It's the biggest music restoration project yet in
Kannada, and perhaps one of the most significant anywhere in
Geetegalu, the half-hour programme which brought to the radio
hundreds of Kannada poems set to music by greats like Kalinga Rao
and Mysore Ananthaswamy, was lost to the world, till a determined
music label, helped by poetry enthusiasts and musicians,
brought it back to life.
The vintage songs -- classics if you go by
how many people still remember and sing them -- are now available
on seven tapes or five CDs. Music lovers can now listen to some of
the most memorable bhavageete tunes ever made, and the poems
are by top-class poets, two of whom are Jnanpith award winners.
We met Velu of Lahari Recording Company for
an exclusive chat, and he spent over two hours describing
the agony and ecstasy of the 15-year struggle to restore this
In his own words:
heard about MSIL Geethegalu. I was very little then. My brother used to
listen to the radio programme. We used to hear live programmes
of Mysore Ananthaswamy and Kalinga Rao at
Cubbon Park and Chamarajpet. That's how we developed
a taste for these songs.
All that was in 1978-79. About 30-31 years
ago, when our company wasn't around. We came into the picture only in 1980. The programme used to come on AIR. People used to listen to it with
great enthusiasm -- it was as popular as Binanca Geetmala.
Since we loved these songs so much, we wanted to get
and distribute them. But whom to approach? The natural destination was the
state government. Some said the tapes were with MSIL,
others said it was with All India Radio.
We did a Mysore Ananthaswamy album
called Rathnan Padagalu with songs like Bhoomi tabbid
modiddhange ... madkerimel manju. I think we did it in '85-86.
When you hear the same songs on these tapes, the singing style
is so different, the voice is
so different. The later tape uses a keyboard and this and that.
But in this recording there are very few instruments.
The expression is excellent.
has Edetumbi haadidenu in two voices. We get immersed
in the song. That was what they could achieve 30-32 years ago.
The pity is that there was no money for musicians. Radio was the only medium. Gramophone records
were there, of course, but there was only one company, and many
artistes just recorded for free, feeling honoured that their records
came out. Only in the '80s
did people come to know about royalties, and that they could earn some money
from the music industry.
Coming back to MSIL Geethegalu,
we started searching for them in '86. We asked the senior people
at All India Radio and they took pains to search their archieves.
They said they didn't have the tapes. Then we went to the
Prabhat Studio people. That was where the songs had been recorded.
They said we don't know. Kept saying they didn't have
We were determined. We
have 7,200 titles but these seven tapes are more precious to us than all
of them. We asked Jagannath of Prabhat, and he said the tapes must be
with Akashvani. He just sent us away.
Around this time, Vedamurthy came as the
Executive Director of
MSIL. We asked him about the tapes. He said he had heard the songs and wanted to
hear them again. He called Ashok Kumar, who has been a PRO at MSIL since those
days. Ashok Kumar said the MSIL didn't have them, but took some interest in the
idea. He said he had recorded the songs from the radio, and gave us
a set of cassettes. I recorded one set each for him and Vedamurthy, and
one for myself. I started hearing the songs on my car stereo.
I loved the songs, but what was even more
amazing was that everyone who heard the songs wanted those tapes. A
friend from Saligrama -- he took away a cassette. I pleaded
that it was the only copy I had but he was not willing to listen. He
took it away. I used to play nothing
Bendre's Naaku tanti
Kalinga Rao songs. Everyone used to say Kalinga Rao
couldn't sing without drinking, but just listen to the songs here, his words
are so clear.
And Mysore Ananthaswamy... all credit
for building up our sugama sangeeta
should go to
him. But in his later tapes, Guna Singh came in and helped in the
background scores. He was in
the film industry and gave it that touch. Ashwath also used a lot of the keyboard.
So there was competition between Ananthaswamy and Ashwath, and both used keyboards.
That's how the natural instruments slowly went out of sugama
This generation will also love the tunes. Some people said make a
remix ... I said never. Let it sell or not sell, I know its value.
Anyway, Vedamurthy said come after a month. I went promptly. He is keen on bhavageete, theatre. He
used to call Ashok Kumar and tell him to trace the songs. But what
could he do, he used to say Jagannath was not
held on to the cassettes firmly -- old Sonys. In those days there
was no Cool Edit or Cakewalk -- no software. So we were wondering
what to do. Vedamurthy was transferred. Then I M Vittala Murthy came in as
managing director of MSIL. Vedamurthy and I spoke to Vittala Murthy about this
idea. He was thrilled, and said do it at once. Same old
problem, how to get the recordings?
