Gramophone Saraswati

Gramophone Saraswati

Welcome to  ‘bajakhana’,  Michael Kinnear’s website into research on Indian and Persian sound recordings, along with research on early sound recording companies

About the Author

 MICHAEL KINNEAR – A discographer and private researcher into early sound recordings.

Born in Adelaide, South Australia, started his working career with EMI Records, Australia, in 1962, attached to the dispatch department, and later worked in the research section, detailing incoming releases from around the world.

This exposure led him to an interest in the recordings of various countries, including, India, Asia and the Middle East.

He has worked in all aspects of the sound recording industry, including, recording, producing, marketing, research into all types and styles of music, record labels and companies, as well as involvement in the presentation and production of live concerts and tours of Western and ‘Oriental’ musicians.

Over the past thirty years he has been deeply involved in research into the origins and development of the sound recording industry, particularly in regard to annotating the sound recordings of India, Asia and the Middle East, along with investigating which companies and manufacturers produced the recordings on a vast array of labels.

He has collected a large number of rare and unusual recordings as the result of numerous visits to India and other countries, and published a number of articles in a variety of journals with a specialized interest in sound recordings along with giving talks on the subject in Australia, England and India.

When not engaged in his ‘official’ research work, he can usually be found hidden away in some Archive or Library in London, Paris, Bombay or Calcutta, or out on some ‘field-trip’ in search of some long forgotten musician or recording artist, or persons connected with the sound recording industry.

In 1990, he helped establish The Society of Indian Record Collectors, in Bombay, as a forum for other record collectors and music lovers to share their interest.  Over the past several years, he has published numerous articles in “The Record News”, the Journal of the Society.


Over the past several years he has been engaged as a special consultant to major record companies.  More recently he has liaised with other discographic researchers on private projects, with an interest in preserving and promoting the musical heritage of a number of cultures as represented in sound recordings made over the past century.


ARSC Award For Excellence 2017 - Michael Kinnear


28+374 Pages
The Gramophone Company's First Indian Recordings, 1899-1907 - Michael Kinnear

 First Published in 1994 as: The Gramophone Company’s First Indian Recordings 1899-1908

Revised, Corrected and Expanded Edition with a Lacuna of the first known disc recordings of Tibetan performers

The Gramophone Company’s First Indian Recordings 1899 to 1907, is a discographical study of Indian recordings taken in London in 1899 for E. Berliner’s Gramophone, and at various places in India between 1902 and 1907, detailing all the known or traced recordings of several dialects and musical styles together with a study of the history and development of the sound recording industry in India.

This newly revised study contains numerous additions and corrections, in particular, to the variety of alternate pressings made of these recordings.  With illustrations in the text.

PRICE:   AUD $120.00, plus Postage
To contact bajakhana about ordering this book please send an email to:

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(4th September 1920 – 26th June 2015)

Frank Andrews, a very close and good friend of mine and fellow discographical researcher, who wrote the Forward to the above volume, and to whom this edition is dedicated, sadly passed away on the 26th June 2015, aged 94. Frank and I had shared many years of good company engaged in record research, and along with his wife Wyn, had opened up their house to me on numerous occasions. Frank was an absolute gold-mine of information about the record industry, which he openly and freely shared with me.  Readers interested in Frank Andrews, research and Publications, might find it at: CLPGS


(? June 1928 – 18th December, 2015)

Alan Kelly, one of my mentors, a true and close friend, and fellow record researchers, passed away on the 18th December 2015 aged 87 years. Over many years, Alan and I had exchanged information and points of view, particularly in regard to the complications and riddles within the Gramophone Company’s oriental series. On some of his visits to London, Alan would stay with me and engage in endless hours of discussion about discographical matters. I totally respected Alan’s knowledge and expertise in record research and was most pleased to see several of his discographical projects being published. Readers interested in Alan Kelly’s Published works might consult his bio.


bajakhana – the origin of the name

The Gramophone Company, Limited’s factory at Sealdah

The 'bajakhana', the Gramophone Company's Factory at Sealdah

The ‘bajakhana’ at Sealdah 

The name of this site originates from the local name given to The Gramophone Co., Ltd factory at Sealdah, nearby the Sealdah Railway Station, in those days, the main passenger and freight terminus, close to the business centre of Calcutta. Between 1902 and 1908, when the parent company in London operated in the name of The Gramophone and Typewriter, Limited, all pressings of ‘Gramophone’ disc records of Indian repertoire made by the company were manufactured at the Deutsche Grammophon, A.G., factory at Hanover, Germany. In January 1908, the name of company reverted back to its original title of The Gramophone Company, Limited, as did the branch in Calcutta.

In 1906, the board of directors in London considered the prospect of building a factory in India, with a site at Jubbalpore in Central India being the first choice, however, with the lack of water and problems on acquiring the land being taken into consideration, a site near the Sealdah railway station was chosen, with building of the factory commencing in early 1907.

In July 1908 the manufacturing of disc records was started at the Sealdah factory located at 139 Beliaghata Road, Calcutta. Most of the labour force was drawn from the local community who referred to the factory as the ‘Baja-khana’ (as though it was a gymkhana of sound) and as the means of providing their livelihood, the workers inferred that they ate ‘sound’ for a living.

On 18 December 1908, the ‘official’ opening of the Sealdah factory was celebrated with an ‘at home’ function which featured a concert ‘in the tent’ by Miss Gauhar Jan of Calcutta, who was first recorded by The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., on 11th November 1902,and over the next few years became the most celebrated artist that the company had on it’s roster of artists.

Within a few years the Sealdah factory was manufacturing discs and assembling machines, not only for India, Burma and Ceylon, but also the repertoires of the Dutch East Indies, The Malay States, Siam, and also Hong Kong and China. By 1921 the Sealdah factory had become very congested and was in need of an overhaul, and so in 1922 the power plant, engine-room and pressing plant were modernised to cope with the increased work-load.

In the ‘acoustic era’ up to 1926, the Sealdah factory was the busiest in Asia, and added a cabinet making house in 1926, on the open area in front of the tank, thus obscuring the original ‘majestic’ profile of the record factory and offices, which included recording rooms (on the first floor), from which emanated the many great recordings that kept the company profitable.

By the advent of ‘electric’ recordings in 1926-27, the Sealdah factory was in need of an extensive overhaul and the decision was taken by The Gramophone Co., Ltd., to build a new and up-to-date factory.

The Gramophone Company, Limited’s factory at Dum Dum

The 'bajakhana', Gramophone Company Limited's Factory at Dum Dum

The ‘bajakhana’ at Dum Dum

In 1928, the Sealdah factory was closed and building work commenced at the new factory located at 33 Jessore Road, Dum Dum. The main building at the Dum Dum site had at one time been the infirmary of the Robert Clive Hospital, and was converted to the main offices of the company. The Dum Dum factory was equipped with the latest disc record pressing machinery and a separate facility for the manufacture of wooden cabinets for gramophones, and commenced operations in May 1929.

A new record pressing plant and other facilities were built on the site, including a separate building for recordings, which became known as the ‘Dum Dum Studios’. Although The Gramophone Co., Ltd., set up recording studios in Bombay, Delhi, Madras and other places, all pressing of the discs produced by the company, both for it’s own labels and several ‘private recording companies’ was done at the ‘HMV works’, Dum Dum.

Between 1932 and 1944, the associate companies Columbia Graphophone Co., Ltd., and Carl Lindström, A.G. Berlin operated as separate concerns with their own distribution set-up, however, by 1942, the “Odeon” label had been dropped and the administration of the “Columbia” affiliate merged with The Gramophone Co., Ltd.

For a few years before 1947, The Gramophone Co., Ltd., also had a small record factory at Chehharta, near Amritsar in the Punjab, which was known as the ‘Auxiliary works’. Up to 1946, The Gramophone Co., Ltd., in India was owned and controlled by the British parent company (Electric and Musical Industries, Ltd., from 1931) but was converted to an Indian company in 1947, in the name of The Gramophone Company of India, Ltd.

The decision to cease manufacture of 78-rpm records was taken in April 1969, however,  78-rpm records continued to be manufactured up to October 1970 at the Dum Dum factory, when the last entries were made to the catalogues, with many releases being available in alternate 78-rpm and 45-rpm versions, although micro-groove discs had been introduced in the late 1950’s.

The production of micro-groove recordings at Dum Dum was phased out in the mid-1980’s, in favor of the Cassette format, which has been the dominant format in India during the last couple of decades.  During the 1980’s the controlling interest in the company was acquired by RPG Enterprises, in association with EMI, Ltd.  The Dum Dum factory continues to produce and manufacture recordings (in the Cassette format) to this day – thus celebrating over 75 years in the sound recording industry of India.


 The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing
Co., Ltd, Wadala

The Wadala Factory, the National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

The Wadala Factory

During 1926, Valabhdas Runchordas, who had been in the sound recording industry in Bombay since 1902, and a persistent rival of The Gramophone Co., Ltd., organised a company in the name of The Viel-o-phone Co., Ltd., with a disc record factory at Matunga, in the northern suburbs of Bombay with the co-operation of Edison Bell, Limited, London.

