78 rpm Records of Indian Music: Kumar Birendra Narayan

Here is a beautiful pair of bansuri performances by Kumar Birendra Narayan, whom I gather was an important instrumentalist in Bengali light and film music, thanks to an en passant mention by Durbadal Chattopadhyay:

Since my father was a musician, many eminent personalities visited our place. He also had an orchestra of which I was the monitor. I started taking music lessons from several people in instruments like the banjo, piano and violin. Musicians like Kumar Birendra Narayan (flute), who accompanied SD Burman on numerous Bangla songs, AS Dubey and others were there. I learnt the violin from my father. Then I took lessons in classical music under the baton of Professor Robin Ghosh…

He has beautiful classical chops; these are very attractive and lilting performances. Enjoy!

Raga “Pradeep” (Patdeep)


78 rpm Records of Indian Music: Professor Nazir Hossain of Benares

Here is another excellent pair of shehnai performances, this time by “Professor” Nazir Hossain of Benares. From what I can figure out, he is the uncle and ustad of Ali Ahmed Hussain, whose music you can listen to here.

Raga Adana Bahar


78 rpm Records of Indian Music: Kakoo Ram

Google offers me nothing about Kakoo Ram — but I enjoy both of these songs. So will you.

Bade bahaar do din ki hai

Rashke aadaa vakushon dil

78 rpm Records of Indian Music: Talim Hossain of Lucknow

Shuffling through stacks of discs in the hubbub of Chor Bazaar, how could I resist a pair of performances on “bagpipes”? Except that these are of course shehnai, oddly labeled. Talim Hossain of Lucknow plays two nice gats in Bhairavi. I love the little squeak at the beginning of each piece.

Here’s a tiny snippet of information:

Next to orchestra and band records, the gramophone company recorded ‘Shahanai’ which they called and labeled as ‘Bagpipe’. Most popular players that recorded shahanai were: Fazulal Pandit, Shaikh Munna, Hyderabad Pipers, Talim Hussain of Lucknow alias Ali Bux and Ustad Ali Bux (guru and maternal uncle of Late Ustad Bismillah Khan).

78 rpm Records of Indian Music: The Genius of Bismillah Khan

Bismillah Khan dominated the music world of the twentieth century. A prodigious improviser with masterful technique, he stood head and shoulders above other shehnai players, and was beyond any doubt one of the towering figures in all world music. Here are four sides that showcase his mastery. Enjoy:

Raga Jaunpuri:

Raga Hansnarayani:

Raga Basant Bahar


78 rpm Records of Indian Music: The Insouciant Virtuosity of Master Vasant

Not a lot is known about Master Vasant of Surat. His full name was Vasant Amrut, and like many of the vocalists from those days, he was affiliated with the film industry:

In 1931, the Indian Art Production, Bombay, produced a film titled Farebi Jaal (Trapped) directed by M. Bhavnani.Though the name of the music director was not given but Master Vasant has been credited for the lyrics. Of the six songs in this film, Durga Khote and Master Vasant sang three each. [Ref: Hindi film geet kosh, vol.1, (1931-40), by Harminder Singh Hamraaz, 1988, page 15]. Around 1930, Master Vasant Amrut (of Surat) had cut two records: HMV P 13474 and P 13542. Gramophone Company released these records on black label in February 1931 and November 1931 respectively. Of these four songs, three are identical in the list of the songs of this film. It appears that these records were directly used in the film. It is not clear on whom the songs sung by Master Vasant Amrut were picturised. Thus, Master Vasant Amrut of Surat, could then be the first playback singer of Hindi film songs.


His singing is straightforward Gwalior gayaki — but done with nonchalance, aplomb and incredible virtuosity. What a delight.

