About the Maestro
Described in Indian mythology as the musical instrument of the gods, the Veena is one of the most ancient and divine instruments in Indian Classical music. When the strings of the Veena are played to a Karnatic classical verse or a Hindustani raga, the listener is taken into an endless journey of divine ecstasy that only music can offer.
Born in Cheepurupalli in Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Manchala Jagannadha Rao (1921-85) was a reknowned maestro of the Veena. When small-pox deprived him of his vision in one eye and seriously damaged the other at the tender age of five, Dr.M.J.R turned to classical music and devoted the rest of his life to mastering the Veena and entertaining audiences around the country.
Dr. Rao learnt the fundamentals of Veena from Sri. A. Narsimha Murty and advanced training from Sri and Smt. Padmanabha Iyer of Coimbatore. By mid life, Dr.M.J.Rao was almost totally blind and faced enormous physical challenges in his pursuit of music. Much credit for his success goes to his brother, Sri.V. Purushottam, who gave up his personal ambitions and career for Dr. Rao.
In the late 30’s, Dr. M.J.Rao joined All India Radio in Madras. Then began a long journey around the country and enthralled audiences through radio, then the primary medium for entertainment. Not content with his expertise in Karnatic music. Dr. Rao embarked upon a journey to master Hindustani classical during a stint as a producer in the Patna station in North India, thus becoming the first artist to play both Karnatic and Hindustani music on the Veena. To bring the same depth to his in Hindustani, Dr.Rao modified the Veena and created what is now popular as Saraswati Veena.
A major portion of Dr.Rao’s life was also devoted to scholarly works in music. Concerned about the loss of the works of ancient masters, Dr.Rao took on the challenge of documenting the works of such renowned musicians such as the Tyagaraja, Annamcharya, Kshetrayya, Bhadrachalam Ramadass, which he published in the 70’s and 80’s with notations. For his scholarly works, Dr.Rao received doctorates and numerous awards from Andhra University, Sri Venkateshwara University, Andhra Gana Kala Parishad and the little of Producer Emeritus from All India Radio.
Dr. Rao’s music is now in the archives of All India Radio and other private institutions. For decades the music was also saved in tapes and other formats by his daughter, Subbalakshmi and his nephews. Due to the relentless efforts of his second brother, Sri. Manchala Ramachandra rao, Dr. M.J.Rao’s music has now been recovered and restored in digital formats. The family will soon be making available all of Dr.M.J.Rao’s works to connoisseurs of India classical music.