[Reader-list] Independent Research Posting
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Sat Jul 17 17:07:17 IST 2004
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Digital Archiving Hindustani Classical Music for wider dissemination
Excerpts from an interview with one of the leading Hindustani Classical Music collectors/archivists in the country, Shri Suresh Chandvankar (SC), secretary of Society of Indian Record Collectors (SIRC).
Q : You are yourself one of the largest collectors of 78rpms in India, Do you think new technology can help archiving ?
SC :Yes, of course but with the compromise of the original sound that emanates from the grooves of the old gramophone records. In fact, ever increasing storage capacity will be a bliss for archiving.
Q : In the context of some horrendous fires in the recent past especially like the one at the Pune Film Institute and last month in London - Do suppose a different method of archiving maybe resisitent to freak accidents ? An archival system which is decentralised ?
SC :Accidents will occur due to man or machine or both. It is always necessary to take back up and keep updating the back ups. When multiple copies of a given archival material is available, it is best to have a copy at number of places, not only in India but also all over the world.
Q : I've heard that your father owned a 'kabadi' shop in Pune. Did this fact have some significant effect on your progress as a record collector ? (because there is a legendary french collector called Henri Langlois, who acknowledged his debt to the Paris flea market for inspiration and material)
SC :Yes, certainly. We had a waste paper shop in Pune. My parents were teachers in secondary school. We, all the family members used to work in our own shop during our spare time, on holidays and in vacations and we all brothers have followed 'Earn and Learn' since our school days. With the constant exposure to several books magazines and periodicals, we used to read much beyond our prescribed text books and on variety of subjects.
My father realized my liking to gramophones and records when I was very young [in 3rd or 4th class in primary school]. So, he encouraged me by buying gramophone for me. He used to buy old records for me @ 4 annas per Kg. in our shop. I have learnt much more from the grooves of these faithful gramophone records.
I used to visit flea markets in Pune, later in Bombay and other cities in India whenever I attended conferences. I have also visited flea markets in Italy, Russia, London and in Paris and have learnt immensely from the heaps of records and by talking and interacting with the record dealers and collectors at these places.
Q : You have a wide exposure to recorded classical music. Do you think there were artists who were not recorded in their prime and therefore have diminished in the critical esteem of the present generation ? There is a popular tendency to talk of old masters as Pt Ravi Shankar, Ustad Bismillah Khan, at most Bade Gulam Ali Khan Saheb. A host of important musicians active in the early part of 20th century seem to be missing from popular discourse. Most music history discources seem to start from Amir Khusrau and Tansen, suddenly ending up in the late 50s (sometimes namechecking Karim khan and Faiyaz khan) artists. One rarely hears anything in the mass media about people like Alladiya khan or even Alauddin khan saheb ?
SC :Tansen and Amir Khusrau did not enjoy recording facilities but their name is carried further by their disciples. Although Baba Allauddin khan did record, Alladiya Khan refused. Also Vishnu Digambar Paluskar and Bhaskar Bua Bakhale did not record and hence their music is not available. But these were great gurus and their disciples have recorded prolifically. It is also but natural that with time, these great names will become part of the history but will never be forgotten. Seceral music festivals named
after them shall keep the memories alive [e.g.sawai gandharva Festival, Gunidas sammelan, tansen samaroha and so on]
Q : Do you suppose media (newspaper/magazine) exposure of artists / artistry is manipulated to maximise record sales of contempor,,ary recording artists, instead of giving a balanced view of music history ? Do you think it has something to do with the fact that compared to the old masters, the recent generation has poorer music skills ? (and that such
comparison would show new artists in poor light)
SC :Certainly glamour associated with celebrities is being exploited for business purpose, but so ws also tru in early periods of Gauhar Jan of Calcutta and Jankibai of Allahabad.
Before 1950's due to technological limitations recordings beyond 3/5 minutes was not possible and hence we get only trailer of the art of the great masters and they have skillfully recorded maximum in available time.
Recent generation has longer durations available and hence they play leisurely and sometimes it becomes quite monotonus and boring. Of course there are exceptions and those albums do sell very well. In no way, present day musicians are inferior to the senior srtalwarts who had only 3 minutes at their disposal. Only thing is that they should learn the power of the recording medium and mould the presentations suitably.
Q : A host of muslim artists have a tendency to trace back their family tree to some hindu musician of (Alladiya to Haridas Swami and Faiyaz Khan Saheb to Nayak Gopal) the medieval age. Do you think there were social restriction which forced them to change religion ?
SC :Not only social restrictions but sometimes circumstances too. May be it was sort of mandatory for learning 'Vidya' from Muslim guru and also mass conversions. Also there were large number of muslim invasions in North compared to south in last so many centuries. Besides there are personal and family and religious reasons too. Classic example of modern times is A.R.Rahman who was Hindu but the whole family adopted Muslim religion for personal reasons and belief. [This is mentioned on his web sites]
Q : In the context of religion, Alladiya khan, Faiyaz khan and his grandfather Ghagge Khudabaksh were all supposed to be masters of the drupad form which usually has an overt religious (hindu) text / bol. Do you think therefore that the change of religion had more to do with social revolt against the repressive hindu society rather than acceptance of the muslim doctrine ? Do you think the caste equation at that time was unfavourable to musicians ?
SC :Dhrupad is I believe our own and ancient music [from Hindu temples] and we should be proud of its tradition. So even during the extreme muslim regimes from Akbar to Auranjzeb, the basic musical tradition was not forgotten and in fact nurtured throughout the good and bad times and even in modern times with Dagar brothers and beyond.
Change of religion had not completely taken over in music. Many sociologist and philosophers do believe that in any society a change is said to be complete when members of a society at large accept the music of other cultures totally. So, I do not believe that it was a revolt but real musicians tried to imbibe everything that was good both in Hindu and Islamic [particularly sufi] music. I am not aware about casticism or caste equations among musicians of that era.
Q : You do your weekly programme on AIR to promote Hindustani Classical music. Do you think there is a danger of Classical music dying out ?
SC :Frankly, I do AIR programs and listening sessions rarely and not weekly.
I do not see any sign of classical music dying out or in danger. This is because those who feel have forgotten that this kind of music is/was/and will always be for a very small section of society. In other words, it is and will be for classes and not for masses. So, with this constraint, there is nothing to worry about.
-Sanjay Ghosh/ 16.06.2004
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