Priceless radio archives rendered useless
LAHORE: The Classical Music Research Cell (CMRC) of Radio Pakistan’s Lahore station, despite having priceless archives comprising recordings and portraits of legendary singers, has long been lacking funds and staff, seemingly because of laidback attitude of the authorities concerned, official sources say. The CRMC, now working under the Central Production Unit (CPU) of the organisation, once used to hold musical events and had an independent head as well. But, now it has nothing but books on music and recordings lying buried under thick layers of dust.
Sources said that some five years ago the CRMC worked under the Broadcasting House (BH)-the Lahore Radio Station– but later it was placed under the CPU, a unit meant for special assignments and to produce special songs. The CPU had nothing to do with the classical music, as all the recordings of the genre took place in the BH, they said. Poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz conceived the idea of CMRC housed in the basement of Lahore radio. The research cell was ultimately established in 1976. It was first set up on the premises of Faiz’s Gulberg II office when he was a consultant to the Ministry of Culture and Education.
Faiz Sahib chose M A Shiekh, an ardent classical music lover, as head of the CMRC. The cell used to collect and preserve books and magazines on classical music. There are 700 English and 300 Urdu books on music in the cell to benefit music scholars and students. The cell would collect and preserve classical music on spool tapes, cassettes, gramophone records, LPs, 78 RMPs and Cds etc. The cell has 400-hour music recording in addition to western classical music and UNESCO’s collection of traditional music of about 70 countries of the world. The cell also has complete compilation of the bio-data of classical musicians, along with the information about their schools of music with special emphasis on Muslim contribution to the music of subcontinent.
Now, for years, neither music collections are being arranged nor was any research work taking place under the cell, the sources said. Since the cell was without any head, none of the music students and scholars could benefit from the CMRC, which, most of the time, remained locked, they added. Besides priceless classical music archives, the cell also boasts of having an antique collection of 250 photographs and portraits of Muslim musicians of the subcontinent spanning over 100 years. The cell used to hold music concerts in the ‘Radio Concert Hall’ in which live performances used to be held and sometimes records of old classical maestros were also played.
CPU former controller Azam Khan, commenting on present condition of the CMRC, said the cell was a wonderful outfit and it had the potential to be the nucleus of a National Academy of Classical Music. It should be preserved because it was a part of our artistic heritage, he stressed. He said the unit should have a monthly budget of Rs50,000 for the research work expenditures and staff salaries. He said the rich stock of music should be enhanced and a yearly exhibition of photographs and other precious record should be held for music lovers under the cell.