Indian Music Discographies


Indian Music of the 78rpm era






The 78 rpm record labels of India, Michael Kinnear, Australia (2003), Pages 500Price – 120 Australian Dollars + Postage.

 Review by Suresh Chandvankar []

In India, during the period 1902-1970, a number of gramophone companies produced thousands of records in 78-rpm (revolutions per minute) format. Until about 1950, although the Gramophone Company had captured the Indian market, over a dozen companies operated in India with British, German, French and Japanese investments or collaborations. They mostly produced 10-inch diameter 78 rpm black records made out of shellac (a mixture of slate dust mixed with lac). At the center of these records a colorful label of about 4-inch diameter contained a lot of information, such as the catalogue and matrix number, the song title, names of singers, lyricists, music directors, etc. Over 350 labels of different designs, colors and style have been found so far. Mr. Michael S. Kinnear has now published a book: The 78 rpm record labels of India, from Australia. This book comprises about 500 pages, of which about 400 pages are devoted to details about the labels operative in India during the 78rpm era. Each page contains a label photograph, followed by useful information, such as the name of the company, proprietors, record numbers and series, and a brief history of the recording company.

Several colorful label illustrations have been included. Major companies mentioned are: Beka, Nicole, Pathe, James-Opera, Singer, Sun, Ramagraph, Odeon, Young India, Broadcast, The Twin, Columbia, and of course, HMV. Although we are familiar with the Dog and Horn label of HMV records, early labels contain images of various birds and animals, such as horse, tiger, elephant, cuckoo, sparrow, bulbul, heron, deer, swan, etc. Other labels have colorful designs with flowers and leaves. Early gramophone concert records contain an angel cutting grooves with a feather in his hand. Broadcast label shows diamond at the center and emerging out of sea waves, whereas the Sun record label, from F. B. Thanawala, shows a semicircle with the letters “SUN” written at the center. The Saraswati Cinetone Record label shows Goddess Saraswati playing the veena, with a peacock sitting nearby. The Columbia label depicts a tiger, whereas The Twin label shows twin heads of two children.

The Young India record company operated in Bombay from about 1935-55 and produced records with variety of colorful labels. Early Prabhat Film Company film songs records were made on this label, and contained a small thumbnail photograph of the singer at the top left rim of the label. V. Shanataram was one of the promoters, and when he formed the Rajkamal Kala Mandir, some of his early film songs were too released on the Young India label. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose recorded messages for fellow Indians on this label, and their photographs have been published on the corresponding record labels. Apart from these companies, HMV also produced records with photographs of Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, and Bhagat Kanwar Ram. This book is useful to record collectors and researchers and is dedicated to the oldest record dealer from Mumbai: the late Mr. Bachoobhai Recordwala. 




Last updated on 16 August 2003




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