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Durable Link to this BlogFriday, March 14, 2008

THE VERY FIRST GRAMOPHONE RECORD OF INDIA

THE VERY FIRST GRAMOPHONE RECORD OF INDIA AND MISS GOHARJAN OF KOLKOTTA

By PRAKASH BURDE

It was almost 105 years ago that first recorded labeled music disc was released in Kolkotta. Since then and now more than 3,50,000 recorded albums have come out in India. Earliest records were made of Wax, Lac and the rotation per minute was decided upon since the times of Thomas Alva Edison. Though Indian music can be loosely classified into (a) Art music which many prefer to use the word classical music (b) Folk music, the regional music of different states of India of 16 different languages and more than 200 different dialects (c) The music of various dance forms of India like Kathak which is very popular in North India, Manipuri the music of North East India, Odissi the music of the dance form of Orissa, Bharath Nritya which is popularly known as Bharat Natyam of South India and peculiar dance form of Kerala known as Kathakali and (d) Popular music of devotional songs in all languages and film songs and the other forms of music of light classical genre. It is this popular music, which has a mass following in India and more than 80% of recorded music belongs to this category. In this falls the Gazals and various theatre songs popular in different regions of India.

Miss Goharjan of Kolkotta a well known popular singer of 19th century (1870-1930) was the money spinner for the pioneering music recording company which was curiously named as “The Gramphone and Type-Writers Limited and Sister Cos”! This recordist of Kolkotta was the first “Gramaphone Celebrity”. She had cut 160 discs during her life time.

The connoisseurs of Indian music may not be aware that Goharjan was an Armenian! Her name was Angelina Youward. The mother was Victoria Hemings. After conversion she was known as Malkajan Goharjan. She learnt vocal music from her mother and a well-known Kathak dance teacher of that time Bicchu Maharaj. Both mother and daughter were “Patronised” by a wealthy landlord of the holy city of Varanasi or Benares. Later she shifted to Kolkotta which was the capital of India of Victorian Era and became much soughtafter artist singer. She learnt music from various Ustads of different schools known as Gharanas including the founder of Kirana Gharana Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. When George V king of England visited India, she along with Janakibai were hand picked to sing the well known "Long Live the King" in Hindi translated as "Mubarak Ho" in 1911!

Goharjan used to command respect of the nobility and would change Rs.5000/- for each concert, which was then unheard of. She recorded music for various companies based in Europe like Singer, Sun, Nicole, Royal and many others. She died in Mysore State in 1930 where she had gone for a concert tour. One of the most prolific singers of India, her choicest music was reissued by His Master Voice Company (modern version of the Original Gramophone and Type-writers…) in 1994 under the label "Chairman Choice".

Her music knew no boundaries, just to make listeners who the singer was, in the end, she would loudly announce "my name is Goharjan" !

Ref: Dr. Suresh Chandvankar.

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Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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