Audio, Video, Disco

Audio, Video, Disco - Latin for "I hear, I see, I learn"

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Evergreen Gramophone

I fell in love with father's gramophone the first time he cranked it up and played a record for me. I was amused when midway through the song, the tempo of the song slowed down, and father quickly turned the key to get the record to play at a normal speed.We still have that gramophone with us.
Over the years father added to our collection, and we now have a total of eight gramophones, all in working condition. We even have original spare parts for most of them - governor springs, diaphragms, sound boxes etc, words that gramophone buffs will be familiar with.
We also have a thousand needles. Father bought the needles in a shop called Sita Phones, in Commercial Street, Bangalore. The shop is no longer in existence. A needle can be used for the two sides of four records, after which the records begin to sound scratchy.
My grandfather used to tell us how when the first gramophone was bought by a rich man in Tirunelveli, where he grew up, huge crowds gathered to see the 'singing box.' This was in 1906. People, grandfather included, walked huge distances to see the gramophone.
It became difficult for the owner of the gramophone to regulate the crowd. When the gramophone was cranked up to play the few records that he had, many women ran away in fright. They wondered who the strange man was, who sat inside the box, and belted out tunes in the language of the 'dorais', as the English were referred to in those days.By the 1920s most of the wealthy families in Madras had a gramophone.We still listen to our gramophone records, though not as often as we would like to, because we are afraid to exhaust our stock of needles.No one sells gramophone needles in India anymore.The songs of many popular musicians of the past are only available as 78 rpm records and are not available in CDs. So the gramphone is our only hope if we want to listen to these songs.


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