Extracts from Khaled Chowdhury’s interview

Khaled Chowdhury talks with Moushumi. about the work of the Folk Music and Folklore Research Institute of Calcutta from the 1960s. Also extracts from essays published in the one and only journal of the institute, published in 1967.

Khaled Chowdhury (1919-), known mainly for his path breaking set designs for the Kolkata stage since the 1950s, and his book covers and illustration, has also spent many years of his life recording and disseminating folk music of eastern India. Together with friends Hemango Biswas, Ranajit Sinha, Nihar Barua and others, he set up the Folk Music and Folklore Research Institute of Calcutta in the 1960s and they would go out to villages and melas on field recording missions with the minimum equipment they had, take field notes while recording and later sit down and transcribe the songs and write out details of the recording sessions (Ranajit Sinha has published a collection of impressionistic essays in Bengali on these recording sessions in Matir Surer Khonje. Kolkata: Pratikshan Publishing, 1990). The Folk Music and Folklore Research Institute members were self-taught song collectors who felt the political urge to preserve the ‘endangered’ rural music of the newly-independent nation which was on the path of industrialisation and urbanisation.

The Research Institute that was set up continued to record music over the decades, but with no plans for archiving the recordings. Now they have handed over their entire collection to the West Bengal government’s Lok Sanskriti O Adivasi Sanskriti Kendra, while selections are available on Soumya Chakravarti’s website http://www.lokgeet.org.

This interview was taken by Moushumi on 21 December 2004, in Khaled Chowdhury’s home in south Calcutta.