By mid-1927, The Viel-o-phone Co., Ltd., was producing and pressing disc records under a variety of labels, however, technical and financial problems had forced the closure of the Matunga factory by early 1933. The pressing of disc records by the Matunga factory had encouraged The Gramophone Co., Ltd., to organise a subsidiary company in the name of The Twin Record Co.,. Ltd., Calcutta, in competition with the Matunga factory, often replicating the same releases with releases on the ‘Twin’ label under pseudonyms.

Along with Valabhdas Runchordas, other entrepreneurs, including Chandi Charan Saha [Hindusthan Musical Products & Varieties, Syndicate, LTD., Calcutta], J. N. Ghosh [The Megaphone Company, Calcutta], and Bibhati Bhushan Sen [Senola Musical Products, Calcutta] were also keen to set up their own disc record pressing factories, but were persuaded by The Gramophone Co., Ltd., to have their disc records made by the Dum Dum factory, with releases being marketed by these companies from 1932-33 onwards.

Although the Matunga factory had closed, Dulerai A. Pandya, an industrialist with interests in salt and manganese mining, and manager of the Mayurdhwaj Manganese Works at Dharangadhra, in Kathiawar District, was interested in setting up a record factory, and in May 1934, travelled to Japan where he acquired a disc record pressing plant and engaged Japanese technicians and a record engineer to set up his company.

Dulerai A. Pandya, like Valabhdas Runchordas was a staunch Nationalist and supporter of the ‘Swadeshi’ movement for the creation of an independent India. With support from Valabhdas Runchordas, and financial assistance from wealthy industrialists in the mining industry, in late 1934, Dulerai A. Pandya established The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company, Limited, with its head office at Jhaveri House, 110 Medows Street, Fort, Bombay, where other members of his family conducted a business as accountants and solicitors.

A factory was acquired at the ‘Old Laxmi Mill Compound’ Sewri Cross Road, Wadala, formerly used as a cotton mill, operated originally as the Welji Dharamsey Mill, then known as the Shree Laxmi Mills, operated by the Shree Laxmi Mills. Limited.  By early 1935, Wadala factory was ready to commence operations, and recording sessions had taken place of several well-known artists, some of whom had previously made recordings for The Gramophone Co., Ltd.

Dulerai A. Pandya had strong connections with H.H. Ghanshyamsinghji Ajitsinghji, the Maharaja of Dhranghadhra State and the Indian National Congress party, and arranged for Pandit Jawahirlal Nehru to officiate at the opening and blessing of the Wadala factory, and who kindly made a couple of recordings for the ‘National’ company to encourage the development of indigenous industries. The ‘National’ company proudly advertised that made – 100% Swadeshi Gramophone Records’ of the latest process.

The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., launched its product under the “Young India” label, for which the trademark featured the Indian national flag. Although the various labels affiliated with The Gramophone Co., Ltd., had most of the ‘gramophone personalities’ under contract, the “Young India” label grew in strength and also took on custom pressing work for ‘private recorders’ and by 1936, had also contracted to release the songs from films produced by reputable film producers of Bombay.

In 1938, the Prabhat Film Company {originally established at Kolhapur in 1929, relocated to Poona in 1933} managed by V. Shantaram {Shantaram Rajaram Vankudre} formed an association with The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd.  The releases of film-songs on the “Young India – Prabhat” label proved immensely successful, and contributed greatly to the financial stability of The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., who then lured other major film production companies to have their product issued by the Wadala factory.

Although The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., had continued to expand and make a profit, with the outbreak of World War Two the Japanese technicians and engineers who had been employed by the Wadala factory were forced to return to Japan.  By 1942 the lack of raw materials and a number of technical problems led to a decline in the quality of disc records being produced by the Wadala factory.  V. Shantaram, left the Prabhat Film Company in 1942 and set up another film production company in the name of Rajkamal Kalamandir, Ltd., at Bombay, and in 1943, had his film-song hits issued under the “Young India – Rajkamal” label by the Wadala factory.

By the mid 1940’s most of the ‘private recorders’ in Bombay who had obtained their disc records from the Wadala factory had gone out of business, however, The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., found other clients in the Gulf States and Iran.  During 1947 to the end of 1948, the “Young India” label featured releases of popular songs in several languages, along with numerous ‘Nationalist’ songs in celebration of India having gained its independence in August 1947.

When introduced in 1935, the pressings made by the Wadala factory were of the highest quality, with smooth and well polished surfaces. and although most of the pressings were made in the regular black ‘shellac’ composition, the factory also pressed discs in a brown composition which had exception wearing qualities. By late 1948, however, the quality of pressings made by the Wadala factory had fallen to a very poor standard.

Following the releases of December 1948, the company suffered a major blow with the defection of V. Shantaram who placed his pressing requirements with  The Gramophone Co., Ltd.  With the departure of V. Shantaram, The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., had lost its major client, and was reduced to occasional ‘custom pressing’ work.  By 1953, the Wadala factory had become almost unworkable and was offered for sale.

In March 1953, the Wadala factory was sold to H.R. Betai, the proprietor of The Brittania Talking Machine Co., of Calcutta, Bombay, Madras and Rangoon. H.R. Betai had earlier acquired the Talking Picture Record Co., of Calcutta and Rangoon, and sold off its master recordings to The Gramophone Co., Ltd.  Hoping to make better use of the Wadala factory, H.R. Betai offered the factory to The Gramophone Company of India, Ltd., but when they declined the offer, the Wadala factory essentially ceased to operate and after struggling on for a couple more years was closed down in 1956.

Further information about the various disc record factories in India, refer to the revised and expanded edition of The 78 r.p.m. Record Labels of India, Michael Kinnear, 2016, ISBN  9780957735576


Sound Recording in India

a brief history

Talking Machine

 The ‘talking machine’ must be one of the most productive inventions of the modern age – for it has not only given a great number of people around the world a great amount of pleasure in the listening to either cylinder recordings in the early days and later disc records, but has also provided a substantial number of people with a means of employment and endeavour in various aspects of the industry that ‘sound recording’ has provided.

India has been no exception to the phenomenal popularity of the sound recordings and has in fact been at the forefront of both technological changes and cultural changes as represented in sound recordings. During the 1890’s a handful of traders, in Bombay and Calcutta, had taken on the phonograph as a side line to their other merchandise, and by the early 1900’s some of these traders were offering ‘private’ cylinder recordings – by eminent singers and songstresses – as an inducement to potential purchasers of whatever models of phonograph that were on sale.

These recording were not commercially produced, but made on blanks supplied by the traders. Amongst these traders was an importer named Valabhdas Runchordas, of Bombay, who imported phonograph machines and blank cylinders, and became one of the first wholesalers of Edison, Columbia, and Pathé products.

As far as is known the foundation of an indigenous sound recording industry in India begins with Hemendra Mohan Bose, who began to take cylinder recordings of some of his friends in Calcutta during 1900 or sometime soon afterwards. Before long H. Bose, in business as a perfumer, and with an interest in photograph and printing.

To begin with these recordings were not considered for the general public, and were taken by H. Bose simply to preserve the voices and sounds of his friends for private use. Within a couple of years H. Bose came to be known as the ‘first Indian talking machine man’ and transformed his private interest in sound recordings into a commercial venture – which were marketed in the name of H. Bose’s Records (cylinders).

While H. Bose had been active in a private capacity, The Gramophone Company, Ltd, London, whose establishment in England dates back to 1898, and who by 1901, had been reformed in the name of The Gramophone and Typewriter, Ltd., and had set up a branch office in Calcutta. The Gramophone Company, had recorded some forty tiles of Indian repertoire in London during early 1899, which were issued as ‘E. Berliner’s Gramophone’ records, however, these recordings were most likely of little more than curiosity value.

The establishment of a branch office in India was soon followed by the arrival of Frederick William Gaisberg in Calcutta in November 1902 along with young George Dillnutt – to take recordings for The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., as part of a Far Eastern recording expedition. Fred Gaisberg took some 550 recordings in Calcutta during November and December 1902, the commercially issued discs of which had reached the market in India by mid-1903. These early disc records were manufactured in Hanover, Germany, a practice that continued up until 1908, when The Gramophone Co., Ltd., established it’s own disc record manufacturing plant at Sealdah, an inner suburb of Calcutta.

As the public demand for sound recordings and talking machines grew – so did the providers. The most notable of the agents and wholesalers was Valabhdas Runchordas, who traded in COLUMBIA, EDISON and PATHÉ products from December 1902. Valabhdas Runchordas was to remain prominent in the sound recording industry for several decades and might have dominated the industry in India were it not for the dominance of The Gramophone Co., Ltd., who by sheer marketing force and extensive financial commitment -succeeded in dominating the industry in India.

The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., engaged upon other recording expeditions in India during 1904-05, led by William Sinkler Darby, assisted by Max Hampe, 1906-07, led by William Conrad Gaisberg, assisted by George Dillnutt, and again in 1908, led by George Dillnutt who was sisted in the early part of the expedition by Fred Gaisberg.

