Friday Review » Music

Updated: May 15, 2013 18:22 IST

The sound of history

Harshini Vakkalanka
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Have you heard? The voice of the greats?
Have you heard? The voice of the greats?

Voices of India brings together sounds and music from the country’s gramophone era

“My name is Gauhar Jaan!” cries Gauhar Jaan, at the end of her recording, a rendition of a dadra, “Aan Baan Jiya Mein Laagi” in Raag Gaara. Her recording, which lasts for about three minutes, is reportedly one among the earliest recordings made in India, so says her biography displayed in the ‘Voices of India’ exhibition at the Alliance Francaise.

Gauhaar Jaan’s voice is one among the voices at this audio exhibition of vintage recordings (in the gramophone era) put together by the Archive of Indian Music (AIM) founded by author Vikram Sampath.

The exhibition features voices from across many categories of Hindustani, Carnatic, folk, theatre, early cinema, devotional and patriotic music of the era and voices of great leaders. Among others, it brings to the fore the voices of people like Narayanrao Vyas, Gangubai Hangal, Veena Dhanammal, G.N. Balasubramaniam, Sachin Dev Burman, Alfred Natak Company, Shining Stars Society, Anil Biswas and Pannalal Ghosh, Vishvabharati Music Board, Kaloo Qawwal, Gandhiji, Tagore, and Sohrabji Dhondee.

“Our choice was eclectic; we wanted to represent as many categories as possible, of languages, regions, time periods, genders or instruments, so we have everything from Chattisgarhi and Bengali folk to Tamil, Marathi and Kannada theatre. There’s a little bit of everything accompanied by interesting cutouts with biographies of these personalities,” says Vikram.

The AIM, he adds, has already over 10,000 old records in possession, collected while they were simply gathering dust in “chor bazaars and raddi wallahs” scattered all over the country.

These have then been digitized, catalogued and selected to appear on their website

“Along with restoration, preservation, and digitisation of old records, I believe that dissemination is also important. In today’s age of technology when everything is accessible online, why should vintage music be out of reach for anyone?” asks Vikram.

He feels that this may be a first of its kind initiative in India to create a digital archive of sounds and the AIM hopes to collect over one lakh records in the next five years. “There are so many unsung artistes, who are unheard of. The idea is also to bring these recordings to public memory, especially to youngsters because this is also a way of looking at Indian history through sound.”

‘Voices of India’ can be accessed in a moile application called Twaang, available for free download .The exhibition will be on view until May 17 at the Alliance Francaise, Thimmaiah Road, Vasanth Nagar. For details, contact 40808181.

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