Engineer who turned waiter to pursue music

Engineer who turned waiter to pursue music

Bapu Padmanabha, who eventually became a student of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia,recalls his remarkable journey

Bapu Padmanabha

In a story reminiscent of the Mahabharata, Bapu Padmanabha practised the flute for three years and in his heart regarded Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia as his guru.

But this Ekalavya actually got to learn from his Dronacharya. When Chaurasia saw Bapu perform, he saw in him an uncut diamond, and accepted him as his student.

In the final year of his engineering course, Bapu decided to move from Karnataka to Mumbai to be with his guru, and got a job as a waiter, with the perks being free boarding and lodging.

But when Chaurasia found out about the plan, he asked Bapu to complete his engineering and gave him a scholarship of Rs 1,000 (the Panna Devi music scholarship) to help him complete his studies. 

After specialising in tool and dye making, Bapu got a job with TACO in Pune. That allowed him to travel to Mumbai in the weekends to learn from his guru.

In 2006, the Ministry of External Affairs released 4 CDs under the title of ‘Music as Therapy.’ 

By 2007 Bapu was playing flute for background music for leading composers in south Indian films. But it was in 2017 that he received two national awards for composing music for songs and scoring the background for the Kannada film Allama, directed by T S Nagabharana, a pioneer of parallel cinema.

Bapu is working now on his own recordings, and says his primary aim is to promote Indian culture, meditation and healing music. “We care about physical hygiene which is important but we also need to care for our emotional hygiene,” he says.

He gives online courses and teaches flute to advanced students. 

It was about 20 years ago that Bapu started his journey with his legendary guru. He is continuing the legacy through his students.    

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