Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Monday, Jan 06, 2003

About Us
Contact Us
Metro Plus Chennai Published on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Entertainment | Young World | Quest | Folio |

Metro Plus    Bangalore    Chennai    Delhi    Hyderabad    Kochi    Thiruvananthapuram    Visakhapatnam   

Printer Friendly Page Send this Article to a Friend

Passion for old numbers

Ali Khan has 54,000 songs in his collection of old melodies. A profile.


CALL IT magic or a minor miracle; music has the ability to transport people to a different world. For the elderly, old melodies bring back some fond memories of ones life. It is incredible to see their oozing eyes and wistful face, explains Ali Khan, as he speaks of those who come to him to talk or to listen to old film songs.

At 63, Ali Khan's greatest possessions are old songs, forgotten in the passage of time. In his `Old Tamil Songs Research Centre', he displays his collection with every bit of detail that would make listening interesting. My interest for old songs dates back to the early 50s, when I, like most in my village in Tanjore district, listened to Ceylon Radio. I feel the collection they have and the amount of old songs they broadcast is far more", explains Ali Khan. Interest for old songs slowly lead him to collecting them. Especially the rarer ones disappeared from the radio waves. The quest lead him to many parts of the State where he met owners of old records and started increasing his collection by borrowing from them.

"These collections multiplied over a period of time and I allotted a big room in my house to maintain them", says Khan. The songs were preserved in various modes with the passage of time. As almost all of them exist in CD's now, Ali Khan is relieved of the strenuous maintenance work he had to do for their preservation, which cost him lot of money, a large part of which came from his salary and pension. "I think it is worth spending, as I am now sure that these songs would exist for posterity", Ali Khan says.

The large collection consists of over 54,000 songs, including the first ever film song in Tamil, sung by Viswanatha Das in 1931. Private records that struck a cord with audience of the past with vocal recitals of Semangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Maharajapuram Viswanathan, G. N. Balasubramaniam, M.M. Dandapani Desikar are also a part of the collection. His belief that the treasure has to be shared with many connoisseurs has made him play songs for those who visit his library. Any song that he plays would be complemented by details and some anecdotes about them, many of them told off hand. All such details are also available in books and materials, mostly gathered from donors.

Details about old films are also shared over the phone. Ali Khan mentions he receives more than 20 calls a day from many faceless fans. I see an increase in such enquiries in the recent years, as the awareness of old songs is spreading. In truth, old music, particularly film music, has melody in it.

The huge disappointment for Ali Khan is the lack of support from the film industry, who, he says has used his collections when they need them, but done nothing to help him preserve them. Old songs will remain samples of popular art in the 20th Century and the insight they offer into life and believes of people. So, I also request the government to take over this treasure and hand it over to the future generations, Ali Khan says. He aims to write an encyclopaedia of regional music, for which he looks for support.

L. SUBRAMANI

Printer friendly page  
Send this article to Friends by E-Mail

Metro Plus    Bangalore    Chennai    Delhi    Hyderabad    Kochi    Thiruvananthapuram    Visakhapatnam   

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Entertainment | Young World | Quest | Folio |


The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | Home |

Comments to : thehindu@vsnl.com   Copyright 2003, The Hindu
Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu