Sheik Chinna Moulana’s recitals immortalised in digital format

An old record of Sheik Chinna Moulana’s nadaswaram recital from his son Subhan Kasim’s collection.  

Nadaswaram exponent Subhan Kasim has put the long spells of isolation caused by the lockdown this past year to good use by cataloguing at least 250 hours of music recitals by his grandfather and guru Sheik Chinna Moulana in a digital audio format along with a collection of video performances.

The archive is being maintained at ‘Alapana’, the 1950s-era house in Srirangam that was formerly Sheik Chinna Moulana’s residence and is now Mr. Kasim’s home.

“From the age of 14, I was interested in collecting music discs as a hobby. This shifted to cassette tapes and CDs. I still remember the gramophone which we had to crank up manually to play three-minute recordings in those days,” Mr. Kasim told The Hindu.

The archive is a good example of the advancements in sound recording technology, added Mr. Kasim. “At first we had releases from Columbia Records, [established in 1889], where the discs played only for three minutes. When HMV took over, LP discs introduced in the late 1950s, which allowed for up to 18 minutes of recording per side, made it easier to accommodate lengthier recitals,” he said.

Though he had meticulously preserved much of his grandfather’s work in various formats from an early age, Mr. Kasim opted to digitise the invaluable collection only recently, when some of the tapes started deteriorating. “Though I had the records from HMV and Columbia, the machines to play them were out of production. So I used digital technology to convert everything from wax records to spool tapes, cassettes and CDs into digitised copies, which I have saved in .mp3 and .wav formats.”

In addition to several complimentary discs given by recording companies, Mr. Kasim completed his collection of his grandfather’s work with the help of V.V. Sundaram, a key organiser of the annual Thiyagaraja aradhana (homage concert) in Cleveland, Ohio, and V. K. Viswanathan, a NASA scientist and ardent fan of Sheik Chinna Moulana.

Among the most significant recordings in the archive is that of a live concert in Chennai in the 1950s, whose broadcast by All India Radio had to be extended beyond its allotted two-hour slot to over three hours on popular demand.

The collection also includes the album of Sheik Chinna Moulana’s recital at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Culture) in Berlin released by German authorities as part of ‘Festival of India’ in 1991.

Mr. Kasim says the digital archive will be useful for aspiring artistes. “I am quite willing to guide serious students of nadaswaram, and share copies of the recordings with them. As per our grandfather’s guidance, the research and education will be free of cost.”

Mr. Kasim collaborates professionally with his younger brother Subhan Babu. Dr. Chinnamoulana Memorial Trust run by them has been encouraging the growth of traditional nadhaswaram music and supporting aging artistes since 1999. Both brothers are special nadaswaram artistes of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams.

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 11:49:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/sheik-chinna-moulanas-recitals-immortalised-in-digital-format/article34536673.ece

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