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Archiving her songs

by Snehasis Chatterjee

I wonder from where I shall start. Since 1983 till today for more than 30 years this humble admirer is an ardent listener, collector and staunch fan of melody queen Lata Mangeshkar. My life is cherished by her blessings. Readers are requested to consider the limitations of such experience in black and white. Still I will endeavour to share all the pains and pleasure, agony and ecstasy with my readers. In every word of this script I have tried to explain how I have immersed myself in her songs and creations.

 My native place is Nalhati, a small religious town of Birbhum district of West Bengal. My musical journey started under the guidance of my mother Late Nilima Chatterjee. Later I was trained classical vocal from Prof. D.T. Joshi of Agra Gharana, Padmabibhusan Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh and Rabindra Sangeet from the maestros Kanika Bandopadhyay and Nilima Sen.

 Besides higher education, music has been my passion. Out of that passion, I developed a strong love for songs of Lataji. This love is no mean love of a fan, but more than that. Today I realize that this profound love has motivated me to be totally engrossed in her music.

 Musical ambience was no less at Nalhati’s home apart from my father Sukumar Chatterjee’s encouragement. Hence listening to music, singing and to be involved in musical culture was a natural happening in my student life.

 My first collection of Gramophone Record was from the Hindi Film: Baiju Bawra (1952). Interestingly when I collected this record (EALP 4069), there was no record player at my disposal to play this disc. The reason behind collecting the record was that all the 5 songs rendered by Lataji were favourite of all my family members. Pertinently the song “Mohe Bhool Gaye Sanwariya” is one of my all-time favourites, even today. Music education trained me how particularly the genesis of a song should be collected. But to collect all pertinent information was not so easy. In our times broadcasting from Vividh Bharati, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation etc was not so clearly audible. But there was no alternative to Radio. Hence in spite of having strong will for collecting information, most of the time I was unsuccessful.

 At the time of my college education in Rampurhat, I came in close contact with the owner of “NELCO” – a gramophone record shop. The owner helped me in collecting the information on Lataji’s songs from their stock of records. With the passage of time, listening to Lataji’s songs and collecting information became a habit. When I was studying at Rampurhat College and Burdwan University, during long 7 years’ tenure, songs of Lata Mangeshkar became my part of life. Driven by my love for music I preferred music to be my profession. Love and passion for music became alter ego in my life.

In the year 1990, I came across famous record collector Surajlal Mukherjee alias Harubabu. He lived at Radio Gally in Dum Dum. I was then at Santinikentan with my family. Once in a month, I came to him from Santiniketan. This man practically trained me how to collect data, how many types of records are there etc. He also trained me how to recognize discs. With active assistance of Harubabu, I started collecting data and information of Bengali Songs (both Film and Non Film) rendered by Lataji in proper way. The source of information was gramophone records, catalogues from different music companies, booklets, books, newspapers and periodicals. Apart from Harubabu, record collector Sushanta Chatterjee and Ranabir Neogi helped me a lot. Many other music lovers tried to provide information, many other misled.  Letters were published in different newspapers asking for information on Lataji’s songs. Mr. Arup Basu from Alipore, Kolkata inspired me a lot by writing letters on that subject. Though I have for long interval lost link with him, the letters still inspire me. Through this writing, I like to offer my humble tribute to them.

 Haruda inspired me in cultivating habit of record collection. Though my financial strength was not so strong, I could not ignore his suggestion. Haruda introduced me to the concerned persons at Baithakkhana Bazar, Sealdah. Among them the names of Sunilbabu and Nandababu are worth mentioning. Both Nandada and Haruda are no more and Sunilda has left the business of gramophone records. All of them are my co-workers at this project. Later I have collected so many records from Wellington area of Kolkata.

 This habit of collection encouraged me to compile “Lata Geetkosh”. In this compilation along with full text of the songs, other details like lyricist, music composers, year of release, gramophone record numbers etc are included. Basic Songs and Film Songs are segmented into different categories.The “Lata Geetkosh” was initially planned to be published in 12 volumes. But it became 15 volumes later. It is my great fortune that Lata Mangeshkar has approved it. Comments from different corners prompted me to engage different celebrities to write the Foreword of each volume, so that the detractors feel the importance of this work.

In the year 1997, Lata Geetkosh (Vol I), compilation of all Bengali Songs (incl. Brajabhasa) was published with the foreword by famous Bengali lyricist Pulak Bandopadhyay. In the year 2008, the volume once again published with the foreword from popular singer Srikanto Acharya. ‘Shurodhwani’, a new Bengali Album of Lata Mangeshkar was released in 2014 under the baton of Mayuresh Pai. So Volume-I will be published again in revised form with the foreword by music composer Suparna Kanti Ghosh.

In the year 2001, Lata Geetkosh (Volume VIII), compilation of all Gujarati Songs was published (foreword by Respected V. Balsara). This volume will be once again published including few more songs.

 It is indeed a privilege for me that respected Yash Chopra has written the foreword for Lata Geetkosh (Volume VI). In this volume there is detailed information and the lyrics of every Hindi Film Songs sung by Lataji in between 1966 – 1970. Volume VI was published in May, 2014.

In the span of 30 years I have come across songs of 34 languages rendered by Lata Mangeshkar. The languages are : Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Brajabhasa, Ceylonese (Language of Sri Lanka), Chhattisgari, Dogri, English, Garwali, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Hindi, Kannad, Konkoni, Latin, Magdhi, Maithili, Malay (Language of Indonesia), Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Marwadi, Nepali, Oriya, Prakrit, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Russian, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Swahili (Language of the Bantu people of Zanzibar), Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

While singing in a language, Lataji took special care about the meaning of the song and pronunciation of each word. For this reason songs of different languages have gained so much popularity. All the songs sung by Lataji will be brought out in 15 volumes of ‘Lata Geetkosh’ with their full text and all relevant information. Hence every music lover is earnestly requested to extend co-operation.

Needless to say that Lata Mangeshkar herself is an institution. I am certain that in India and abroad Lata Mangeshkar will be the subject of research. That time the 15 volumes of Lata Geetkosh will be the source of basic data.

Currently music lovers go about the statistics of Lataji’s works. Many are concerned about how many songs she has rendered. But to my view, forget about the number of songs. Rather, it is a fact that Lata Mangeshkar is a fountain of music. Lets us drench in that fountain. The name itself calls for lots of songs. Don’t you get a new lease of life when you recapitulate the songs of Lataji?

 My humble suggestion is that don’t raise any query; else drown yourself in the sea of songs rendered by Lataji and you will find endless joy!

(*Snehasis Chatterjee is a classically trained singer and runs a music institute in Serampore, West Bengal. He is compiling a 15 volume Lata-Geetkosh, which will have full lyrics and other relevant details of all the songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar. For more information on his work, please visit www.latageetkosh.com)

About the author
Snehasis Chatterjee

Snehasis Chatterjee is a classically trained singer and runs a music institute in Serampore, West Bengal. He is compiling a 15 volume Lata-Geetkosh, which will have full lyrics and other relevant details of all the songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar. For more information on his work, please visit www.latageetkosh.com.