While this activity had been going on Nicole Frères, Ltd., London, had also undertaken a recording tour of India beginning in Calcutta during 1904 under the ‘recording expert’ Stephen Carl Porter.  The issue of these recordings appeared in India as brown, celluloid-coated cardboard discs during 1905 as the NICOLE RECORD. At this stage both The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., and Nicole Frères, Ltd.,in India were dependent upon disc record pressing facilities in Europe for supplies to India.

In late 1905 there were rumors and reports of disc records being both recorded and manufactured in Bombay, and it seems that The James Manufacturing Coy. Bombay joined forces with a cycle trader named Rustomji Dorabji and had engaged a German recording expert to take the recordings – which were then manufactured on three hand presses in a rented room in Bombay by a business trading in the name of The Wellington Cycle Co., who marketed the discs through the Singer Phono and Record Agency as the SINGER RECORD, and also the JAMES OPERA RECORD through The James Manufacturing Coy.

During late 1905, Heinrich Bumb and Wilhelm Hadert took recordings for the Beka Record, G.m.b.H., Berlin, in both Bombay and Calcutta on behalf of Valabhdas Runchordas & Co.,, which were issued soon afterwards as BEKA RECORD (8″) and BEKA GRAND RECORD (10″) in 1906. To distribute the Beka products, Valabhdas Runchordas organized The Talking Machine and Indian Record Co., with offices in Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras.

During 1907, the Lyrophon-werke, Adolf Lieban & Co., of Hanover helped T. S. Ramchunder and Bros., Bombay, to place their RAM-0-PHONE DISC RECORD (later changed to RAMA-GRAPH DISC RECORD) on the market, and the International Talking Machine Co.m.b.H. Berlin engaged an agent in India , who traded as The Talking Machine Co. of India, based in Calcutta, to assist in organizing a recording expedition in India – which soon afterwards were issued as the ODEON RECORD.

Apart from the JAMES OPERA RECORD and SINGER RECORD – all of the other makes were being pressed in Europe. In the meantime H. Bose had succeeded in recording and marketing cylinder records in Calcutta – with the assistance of Pathé Frères, Paris – and issued as H. BOSE’S RECORD’s (cylinders).

Soon after H. Bose entered the indigenous sound recording industry a couple of other firms by the names of Mukherjee & Mukharji of Calcutta – who marketed the ROYAL RECORD and The Binapani Record Co. marketed the BINAPANI DISC RECORD. Both if these firms had a relatively short life-span as producers of sound recordings, but the competition offered by these firms had been a major factor which had compelled The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., to establish it’s own factory in Calcutta by 1908, which gave the advantage of local manufacture, while all of the other major brands of disc records continued to be reliant upon their manufacturing facilities in Europe.

By 1908, H. Bose had conceded to technological problems and placed the transfer of his cylinder records to disc through Pathé Frères, Paris who reissued his cylinder recordings on disc manufactured at their factory at Forest, Belgium.  Shortly afterwards, Pathé Phono Cinema Chine took over the Indian repertoire, including the H. Bose recordings, and organised further recording sessions in India, along with establishing branch offices in Calcutta and Bombay.

Between 1908 and 1912, The Gramophone Co., Ltd., went from strength to strength in the marketing of not only Indian repertoire but also in providing disc records for the whole Asian region. By 1912 most of the competitive makes had vanished from the market in India – with only the SUN DISC RECORD, marketed by F.B. Thanewala & Co., and the SINGER RECORD -marketed by The Singer Phono & General Agency, both manufactured in Germany or England, appearing on the market in India.

The BEKA GRAND RECORD and the ODEON RECORD had achieved some success in India but the PATHÉ (disque) despite retaining H. Bose as their agent had failed to match the might of The Gramophone Co, Ltd. In 1912, a ban on German manufactured goods being imported into India, curtailed the supply of Beka and Odeon products.

To off-set any competition by 1910 The Gramophone Co., Ltd., had introduced the ZONOPHONE RECORD – as a cheap-priced rival to the SUN DISC RECORD, The ZONOPHONE RECORD at times imitated the exact couplings being marketed by BEKA GRAND RECORD, RAMA-GRAPH DISC RECORD, and the ODEON RECORD,  amongst other makes. The introduction of the ZONOPHONE RECORD again displayed The Gramophone Co., Ltd’s ability to control the market in India.

By 1914, Valabhdas Lakhmidas & Co., (successors to Valabhdas Runchordas & Co.,) had remained the major competitor to The Gramophone Co., Ltd., to the extent that the company acquired machinery from German and Japanese sources and established The Viel-o-phone Co., Ltd., which succeeded for a short time in manufacturing discs from their small factory at Matunga, Bombay, with some assistance from J. E. Hough, Ltd., London. Valabhdas Runchordas also travelled to Germany hoping to acquire the master discs of his ‘Beka Record’ and ‘Odeon Record’ repertoires, however he only succeeded in acquiring the masters of the master discs of the SINGER RECORD – which were later reissued under the brand name of PHON-O-PHONE.

1916 saw the ‘official’ introduction of HIS MASTER’S VOICE record label to India – by which time The Gramophone Co. Ltd., had only The Viel-o-phone Co., Ltd., in Bombay to consider as a rival – as all the other European manufactured brands had vanished from the market – except the RAMA-GRAPH DISC RECORD of T. S. Ramchunder & Bros., Bombay, which continued to be manufactured in Germany by Carl Lindström, A.G. or one of its subsidiary pressing plants.

The World War between 1914-18 and reduced the sound recording industry in India to just two major operators: The Gramophone Co., Ltd., who had virtually created a monopoly to itself with just two labels – HIS MASTER’S VOICE and the ZONOPHONE RECORD, and Valabhdas Runchordas & Co., operating The Viel-o-phone Co., Ltd., with little more than reissues of the SINGER RECORD on PHON-0-PHONE RECORD and a very small repertoire of VIEL-O-PHONE RECORD issues, along with a few pressings from the English “WINNER” label of Edison Bell, Ltd., from the factory at Bombay.

Although The Pathephone Co., of Bombay, and T. S. Ramchunder & Bros., had remained active during the war years their output was very meager compared to both The Gramophone Co. Ltd., and The Veil-o-phone Co., Ltd., which had also virtually come to a standstill.  By 1919 The Gramophone Co., Ltd., was the only active disc record manufacturer in India and virtually controlled the market. During the 1920’s The Gramophone Co., Ltd., continued to record hundreds of titles in various parts of India along with an extensive program of recording across the whole of Asia from Burma to China.  In 1925, the ZONOPHONE RECORD was dropped and replaced by a green labeled HIS MASTER’S VOICE series. 

In 1928, The Gramophone Co., Ltd., introduced the TWIN record label -partly to exploit their past catalogue of recordings and also to saturate the market due to impending threats of the Columbia Graphophone Co., Ltd., and it’s associated company, Carl Lindström, A.G. and the ODEON record being marketed in India. There was also a renewed attempt by Valabhdas Runchordas to rejuvenate The Viel-o-phone Co., Ltd., – again with financial and technical support from Edison Bell, Ltd., London, which re-introduced the VIEL-O-PHONE label manufactured by the refurbished Mahim factory. 

The manufacturing capacity of The Gramophone Co., Ltd., factory at Sealdah, Calcutta, had reached such dimensions that the plant was being operated twenty four hours a day in several shifts by 1926, and with this pressure it was decided to seek an alternative sight and erect a new and larger factory to cater for The Gramophone Co., Ltd., requirements for the Indian and Asian markets. The new factory of The Gramophone Co., Ltd., was built at Dum Dum, some nine miles from central Calcutta, and commenced pressing in mid-1928.

By 1929 The Columbia Graphophone Co., Ltd., were actively recording in Ceylon, and soon commenced recording in Burma India and the Dutch East Indies. Carl Lindström, A.G. had also resumed recording sessions in Ceylon, Burma, and South India. At this point in time both the COLUMBIA and ODEON record labels were operated in competition with each other – and The Gramophone Co., Ltd., whose HIS MASTER’S VOICE and TWIN labels issued records – sometimes with identical coupling to those of it’s competitors.

Not having their own disc record factory in India, the COLUMBIA and ODEON labels were manufactured in London and Berlin respectively for the market in India and surrounding areas.  Part of the strategy of the Columbia Graphophone Co., Ltd., and Carl Lindström, A.G., extending their activities into Asia, was due to strong competition from the Polyphon Musikwerke, A.G., of Berlin, who produced recordings of Chinese and Malay repertoires on the PAGODA and HINDENBURG labels for local distributors.

In 1930, Columbia Graphophone Co., Ltd., London, took over the Pathé Orient factory in Shanghai, China, hoping to develop this as a base for the South Asian market and take away some of the market share that The Gramophone Co., Ltd., had dominated for several years – sharing some of the territory with the Victor Talking Machine Co., Camden, USA. an associate company. The Shanghai factory operated as the China Record Company. Ltd., as manufacturers, and Pathé Orient, Ltd., as distributors, pressing BEKA, ODEON and PATHÉ (vertical cut) discs for the Chinese and Asian market.

