Professor Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu – Thanam-Kalyani

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.

Professor Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu – Thanam-Kalyani

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…

Technical Notes
Label: HMV
Issue Number: N.8970
Matrix Number: OMC. 11839-1

13 thoughts on “Professor Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu – Thanam-Kalyani

  1. Nice one Jon. I would vouch for it definitely being a vina by the sheer sound of it, not guitar. The only possible alternative, acoustic slide guitar, had not yet arrived in Indian classical music at that time, and I have yet to hear a Carnatic acoustic slide guitarist. What perhaps misleads is the fact that raga Kalyani uses the same tonal material as the Western major scale, and the vina plays what we might hear as occasional ‘broken chords’ (ie the notes of a major triad.

  2. Interestingly, Side 1 isn’t part of the “Thanam” so it seemed to me that the “Part 2” on the label was erroneous. Plus, it was more interesting to my ears…

  3. Thanks

    Beautiful and nice way to reach out to netizens.

    It is definately veena but sounds like sarod too. It is some kind of instrumental duet [with violin in prominence] and not just an veena / sarod accompaniment.

    – Dr. Suresh Chandvankar
    Hon. Secretary,
    ‘Society of Indian Record (gramophone)Collectors’
    Mumbai, India

  4. JW,
    Great Site! It took me a while to finally get here, but I’m glad I did. I had a good time catching up. Keep up the good work. Mark

  5. Hey Mark! Thanks for coming by! Great to hear from you – and great to catch up on a nice evening in the place I still call home…

  6. Hello Jonathon,

    Let me tell you that this recording originally issued in the 1930s as a 78 rpm one was later transferred to microgroove considering the popularity and HMV issues CDs even today based on the microgroove. The quality there is better I thought (all the transfers which happened by the 1960s were good). The site has the LP version. The original recording was raagam-taanam-pallavi combination and it is true that the taanam part is the best. You should also keep his raghuvamsasudhambudhicandra in the Raaga kathanakutuhalam. It is another masterpiece. No other performance ever come close to these.

  7. hello folks, i recently posted prof. naidu’s entire ‘microgroove’ lp reissue, including this recording on me fledgling bloggy endeavor hear

    download it in the comments. on this one i highly encourage everyone to come over to the piratical darkside & have a listen to these sublime sounds. jw thy new lp is the bees knees brother sir, what a creeper. it’s like a fine wine, it only gets better w/ age. a landmark release, which i believe i can declare w/ some authority. owl the best

  8. Thanks a lot for this record.I do have the cassette tape with his other items and while looking to digitize i found this which is of good quality.Another interesting fact about him is his plays of folklore songs and pleasing common man too.Unfortunately recordings not there.I could collect two cassette tapes one from All India Radio and another from RPG (HMV)

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