Time capsules from a bygone era

A pre-independence Gramophone records company under the banner of ‘Young India Records’ just made a huge collection of its recordings, public in digital form.



During 1930-35, the British and German record manufacturing companies were well established and had a major share of disc manufacturing in India. The ‘Young India’ record label was an ‘indigenous’ effort at record production. The company issued over 10,000 songs on different subjects such as film music, classical music, folk music, publicity and educational material. Mainly amateur and upcoming artists have recorded on this label. The company ceased to function in 1955 so these recordings have never been reissued on audio tapes and CDs. Hence, it is important and relevant to preserve these invaluable recordings and the associated documents.


During 1935-55, the company produced over 10,000 titles on 78-rpm, 10 inch diameter shellac discs with two songs per disc. Each side could be played for over 3/3.5 minutes on spring wound gramophone machines. The recordings of film, popular, classical and folk music were issued. The repertoire covered music from different regions of India and sung in many different languages. During the long tenure of over twenty years, Indian citizens witnessed several important events such as the movement and struggle for freedom, Indian Independence in 1947, World War II and the beginning of the romantic period of independent India. This was also reflected in the records produced. Thus, there are speeches of great leaders, ballads, skits and dialogues on a number of subjects depicting changing social and political situations.

In late 1948, the ‘National’ factory at Wadala was experiencing both technical and financial problems which severely curtailed its production capacity. The situation worsened slowly and by late 1955, the factory had closed down with stocks left over at the factory sold off at greatly reduced prices to a number of agencies. With time, the records and catalogues were either destroyed or scrapped. Slowly, all the material related to this company began to disappear.




It is estimated that over 1,000 records are available in the private collections of record collectors, located in Mumbai, Ahmadabad, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, and are only available on 78-rpm breakable shellac discs. In addition, over 100 catalogues, booklets and record sleeves are held by private collectors and it was possible to collect or borrow them for this project. These have never been sold commercially, with the result that very few copies have survived to the present.”



The project succeeded in locating and digitising over 725 discs (1450 songs) of the ‘Young India’ record label. A large number of catalogues and advertising material was located at many places and more than 1,000 digital images have been taken of documents and disc labels. This will form a very valuable reference source for researchers in the future.” – British Library




These have been released by the British Library publicly on its website’s Sounds archives (link below).

Upon trawling through the entire collection of 1427 records, I found some rather amusing and intriguing ones, which I shall share now.

A speech by Subhas Chandra Bose

A rather interesting piece of history captured here, with Bose delivering a call to the nation, in Queen’s English with a hint of Bengali accent which was the norm it seems during those British era days. He is canvassing for Congress after the 1937 elections probably, as he mentions its victories at one point. Also mentions student movements in Russia, France and Italy!

A Congress election jingle ‘Viceroy milan ko jaana’

Now this is really interesting. A Congress election song that asks voters to select Congress, so they can get to meet the Viceroy !! And amusingly, it is set to the tune of ‘Piya Milan ko Jaana’, a Bombay film song, which must have been a smash hit at that time. Well played, I guess, given how strict the censors were at the time for any political themes.

A radio play on Jahangir

This is a short radio play on the fabled justice of Jahangir, the Mughal emperor. The whole play is in verses and presents interesting themes, where the emperor has to take a call on justice when his own wife Nur Jahan is involved in a crime against a non-Muslim subject.

Adl-e-Jahangir | Part 1Adl-e-Jahangir | Part 2

Meri Wafaayein yaad karoge

This ghazal seems similar to one by one of the lesser known poets : Mohammad Deen Taseer, which was re-worked by Sameer in 90s film Sainik (starring Akshay Kumar). Some of the words seem to have been changed in both versions from the original ghazal. In anycase this is performed by a singer named Manohar Kapoor.
And finally the link to access the whole collection of 1427 records :

Mukesh Kumar