In April 1931, Columbia Graphophone Co., Ltd., which included control of Carl Lindström, A.G. Berlin, [ODEON]; Compagnie Générale des Machines Parlantes, Pathé Frères, Paris, along with Pathé Orient; and The Nipponophone Co., Japan – representing COLUMBIA in that country – merged with The Gramophone Co., Ltd., worldwide. This merger formed Electric and Musical Industries, Ltd., (EMI, Ltd) into the largest sound recording company in the world, a corporate body representing not only it’s major amalgamated companies but also dozens of subsidiary concerns, agents and distributors internationally.

Despite the merger of ‘Columbia’ – ‘Gramophone’ – ‘Odeon’ and ‘Pathé’ interests and the control of these companies in India and Asia being under the ‘one roof’ the recording sessions operated by the various companies was expanded to such a level that each division of EMI, Ltd., was often questioning the activities of the other in both India and Asia.

The productivity of the recording engineers in these regions was somewhere in the region of 200 hundred recordings per two month period, with the effect that the HIS MASTER’S VOICE, TWIN, COLUMBIA and ODEON catalogues showed a rapid increase in releases.

Although financially controlled by Columbia Graphophone Co., Ltd., London, the Carl Lindström, A.G. of Berlin, had been independently established in India in 1929, through distributing agents, and in the early 1930’s, reorganized its activities in India by appointing the Ruby Record Co., of Bombay, and Saraswathi Stores, Madras, to handle their ODEON label, for which the manufacturing of discs shifted from Berlin to The Gramophone Co., Ltd., factory at Dum Dum.

At the same time that this process was going on The Gramophone Co., Ltd., in India introduced a scheme of promoting what they termed ‘private recorders’ which meant that private companies were encouraged to access the recordings made by The Gramophone Co., Ltd., under contract, and have these recordings issued under their own labels, as if in competition to HIS MASTER’S VOICE, COLUMBIA, and ODEON.

The most important of these ‘private recorders’ were:  The Megaphone Co., with the MEGAPHONE RECORD; the Hindusthan Musical Products, and Varieties Syndicate, with the – HINDUSTHAN RECORD and the NEW THEATRES RECORD; Senola Musical Products, with the SENOLA RECORD; all based in Calcutta, and The Talking Picture Record Company, originally established in Rangoon, Burma, but soon moved to Calcutta, with the SHAHENSHAHI RECORD, and DILRUBA RECORD.  There was also Hutchin’s & Co., Madras, – HUTCHIN’S RECORD; who took their own recordings and Janki Nath Kumar & Bros., Lahore, – JIEN-O-PHONE RECORD.

Within the space of a few years there were no less that forty ‘private recorders’ with their own labels being manufactured – under contract – by The Gramophone Co., Ltd., Dum Dum. apart from their own issues on HIS MASTER’S VOICE, TWIN, COLUMBIA and ODEON.  Some of these ‘private recorders’ only managed a couple of batches of releases, before exiting the market, while others such as The Marwari Record Co., Jodhpur, and The Maxitone Record Co, Ltd., of Cawnpore, built up extensive catalogues of ‘regional’ repertoires. 

During the early 1930’s the ‘talkies’ had reached India and created a demand for songs on record which was to change the function of the sound recording industry in India, to the extent that the previously dominant classical and light music became virtually redundant within a couple of years amounting to just a few percentage of the company’s output. The songs from the films were what the buying public wanted on discs, and although the Dum Dum factory was working to capacity, the era was one of the most productive in the company’s history.

While The Gramophone Co., Ltd., enjoyed the success of it’s productivity resulting from the songs issued from the films of the rapidly expanding motion picture industry, the Columbia Graphophone Co., Ltd., – COLUMBIA RECORD, and Carl Lindstrom, AG. – ODEON – aggressively recorded in the areas of classical and regional music.

Following the example of the ODEON label, The Musical Products, Limited, Madras was formed in 1934 with financial backing on a large jewellery firm to record and promote the BROADCAST record in India. Offering large sums of money The Musical Products, Ltd. managed to lure some of the finest talents in India to it’s label, with the disc records were being manufactured by The Crystalate Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Tonbridge, in England, but within a few years the BROADCAST label too failed to achieve profitability and closed.

The revitalization of the sound recording industry and particularly the success of the new popular medium of ‘film songs’ did of course not go un-noticed. In 1935, a promoter by the name of Dulerai Pandya found considerable financial backing to form The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., with offices in Bombay and a factory at Wadala in the northern suburbs of Bombay.

The rise of The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., and it’s label – YOUNG INDIA, was the most serious attempt to break the monopoly that The Gramophone Co., Ltd., had held for several decades, and it went far in signing up the Prabhat film company to it’s contract, along with engaging in a number of ‘private recorders’ – as had The Gramophone Co., Ltd., to extend it’s market share of products.

Thus the situation in India had changed from the sound recording industry being based in just two active labels in 1927 to over one hundred a decade later. Apart from the ‘Gramophone’ and ‘National’ manufacturing plants, a small firm by the name of Samudophone Co., set up in the Punjab attempting to break into the sound recording industry but failed to make any impression and soon folded. Also in the Punjab, at Chehharta, a small factory was set up by H.R. Singh & Co., but failed to go into production, and some years later the land and plant were bought by The Gramophone Co., Ltd., as an auxiliary factory.

Over in Shanghai the operations of the China Record Co., Ltd., and Pathé Orient, Ltd., had slowly eaten into the market that had formerly been the province of The Gramophone Co., Ltd. in Hong Kong,  particularly as far as the Chinese and South East Asian repertoire were concerned. In 1934 the Shanghai businesses were renamed Electric and Musical Industries (China) Ltd., and continued to be run as a profitable concern for that region through to 1939.  Although there was a certain degree of overlapping of supplies, The Gramophone Co., Ltd., remained dominant in Singapore and the Malay States, producing extensive catalogues of Chinese and Malay recordings which were issued on the CHAP SINGA (Lion) and CHAP KUTCHING (Cat) labels for local distributors, alongside their own ‘house’ brands.

The onset of World War Two found The Gramophone Co., Ltd., in all sorts of difficulties and disruption to it’s recording and disc pressing program which had been expanding on a very profitable basis. During the war years the Dum Dum factory had turned over much of its resources to providing items for the Government of India, and found several of it’s key personnel on War Service.

While the war continued The Gramophone Co., Ltd., had considered that it would be opportune to establish an auxiliary factory in case the Dum Dum factory became inoperative, and thus the small plant of H.R. Singh & Co., at Chehharta, near Amritsar was purchased, and after some teething problems went into production in 1943.

The effect of the war on the sound recording industry in India was direct in that it forced the closure of Carl Lindstrom, AG’s interests in India with the ODEON repertoire being transferred to the COLUMBIA label. The slump in sales during the war years also had a dramatic effect on The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., which had risen to being a strong competitor to The Gramophone Co., Ltd.

The ‘National’s, major resource had been the Prabhat Film Company, Poona, which had provided The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., with a large number of strong selling ‘film songs’ – but had shifted it’s allegiance to The Gramophone Co., Ltd., in about 1943. Thereafter The National Gramophone Co., Ltd., was highly reliant upon ‘custom pressing work particularly from The Bombay Record Co., Bombay and other ‘private recorders’ – some of whom also had contracts with The Gramophone Co., Ltd., for pressing work – under different labels.  The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., also took on pressing work of ‘Persian’ repertoires on for Iranian clients, represented in Bombay by The United Iranian Co., with discs pressed under the YOUNG IRAN and NAYA-YE-IRAN labels.

By 1946 it was evident that India would become independent of the British Empire and that the country would be divided into India, West and East Pakistan. As the political maneuvering unfolded The Gramophone Co., Ltd., purchased the business of Janki Nath Kumar & Bros., Lahore, which had been highly successful, and also relinquished it’s offices in both Karachi and Lahore.  The Gramophone Co., Ltd., also acquired the repertoires of The Frontier Trading Co., with the BANGA-PHONE RECORD, and the Bajaj & Co., with the GULSHAN record, whose businesses were located at Peshawar, in the North West Frontier Provinces. 

The changed economic and political climate also caused The Gramophone Co., Ltd., to restructure it’s corporate interests in India into The Gramophone Co (India) Ltd., as an Indian company and also to close most of the ‘private recorder’ programs that it had been operating since the early 1930’s. While India was going through the motions of establishing it’s independence, the factory in Shanghai, which had been in the hands of the Japanese during the war years, had become somewhat dormant although not closed with the result that a certain amount of the manufacturing done by the Shanghai factory was returned to Dum Dum for servicing in the Asian region.

After a couple of years absence from Pakistan territories The Gramophone Co., Ltd., re-opened offices in Karachi and Dacca in 1950, but over the next three years was obliged to re-construct it’s operations in both East and West Pakistan into the formation of The Gramophone Company of Pakistan, Ltd., jointly organized by EMI, Ltd., London and Pakistani share-holders, eventually becoming EMI (Pakistan) Ltd.

