INDRAMANI SAHU,THE RECORD-MAN OF ODISHA – Cuttack
Article Shared by Taranisen Pattnaik
, fondly called “Record Man” is the highest collector of gramophone records in Odisha. Born in 1931 at College Square, Cuttack, Indramani, since his teenage days, had a passion for music and it’s this unique passion for collecting rare gramophone records that has brought laurels for him & he came to be popularly known as “Record Man.” By 15 years of age, he had left studies & used to run his father’s grocery shop. It all started off in 1949 when he heard a song sung by Aparna Panigrahi that he took Rs 464 from his shop cash box & bought home a 1932 model of His Master’s Voice (HMV) turntable talking machine from Shivji & Co store at College Square, Cuttack.
In the same year on 10th May, he went on to collect a lacquer (lac) made gramophone record copy of Madhuri Panda’s “Na’ja Jamuna, dhari mun kara karuchi mana”, his first ever record collected from his pocket money. And, with gradual time, his collection has reached 4500 plus with early records from 1907 till 1987 when audio cassettes & audio CDs flooded the market. Among his oldest collection is the 1898 English 78 rpm record of Slavonic Rhapsody rendered by New Margate Concert Orchestra, London and released by Edison Bell Co Ltd. He is also the proud collector of first ever Odia recorded verse “Asuchnati Brajabasi” (1907) by Khan Mohammed.
From a mere record collector, he later turned to be a record preserver & started “Gramophone Record Museum” or simply “Record Bhandar” in Odia in his small dingy residence room at Teli Sahi, ranihat, Cuttack, since he strongly felt that the dying gramophone record should be preserved for the coming generation too. He started travelling all over Odisha & even Calcutta a number of times & visited music shops, antique shops, second hand shops, auction houses, amateur record collectors & even scrap shops (raddi) & pavement shops to collect rare records.
His collection ranges from speeches, plays, jingles, film songs, non-film (adhunik) songs, odissi songs, bhajans/janana, nazms, doha, kirtans, pala, daskathia,horse dance songs (ghoda nacha ) sambalpuri, folk songs, village songs (palli gita) lullaby (nana baya), weeping songs (for brides to sing while leaving for in-law’s house) & even dramas & dance dramas (gitinatya), not just in Odia but also in various languages including Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bhojpuri, English, Russian & other languages, totalling around 32 national-international gramophone record companies of yesteryears, some of which are quite rare. You enquire about any old song & he’s sure, has one in his museum, be it 1st Hindi movie – Alam Ara (1931), 1st Odia film –Sita Bibaha (1936) or 1st Bengali full length talkie – Dena Paona (1931). He is able to make his own pins (record player’s head called stylus) since it’s no more available locally. In 1970s lac records were replaced by vinyl records, but he still continued to run his passions wild by collecting all sorts of records, be it plastic, glass type, cardboard type or even miniature mementos which he proudly hangs in his shirt pocket whenever he’s invited to attends any meeting or convocation related to record music.
His museum is open for all & he greets all with same passion all the times which includes research students, Odissi dancers & gurus, eminent musicians, journalists, music enthusiasts, politicians, bureaucrats, film industry celebrities, singers, music directors, personal curio collectors & even music company representatives who makes a queue to listen to the rare records from his collections on a nominal fees. He is delighted on seeing the delight on the faces of the music lovers & on hearing their admiration & adulation.
His personal collection has maximum Odia collections, around 1500 records which includes numerous dramas like Ramayan, Mahabharata, & historical verses on Konark Temple’s history , Jagannath Temple’s history, Lingaraj & Kedar Gouri Temple history etc in opera mode (gitinatya). In short, it can be rightly said that he has contributed a lot in preserving Odia culture through preserving, publishing, promoting, broadcasting, research, spreading awareness & coaching through preserving gramophone records of Odia film & non-film songs. Many are the only existing copies of classics recorded by HMV. Other rarities include the album of Krushna Prasad Basu’s first-ever rendition of an Oriya play Bamanavatar, collections by old greats like Aparna Panigrahi, Gokulananda Mohanty and Dulai Das, propaganda songs by Nimai Harichandan on the Dhenkanal peasant revolt (1938), anti-British satires and jingles by folk poet and singer Banchanidhi Mohapatra and the inauguration of the Hirakud dam (1962). He also has recorded speeches of Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subash Bose, Acharya Vinoba Bhabe, Bhutan King, US President J.F Kennedy & Eisenhower’s.
His lifelong contribution in this field though the priceless records is indeed appreciable & commendable. Apart from it, his articles on gramophone record’s invention & evolution and its contribution to Indian music has been published in various magazines. He confirms the fact with smile in his eyes that “Mary had a little lamb” is the first verse ever recorded & played on gramophone record, voice rendered by Thomas Edison himself in 1877.
He feels proud to say that none in Odisha is having such rare collections in Odia that too in record format & some of his are the only surviving ones which even the original record company having rights doesn’t have & they at times makes visit to his house for recording these rare songs & voices. Even Nimai Harichandan’s son has acknowledged that Indramani has all the collections of Nimai Harichandan’s songs on record including odissi number, “Sri Radha batuli”, the first song to be broadcasted in Cuttack All India Radio on its inauguration day – January 28th, 1948. It’s here that Indramani’s fascination for Gramophone record music made its foundation & he started to frequent the radio station to hear & see the songs played on records.
Among the citations bestowed on him, best remembered are Kalinga Bharati (1995), Nilachakra Samman (2001) by Puri Gajapati Maharaja, Odia Fim Industry’s 60 Glorious years celebrations (1996), Chalachitra Jagata Samman (1996), Mohan Sundar Deb Goswami Smruti Samman (2006) at Puri, Bhubaneswar Kala Kendra Samman (2008) to name a few. Even at this dying age of 82 and with a frail body, there has been no cease noticed in his passion for music & record. He has well preserved his two gramophone talking machines in running conditions, two stereo record players and his 4500 plus records, cleaning the collections on regular basis to avoid any damage due to wear & tear.
During the super cyclone of October 1999, he didn’t sleep in order to guard & save his priceless items, which he terms as his children, from the ravages of flood waters. He had been offered good sum of money to sell off some of his collections, but he smilingly rejected the idea of selling his own children. But, this so called passion for records has become a headache for him. He isn’t quite sure about the future of his gramophone record museum. If government grant is received, he can happily hand over his “ganthi dhana” (loving children) to someone equally caring & responsible who can provide the much needed attention to it so that our future generation can witness the charm & quality of hearing priceless numbers on record.
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