The Wonder that was Cylinder: Earliest Gramophone Recordings

The lecture demonstration traced the history of the tin foil phonograph machine invented by Thomas Alva Edison in 1877 and its arrival in India with brown wax cylinders. Interestingly, the first known commercial recordings of Indian music commenced in 1899, in London, by Frederick William Gaisberg and in the 1890s the Indian music-classical and vernacular, Hindustani and Carnatic, vocal and instrumental started getting recorded and being sold with a vengeance. The musical art hitherto confined to mehfils and mujras provided an opportunity to the performers to achieve mass mediatization of their art through the Gramophone.

This dynamic and rich phase of Indian history of recordings unfortunately remained non-documented as there was no archive to store and substantiate it. In search for these remnants of India’s singularly rich heritage, the author in the lecture revealed how he devoted more than two decades of his life and created an archive of repute.

A N Sharma graduated in Botany from Patna Science College in 1978. He joined the Civil Services in 1980 and worked for Armed Forces Headquarter Civil Service; Indian Forest Service and Indian Revenue Service. He retired as Commissioner recently and stays in Mumbai. Apart from pursuing his career in Civil Services, he continued his search and deep quest for the lost documents of Indian sound history. His two decades of research yielded in writing of two historical works Bajanaama: A Study of Early Indian Gramophone Records and The Wonder that was the Cylinder.

Ravikant is Assistant Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015
CSDS Seminar Room