During 1954, the Dum Dum factory was forced to close for several months due to disputes over worker conditions, and had to have some of it’s discs pressed by another company.  Although The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Bombay, was nominated to undertake the pressing work on behalf of The Gramophone Co., Ltd., its disc pressing factory at Wadala had become unfunctional, and was in drastic need of an overhaul.   Doubtless The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., might have been glad to have the business as it had been gradually sliding into failure, and indeed survived only a couple of more years, eventually closing it’s offices and factory in 1956.

The Gramophone Co., Ltd., turned to The Plastic and Industrial Corporation, Bombay, who had a small factory at Worli, which produced ‘plastic’ records in limited quantities.  For a short time the discs issued by The Gramophone Company of India, Ltd., were pressed by the ‘Plastic’ factory at Worli, which also produced the BULBUL label for Music Masters Ltd., Bombay.

The Plastic and Industrial Corporation, Bombay, holds the distinction of being the first company in India to manufacture micro-groove recordings in the long-play format, however, due to technical problems, the manufacture of vinyl and  long-play discs did not last long and the company gave up its involvement with pressing disc records.  During the phase of The Gramophone Company of India, Ltd labour dispute, the Dum Dum factory was re-fitted to produce micro-groove discs. 

The Gramophone Company of India, Ltd., tended to rationalize its assets and resources during the 1950’s with the winding down of the ‘Columbia’ branch of it’s operation and also in curtailing the number of ‘private recorders’ that it supplied pressings for. The decade also brought in new technology by the introduction of the Long Play (33-1/3rpm), Single Play and Extended Play discs (45rpm), although the 78-rpm disc remained in production up until 1970.

The total number of 78 rpm discs recorded and issued by The Gramophone Co., Ltd., in India is estimated to be in the region of some 500,000 titles to which might be added some 30,000 recordings by the various competitor companies that had been operating in India over the past sixty odd years.

During the late 1960’s The Gramophone Company of India, Ltd. was challenged in the market for Indian repertoire by the formation of Polydor India, Ltd., who had a disc pressing plant at Kandivlee, north of Bombay.  Thus developed a market struggle between the ‘Gramophone’ and ‘Polydor’ companies in India for the rights to songs from the films being produced by numerous motion picture producers in India. In recent years Polydor India, Ltd., has been reformed into Music India, Ltd., and remains a vital force in the sound recording industry in India.

Hindusthan Musical Products, Ltd., who had since 1933, been recording their own repertoire along with resources of The Gramophone Co., Ltd., formed The Indian Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., in 1977 with a disc record factory at Taratalla Industrial Area, Calcutta, and pressed their own HINDUSTHAN RECORD and INRECO discs – that had previously been manufactured by The Gramophone Co., Ltd., at Dum Dum.

Perhaps the most significant development of the 1970’s was the introduction of the cassette, which had found most companies in India fettered by Government regulation in regard to the importation of machinery and tariff restrictions. While the matter were being sorted out ‘pirate’ cassette concerns in Singapore and Thailand were saturating the Indian and Asian market for sound recordings with ‘illegal’ copies of much of The Gramophone Company of India, Ltd repertoire.

Although the importation of ‘pirate’ cassettes was basically brought to a halt as far as India was concerned, the public demand for product of both old and new recordings was such that several cassette manufacturing concerns came into the market in India, again often producing ‘illegal’ copies of The Gramophone Company of India, Ltd, repertoire, or versions of the same film songs and ‘hits’ that The Gramophone Company of India, Ltd., and Music India, Ltd., had paid high royalty rates for access to.

Amongst the dozens of new cassette manufacturing companies, most of whom were engaged in quite legitimate marketing of there own products, there were a number of operators who had quite blatantly sought to damage The Gramophone Company of India, Ltd dominance of the market by marketing pirate copies of their product, and very nearly succeeded in forcing closure of the once almighty company.

The 1990’s have witnessed the rise of new sound recording companies such as MagnaSound (India), Ltd., Bombay; The Master Recording Co., Ltd., Madras; Concord, Ltd., Calcutta; CBS Gramophone Records and Tapes. Ltd., Bombay; Super Cassettes Industries, Ltd., Delhi, Music Today, Ltd., Delhi; The Venus Record Co. Ltd., and many others, all vying for their market share in the Indian sound recording industry.

The Gramophone Company of India, Ltd. {now known as Saregama, Ltd.}has without doubt lost much of the market to these numerous other sound recording companies, but it is still recognized as the market leader in India. It is estimated that during the 1990’s there have been well over one hundred companies set up to produce, manufacture and market cassettes in particular.

The international demand for Indian music has also led to a number of companies being formed in Europe, the United States of America, and other places, who have engaged upon their own recording programs, with such companies as Chhanda Dhara, Germany; Natraj Music, Germany: Audiorec, Ltd., England; Navras Records, England; Nimbus Records, England; Ali Akbar College of Music, (AACM), Raga Records,  New York; India Archive Music, New York; Moment Records, Oriental Records, New York, and several others producing fine recordings aimed primarily at the growth in popularity of the compact disc.

Internationally the new medium for sound recordings – the compact disc -has totally revitalized the world market, but at present the cassette remains the popular medium in India, and it has yet to be seen how the various sound recording companies in India will adapt to the compact disc and other technological improvements.

Reflecting upon some ninety years of sound recording in India, it is sad to see that the preservation of old recordings, has been very badly neglected, particularly in regard to the ‘non-film’ repertoire, perhaps the newer generations will take a more vital interest in the incredible wealth of musical heritage and culture that has been preserved on the old discs.


The Nicole Record


Nicole Frères was established in 1815, as a musical box maker at Geneva, Switzerland. Over the next few decades the firm achieved a reputation  for excellence in the quality of the machines. By 1880, the firm had opened a branch in London managed by Charles Brun, which, by October 1897 had acquired the assets of the Swiss business and was reformed as Nicole Frères, Limited, operating from 21 Ely Place, Holborn, London.

Nicole Frères, Limited began selling phonograph and talking machines, along with a variety of other musical boxes and automatic apparatus, including “Polyphon” and “Regina” machines, for which the company established selling agencies. By 1901, Nicole Frères, Limited had become selling agents for the International Zon-o-phone Company of Berlin, and by June 1902, had formed a subsidiary interest known as the New Record Account, which in essence was an attempt to set up a  factory to manufacture disc records in association with the International Zon-o-phone Company, however, by June 1903, The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., had acquired control of the International Zon-o-phone Company of Berlin, which brought an end to that proposal. In the meantime Nicole Frères, Ltd.,  set about reforming the subsidiary interest to produce their own disc records under a patent lodged by Carl Hugo Krieger and George Henry Burt.

In the interim, Nicole Frères, Ltd., had entered into negotiations with Gianni Bettini, to manufacture disc records for his company operating in France as Société des Micro-Phonographes Bettini.  In May 1903, the directors of Société des Micro-Phonographes, Bettini, bought out the company, and reduced Gianni Bettini’s role to that of a Manager only, and re-organised the company in the name of Société des Phonographes, Bettini, however, following several months of negotiations, the proposed venture with Nicole Frères, Ltd., was abandoned, with Société des Phonographes, Bettini, later turning to The Crystalate Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Tonbridge, Kent, in which George Burt had an interest, to furnish their disc record pressings.

In July 1903, The Nicole Record Company, Limited was established with a disc record factory located at Great Saffron Hill, Holborn, London, to record and manufacture disc records which were constructed of a cardboard base coated with celluloid, under the patent of Krieger and Burt, and with the details of the recording printed directly to the disc face in silver paint.

 Although The Nicole Record Company, Limited was the manufacturer of the disc records the marketing and distribution of the product was administered by Nicole Frères, Limited. Soon after the launch of the Nicole Record the company began to market its own models of talking machines under the name of ‘Nicolephone’ in a variety of models.

The earliest ‘Nicole’ recordings of English and German repertoires were taken by Rudolf Eckhardt, followed by Stephen Carl Porter.  In February 1904, John Watson Hawd, who had recently been the Calcutta Branch Manager of The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., joined The Nicole Record Co., Ltd., and by late 1904 had journeyed to India with Stephen Carl Porter to make recordings in Calcutta. 

In May 1905, the South African branch of Nicole Frères, Limited had been converted into a separate company, and by September 1905, Thomas Clement Usher, the Chairman of Nicole Frères, Limited had acquired the Indian branch of the company and reformed it as a separate company in the name of Nicole Frères (India) Limited, with its head office in London.

In the meantime Arthur Henry Brooks had joined The Nicole Record Co., Ltd., as a recording expert and conducted recording sessions in London, Paris and Stockholm, followed by further recording sessions in London, which included Operatic selections made by performers associated with the San Carlo Opera Company, which were marketed as Nicole ‘Meister’ Record discs. 

By mid 1905, Nicole Frères, Limited had built up an extensive catalogue of recordings in English, French, German, Italian and Swedish selections, and a large selection of Indian recordings in Hindustani, Bengali and Urdu.  In October 1905, Nicole Frères, Limited had introduced the Double-sided Nicole ‘Duplex’ Record, which included a selection of older recordings along with new selections. By now the ‘Nicole Record’ was being issued with printed paper labels, to replace the older version of printing directly to the disc face., and by January 1906, had introduced their own gold-moulded ‘Champion’ cylinder recordings.

