The Wonder That Was The Cylinder

Mumbai : September 6,2014

The Wonder That Was The Cylinder’ is the name of a book that traces the journey of Indian sound recording from the era of phonograms and wax cylinder recordings of early 1900s.

Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Mr Prakash Javadekar released the book authored by Amar Nath Sharma along with his daughter Anukriti, in the presence of veteran music director Pyarelal at a unique book launch ceremony in Mumbai, where the guests got a chance to have look at the ancient cylinders, laboriously collected by the author.

Speaking on the occasion Mr Javadekar said “the authors have documented the fascinating account of India’s contribution to sound recordings.” The Minister said while economic development merely ensures physical progress, music, art and culture instill values of life.

Mr Javadekar said his Ministry is working on a project to reach the valuable sound archives of All India Radio and visual archives of Doordarshan to people, utilizing multiple platforms, including mobile apps to reach a larger audience.

Cylinders are hollow wax rolls about six inches in length that are played on a phonogram.

“India has no archive that documents the history of sound recording, be it classical or film music, but it is commonly understood that recording began in 1902 after the advent of the disc that is played on the gramophone. However, we have found wax cylinders dating back to 1899, and these are played on a phonogram” says Amar Nath Sharma.

Mr Sharma’s collection includes ‘Vande Mataram’ in the voice of Rabindranath Tagore, which was recorded by Tagore’s friend Hemendra Bose in the wake of the Partition of Bengal in 1905. Vignettes of the fabled Gauhar Jaan, a Parsi theatre artiste from Jaipur named Miss Allah Bandi, as well as doyens like Peara Sahab figure prominently on the list.

Recordings of music maestros from Maharashtra are ‘Pt Bhaurao Kolhatkar, Pt Bhaskarbuwa Bakhle and Bal Gandharva are also found.

The father of Indian cinema Dadasaheb Phalke has spoken about the making of ‘Raja Harishchandra’ as well.

The phonogram was invented by Thomas Edison but fell into disuse with the entry of the circular disc in 1902. Sharma bought the phonogram from Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar.

The book brings to light India’s remarkable legacy in music, theatre and film through cylindrical recordings, discovered through Sharma’s personal efforts over the past 25 years. “My tryst with the history of sound recording in India began when I stumbled upon some recordings at a kabadiwala shop in Calcutta (Kolkata) in late 80s. Documentary evidence of India’s sound recording was lying on the streets of Calcutta” Mr Sharma reminisces.

A N Sharma is a Commissioner of Customs and Central Excise by profession and an authority on music archive by hobby.

‘The Wonder That Was The Cylinder’, which is accompanied by a DVD, is priced Rs 6,000.

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