The Fiji Times » For the love of music – Drumming to pay the bills

Samresh Rao never thought music would ever pay its bills. But thanks to his dedication, he was able to show his friends and budding musicians that music can be a source of income.

All it takes is passion and drive.

“Those who want to pursue this profession, it will surely pay off provided you are ready to give your all,” he said.

Born and raised in Suva, Rao is the youngest of three siblings. “Having a passion is not enough, you also have to be patient, persistent and persistent to get to your destination.”

Mr Rao said that at an early age he started taking Sunday Educare classes called “bal vikas”.

“My interest in musical instruments prompted my parents to enroll me at the Multicultural Center in Suva where I started to learn the tabla.”

He said that at age 10 he performed devotional songs at religious events. Rao attributed his growth as a musician to his guru Viveka Nand. “Everything I have learned about music and teaching is due to his guidance.

“The artist in me grew over the years and I was involved in various musical groups during my university studies.”

At 21, Rao formed his own band “Jhankaar”, performing Bollywood covers at local weddings and parties.

“In 2012, I received a scholarship from the Indian government to study music.

“India was also exciting and challenging. I started loving my stay when I got involved with local groups in Kolkata State namely Naad, Rishob, Wrong Tuli and Swar Dhaaraa.

Rao said his involvement in the local bands had been recognized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) West Bengal with a certificate of proficiency as a percussionist.

“My goal is to one day transform my school from Jhankaar Academy of Music into a university, where we can have all forms of music and performing arts with qualified teachers improving the level of performing arts and artists in the country.”

He said that when he quit his job as a sales manager to become a professional artist, there was a lot of backlash from friends and relatives. However, they now knew how he survived in this profession and the support he received. Rao said that in Fiji, creating interest in Indian classical music had been a major challenge.

“Upon my return to Fiji in 2015, I was employed by three different cultural centers and also revived my band ‘Jhankaar’ with some old members and some new young musicians.

“After COVID-19, I decided to start my own music school at Votualevu College in Nadi and within a week we had over 50 students enrolled in tabla, harmonium and keyboard classes.”

Rao said his job required him to travel from Suva to the Western Division every week.

“A lot of people ask me how I manage to do all this and I tell them that if your job is your passion, you will go all the way whether it’s in the office or on stage.”

He said that when his live performances coincided with family events and holidays, he would sacrifice all of his personal commitments “just to be on stage”.

Rao also graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Instrumental Music (with Distinction in Percussion) from Rabindra Bharti University in India. He lives in Suva with his family.

Corina C. Butler