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    Rao, Vijay Raghav (3 November 1925 – Present)

    Composer, flautist and instructor from Madras, India, who began playing the bansuri, a bamboo flute, as a child, and grew up playing South Indian and classical dance music. 


    In 1945, he began studying with Ravi Shankar, and started concentrating on Hindustani Sangeet, or North Indian classical music.  Two years later, he had the rare honor of conducting India’s national anthem for their independence celebration in Delhi. 


    In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, he was heavily involved in film music.  He was the composer and musical director for the film India ’67 and did the sound for Pramod Parti’s Abid, a film about artist Abid Surti, who essentially turned the inside of his house into a painting.  Vijay would be equally active in the recording studio, turning out Pentatonic Melodies on the Flute in 1968.  A year later, he returned to the movie studio, scoring and directing the music for the film, Bhuvan Shome.  He was also active with the Music of North India Series, serving as the music director for the Indian government’s film office until 1980. 


    He provided music for a spate of films in the early ‘70s, including Badnam Basti, Bansi Birju, and Ek Adhuri Kahani.  In 1975, he returned to familiar territory, writing music for a made-for-TV movie about another artist, Badri Narayan, entitled Call it a Day.  Vijay returned to the big screen for the scores of Oka Oori Katha and Anmol Tasveer, released in 1977 and 1978, respectively.  In 1979, he released Moods:  A Souvenir of Enchanting Musical Miscellany, served as a conductor on the Frank Sinatra boxed set, Trilogy, and did music for two more films, Meera and Cinema Cinema. 


    He was also the subject of an article in The Indian Literary Review by Sheela Barse, entitled “Vijay Raghav Rao:  A Man with a Green Thumb”. 


    From 17th-23rd February 1980, Vijay accompanied his longtime guru Ravi Shankar at Jazz Yatra, where the acclaimed sitar player unveiled his five-part suite “Jazzmine” which required the services of a jazz quartet and Indian Orchestra. 


    Vijay also appeared on a handful of live recordings that year:  One of them was simply titled Flute in Concert, and the other two were volumes one and two of Moon Rise, recorded live in concert in America, and featuring Vijay’s frequent partner-in-crime, the late tabla player, Alla Rakha. 


    Although he abandoned his post as music director for the India film office in 1980, he continued to work in film, providing music for the 1981 releases, Kafan and Umrao Jaan, and found time to release another solo album, Festival Time. 


    His most high-profile film work came in 1982, when he multi-tasked as Assistant Conductor and Music Coordinator, and performed on the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning Richard Attenborough film, Gandhi.  (Vijay had actually performed for Gandhi at least once.) 


    He ended the decade with another solo effort, Destiny:  A Symphonic Fable.  In 1992, he returned to television as the conductor on Sinatra:  Soundtrack to the CBS Mini-Series.  


    One of his earliest recordings was released at long last in 1993, a collaboration with the aforementioned All Rakha, entitled Ravi Shankar Presents Flute and Sitar Music of India.  The album comprises only four tracks, including the ambitious, thirty-four minute “Raga MalkaunsAlap and Gat in Jhaptal”, which is intended to summon up friendly spirits.  No word on whether 1999’s Ravi Shankar Presents Native Flute Music of India is meant to have the same effect. 


    In any case, Vijay played for a live audience on 20th March of that year in a program with tabla player Shri Shyam Kane for the Indian Classical Music Society of Greater Atlanta.  In 2002, he changed partners in a performance with tabla player and fellow Pandit, Anindo Chatterji, at Rockville, Maryland’s Montgomery College Center for the Performing Arts.  (Vijay makes his U.S. home in nearby Springfield, Virginia.) 


    In March of 2005, Vijay helped honour the Hyderabad Film Club as part of its 30-year anniversary in a discussion of documentary film music at the Hyderabadi Documentary and Short Film Festival.  Moods:  A Souvenir of Enchanting Indian Melodies was released the following year.  Around this time, Vijay was on the faculty of the India Cultural Center, where he taught a seminar on music appreciation.  In 2007, while apparently splitting his time between India and the States, he released yet another solo album, Imagination. 


    Other albums on which he appears include Authentic Flute Music of India, Celestial Evenings, Creative Music for Divya Sankeertan, Eternal Melodies, The Fantasy of Indian Drums, Greeting of the Dawn, Masters of the Reed, Myriad Melodies, Quintessential (his paean to Ravi Shankar), Raag Abhogi, Raag Amritvarshini, Raag Charukeshi, Seasons, Song of Nature:  Twilight Tunes, Spirit of India:  Flute & Tabla, Spirit of the Flute, Starlit Nights, Timeless, and Wings Over India.  Raag Charukeshi is named after one of the thousands of raags, or ragas, which Vijay has penned. 


    He has also written music for and choreographed ballet, and written essays, poetry and short stories in multiple languages.  He very much believes that music is the universal language, and has become one of the foremost ambassadors of Indian music in the West.



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