‘My name is Gauhar Jaan. This is my song.’ That’s how the legendary dancing queen of Calcutta had concluded her recording session with Fred Gaisberg on November 2, 1902 for the first flat disc recorded in the country.
Exactly a 100 years on, Saregama India Ltd, formerly the Gramophone Co of India Ltd or His Masters’ Voice (HMV), is planning to re-release the milestone Gauhar Jaan recording, digitally processed and cleaned.
Not just Jaan, past legends like Janki Bai, Raichand Boral, Kashem Ali Mullick, Indubala, Angurbala, Malka Jaan and Pankaj Mallick are also likely to come alive through their music. Saregama is dusting its archives, which contain a repertoire of nearly five lakh titles, to mark the first century of recorded music in the country with a commemorative album.
Shatabdir Shera Gaan, a double-cassette set featuring a galaxy of great voices down the ages, is being readied for release to mark the momentous occasion. “We will try to include at least 28-30 titles in the compilation, representing various periods, right down to the present generation, with artistes like Suman, Lopamudra and Nachiketa. The product will be packaged in an ornate manner and should be a collector’s item,” says Saregama India business manager S.F. Kareem. The company also plans to release the collection on CD at a later date.
Efforts to produce this landmark album had started quite some time back. “We have copied all historical recordings from the Gramophone Company’s London archives and digitally cleaned some of the rare stuff. This process entails de-clicking, de-hissing, de-crackling and broadband de-noising of the old recordings,” explains J.K. Maitra, chief technical manager, Saregama.
Gaisberg, assistant to Emile Berliner, “father of the flat disc”, was the first recording engineer to have worked in India, when he recorded the Gauhar Jaan album in the city in 1902. A year earlier, The Gramophone & Typewriter Ltd had set up its first branch outside the UK at 5, Esplanade East.
“Many old recordings were destroyed during the First World War, when the Gramophone Company’s first factory was located in Beleghata,” says Maitra. GCIL shifted to the Dum Dum premises in 1928 where production commenced next year.