

I worked and saved money in Sweden and came back in 1967  in order to stay and learn in India forever. Unfortunately after some time Panditji was called for the first time to U.S. to teach so after some time I turned to the south to study mridangam from P.S. Devarajan.

Since I earned quite a lot of money in Sweden before my return I brought a Nagra and was able to do quite a few recordings in India, some of them have been released on my label Country & Eastern. The first one I did was a live duet with gurubhais the young star students Sadanand Naimpalli and Mohan Balvalli accompanied by guruji recorded at Trinity Club in front of a very enthusiastic audience. Plus one where Sadanand played a solo in tal Astha Mangal of eleven beats and some extremely interesting Trital with his harmonium. Check it out.

Today, on March 6 2017, his 102nd birthday I’d like to share a small message from him as he was leaving for the states for the first time in 1967. On the back of a photo I had taken of him he wrote some encouraging words like the true guru he was:

When I was back in Sweden in 1969 Guruji and my close friend Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar dropped by on their way back to India from the states. They did a concert and a TV production. I released the concert on Live in Stockholm 1969 and one digital album Tabla with them. Unfortunately the long Rudra Veena from the TV concert is lost but here is the pakhawaj solo:

Here are the few existing photos from the private Stockholm concert and the visit:

In 2015 Pandit Taranath would have turned 100. We, his students celebrated him in style with lots of concerts during the year. The Berger Knutsson Spering trio was able to take part during some of the concerts in Goa and Karnatica during October 2015. More about that in due time at the Gurubhandu page, but here is a photo of most of us

Pandit Taranath learned from many great tablaplayers but considered Ustad Samshuddin Khan (gurubhai of Thirkwa) his main guru. Panditji was a very great teacher and here you can hear him recite a tabla composition (0:46) while playing the lehra on harmonium. It is then played by his students Sadanand Naimpally and Mohan Balvalli. This is a short excerpt from the album Live at Trinity Club (CE01) from a concert in Bombay 1968.

Pandit Taranathji’s nephew, Pandit Ravi Bellare has been living and teaching in the Los Angeles area, but sadly he passed away on april 16th 2005. Here you can hear him recite and play the same composition that you heard Pandit Taranath recite above. There is some problem with the lehra when he goes into double speed, but it is anyway interesting to compare the different versions. He recites it very expressively at a slower speed and then playes it in two speeds. This one is from a private concert in Chembur, Bombay 1968. Find out more about Raviji at David’s pages. On Raviji’s second death anniversary Rupesh Kotecha started The Ravi Bellare Arts Foundation and put up a short clip with Ravibhai at YouTube 

Gurubhai Sadanand Naimpally told me that the composition is the Meghandbar Paran, ”The Thunder Paran” by the legendary Kudow Singh Maharaj. Here you can hear Sadanand play it from a concert in Goa 2000. Late gurubhai Maruti Kurdekar is playing the lehra.