He gave a month to Ashok Kumar and he also told
us to pursue it with Jagannath. By that time, we had these software
programs to reduce noise and improve old recordings. But when we couldn't get the tapes from
Prabhat, Vittala Murthy got wild. He told them that the
tapes belong to the government and should be returned at once.
At one point I said we will give it up.
Then we used to send our
man Ramachandra to Jagannath -- go to MSIL, Jagannath and back. It
had become a triangle! Finally Jagannath said come on a
Saturday. He said he had put it in a gunny sack somewhere. He
finally gave us five spools.
It was covered with fungus. The
plastic wrapper was all eaten up. We opened the spools, and the surface was
all powdery. I told our people, "If we succeed in this, your
career is a success. This will bring honour to our
We consulted three or four engineers. We used
chemicals and very gently opened each tape out. Like weavers
who work on a jari seere (zari sari). We placed the
tape out and cleaned it with cotton swabs.
After working for three to four months we slowly pulled out
one spool and played it. It was fantastic! Of course there was some hiss and mike
sounds, but those were natural in that period. We put the songs
on Cool Edit, reduced noise. Each song took us four to five hours to
just use the filters.
Then we mastered the
songs several times. We did one from the mother tape to our digital tape and then
to the floppy. We mastered some songs nine times. Six to seven
months ... with our own equipment and engineers. They had given us
five spools and 55 songs. We asked them for the rest, and they said
they didn't have them.
We started again, but we
couldn't get those things back. We took Ashok Kumar's cassettes and restored
some songs. Finally got all songs, but not all on spools.
the recordings to Shimoga Subbanna, Ashwath and Lakshminarayana
Bhatta. They identified singers like Pushpalata. By a coincidence,
she had come to Bangalore one
before, and wanted to do an album. She met Bhatta, who sent her
to us to see if she could recognise the voice. She came and
listened and was thrilled to hear her own voice. Songs she had
sung 30 years ago. She confirmed that she had sung those
Many songs we couldn't make out. Rathnamala's
voice was so different then. There is a singer called T R
Srinivasan, whose voice is almost like Kalinga Rao's. People
told us he is from Mysore but we haven't been able to trace
I was stunned to know
he couldn't be traced. That is the fate of our folk singers and bhavageete
singers. Don't know what happens to them. He has sung such lovely songs but
no one knows about him. How happy he and his family
would be to hear these tapes. Against some songs on the tapes we've
said 'don't know the singer's name'. If someone tells us this is so and
so's voice, we'll insert it.
us MSIL had also recorded the voices of Kuvempu and some
other great poets but they were untraceable... you can't buy these
sitting with Vittala Murthy when artist Vasudev was with him. He is a great artist. I said we have
a small job but I want to ask you to do the tape inlay cards. If
you do it for us it will be a great privilege. He hadn't done it before. He
smiled and said what is the concept. I hesitated to tell him, because
he is such a big artist. But I made bold and said let us keep
the name MSIL Geethegalu. There are some songs that everyone
recognises. We can keep them as the titles. He too liked the
idea. In about two months, he gave us the artworks. We created fonts to match his
style and used light colours for the
The tapes were released on March 2, the day the MSIL
Nityotsava awards were announced. The response is excellent.
Bhavageete was a trend in the '80s, but it
had faded out because many without skill started doing it. But people now realise
its real value. To sell even one cassette is difficult,
but we have released seven cassettes, and without any publicity,
I am getting wonderful response. People are buying the entire
set. In Mysore and Bangalore
... and in Bangalore Jayanagar, Malleswaram, Chamarajpet...
everybody in old Bangalore is buying them. We normally send tapes to the
wholesale and retail outlets, but this we are selling at our office
Don't know the impact in Hubli Dharwad yet, but I am 100 per cent
confident. I think this is a great achievement for our company. Thirty-two
years back our company didn't exist, but still I have the rights. No
company except HMV has such old songs. I am really
We took the copyright from the state
government. More than commercial value, these tapes have cultural
value. People are calling me from many distant places. I got
calls from Mumbai, lots of Kannada people there. Someone called from
some songs, the pallavi starts somewhere and they bring it back to
the starting word on the spur of the moment. There's real skill in this.
That's the beauty of MSIL Geethegalu.
Students in St Josephs, National College,
Bangalore High School, everyone knows about Kuvempu and Bendre... they sing
English songs by Vengaboys, learn them with difficulty, so
why can't they relate to songs in the language they know?
My daughters go to
Sophiya's. One is three and a half and the other is six. They
have learnt these songs. They want Aavu eevina, naavu
61, Gowri Chambers, 5th Main
Phone: 091 80 661 0333
(Lahari Recording Company)
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