Thursday, August 08, 2013

New online resource: Archive of Indian Music

A scavenge of India's bazaars and junk markets, and generous donations have brought about the Archive of Indian Music, a digital compilation of 12,000 rare gramophone records with free online access.

The sound clips include vintage musical recordings, plays, poetry and speeches including one delivered by M K Gandhi for a recording company in 1931. Available on the AIM website, the sound clips are divided into artist categories: Carnatic, Film, Folk, Ghazal, Theatre, etc. Devotees to India culture and music can browse the categories, stream the recordings for free and create a personalised playlist on the website. It's even possible to donate relevant contributions.

 The archive is founded and curated by Vikram Sampath,a Carnatic vocalist from Bangalore who functions out of a small space in Manipal University. By collecting and digitising shellac records from between 1900 and 1950, Sampath has provided a soundbite of collective Indian culture which brings India's rich cultural heritage to a mass audience. The resource is extraordinarily valuable due to the limitations of the shellac record and the scarcity of recordings by notable musicians of the time. In the earlier part of the twentieth century, a basic shellac could only hold up to three minutes of sound. To complicate matters, some musicians and singers refused to record as they felt it would compromise the aesthetics of their music, and were superstitious that they would lose their voice if it was committed to a physical object. Absorbing glimpses like these, into the artistic nous and belief systems of a fascinating and complex culture help us to grasp the project's ambition and its merits as an educational resource. Music to our ears!