“Musicians who have a good hold on the raga and rhythm and perform well in concerts are similar to celebrities today,” opine many musicians in the city. But here is a flutist, B M Sundar Rao who regrets taking up music as a profession as he is unable to support his family financially.
This 75-year-old artiste, who is a disciple of flute maestro of 1930s, T R Mahalingam, has also won the Karnataka Kalashri award in 2001 but is now struggling to raise funds for his son who is afflicted with cardiac problems. Sundar Rao is today leading his livelihood on `1000 received as honorarium from the State Government of Karnataka and also by giving concerts. The flutist earlier received `2,000 from Union Government which was later stopped. “I have written letters to the Ministry of Culture but in vain.” Now he is conducting classes in different parts of the city and receiving up to `6,000 per month including the honorarium from the State Government.
He also conducts a workshop on a piece of land donated by his brother in 1971. Earlier known as Ramakrishna Bhajana Mandali for conducting Bhajans, it was later renamed as T R Mahalingam Memorial School of Music in 1986. “Many institutions and organisations donated money when T R Mahalingam was alive. After his death, funds gradually reduced. I conduct a 3-month workshop yearly here. For this academic year, I have started the workshop recently.”
This artiste still has the verve to perform on-stage and spread knowledge among music connoisseurs in the country. “This is the only means to raise funds to cure my son,” said the artiste. Sunder Rao has not only given concerts across the country, but also worldwide including Dubai, France, Geneva, Netherlands, UK and other countries. This artiste also claims to have performed alongside Bhansuri ace Hariprasad Chaurasia in Paris in 1964 and the greatest Mridangam artiste of all time, Phalgat Mani Iyer in 1968. He has also accompanied T R Mahalingam in many concerts. This multi-faceted artiste who is also a singer and violinist and has imparted music education to over 4,000 students worldwide. Today, he is training over 80 students in the city free of cost. The artiste also regrets that most students are losing passion over the art. Speaking about the same, he said, “Many students after learning the basics, claim to have mastered the flute. Today, a good rapport between the teacher and student is absent, unlike the earlier days.”
He added, “Today, with the development in science and technology, classes on messengers are on rise, but that does not serve the purpose. Many of my students overseas record music and acquire information through this method.” While speaking about fusion music concerts, Sundar said that he would not like to perform in the fusion music concerts as the emotions of the compositions are not rightly conveyed in the performances.
Besides being a flutist, he also manufactures flutes which are in accordance with the symmetry in sound.
He procures bamboo from Tamil Nadu and Kerala by spending money from his pocket and distributes the instruments free of cost to his students as he firmly believes in the motto
‘art for art sake.’
“In rare occasions, some students have paid money as a token of appreciation. But I do not accept money as I believe music is divine and not meant for commercial
purpose,” he added.
When asked about his collaboration with other musicians in the industry, he explained, “There is no mutual understanding between the musicians. Another major dispute in the industry is that of caste discrimination.” Regretting over the State Government’s negligence and apathy towards the art, he added, “Earlier, I had applied for Karnataka Rajyotsva Award, but the Government failed to take notice.”