For the last few months, a team of 12 experts on old Hindi film music have been listening to LP records and digitising the treasure at the studio of music recording company ‘Saregama’ in Kolkata.
“We have over 16,000 renditions of Rabindrasangeet and Nazrul Geeti by different singers in our archives. For the first time we are digitising our musical legacy and already 10,000 such songs are available for sale in MP3 and uncompressed WAV formats from our website,” said Saregama’s Managing Director Vikram Mehra.
There are over ten gems in the collection where Tagore lent his voice to songs like “Tobu Mone Rekho”, “Eso Eso Phire Eso” and even the national anthem “Jana Gana Mana”.
The oldest one dates back to 1887. Eminent singers of yesteryears like Pankaj Mallick, Debabrata Biswas, Suchitra Mitra, Hemanta Mukherjee and Chinmoy Chatterjee featured in the collection. Also part of the treasure is Rabindrasangeet in Hindi rendered by the legendary Manna Dey.
Among Nazrul songs are “Rabi Hara” and “Nari” which were recorded in the revolutionary-poet’s own voice during 1941 and 1928. The process of digitisation from old LP records is painstaking as Saregama’s in-house experts have to listen to every second of the music on gramophones to remove disruptions if any.
“When you leave it to the machines, it will spoil the soul of the song. We do it manually so that authenticity of the original analog version is kept intact. We only remove disturbances like the screeching sound of old records,” Mehra said.
The digital versions of the remaining 6,000 songs in the two popular genres will be ready within the next six months. Saregama, music label of RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, owns the largest music archives in India and one of the biggest globally.
The company head said all over the world there was a lot of demand for authentic Bengali music and people were willing to pay for it, but a reliable platform was absent to buy it.
“So we said let’s put everything up on the website and make it available for download by anyone and anywhere in the world. When you have a CD, the cost will go up, but downloading an original version of the song is cheap and affordable,” Mehra said.
When content was cheap and conveniently available, it was easy to fight piracy, he said.
Next month, Saregama will also come out with an app to allow music lovers directly download the musical heritage on their mobile phones.Besides, the collection is also available on music streaming websites.