Mysore T. Chowdiah – (1895-1967) “It is a feature of a violinist’s career to burst abruptly into view”, Menuhin has said. This is very true of ace violinist, Shri T.Chowdiah. His studies were stopped in boyhood to enable him to concentrate on music, in which his mother imparted early lessons. His uncle then took him to learn music under the veteran musician, Sri Bidaram Krishnappa of Mysore. Their association lasted fro about 20 years, during which Chowdiah progressed from discipleship to accompanist. Sri Chowdiah was a very painstaking sishya and mastered on the violin, ragas, kritis, swaras, etc. When he made mistakes, his guru used to chastise him & all this rigorous training enabled Chowdiah to become a mature and full-fledged violinist.
In the second and third decades of this century, Chowdiah came to notice the lowering of Adhara Shruti by vocalists. Amplification was not known then. The accompanist was therefore at a disadvantage, as his violin sound did not carry well and far enough to the audience. This set Chowdiah’s active mind working on a method of rectifying the handicap. With the aid of a craftsman, he was able to fashion a seven-stringed violin, the sounds from which were agreeable and voluminous. Mysore Asthana vidwan Seshanna is reported to have been greatly impressed by it. Handling such a complex stringed instrument, however, needed skill to tailor it to Carnatic music. Chowdiah showed the way, which was later followed by his disciples C.R.Mani, the late Sethuramaiah and others.
Chowdiah was a powerful and popular violinist for many decades. He was called upon to accompany veterans like Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Alathur Brothers, G.N.B, Musiri Subramania Iyer, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and Madurai Mani Iyer. Percussionists like Dakshinamoorthy, Palghat Mani Iyer, Palani Subramanya Pillai were fellow-accompanists to him in dozens of concerts. Sri Chowdiah became Mysore Asthana Vidwan in 1939. The Music Academy, Chennai conferred the title of ‘Sangitha Kalanidhi’ in 1957 on him. He was also known to give solo violin concerts along with Gururajappa, C.R.Mani, Mysore Doraiswamy Iyengar, etc. His wide ranging accomplishments included his own inspired compositions like kritis, thillanas, etc.
His honors and titles include Asthana Vidwan in Mysore Court in 1939 , ‘Sangita Ratna’ by the Maharaja of Mysore in 1940, Presidential Award in 1956. He was nominated to the Mysore Legislative Council in 1957-58 and was titled ‘Sangita Kalanidhi’ by the Music Academy, Chennai on January 1, on his birthday in 1958. The title of ‘Gana Kala Sindhu’ was conferred upon him as well as the title ‘Sangita Ratnakara’ by Sri Sankaracharya of Sringeri Math in 1960.
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