Category: India

Pandit Omkarnath Thakur – Garawa Mayi Sang Lage, Pts. 1 and 2

omkarnath.jpgThe life and long career of renowned Khyal vocalist Pandit Omkarnath Thakur (1897-1967), or Pujya Pandit Shree Omkarnathji Thakur as the record label at right would have it, is documented colorfully elsewhere. Born in poverty, he eventually spent years in Pandit Vishnu Digambar’s music school in Bombay, and became the principal of a music school by age 20. By ca. 1934-1935, when this record was pressed in India, he was already recording masterworks.

Blessed with, according to legend, his father’s “precious mantra” written on his tongue, Thakur’s vocal style is immediately dramatic. He improvises and modulates his voice on lyrics and syllables in an almost dizzying fashion (most apparent in Part 2 of today’s post), known as bol taan in Indian classical music.

This well-known track was most likely released decades ago on LP – it was also released on a hard to locate Indian CD titled “Golden Milestones” but as far as I can tell, the sound quality on that CD is quite poor. Therefore, I offer both sides of this fine performance here.

For more Thakur music on the web, check this post on Mehfil-E-Mausiqi.

Omkarnath Thakur – Garawa Mayi Sang Lage, Pts 1 & 2

Technical Notes
Label: Columbia
Issue Number: VE.1016
Matrix Number: CEI.7358-1, CEI.7359-1

Master Laloo – Jevi Karay Je Karni, Tevi Tarat Faday Chhe

laloo.jpgI’m returning to India for a track by Master Laloo, a singer from Gujarat, presumably. Collecting Indian music has always been daunting to me – I love it, but there are so many excellent artists out there, I’m overwhelmed. That said, I enjoy what I have, and what I continue to pick up. Hell, it’s all a giant experiment, for the most part, and that’s what continues to make it fun.

While Laloo doesn’t perform some of the same vocal gymnastics as other masters of Indian classical music, there’s something very appealing to me about the combination of voice, harmonium, and tabla. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I enjoy listening to this record, which is what it’s all about. It was recorded in Mumbai by Gramophone Company engineer Arthur James Twine, ca. 1928.

I could find nothing on the Master in question. According to a listener from India who wrote in, the translated Gujurati title means “The way you do Karmas, you get fruits for it immediately.”

Master Laloo

On a side note, R. and I went to a concert of Central Asian music in Los Angeles the other night. I always feel nervous beforehand that a concert like that will be too faux world-y for me, but it was very good, and one artist stood out: the Kazakh singer and dombra player Ulzhan Baibussynova. Although she performed only three songs, they were riveting. She appears on the recent Smithsonian Folkways release Bardic Divas.

Technical Notes
Label: HMV
Issue Number: N. 2569
Matrix Number: BX. 4884

Peara Saheb – Gazal

peara.jpgSome “light classical” music from India, for this week’s post.

This record was recorded in India on October 20, 1910 (thanks to reader Howard Friedman for the sleuthing). In 1908, the Gramophone Company opened a pressing plant in Calcutta, and this record was pressed there for local distribution.

Mr. Saheb was a contemporary of this singer featured in this article, and was also credited on other recordings as “Peara Sahib.” For a more detailed biography on Peara Saheb, I am indebted to Suresh Chandvankar of the Society of Indian Record Collectors in Mumbai, who has graciously allowed me to distribute a recent edition of their newsletter. The newsletter can be downloaded in .pdf format here, and the biography on Peara Saheb appears on pages 14-15.

Saheb’s lilting voice is accompanied here by harmonium and percussion, and he sings a ghazal, an ancient poetic form originally from Persia. Listen closely at the very end of the track for a common occurance in early Indian music: the singer announcing himself in English. It’s a beautiful piece of work.

Peara Saheb – Gazal

If you’re interested in more information on early recording in India, there’s this article. There is also the fine article by Gerry Farrell in the British Journal of Ethnomusicology (Vol. 2, 1993), titled The Early Days of the Gramophone Industry in India: Historical, Social and Musical Perspectives. There is also yeoman’s research by Michael Kinnear in his book The Gramophone Company’s First Indian Recordings (1899-1908).

Technical Notes
Label: Gramophone Concert Record
Issue Number: G.C. 9-12117
Matrix Number: 13469