Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Over hundred popular songs ‘removed’ from AIR Guwahati archives

Believe it or not, more than 100 songs, recorded by the Guwahati station of All India Radio in the 1950s and 1960s are simply missing from its archives.

These include songs sung by internationally renowned singers like Bhupen Hazarika and Parveen Sultana.

The breaking of this news by Amar Asom, a popular vernacular daily has not only raked up a major controversy, but has also evoked widespread protest and condemnation from all over the state, compelling the AIR, Guwahati authorities to by and large admit the charges to be true.

According to the newspaper, AIR Guwahati, has erased at least 20 evergreen songs originally sung by Bhupen Hazarika and recorded in its studios in the 1950s and 1960s. They include Sagar teerat pori ralo moi, shamukar khola hoi, a song written by Nirmal Prabha Bordoloi, an internationally renowned poetess and former president of the Asom Sahitya Sabha. The same is the fate of songs originally sung by Parveen Sultana for All India Radio, Guwahati, way back in the ’60s, with the newspaper saying that one highly popular song sung by the renowned classical singer, Shanti kato je nai, nai was also allegedly missing.

More tragic is the case of Birendra Nath Dutta, a veteran singer and a contemporary of Bhupen Hazarika, all of songs have simply disappeared from the AIR archives. Luckily, Dutta had only a few years ago re-sung those songs and brought out new cassettes, without which his songs would have been gone forever.

Interestingly, it was only on June 21, 1997, when singing on the occasion to mark the golden jubilee of AIR, Guwahati, that Bhupen Hazarika too had raised the same charges against the station and had stated that he could get the station closed down by dragging it to court. "It is a criminal offence on the part of AIR, Guwahati to have erased a number of old songs," the music wizard had said on that day.

Reacting strongly to the issue, Lakshahira Das, another noted singer of yesteryears has said that a thorough enquiry needs to be carried out into the matter and the culprits identified and punished. She has alleged that several songs which were originally sung by her for AIR, Guwahati, were no longer available for replay.

"Akashvani has killed me even before my death," said the septuagenarian singer, whose voice was, during her heydays, the heart-throb of thousands of Assamese people. "Nowadays, tuning in to Akashvani, Guwahati, I sometimes hear some other singer singing the same songs," she added.

Interestingly, several citizens, reacting to the news item in the newspaper, have by and large also named the officer responsible for this "criminal offence". It has been indicated by several persons having inside information about the AIR, Guwahati affairs that the particular officer considers himself as a professional contender of Bhupen Hazarika, this being one reason why Hazarika was made the main target.

Readers taking part in the debate have in the meantime alleged that it was common that the AIR authorities were unable to play the particular number in most cases when listeners ask for them in the request programmes. "Very often the announcer would say that he was not able to immediately locate the particular number, and instead play an irrelevant song as a consolation," wrote one reader.

In several instances, AIR, Guwahati was also allegedly playing songs from HMV records after the originals recorded in its own studios had disappeared, the newspaper said.

Reacting to this, Lutfur Rahman, the Station Director of All India Radio, Guwahati, himself a popular broadcaster, has said that it was not mandatory that each and every song recorded by each and every artist should be preserved in the archives.

The system of archives was officially introduced only since 1990. Prior to that, programmes used to be preserved at the instance of interests shown by the local station as also some individual producers, keeping in mind the importance and the historical or archival value of such programmes," Rahman has said.

He also said that it was not possible for AIR to preserve all the songs of each and every artist for long. Moreover, the quality of some recordings gets deteriorated due to repeated playing over a short period of time, especially when such a song was at its peak of popularity, Rahman has contended.But the listeners of AIR, Guwahati refuse to buy any explanation. They want a thorough probe, as also the identification of the culprits, knowing well that even the sternest of steps now could not bring back to life some of the golden melodies which have already gone forever.
by Samudra Gupta Kashyap
Source : Screen India , 18 August 2000

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