Over two years back, Madhukali invited unpublished analog recordings of Indian classical music in self-raised or inherited collections. Unplucked flowers, in mysterious ways, may turn into gems to be discovered by the fortunate. Heritage, like all things natural, is a presence waiting to be recognized. In a country rich in heritage like India, many scions of musicians families are blessed with letters, photographs and recordings of their ancestors. Yet, the urgent necessities of immediate life keep pushing the care of their inheritance off till they verge on brink of oblivion. Some music was received; not all of it can be restored fully or published at once. Commemorating the tenth anniversary of UNESCO Convention 2003 for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Madhukali has released three compact discs restored from analog originals.
Work is also on progress for restoration and digitization of recordings of Dr. Lalmani Misra’s live recitals on Vichitra Veena, Sitar and other instruments as well as wealth of knowledge in lectures and lessons on Raga-s and essentials of Indian classical music. Apart from rich listening experience that each Raga recital provides, the collection is significant in another way. It constitutes an elaborate illustration of the Misrabani technique and style. How through adequate application of Mizrab Bol-s, an artiste may create compositions starting from any beat in any Tal.
Dr. Misra had initiated a course in Indian music at University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia in 1969. He taught there off and on throughout the seventies. Many of the recitals he presented in Philadelphia, New York and other cities were recorded by disciples . Almost all recitals were in different Raga-s. The students benefitted from such rich resource by making copies from the original tapes. It is possible that such copies may still be available with them while a few originals have been misplaced or deteriorated beyond restoration. It would benefit the music world if copies of such recordings are added to the main collection available with Dr. Misra’s family. Madhukali in collaboration with Misrabani, would soon release the first volume to commemorate the birth anniversary of Dr. Lalmani Misra on 11th August.
The young are creative. They are also curious. Access to information has been greatly increased by technology. This is just right for uniting all above for greater preservation and safe-guarding of cultural practices. Barry Schwartz, author of “The Paradox of Choice” suggests ‘gentle nudging’ and empathetic curation to reduce paralysis from excess of choice. This ‘parental wisdom’ already exists in traditional practices. The website of UNESCO is a great resource of cultural practices across the globe that have been included in Representative list. Ms Cécile Duvelle, Secretary of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage explains essence of the convention.
The criteria referred to in the video-clip form the very basis of UNESCO’s Convention 2003.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova has endorsed recommendations by the International Advisory Committee of the Memory of the World Committee to inscribe 45 new documents and documentary collections from all over the world on the Memory of the World Register, which now numbers a total of 238 items. The recent newsletter reported this observation of Ms. Bokova,
By helping safeguard and share such a varied documentary heritage, UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme reinforces the basis for scholarship and enjoyment of the creative wealth and diversity of human cultures and societies.
Educators, activists and enthusiasts have only to get the youth interested in a single Intangible Cultural Heritage practice in their region; their energy would do the rest. There are ample examples of individual mandate contributing to strength of collective. It only needs a little effort to bring information to their notice. The multimedia web service of UNESCO provides rich resource on its website.
Print is among the first methods of preservation. As all technologies, it too admits limitations but the initiated can comprehend wisdom preserved in symbols. The written language has proved its efficacy immensely in carriage of ideas and transfer of emotions. Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (August 10, 1860 – September 19, 1936) used the available material to preserve classical music of north India. When a change in technology antiquated its use, new ways to use it and methods better suited to changed technology, were created.
Today when sales of books in print has been overtaken by e-books, unless writing music is made possible through keyboard, knowledge of past would no longer be a part of future. There are several solutions available for western notation system but few cared to attempt expressing Indian music in all its nuances. Shown here is a page from the book, Ome Swarlipi in Sitar Compositions, which uses notation system designed for keyboard input and universal comprehension.
Progress on restoration of audio tapes may also be reported with input from enthusiasts and experts. The restored music would be showcased soon.
Technology has helped in capturing and preserving works of art and artistic practices that relied solely on oral tradition in past. An engine of democracy it has empowered people in many ways. Ever since Hemendra Mohan Bose imported the phonograph machine that Edison invented in 1898 and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore recorded Bande Mataram in his voice, a sample of Indian Classical Music has been archived — not always the best, experts might claim, but the far and few recordings made are indeed helpful. In the late sixties as analog tapes found a commercial channel in sleeker cassette tapes, the recording companies began to release Indian Classical Music on this media too. Late seventies saw cassette technology become affordable and soon less media-savvy musicians too got a chance to have some of their music recorded. The professional recordings of established music companies were in time converted to digital music but the smaller albums self-published or released by small entrepreneurs are on verge of extinction. Understandably, a part of such music might not measure up to strict standards, yet it allows representation to the individual practitioner and probably to the form and content of his output. Digitization of knowledge and practices is being carried out at all levels. The reclusive stalwarts and budding artistes whose presentations were recorded on analog spool and cassette tapes ought to be credited for their contributions. This would also enlarge the database of Indian music recordings and bring to fore some forgotten bandish or difficult Raga that is no longer practiced.
Madhukali invites proposals from artistes, heritage workers, museum and music industry experts for digital preservation of Indian Classical Music.
Proposals may be for private analog recordings or limited release public recordings on cassette tapes.
Interested parties may send their proposals to ich at madhukali dot org.