Raga Nat Bihag – “Jhan jhan jhan paayal baaje”

Raga Patdeep – “Dhan dhan baaje”

Raga Purvi – “Bhaj mangal Shyaam”

Raga Durga – “Phul rahi belariyaa”

Ghazal – “Usne kahaa hasti hai teri”

Misra Ghazal – “Ham hai bande ishq ke”

78 rpm Records of Indian Music: Miss Gohar of Bijapur (Gauhar Karnataki)

Miss Gohar of Bijapur sings two Marathi devotional songs. Her voice is terrific, her delivery heartfelt, her intonation spot-on, her melismatic technique top-notch. What’s not to like?

Wikipedia notes that:

There were four singing contemporaries of Gauhar Jaan with first names pronounced the same way as hers and sometimes spelled in English in different ways:

– Gauhar Jan of Patiala;

– Miss Gohar, who was associated with Parsi Theatrical Company in Bombay (Mumbai);

– Gohar Mamajiwala, a singer actress who was associated with and mistress of Sardar Chandulal Shah of Ranjit Films (studio), Bombay; and

– Gohar Bai Karnataki of Bijapur.

I believe we are listening to the last-listed of these luminaries.

She was a fairly prominent name in Hindi Films in the ’30s, acting, composing and singing songs, most/all of which were never released on 78s and are probably lost for ever. Her sister
Amirbai’s name is far more famous and many brilliant songs sung by Amirbai are easily available today. Before her most prolific years in the ’40s, Amirbai sometimes sang under the name ‘Amir Jan’. Gauharbai’s name appears as ‘Gauhar of Bijapur’ in the Hindi Film Geet Kosh pages. Gauhar was devoted to Bal Gandharva; BG left his family to live with her. There were whispers around 1950 that Gauhar, whom BG used to call ‘Baba’, had cast an evil spell on Narayanrao Bal Gandharva, whose surname was ‘Rajhans’. The Gauhar
episode in BG’s life has been treated at some length in Ravindra Pinge’s beautiful article on BG, titled ‘Chandraast’ and included in the book ‘TuShaar aaNi Taare’. Whatever manipulations she may have resorted to, even her detractors concede that her devotion to Bal Gandharva’s style of singing was genuine. It is not surprising that many of her 78s are of Marathi songs sung in BG’s style.


Afaghaachi sansaar

Satata vimal bhaj nama

78 rpm Records of Indian Music: Swahili Song by Sitti Binti Saad

I was looking through stacks of 78s in Chor Bazaar during a Mumbai visit in the late 1990s when this one showed up under my fingers.

Always on the lookout for anomalies, I was delighted to find this double-sided recording of a Swahili song. Turns out the singer is really terrific; a little bit of searching under her name yields quite a lot of information about someone who was quite an important figure in world music in the first half of the twentieth century.

Sheikh Abdullah Amur Suleiman has more, in a charming biography on the Zanzibar facebook page:

With a characteristic and gifted voice, Siti binti Saad rose to a position of national pride as the songstress of her day. She was the first East African woman to have her voice recorded on discs for the purpose of entertaining and promoting the Swahili language and creating a commercial enterprise out of those records.

Those memorable love songs are still in the hearts of many admirers who pass them on to the next generation. Siti, as she was commonly known, sang in Swahili. She sang at the palace, wedding parties and other public functions.

Siti could also sing in Arabic and Hindustani. When the monsoon dhows from Kuwait, Iraq, Oman and Southern Arabia visited here in those days she used to be fully booked with singing appointments to entertain the captains and crews of the dhows.


Elmughani Shahir Sitti Binti Saad (with Chorus):
“Riala Yashami Haisemi Uwongo”

78 rpm Records of Indian Music: Ismail Azad Quawal

This disc brings us the third and fourth parts of a lengthier quawwal performance by Ismail Azad Quawal.

I enjoy his fervent delivery and the acrobatic accompaniment.

78 rpm Records of Indian Music: M.L. Chowdhry and Sunita Devi

This “Shiv Lila Bhajan” in two parts was part of the collection acquired in Udaipur in 2000.