Music to him was tapas


Music to him was tapas

DEEPAVALI IN the year 1893 saw the entry into this world of Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu, who went on to be an inspiration to many aspiring musicians and who earned the respect of the cognoscenti. Born in November, in Bangalore, Dwaram was raised in Vishakapatnam. He was appointed Professor of violin in the Maharaja's Music College in Vijayanagaram, at the young age of 26, and became its principal in 1936.

Dwaram came from a family of music lovers and his brother Venkata Krishnaiah was a violinist. At a very young age Dwaram began to learn music from his brother. Born in a family where both his father and grandfather were commissioned officers in the Army, discipline came easily to Dwaram. He used to practise for hours at a stretch. This kind of rigorous practice combined with his genius soon made him one of the most sought after accompanists of the time.

In 1927 several cutcheris were held in Madras to coincide with the Congress session. These cutcheris took place where the Egmore T.B. Hospital is now situated. It was at one of these cutcheris that Dwaram was introduced to the Madras audience and he captured their hearts with his music.

Dwaram accompanied almost all the stalwarts of the time. But he was not content to be merely an accompanist, and became a soloist. After all no less a person than C.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, musicologist, had observed in one of his articles that Naidugaru "was too high to be an accompanist".

Naidu's taste in music was eclectic. He listened to Western and Hindustani music and even gave Hindustani touches to ragas like Subhapantuvarali, Kapi and Hindolam without compromising on the beauty of either style of music. Critic N.S. Ramachandran observed that he built a "bridge of intoxicating hues" between Hindustani and Carnatic music. Yehudi Menuhin was greatly impressed when he heard Dwaram play at Justice P.V. Rajamannar's house. He had an excellent collection of books on western music, and would often play compositions of Mendelsohn, Bach and others for his friends. He wrote several interesting articles on music for example, an essay on the "Peculiar characteristics of the tambura" and another entitled "Some more gamakams."

In September 1952, he played at the National Physical Laboratory auditorium, in New Delhi, to raise funds for the Blind Relief Association. The concert in which he played some of his favourites such as "Telisirama", "Dhunmargachara", "Evarimata", "Raghuvamsa Sudha" and "Nidhichala Sukhama" was relayed by AIR. In 1949, one of his admirers, R. B. Ramakrishna Raju, organised a `Sammana Mahotsavam' at which a sum of Rs. 35,000 was presented to Dwaram. Justice P. V. Rajamannar was the president of the Sammana Sangam. The Maharaja of Bhavanagar, who was the Governor of Madras, presided over the function. It was shortly after this that Dwaram bought a house in Bandala Venugopala Street in Triplicane, and moved to Madras.

In 1962 when Dwaram turned 70, a purse was presented to him by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the President of India, on behalf of the Dwaram Reception Committee. Because of the war with China, all official functions had been cancelled, but the President made an exception in the case of Dwaram, who gave a solo recital on the Constitution Club Lawns.

The awards and titles that Dwaram won were legion — Gandharva Vidya Bhushanam, Ganakala Visaradha, Sangita Kalanidhi, Sangeeta Ratnakara, Kala Prapurna — the list goes on. But the awards never turned his head. He never capitalised on his stature in the music world to seek favours for his children. Once when this writer's father was at Dwaram's house, a sabha secretary came to Dwaram suggesting that his daughter Mangathayaru accompany DKP at a concert in his sabha. Dwaram turned down the offer saying that Mangathayaru needed more practice before she could accompany a vidhwamsini of DKP's calibre. When this writer's father pointed out that Mangathayaru had accompanied him several times and had acquitted herself creditably he said, "Pichi Acharigaru. DKP is such a great musician. It will be some years before my daughter can accompany her." It was only after much persuasion that he finally agreed to allow Mangathayaru to play, and of course she played brilliantly.

Dwaram's loyalty and affection to his friends was legendary. In 1929, Malaikottai Govindaswamy Pillai recommended Dwaram for the post of professor of Music in Annamalai University. A very good salary was offered. But Dwaram was unswerving in his loyalty to the Raja of Vijayanagaram, who had been his patron for so long, and refused the offer.

Dwaram had several disciples apart from his daughter Mangathayaru and his son Satyanarayana. His disciple Maralla Kesava Rao played so well that no less a person than Musiri remarked that he was astounded by his playing. His other disciples were Narasinga Rao and Narendra Achari. Playback singers Ghantasala and P. Susheela were his students at the Maharaja's College. Chithoor V. Nagiah was a great admirer of Dwaram. Even a carping critic would have been unable to fault his bowing and fingering techniques. Never did an unpleasant note emanate from his violin, and yet it was not a Stradivarius that he owned. Put the cheapest of violins in his hands and he would still produce the same dulcet tones from it.

To hear Dwaram play is to feel as if one is in Elysium, so that one is tempted to observe, "music of this kind is not of this world." One critic wrote of Dwaram that he seemed to "commune with the Gods." Dwaram transmuted his music into a spiritual quest. In fact he often used to say, "Music is an audible tapas." His music was ethereal. What Wordsworth said was a litmus test for good poetry is equally a test for good music. Good music too like good poetry must be able to "console the afflicted; to add sunshine to daylight by making the happy happier." Dwaram's music would pass such a test with honours. He casts a spell over the listeners. So long as mankind thrills to the sound of melody, so long shall Dwaram's music endure.