Chowdiah was equally skilled in solo performances and accompaniment, while his mastery over the phono-violin was appreciated even by his critics, wrote V. S. Namboothiripad, Kerala’s first music critic, in 1954.
T. Chowdiah, one of the outstanding violinists of the country both as an accompanist and a solo performer, hails from Mysore. His role as a violinist is widely appreciated by one and all and he has been one of the distinguished Asthana Vidwans of Mysore for many years.
Bidaram Krishnappa, who flourished as an exponent of vocal music in the first quarter of this century, was often accompanied by Chowdiah in his performances and this association served good for the latter in many ways; and paved his way to fame.
The violin with seven strings
The violin which Chowdiah handles is technically different from the ordinary one; it is known as a phono-violin. It has seven strings while the ordinary one has only four. The main advantages of the phono-violin are that it can produce a more voluminous sound, with more easiness in the higher pitches — in Thara Sthayi — than the ordinary violin. This kind of violin was first introduced in Carnatic music by Chowdiah himself.
One of the specialities attributed to Chowdiah is the handling of this violin to the satisfaction of a vast multitude. But due to the scratching noise, a less beautiful sound than the original violin, and a lack of deep coincidence with sruthi, there is a group of music-loving public who do not appreciate his playing on this violin. But his mastery over the violin is appreciated even by them.
The special characteristic of Chowdiah, which distinguished him from all other accompanists, is nothing other than his close following in vocal performances in the very same style, or bani as it is called, of the vocalist. His individual attractive style can be seen only in his solo performances. Violinists like him who are gifted with equal skill over accompaniment as well as solo are rarely seen in the South. Chowdiah made his appearance on screen in a film named Vani in Kannada which was not a success.
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