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Earlier in the month, renowned singer Asha Bhonsle released an album in Kolkata containing songs composed by her late husband, R. D. Burman. She released an album just in time for Durga Puja — a practice that dates back to almost 100 years — after many years. Releasing music album before Puja is not a new phenomenon in Bengal, but the practice is slowly losing prominence among listeners, rue artists.
According to musicologist Sushanta Kumar Chattopadhyay, Gramophone Company brought out a record in 1914 containing songs by various singers just before Puja. It came along with a booklet containing information about the singers and composers.
Although the record was very expensive for its time, the music company received a phenomenal response and went on to release similar albums in the following years, just before Durga Puja. Over time, such releases came to be known as ‘Puja albums’.
Artists reserved the best of their work for the release at this time of the year, Mr. Chattopadhyay told The Hindu. The popularity of Puja albums was such that even artists from outside Bengal released Puja albums.
However, while Puja albums climbed its peak during 1950s, there was a steady decline from 1970s, he said. Actor, singer and composer Anjan Dutta, who started his own genre of music in late 80’s-early 90’s, acknowledged this decline due to changing tastes of listeners.
“By the 70s, Bengal had got its first band [Mohiner Ghoraguli] and by then modern Bengali songs were losing their charm and originality. They all tended to sound similar which was reflected on the sale of records,” Mr. Dutt said.
Blaming music piracy and easy availability in the internet, music scholar and singer Riddhi Bandyopadhyay said artists had once advocated for making their music available online.
“Initially, all artists wanted their work to be uploaded so that overseas listeners could access their work. However, later it boomeranged on us as now our CDs are hardly bought and everything is downloaded illegally,” Ms. Bandyopadhyay said.
Stating that music was now being consumed across “digital verticals”, Chief Business Manager, East, Saregama India Ltd. S.F. Karim said: “While consumption of music has increased manifold, it is not being heard in traditional forms, robbing the sale of CDs.”
Comparing the sale of Ms. Bhonsle’s Puja album with those of other artists, Mr. Karim pointed out that people now were on the lookout for exclusivity and the reason why Ms. Bhonsle’s CDs were selling was because the songs were re-recorded with advanced technology, thus sounding fresh and new.
From: The Hindu