Pandit Taranath Rao
Pt. Taranathji was born on March 6, 1915 in Mangalore into a musical family. As a child, he studied Mridangam, Pakhawaj and Tabla from his illustrious father, late H. Rama Rao. In 1932, he migrated to Mumbai, to study Arts and Painting in the J.J.School of Arts. His attraction towards Tabla made him a disciple of Tabla maestros like, late Subrayamama Ankolekar, late Bhaskar Khaprumama Parvatkar and late Ustad Shamsuddin Khansaheb. Taranathji earned the peak of perfection in his scholarship and wizardry and earned many encomiums from a galaxy of prominent personalities.
The Title 'Vadan Kushal' was bestowed by the Maharaja of Mysore at a ceremony hosted by him to honor Panditji. Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Sringeri Peeth bestowed the honorific 'Vadan Kaustubh'. He was also similarly honored by the Maharajas of Kolhapur, Baroda and Sawantwadi then.
Top musical institutions vied with one another to avail of Taranathji's erudition and expertise, prominent among then, Bhatkande University, Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaikwad University of Baroda, Swami Vallabh Sangeetalaya and Kala Academy Goa to cite a few. Musical giants such as Ustad Allaudin Khan of Maihar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Pt. Pannalal Ghosh, Pt. Omkarnath Thakur, Dagar Brothers, Ustad Faiyaz Khan, Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan just to name a few solicited not only his accompaniment skills but also his erudite scholarship.
Pt. Ravi Shankar took him to the United States to teach Tabla and Pakhawaj at his 'Kinnara School of Music'. His last twelve years (1978-1990) were spent teaching Tabla, Pakhawaj and other ethnic drums at the California Institute of the Arts, in Los Angeles, USA. During this time, Panditji trained innumerable American students, who, today remember his warmth, generosity, sense of humor and above all the affection with which he and his wife taught them, fed and made them part of their family.
In addition to his mastery in the field of percussion, Taranathji was a man of diverse talents . He was a naturally gifted artist and painter. His quest for knowledge brought him to Mumbai where he pursued a diploma in Arts and Painting at the prestigious J J School of Arts, Mumbai. He was also an expert in carpentry and would design wooden carvings and art pieces as a hobby. He would create personalized carvings as gifts to be presented to his near ones and friends. He was also good at embroidery and needle work. He would stitch intricately designed tabla rings which would be sought after by his fellow Gurubhais and other tabla artists, Taranathji was not a trained engineer or electrician – but he had a knack of repairing gadgets like gramophones, irons, cassette players, radios and music speakers. In fact, his building neighbors would rush to him to get their irreparable gadgets in working shape – all this after losing hope from the manufacturers themselves!
In addition to this, he was an expert chef in almost all kinds of cuisines – be it Indian, Chinese or Continental. He had this innate ability to identify the ingredients of any dish he would have had eaten – and he could replicate that dish at home with little effort.
No wonder then that his home would always be full of guests enjoying his music, food and his company.
Taranathji was the Uncle (Mama) to twin brothers Ravi and Shashi Bellare whom he taught from a very young age. Raviji being right-handed was taught with tabla on the right and Shashiji being left-handed was taught with the tabla on the left. Taranathji's love and knowledge was poured upon the twins, from which their talents emerged.