‘A pity India has no sound archive’

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While most of the earliest recordings of Indian classical music are stashed away in European archives, systematically preserved, it is a pity that India doesn’t have any such facility for its aural heritage, said Vikram Sampath, executive director, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, southern region.

He was speaking at a talk organised by the Bangalore chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage held to mark World Heritage Day on Saturday.

Mr. Sampath described his recent trip to Germany to study gramophone records as an “eye-opener”. Almost every European country has a National Sound Archive where records are carefully preserved. He lamented that archiving was “generally looked down upon” in India.

Even today, the best places to find old gramophone records in the country are raddi shops and markets,

Mr. Sampath said, recounting how he had discovered an old record of one of Mahatma Gandhi’s London speeches in a raddi shop in Chennai.

Mr. Sampath, who was nominated to the committee on archiving at Prasar Bharathi, said he was shocked to hear that All-India Radio had archived nothing from 1936 to 1955. “Their reason was astounding – a shortage of spool. In the earlier days, the same spools were reused and re-recorded upon till 1955, which meant that all the precious aural treasure was erased,” he said.

Mr. Sampath has recently begun a private music archive, ‘Archive of Indian Music’, a non-profit initiative under which his team has collected nearly 15,000 gramophone records and are digitising and sharing them online.

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