Although the marketing of the ‘Nicole Record’ appears to have been a success, by early 1906, Nicole Frères, Limited was facing a financial crisis and had failed to repay a series of debentures held by the company’s Chairman, Thomas Usher.  In March 1906, Thomas Usher served a writ of summons against Nicole Frères, Limited, for failure to repay its debt to him, and called for the company to be wound-up.

In July 1906, Nicole Frères, Limited was placed into liquidation, and with this action, The Nicole Record Company, Limited was left without a distributing agency.  While Nicole Frères, Limited was in the process of realising its assets, John Watson Hawd had moved to Stockport, near Manchester in the North of England, and had organised his own disc record manufacturing factory in the name of The Disc Record Company, Limited, and by September 1906 had acquired the machinery, plant and matrices of The Nicole Record Company, Limited.

Having acquired the ‘Nicole Record’ master recordings, by late 1906, The Disc Record Company, Limited,  had begun to reissue the recordings under the original brand name with an emphasis on India where Nicole Frères (India) Limited continued to operate as a separate company, and also offer the recordings to a number of clients in England, with pressings made from the ‘Nicole’ masters under labels of the clients choosing.

In January 1907, The British Sonogram Co., Ltd., had been formed by Hans Knudsen and George Burt, and shortly afterwards marketed the “Sovereign Record” utilising ‘Nicole’ master recordings. This company collapsed with a few months, however, John Watson Hawd continued to offer disc record pressings made from ‘Nicole’ masters to clients until well into 1909.  By this time however, Nicole Frères (India) Limited had ceased to operate in India with the “Nicole Record” labelled discs of  the celluloid coated-cardboard base type of disc finally being discontinued, although  The Disc Record Company, Limited continued to use the ‘Nicole’ masters for ‘custom-pressing’ work on behalf of its clients in the hard composition {shellac} type of pressing, including re-pressings of Indian and Swedish recordings with the “Nicole Record” label.

In 1909 The Disc Record Company, Limited supplied pressings of the “Sun Disc Record” for F.B. Thanewalla, of Bombay, and then went into a period of inactivity due to court actions being taken due to the liquidations of The British Sonogram Co., Ltd., and an associate company named Hawd & Spicer, Ltd..  As these court cases progressed, The Disc Record Company, Ltd., then took up supplying pressings to ‘tallyman’ {hire-purchase} operators, including The Britannic Record Company, Ltd., London.

By 1912, The Disc Record Company, Ltd., had relocated its factory to Wealdstone, near Harrow, west of London, and continued disc record manufacturing work utilising ‘Nicole’ masters for its clients.  In 1913, the “Pelican Record” was marketed through The Universal Record Syndicate, and then taken over by Blum and Co., London, which was destined to be the last use of the ‘Nicole’ master recordings. In June 1915, The Disc Record Company, Ltd., relocated its head office to Harrow, and the factory at Wealdstone was leased to W. H. Reynolds, Ltd., who then took over the factory which became known as the Reno Works in August 1915.  Although W. H. Reynolds advertised a disc record under the brand name of “Defiance Record”, it would appear that the use of the ‘Nicole’ masters had ceased with the relocation of The Disc Record Company, Ltd., to Harrow.

Although the “Nicole Record” was only marketed for about five years in its own right, followed by re-pressings on a variety of labels for a few years more, none of the recordings have survived into modern times.



View the PUBLICATIONS Page for full availability of  Titles

 The 78 rpm Record Labels of India
Michael Kinnear

Revised and Expanded Edition
20+500 Pages, Profusely Illustrated 

78 rpm Record Labels of India, Michael Kinnear

An encyclopedia of the 78 rpm record labels produced in India and elsewhere, covering all known record labels and histories of the producing concerns from 1899 through to the late 1960’s.

With a Supplement on the numerical series of the major labels, and an Appendix on the record labels of non-Indian and Asian repertoires made in or associated with India.

With examples of most record labels (in full colour, or black and white if no colour examples available).  Bibliographical references and Index.  Many illustrations in the text.  20+500 Pages.

PRICE:   AUD $150.00, plus Postage
To contact Bajakhana about ordering this book please send an email to:

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A Discography of Hindustani and Karnatic Music, Michael KinnearA Discography of Hindustani and Karnatic Music
Compiled by Michael Kinnear

Greenwood Press  (Now ABC-CLIO)
ABC-CLIO,130 Cremona Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93117, United States
Published 1985, 18+594 pages
ISBN:  0313244790/ISBN: 9780313244797
Greenwood Press Discographies No. 17

A discography of Indian recordings issued on microgroove discs – and cassettes, covering the period between the early 1950’s to the end of 1983. Detailing Indian and International releases, transfers – and reissues of over 2,700 recordings of classical and semi-classical music. Also containing information about earlier recordings from the early 1930’s onwards – originally issued on 78-rpm discs – and reissued on microgroove discs.  With appendices and indexes to artists, musical genres and styles.


The Gramophone Company's First Indian Recordings, 1899-1907 - Michael Kinnear




The Gramophone Company’s First Indian
Compiled by Michael Kinnear

Bajakhana – Michael Kinnear, Victoria, Autralia
Revised, Corrected and Expanded Edition, 2016
ISBN: 9780957735569
28+374 Pages

First Published 1994 as: The Gramophone Company’s First Indian Recordings 1899-1908

Revised, Corrected and Expanded Edition with a Lacuna of the first known disc recordings of Tibetan performers.

The Gramophone Company’s First Indian Recordings 1899 to 1907, is a discographical study of Indian recordings taken in London in 1899 for E. Berliner’s Gramophone, and at various places in India between 1902 and 1907, detailing all the known or traced recordings of several dialects and musical styles together with a study of the history and development of the sound recording industry in India.

This newly revised study contains numerous additions and corrections, in particular, to the variety of alternate pressings made of these recordings.

With an appendix and indices. With illustrations in the text.


The Gramophone Company's Indian Recordings 1908-1910, Michael Kinnear

The Gramophone Company’s Indian Recordings, 1908-1910
Compiled by Michael Kinnear

Bajakhana, Victoria,  Australia
Published 2000,  20 + 364 pages
ISBN: 0957735502,  Paperback /  ISBN: 9780957735507, Paperback

Second volume in the series of discographical studies on the recordings taken in India and released by The Gramophone Company, Ltd., between 1908 and 1910, detailing all known and traced recordings. With a detailed historical examination of the development of the sound recording industry in India up to 1914.  With illustrations in the text, and, with appendices on numbering blocks and matrix serials.


Nicole Freres, A Discography, Michael Kinnear

Nicole Record – A Discography
by Michael Kinnear

Michael Kinnear, Victoria,  Australia
Published  2001, 20 + 288 pages
ISBN 0957735537,  Paperback / ISBN: 9780957735538, Paperback

A discography of the ‘Nicole Record’.  With a history of Nicole Frères, Limited, and The Nicole Record Company, Limited, and associated companies. (A numerical listing of all known recordings produced by The Nicole Record Company, Limited, from 1903 to 1906. Together with information about reissued and transferred recordings.)  With Bibliography and indices and with illustrations in the text.


The 78 r.p.m Record Labels of India, Michael KinnearThe 78 rpm Record Labels of India
by Michael Kinnear

Bajakhana – Michael Kinnear
Second Revised Edition, Published 2016
First Edition, Published 2003

ISBN:  9780957735576 (Paperback)
20 + 500 Pages
Height:  25cm, Width:  18cm
Weight:  1.4kg

An Encyclopaedia of the 78-r.p.m. Record Labels produced in India and elsewhere, covering all known record labels, with histories of the producing concerns from 1899 through to the late 1960’s. With a supplement on the numerical series of the major labels, and an appendix on the record labels of Non-Indian and Asian repertoires, made in or associated with India. With examples of most record labels, some in colour, rarities, advertisements, and other illustrations relating to the sound recording industry in India. With illustrations in the text.


 The Gramophone Company's Persian Recordings 1899-1934, Michael KinnearThe Gramophone Company’s Persian Recordings, 1899-1934
Compiled by Michael Kinnear

Bajakhana, Victoria,  Australia
Published 2000,  20 + 194 pages
ISBN: 0957735510  Paperback, ISBN: 9780957735514, Paperback

A Discography of recordings taken in Persia by The Gramophone Company, and its successor concerns, from 1899 to 1934.  With a history of the activities of various recording companies who operated in Persia and the sessions conducted at Tehran and London of Persian repertoire.

With a supplementary discography of recordings Persian taken by the Columbia Graphophone Co., Ltd., between 1928 and 1934. With appendices on numbering blocks and matrix serials.  With illustrations in the text.


The Gramophone Company's Persian Recordings 1899-1934 - FarsiThe Gramophone Company’s Persian Recordings
afhah-haye Farsi Shirkat Gramophone
Compiled by Michael Kinnear, Co-Editor Mohsen Mohammadi

Anjuman-i-Asai va Mafakhir Farhangi, Tehran, Iran
Published 2007, 464 pages
ISBN: 9645281180, ISBN:  9789645281180

A Farsi (Persian) version of this book has been prepared and produced by Mohsen Mohammadi (as co-editor) with corrections and modifications and published in Tehran, Iran.

