Endangered Archives

EAP190: Digitising archival material pertaining to 'Young India' label gramophone records

Dr Suresh Chandvankar, Independent Researcher
2008 award - Major project
£21,300 for 24 months

Archival partner: National Center for the Performing Arts Mumbai

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Project Overview

This project will digitise gramophone records, record catalogues and publicity material from 'The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company Ltd. Bombay'. During 1935-1955, this company produced hundreds of 78-rpm shellac gramophone records in Bombay, India.

During 1930-35, the British and German record manufacturing companies were well established and had a major share of disc manufacturing in India. The 'Young India' record label was an 'indigenous' effort at record production. The company issued over 10,000 songs on different subjects such as film music, classical music, folk music, publicity and educational material. Mainly amateur and upcoming artists have recorded on this label. The company ceased to function in 1955 so these recordings have never been reissued on audio tapes and CDs. Hence, it is important and relevant to preserve these invaluable recordings and the associated documents.

During 1935-55, the company produced over 10,000 titles on 78-rpm, 10 inch diameter shellac discs with two songs per disc. Each side could be played for over 3/3.5 minutes on spring wound gramophone machines. The recordings of film, popular, classical and folk music were issued. The repertoire covered music from different regions of India and sung in many different languages. During the long tenure of over twenty years, Indian citizens witnessed several important events such as the movement and struggle for freedom, Indian Independence in 1947, World War II and the beginning of the romantic period of independent India. This was also reflected in the records produced. Thus, there are speeches of great leaders, ballads, skits and dialogues on a number of subjects depicting changing social and political situations.

In late 1948, the 'National' factory at Wadala was experiencing both technical and financial problems which severely curtailed its production capacity. The situation worsened slowly and by late 1955, the factory had closed down with stocks left over at the factory sold off at greatly reduced prices to a number of agencies. With time, the records and catalogues were either destroyed or scrapped. Slowly, all the material related to this company began to disappear.

It is estimated that over 1,000 records are available in the private collections of record collectors, located in Mumbai, Ahmadabad, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, and are only available on 78-rpm breakable shellac discs. In addition, over 100 catalogues, booklets and record sleeves are held by private collectors and it is possible to collect or borrow them for this project. These have never been sold commercially, with the result that very few copies have survived to the present.

All the material is over sixty years old and free from issues related to the copyright. Copies can be made for preservation. Through this project endangered archival material pertaining to 'Young India' record label will be restored, digitised and thus preserved for posterity.

Project Outcome

Listen online to 1,427 recordings

The project succeeded in locating and digitising over 725 discs (1450 songs) of the ‘Young India’ record label. A large number of catalogues and advertising material was located at many places and more than 1,000 digital images have been taken of documents and disc labels. This will form a very valuable reference source for researchers in the future.

The National Center of Performing Arts, Mumbai has received a digital copy of the material and copies will also be deposited with the National Film Archives in Pune, The American Institute of Indian Studies in Gurgaon, the Roja Muthiah Research Library, Chennai and Sangeet Natak Akademy, Delhi.