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World of Indian classical music concerts in this man’s wardrobe

72-year-old expat has largest collection of recordings of concerts dating back to 1907

  • Indian expat M.H. Parameshwar shows his world record certificate and some of his 13,000 cassettes of Indian clImage Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • Indian expat M.H. Parameshwar shows his world record certificate and some of his 13,000cassettes of Indian cImage Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • InIndian expat M.H. Parameshwar shows his world record certificate and some of his 13,000 cassettes of Indian Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • Parameshwar shows some of his CD collection. He started collecting the recordings of classical music concertImage Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • Parameshwar shows some of his CD collection. He started collecting the recordings of classical music concerts Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Gulf News

Dubai: People usually have a collection of their outfits in their wardrobes. But that is not the case with Indian expat M.H. Parameshwar who has lived in Dubai for 40 years.

This 72-year-old grandfather has his most precious treasure in a wardrobe and some drawers at his flat in Al Ghusais in Dubai — a part of his collection of thousands of recordings of Indian classical music concerts.

Hailing from Thrissur in the South Indian state of Kerala, Parameshwar holds a record from the India Book of Records for the largest collection of Indian classical music recordings.

A paint technologist by profession, he was also chosen to be in top 100 record holders at World Stage 2017, an exhibition of records by six international bodies certifying records.

His collection stored at his homes in Dubai and Mumbai includes recordings of over 23,000 live concerts, he told Gulf News in an interview.

“It is growing every day. I hope to reach 30,000 recordings very soon,” Parameshwar said, with a glint of pride and confidence in his eyes.

If a person listens to his collection of recordings in a span of six hours a day, he said, it will take 140 years to complete the list.

“If you listen for 24 hours, it will take 48 years to complete it. That is the enormous quantity of the collection I have.”

These include concerts of around 300 Carnatic and about 100 Hindustani vocalists in addition to various instrumentalists. Majority of these are very old concerts, the recordings of which are either difficult to get or not available at all.

The oldest concert in his collection was held in 1907.

He said he had spent 30 to 40 hours using best filters and recording systems to re-record some of the very old concerts.

Musical journey

Parameshwar was born into a musical family. His father M.S. Harihara Bhagavathar was a disciple of acclaimed vocalist ‘Tiger’ Varadachariar.

Paramewshar’s musical journey started when he was as young as seven. He used to accompany his father to his concerts to play ‘shruti’ (the base note).

“I have played shruti for him for up to six hours in some concerts. I have had the chance to listen to several great musicians of his time.”

With his penchant for Indian music growing over the years, Parameshwar started his hobby of collecting the recordings of classical music concerts in 1965.

“I was studying in Bombay (Mumbai) those days. I used to get Rs50 every three months for coming first in our chemistry practical tests. I used to buy cassettes with that money.”

After coming to Dubai in 1978, he was able to buy a ReVox recorder. “That is when I could start re-recording. Later I bought a Philips recorder which had a much better speed.”

He would borrow spools of live concert recordings from various sources to re-record the concerts for his collection.

He has also kept pace with technology. He has changed cassettes to CDs to MP3s and now everything is getting stored in hard disks. He now uses a Tascam recorder and already has five one TB hard disks and their backups.

Along with transferring concerts to computer, Parameshwar also records all the details about each and every concert — the names of the vocalists and instrumentalists, the raga of the song and lyrics. He also knows these details by heart.

“People may have collections. But many don’t know what they have. If you name a raga, I can choose krithis sung by at least 40 artists based on that and also tell you which ones are the best of the lot. I sit for four to five hours every day to feed the data about concerts. It will take two more years to complete updating the data about my full collection.”

He has also spent over Rs10.5 million (Dh591,106.8) for the entire collection.

“I couldn’t have done all these without the support of my wife Lakshmi and daughter Meena.”

While Lakshmi, who is also a singer, is his pillar of support, Meena has set up a website — www.carnaticsangeeth.com — to give information about her father’s contribution to music.

With an in-depth knowledge in each raga in Carnatic music, Parameshwar is a regular judge in competitions and has written articles about music therapy.

With his collection, he wishes to open a music library in memory of his father. Through the library, he wishes to spread knowledge about Indian classical music — both Carnatic and Hindustani — to generations to come. He is looking for support from music lovers for fulfilling his wish.

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