A Discography of recordings taken in Persia by The Gramophone Company, and its successor concerns, from 1899 to 1934.  With a history of the activities of various recording companies who operated in Persia and the sessions conducted at Teheran and London of Persian repertoire.

With a supplementary discography of recordings Persian taken by the Columbia Graphophone Co., Ltd., between 1928 and 1934. With appendices on numbering blocks and matrix serials. With illustrations in the text.


The Zonophone Record, Ernie Bayly and Michael KinnearThe Zon-o-phone Record – A Discography
Compiled by Ernie Bayly and Michael Kinnear

Michael S. Kinnear, Victoria,  Australia
Published 2001, 18 + 494 pages
ISBN: 0957735529 Paperback, ISBN: 9780957735521, Paperback

A Discography of recordings produced by the International Zonophone Company, and associated concerns in Europe and the Americas from  1901-1903. With a history of the company’s international activities, and a Supplement on reissues and transferred recordings.

With Bibliography and indices. With illustrations in the text.

Sadly our dear friend Ernie Bayly passed away on 5th October 2004, aged 78 years.


Sangeet Ratna, The Jewel of Music, Khan Sahib Abdul Karim Khan - Michael KinnearSangeet Ratna – The Jewel of MusicKhan Sahib Abdul Karim Khan  – A Bio-Discography
Michael Kinnear

Michael Kinnear, Victoria,  Australia
Published   2003, 14 + 290 pages
ISBN: 0957735553 Paperback,  ISBN: 9780957735552, Paperback

A Biography and Discography of Khan Sahib Abdul Karim Khan (1872 – 1937) – with numerous rare and previously unpublished photographs. The discography details all Abdul Karim Khan’s recordings from the 1905 sessions for The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., and the 1934-36 sessions for the ‘Odeon’ label – through the Ruby Record Co. Bombay. With details of unissued recordings, out-takes, and reissues.

With numerous illustrations and label examples, and with illustrations in the text.

The Persian Page

 A brief history of Sound Recording in Persia

The earliest known recordings of PERSIAN repertoire appear to be a series of recitations – recorded in London, England in early 1899. These early recordings were part of a series of some 45 ‘Oriental’ recordings taken by The Gramophone Company, London, and included recordings in Hindi, Urdu and Sikh (Gurmukhi) by virtually unknown persons. These early recordings which were issued as 7 inch – single-side recorded discs -without labels – under the trade mark of “E. Berliner’s Gramophone” – but none have survived or been preserved to qualify the nature of these sides.

The next recordings of PERSIAN repertoire were taken by Franz and Max Hampe, the recording experts of The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., – at Teheran in early 1906. The Teheran recording sessions of 1906 produced some 225 titles in 7, 10 and 12 inch sizes – reproduced at Hanover, as single-side recorded discs – issued on the GRAMOPHONE RECORD – GRAMOPHONE CONCERT RECORD and GRAMOPHONE MONARCH RECORD labels.

These recording sessions produced some fine sides of notable musicians of the time including – Agha Hossein Taziehkhan, Ghorban Khan, and a number instrumental selections by Mirza Ali Akbar Khan – Saftar Khan and others – and also the first attempts to record – sets of ‘Dastgah’ – in multiple disc sets. At the end of these recording sessions five recordings were taken of the voice of the Shah, Muzaffaru’din, which were originally pressed for private circulation only, but later made available for public sale.

In 1909 a troupe of about a dozen musicians were sent to London to provide yet further recordings of Persian repertoire, under the supervision of William Conrad Gaisberg.  The troupe included several famous names of the time including Taher Zadeh, Gholi Khan and Agha Hossein – along with the instrumentalists – Akbar Khan (Flute), Bagher Khan (Kemantche), Habihollab Khan (Piano), Darviche Khan (Tar). The London recording sessions of 1909 produced over 300 sides – many of which were extremely popular and remained on the catalogues well into the 1940’s – having been reissued on the HIS MASTER’S VOICE label.

In 1911, Pathé Frères, of Paris, sent their recording expert, T. J. Theobald Noble to Russia, on an expedition that extended through to the Caucasia’s and onto the remote areas of Chinese Turkestan. The PATHÉ recording tour took over 900 hundred recordings in all languages and dialects of the region including a number of Persian recordings. The discs issued from the ‘PATHÉ’ recording tour were reproduced – as ‘vertical-cut’ discs – which played from the inside grooves to the outer rim. These ‘PATHE recordings are extremely rare – and although they may feature some of the finest musicians of the time – no catalogue of releases has been found to verify the content or nature of these recordings.

The next recording sessions by The Gramophone Co., Ltd, of Persian repertoire were undertaken by Edmund Pearce in 1913 at Teheran – as part of an extended recording tour -which also covered the Caucasian and Transcaspian regions. The Teheran sessions of 1913 produced about 145 sides – of strictly Persian repertoire – to which might be added a number of Persian and Tartarian recordings taken at Baku and Tiflis.

Some of the noted artists of the 1913 sessions include – Eftekhar Khanoum, Amdjad Khanoum, Zari Khanoum, and Mohamed Khan and Mechedi Rouhollab and Djenabe Demavendi – – along with Hossein Khan (Kemantche) and Mirza Assadollah Khan (Tar) and other instrumentalists. The recordings issued from the 1913 sessions were manufactured at Riga (Russia) as ‘AMOUR – Gramophone Record’ discs, and later pressed at Calcutta (India) – and yet later reissued as ‘HMV’ pressings from Hayes (England) in the 1920’s.

Apart from The Gramophone Co., Ltd., there have been reports that The International Talking Machine Co.m.b.H., Berlin, had also taken some recordings of Persian repertoire – but to date very little information has been found to confirm – what might have been issued on the ODEON RECORD label at the time. There may also have been other sound recording companies who had taken recordings of Persian repertoire – but it appears that The Gramophone Co., Ltd., was the major participant in this field -at the time. Between 1915 and 1925 – there does not appear to have been any sound recording company active in Persia.

By the late 1920’s the interest in Persian repertoire had been rekindled -by recording sessions undertaken by Polyphon Musikwerke, A.G., Berlin, and the Baidaphon Company of Cairo and Beyrouth. Both POLYPHON and BAIDAPHON had taken advantage of the situation The Gramophone Co., Ltd., had been inactive in the field of Persian repertoire for some years and opened branches and agencies in Teheran and other places in Persia.

Details of the POLYPHON and BAIDAPHON recordings have been found – and copies of the recordings issued by these companies are only found today among the most serious record collectors in Iran. The renewed interest in Persian repertoire also brought the Carl Lindström, A.G. [ODEON] back into the region – but with an emphasis on Iraqi recordings. With other competitors active in Persian repertoire – The Gramophone Co., Ltd., resumed it’s recording sessions in Persia, undertaken by recording experts based in India – but with the pressing of discs maintained in England.

Some of the important artists of the time were Qamar El Mou1ouk, Mortaza Khan (Tar), Selim Khan, Moulouk Khanoum, Iran Khanoum, Yehia Khan (Tar), Akhtar Khanoum and Madam Paraveneb. There may be several historically important recordings – particularly on the POLYPHON and BAIDAPHON labels of noted musicians and vocalists of the era – but the lack of information about these recordings – it is not possible at present to qualify either the artistic merit or technical value of the recordings.

By 1930, the variety of Persian recordings available had been enhanced by several hundred sides and also been added to recording sessions at Teheran by the Columbia Graphophone Co., Ltd., London. Some of the important artists to appear on the catalogues of The Gramophone Co., Ltd., at the time were Badii Zadeh, Koly Khan, Golrize Khanoum, Asghar Khan, and Mehr Afagh Khanoum, Abid Khonsary and Ikbal Ka Sultane (Abol Hassan Khan).

During the early 1930’s The recording activities of The Gramophone Co., Ltd., and the Columbia Gramophone Co., Ltd., had come to dominate the recording of Persian repertoire – and although these two companies appear to have been in competition with each other they were in fact sister companies – having been merged into the multinational conglomerate – known at Electric and Musical Industries, Ltd., (EMI) in 1931.

Although the record labels of – HIS MASTER’S VOICE – COLUMBIA – ODEON – BAIDAPHON – and PATHÉ – were operated as separate concerns – they were all in essence – operations of EMI, Ltd., and as such represented a virtual monopoly in regard to Persian repertoire. However most of the important recordings that had been on the catalogues over the past three decades had been deleted, and despite the fact that new recording sessions were undertaken – the availability of Persian repertoire had fallen off by 1940 to a situation that had prevailed at the beginning of the 1920’s.

Between the mid-1920’s and up to the mid-1930’s the recordings of Persian repertoire by The Gramophone Co., Ltd., [HMV] were undertaken by the recording engineers of the Indian branch of the company – although the actual manufacturing of the discs was done at Hayes in England. During this period the territory was also divided up into more specific zones to provide repertoires of – Bahraini – Iraqi – Kowaiti – Kurdish – and Armenian – selections, which in former times might have been included in the ‘Eastern’ catalogues, but continued to be manufactured at Hayes.

