Filed under: India
Information. Much like history, it depends on who you ask. And everyone has different story. You know the saying, “written in stone”? Well, it’s not a solid thing. It’s very fluid. You pick up little bits here and there, learning as you go. And just when you think you’ve got it, something will come along and change what you think you know.
It goes completely against the obsessive compulsive nature of the record collector. There’s supposed to be a list. You get all the records on the list, and then you’re done. Mission accomplished. But when it comes to records from far flung corners of the world, it’s not that simple.
I thought I had all of the information I needed when I wrote the liner notes for the Bollywood Steel Guitar disc for Sublime Frequencies. I was positive that I had found every steel guitar player in India and had included them in the compilation. I was wrong.
Even though I asked everyone I could find about the players and their records, I still did not have all of the pieces of the puzzle. Since then, I have discovered a whole slew of other players – some only recorded Classical Tagore songs, but others recorded Filmi songs as well – dating back to the 40s all of the way up to the present. Besides Kazi Aniruddha, Kazi Arindam, Gautam Dasgupta, Sunil Ganguly, S. Hazarasingh, Charanjit Singh and Van Shipley – who were included on the Bollywood Steel Guitar disc – there was Mohon Bhattacharya, Himanshu Biswas, Barum Kumar Pal, Batuk Nandy, Ranjit Datta, Sujit Nath, Robin Paul, Dipankar Sen Gupta… And who knows? There could be more.
As I have said before, there is no book you can go look this stuff up in. Well, that may not be true. But if there is one, I’m not the only one looking for it – especially when it comes to records from India. Karl-Michael Schneider maintains a site that is trying to catalog all of the releases that were issued by the The Gramophone Company Ltd. While there were other small labels like Hindusthan and Megaphone up until about the 40s and then Concord, Polydor and Super Cassettes popped up in the 80s, The Gramophone Company of India had a virtual monopoly on recordings in India for almost all of the 1900s. According to the Society of Indian Record Collectors, it has been estimated that during the last century that about half a million different titles were released in India. And since they were pressed in numbers from as few five hundred to a few hundred thousand copies – many of these recordings remain unheard by more than just a few people.
As for Barum Kumar Pal, this seems to be his only release. Of course… I could be wrong.
Catalog number 2392 899 on Polydor of India, released 1979.