Vidya Rao is one of the leading performers of the delicate style of thumri-dadra singing.

For many years the closest disciple of the legendary singer, the late Smt Naina Devi, she has continued her study of this form under the renowned Smt Girija Devi and Smt Shanti Hiranand. Her training has therefore helped her imbibe the traditional gayaki of both Banaras and Lucknow styles. Her initial training in khayal was under the late Prof. B.N. Datta and thereafter under Pandit Mani Prasad of the Kirana gharana.

Specialising in thumri-dadra  and the allied folk derived forms such as chaiti. hori, kajri etc, Vidya  also sings ghazal in the traditional thumri-ang style, as well as the devotional poetry of the medieval bhakti and sufi mystic poet-saints. Her repertoire includes Sanskrit verses from the Hindu and Buddhist texts, as well as the Islamic elegiac forms of soz and marsiya and praise-forms like naat etc.

Vidya Rao has performed at national and international forums to appreciative audiences. She has composed and sung for the theatre, for film and for dance. She has been associated, as a foumder-member, with the Delhi-based theatre group Vivadi, and has researched and designed the music, composed, sung and acted in several of their productions. She has collaborated with other artists (dancers, writers, painters, musicians from different traditions, theatre and film) to create innovative and experimental works. She has conducted lecture- demonstrations and workshops in music with schools and colleges and also for young professionals.

The recipient of Fellowships for the intensive study of thumri from the Ford Foundation, and the Indian Government’s Department of Culture, Vidya Rao has researched and written extensively on music and the performing arts,  has published in several academic journals and books, and has presented papers on music and the performing arts at various seminars and conferences.

Vidya Rao has been Visiting Professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. She is Visiting Faculty and Advisor at the Deer Park Institute, Bir (Himachal Pradesh), and at the Bija Vidyapeeth, Dehradun. She is associated with the Advisory Board of the Adivasi Academy, Tejgadh (Gujarat), and Matrika, New Delhi, and is Consulting Editor with Orient Blackswan Publishers, New Delhi.

Vidya Rao is currently Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, in Nantes, France from October 2012- June 2013.
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