In 1937, the popular vocalist Badii Zadeh, who made  several recordings for The Gramophone Co., Ltd., over the past few years, travelled to Berlin where he made some 50 recordings for the Carl Lindstrom, A.G. company {*}, intended for release on the ODEON label and were later released for the Iranian market the navy blue A-243500 series.

During the period from 1937 to 1945, The Gramophone Co., Ltd., had remained the major sound recording company active in Iran, however, from the mid-1940′ 5 a large number of recordings of Persian repertoire were taken in India – by the United Iranian Co., Ltd., in association with The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Bombay – and issued under the YOUNG IRAN and NAYE-YE-IRAN labels – featuring important recordings by Badii Zadeh and Madam Delkash amongst others.

In 1946 a proposal was put forward to join the various agencies in Iran that controlled the HIS MASTER’S VOICE – COLUMBIA and ODEON labels into one distributing organization. The agent for HIS MASTER’S VOICE declined to join such a group, however, the representatives for COLUMBIA and ODEON joined forces and merged into a single company by the name of The Iran Voice Co., Ltd. (Sherkat Sowt Iran, Ltd.) through which the Columbia and Odeon products were marketed.

The Iran Voice Co., Ltd.,  had been formed partly to rival the competition offered by the YOUNG IRAN and NAYA-YE-IRAN labels being manufactured by The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co., Ltd., of Bombay, with its factory at Wadala, in the northern suburbs of Bombay. In Iran N. Esheghi and Co., of Teheran and Shiraz, set up a record company soon after to market the MUSICAL RECORD.

By the early 1950’s it is estimated that some 4,000 recordings of Persian repertoire had been taken and issued on 78-rpm discs over the past five decades by the various record companies trading in the region. Although the number of recordings taken and issued may be enhanced by further research and findings, in the main the figure of 4,000 titles could be considered to be fairly close to the maximum number of commercial recordings placed on the market.

Taken in perspective the estimate of recordings of Persian repertoire could also be greatly enhanced by adding the very considerable number of recordings of affiliated repertoire taken in the Central Asian area -north of Iran and the Caucasian and Transcaspian regions – and also those recordings taken of Afghani music and a sizeable number of recordings taken in India of Persian repertoire

It will be noted that although the actual recording of Persian repertoire was undertaken and controlled by ‘foreign’ companies – the organization of the recording sessions and the marketing of the discs issued to the public was the concern of local merchants. Up to the early 1950’s there does not appear to have been any indigenous manufacturer of Persian or Iranian discs in the 78-rpm format.

The Iran Voice Co., Ltd., (Sherkat-i-Sowt Iran, Ltd), established in 1947, seems to have been the first cohesive organisation to attempt to set up any indigenous Iranian record producing company, followed by the establishment of ‘Musical Record’ (Musikal, Sherkat-i-Taulidi, Shiraz and Tabriz).

During the early 1950’s recording of Persian repertoire almost came to a standstill, apart from the activities of the local record companies. The close of the 78-rpm era in the late 1950’s brought radical changes to the Iranian record market, basically due to the fact that there were no local disc record manufacturing facilities for the format. The international change of format to 45-rpm and 33-1/3 rpm (LP), brought with it renewed vitality to the recording of Persian repertoire. A number of new local record labels appeared, including Ahang-e-Ruz, Golden Record, Monogram, Royal, Tip-Top, and others.

Outside of Iran, the availability of Persian repertoire in international markets has been very slight indeed, although in recent times a large number of cassettes have been issued – both from Iran and also in the United States and England – restoring many interesting recordings of the 1930’s and 40’s of popular, folk and classical repertoire to the catalogues.

Between the 1950’s and 1980’s – there were little more than about 20 Long Play discs issued by international companies of Persian repertoire, in the main – all Classical or folk recordings, however the large variety of product marketed in Iran seems to have little exposure outside of the domestic market. During the same time frame the musical cultures of the Middle East in general and that of India have achieved considerable exposure in the International market. The lack of exposure of ‘Persian’ repertoire may also be attributed in some aspects to the political events taking place during this time in Iran itself.

The Iranian company – Ahang-e-Ruz had taken a number of fine recordings of Classical Persian music, several of which have now been made available in Compact Disc format (Caltex) – along with other more recent recordings. The variety of Persian repertoire available on cassette is now quite extensive – particularly in regard to popular and ‘film’ songs – and although ‘traditional’ music is well represented, there still remains a large selection of ‘historical’ and important recordings taken over the past ninety years that has yet to be restored to the catalogues – either by the ‘original’ recording companies – such as EMI, or by ‘licensed’ reissues through other labels.

In recent times, the French record companies – Ocora, Harmonia Mundi, Media-7 and Auvidis/Ethnic have issued some fine recordings of traditional Persian music, to which might be added occasional issues by King (Japan) and a few other small International companies.

The international acceptance of the ‘compact disc’ has challenged the cassette format in most recent times although cassettes have been the dominant format among the specialist producers of Irani music. Of the specialist companies providing both cassettes and compact discs to the market, Caltex Records, Kereshmeh Records, Taraneh Enterprises, Pars Video, all based in the United States, and the Iran based – Shahram and Art House labels, have presented a strong and varied selection of titles, catering not only for the Iranian community but also to the international audience.

*[Acknowledgment to Rainer E. Lotz, Berlin for contributing this paragraph information (*).]


The Zon-o-phone Record

The Zonophone Trademark

The Zon-o-phone Trademark

The “Zon-o-phone” talking machine was introduced in 1898, originally as an “Improved Gramophone” built by the Universal Talking Machine Company.  By 1899, the company had begun to produced ‘etched-face’ discs, distributed by the National Gramophone Corporation.  Exports of these talking machines were handled by Frederick Marion Prescott, who engaged agents in Europe to the market the “Zon-o-phone” products.  In March 1901, Frederick Prescott organized the International Zonophone Company, in New York, and then traveled to Berlin where he set up the European offices of the company. 

Between 1901 and June 1903, the International Zonophone Company produced about 6000 recordings in association with several agents including the Anglo-Italian Commerce Company of Milan, Ch. & J. Ullmann of Paris and London, along with  agents in Russia,  Germany, Austria, Spain and South America.

The Brazilian agent Casa Edison was the first enterprise to introduce commercial supplies of a double-sided disc record.  In September 1901, the American distributing agency National Gramophone Corporation was declared bankrupt, and soon after reformed as the Universal Talking Machine Manufacturing Company, which held a substantial interest in the manufacturing of “Zonophone” products, including the European operations. 

The International Zonophone Company offered strong competition to The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd; Columbia Phonograph Company; and the Victor Talking Machine Company.  Concerned with the International Zonophone Company’s success, The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., purchased the controlling interest in the company through its German affiliate Deutsche Grammophon, A.G. Berlin, acquiring control of the Universal Talking Machine Manufacturing Company, which was sold off to the Victor Talking Machine Company.

The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., continued to market the original European  “Zonophone” recordings for a couple of years, gradually replacing the original recordings and augmenting the ‘Zonophone’ catalogues with its own recordings, marketed as a cheaper priced label to its “Gramophone” products.  Similarly the American ‘Zonophone’ catalogue was marketed under the auspices of the  Victor Talking Machine Company until 1912, at which time the label disappeared from the American market. 

The Gramophone Company, Limited continued to market the “Zonophone Record” in several countries through to the early 1930’s.    The early recordings produced by the independent International Zonophone Company, between 1899 and 1903,  include numerous selections of artistic and historical interest, which are most sought after by record collectors.

Although the “Zon-o-phone Record” was amongst the first entrants in the disc record field, up until now there has not been any significant discographic study on the brand.  Ernie Bayly, the former editor of ‘The Hillandale News’ and editor and publisher of ‘The Talking Machine Review, International’ – both well respected journals in the field of record research, and Michael Kinnear have collaborated to publish a discography of the “Zon-o-phone Record”.  This discography focuses on the output of the International Zonophone Company’s products between 1901 and 1903, and includes numerical listing of known recordings issued before and after the company was absorbed by The Gramophone & Typewriter, Ltd., in 1903. 

This discography is the result of almost three decades of collating information and research on the label with the cooperation of EMI Archives, London and Frank Andrews, who is well known to record researchers and collectors for his pioneering work in the field. Frank Andrews and Ernie Bayly have compiled another discography on the British releases under the title of ‘Zonophone Single-Faced Records’ published by the City of London Phonograph and Gramophone Society, Ltd., London. 1999.

The discography also includes a concise history of the International Zonophone Company’s formation and activities, and also information about recordings transferred or reissued under alternate pressings or other labels.  While the discography lists known recordings issued in both Europe, North and South America, there are gaps in the numbering sequence which have not been found.  Some of these numbers may not have been used, while others may be of obscure repertoires, which have yet to be verified, or issued under labels which do not appear to be relevant.

Copyright © 2018 Michael Kinnear

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