Archive of Indian Music to digitise and preserve old and rare gramophone records

NEW DELHI: An ‘Archive of Indian Music‘ (AIM) has been established in the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in a unique first-of-its kind effort to digitise and preserve old and rare gramophone records.

This is because many of these rare records are on the verge of destruction and would be lost forever without timely action.

The Archive was launched by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in the presence of renowned classical dance exponent and AIM Advisory board member Padma Vibhushan Dr. Sonal Mansingh, historian and archivist Dr. Boria Majumdar, IGNCA Member Secretary Dipali Khanna, and renowned author/historian and founder-trustee of AIM Vikram Sampath.

AIM is the brain-child of Bangalore based author/historian and Sahitya Academy winner, Vikram Sampath and has been established with the generous help of T V Mohandas Pai, chairman of Manipal Global Education.

The main objective of AIM is to create the first digital sound archive of India and disseminate the content freely among all music lovers through an online portal and through innovative ways like audio exhibitions, listening kiosks, guided listening sessions etc. and by taking it to the youth in schools and colleges and giving them a new perspective of looking at Indian history - through sound. 

The range of gramophone records that will be restored include Hindustani and Carnatic classical music, Folk music, Early Cinema, Theatre, Speeches of great leaders of the country and voices of common Indians that were recorded starting 1902.

Pai believes that ‘AIM is a brilliant initiative to refurbish the rich musical tradition left behind by our ancestors, it is a unique concept that provides us with an opportunity to access the rich audio records that we have inherited and we are extremely proud of. In this day where only material gains matter to people, I am delighted to see a young man like Sampath who has worked on this with unparalleled passion and zeal and hence I came forward readily to support his dream and help it materialize." 

Sampath added, "India‘s musical inheritance is a larger aspect of its identity in the world of music. AIM is an intellectual property created to save these vintage recordings for the future generations to know and be proud of the work created by the musical geniuses of our country. It breaks my heart to see this valuable cultural inheritance rot in the most despicable manner in flea markets and Kabadi shops across India. On a war-footing, we hope to reverse this trend and have set ambitious targets for ourselves - including restoration of 100,000 records within the next five years and construction of a National Sound Archive of India in Bangalore, with parallel centers in other parts of India. Equally important is disseminating this archived material for the public at large as it is the treasure that every Indian has inherited and has a rightful access to"

Established in 2011, the Trust has set up an office in association with the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities in Bangalore and imported state-of-the-art machinery to digitise old gramophone records.

The website of AIM features around 200 artistes and nearly 1000 tracks at present - all of which can be accessed completely freely and sitting at home. Rare tracks including Gandhiji‘s Spiritual Message that he recorded in 1931 in England, the country‘s first recording by Gauhar Jaan in 1902, Tagore reciting his Bengali poetry, the first recording of the National Anthem by the Viswa Bharati Chorus, the first recording of M S Subbulakshmi as a child of nine years are just a few of the valuable gems in the website. The Archive has already collected nearly 10,000 old and vintage gramophone shellac and vinyl plates from various parts of India for purposes of restoration.

AIM has trustees from all over India and is guided by an advisory board comprising of some of the most eminent artistes of the country - filmmaker Shyam Benegal, danseuse Sonal Man Singh, Chinmaya Gharekhan of IGNCA, Bombay Jayashri, Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh, Pt. Vijay Kichlu, VAK Ranga Rao, Alarmel Valli, Dr. Shyamala G Bhave, Lalith Rao, Nandini Ramani, VAK Ranga Rao, Arundhati Ghosh of IFA, and Bhaskar Mitra of Sangeet Ashram Kolkata.

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