Thanam-Kalyani by Professor Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu
Back to India so soon? Yes, I’ve focused on the music of India several times over the past 17 months on Excavated Shellac, but haven’t until now posted an example of a Indian soloist in the South Indian, Carnatic classical tradition.
The partially blind violinist Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu was born in 1893 in Bangalore, and rose to fame as a professor of music at the Maharajah’s College in Vizianagaram, the first college in India established to promote music. In 1936, he had become the principal of the school and by 1938 was giving solo, improvisatory concerts. He died in 1964.
Naidu’s technique is renowned. Much has been written about him and how he fits into the history of Carnatic music, but certain words crop up often when discussing his technique: “simple,” “deceptively simple” and even “minimal.” He was known to be a listener of Western and Hindustani music, and would imbue his solos with occasional flourishes from outside influences – without disturbing his own music’s tradition. This was one of the very first Indian records I’ve ever owned, found in a heap at the bottom of an apartment complex I lived in around 1993, in New York City. While I am by no means an expert, this record made me appreciate Carnatic soloing, and Indian classical music in general.
This piece is a “thanam” (or taanam), an improvisatory section of the Kalyani raga. I believe it was recorded sometime in the 1940s or so. There is a subtle, uncredited accompanist on the veena.
News: by the end of the month, I will be adding catalog and matrix numbers (the numbers/letters that are stamped or etched into the “dead wax”) for each record, at the end of each post (including old posts). While this is of zero interest to most people and can be ignored, these numbers can be very helpful to pinpoint dates and recording locations by historians and collectors, and can help flesh out some of the info on Excavated Shellac.
And next week, we will return to Africa with a beautiful piece of music. It will be a limited download, so get ready…all will be revealed…
Issue Number: N.8970
Matrix Number: OMC. 11839-1