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A titan among violin wizards

Violin, an alien instrument, crept into Carnatic music in the middle of the 17th century, thanks to the band music brought in by the Westerners. While Vadivelu made a successful attempt at playing the compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar on it, Balu (1786-1859), the brother of the Vaaggeyakara, carved a niche for it in the Southern musical tradition.

The last quarter of the 19th century witnessed the emergence of violin solos of Carnatic music. Tirukodikaval Krishna Iyer and Govindaswami Pillai in particular were the two specialists hallowed in the arena.

Till the advent of Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu on the scene in the early part of the last century, nobody could ever imagine that the exposition of Carnatic music emanating amalgamated with the intrinsic niceties of the timbre of the violin by exploiting the technique of playing on the instrument to the hilt, could be as affulgent as that on the veena, the flute or the nadaswaram.

Venkataswamy was identified with the violin so much even as a boy of 14 that Marepalli Ramachandra Rao, an eminent critic, after being carried away listening to him, not only gifted a diamond ring but also christened him 'Fiddle Naidu'---violin was also called fiddle, a derivative of fidula in German)---which became a household name in Andhra.

Endowed with a profound scholarship in the science of both Indian and Western styles, he made the violin a springboard of an arduous and ardent effort at evolving a synthesis of the well evolved techniques of bowing and fingering. His manodharma and even the choice of the composition, its placement and rendering reflected a picturesque entirety accomplished in a painting by Ravi Varma.

It was radiant poetry, acclaimed many connoisseurs and stalwart musicians like T.L. Venkatarama Iyer, T.V. Subba Rao, P. Sambamurthy, Ariyakudi, Tirukodikaval and Semmangudi. No wonder, almost all the great poets, Challapille, Viswanatha, Balantrapu, Jashua and Seshendra instinctively penned down poems on his music. He commanded high esteem from the renowned cognoscentii.

World's top rank violinist Yehudi Menuhin who initially was reluctant even to show his instrument to Naidu, after listening to his music, turned very happy and invited Dwaram to play on it. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, who thought he could listen to Naidu only for a few minutes due to busy schedule, not only sat stunned unware of the time but also joyfully sang with the virtuoso.

Govindaswami Pillai, who could not keep his date with the Kakinada Saraswathi Gana Sabha, suggested to engage Naidu, who was quite young then. Similarly the selection by a person of the stature of Adibhatla, the principal, to appoint Naidu as a professor in violin in the Vizianagaram Music College, after listening to his violin music, when in fact he had played on the instrument only to fulfil the formality of a test to secure has admission as a student. This happened in 1919 when Naidu was about 25. These and many such events, including his succession as principal of the college after Adibhatla retired in 1936, speak volumes of Dwaram's genius.

Winner of many a laurel, including the Sangita Kalanidhi of Madras Music Academy (1941), Kalaprapoorna of Andhra University (1950), Padma Sri (1959) and music laureateship of the AP Government, Dwaram was born on the Deepavali day in 1893 (November 8) in Bangalore as his father Vankata Rayudu was a commissioned officer in the Army there. Soon after retirement, Rayudu settled down in his native place, Kasimkota, near Anakapalle. Even as a child who was named after his grandfather Venkataswamy, Naidu's flair for the instrument got unfolded in his trials to play on his elder brother Venkata Krishnayya's violin. Krishnayya perforce had to put his younger brother onto the violin at the age of six because of Dwaram's impaired vision, a major hurdle to continue any more in the school. Later, he was put under the expert tutelage of Sangameswara Sastry.

The span of about 60 years of his active life till his end in November 1964 was a saga of evolvement of a refulgent trend of exposition of Carnatic music. It was an era of revelation of the ethereal beauty through the enigmatic phenomenon, Dwaram. His statue in the characteristic pose as a violinist adorns Beach Road.

A. RAMALINGA SASTRY

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