Saving India’s Musical Heritage, One Record at a Time [DOER]

Archive Of Indian MusicThousands of gramophone records, part of India’s rich musical heritage, are rotting in kabadi shops or chor bazaars across the country. The neglected records will now have a new home, thanks to Vikram Sampath, a Bangalore based author who is going around the country, collecting these records to be digitized and hosted on the cloud.

His quest to collect vintage music has taken him to some of the strangest places in the world. “It’s sad to see that the country doesn’t have a digital music archive. Years of tradition and culture is rotting in the most unexpected places,” says Vikram. He has sourced nearly 10,000 gramophone records from India dating as far back as 1902, when the first Indian gramophone record was created.

Those who have dealt with gramophone records would know, it is not easy.  After years of neglect, the records are dirty and dusty and need to be cleaned. They are heavy and bulky to deal with and have very little storage capacity. They need to be cleaned and digitized, one record at a time.

Vikram not only wants to source the music, but also wants to democratize access to it with the help of technology and audio exhibitions around the country. Last Friday, the first of such exhibitions was inaugurated in Bangalore.

To make the archive freely accessible, Vikram has hosted the tracks on www.archiveofindianmusic.com and SoundCloud for everyone to access. A mobile application is also in the works. “The idea is to do what gramophone did in popularizing music with new technology,” says Vikram.

The math graduate, who works for Hewlett-Packard, does all this in his spare time from work. He is also a student of classical music and an author of two books.

The project is backed by Mohandas Pai, former Infosys director and the Chairman of the Manipal Group. The team wants to scale this up with the help of volunteers and other patrons who are record collectors themselves. We wish Vikram luck.

By Anand Murali
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