Private music archives of Lutfullah Khan and others in Pakistan: ‘Treasuring in’ a nostalgia of the undivided South Asia

Lutfullah Khan (Karachi), Raza Kazim (Lahore) and others in Pakistan started collecting music recordings before the 1947 Partition of India, and own large archives of rare sound specimens that can be listed among the most extensive collections of South Asian music. Born in 1920 in Madras, recording enthusiast Lutfullah also learnt to sing Hindustani music in Hyderabad and Mumbai before migrating to Karachi in 1947. Among the first in India, he imported audio recording equipment in 1940s and recorded live radio broadcasts off-the-air, besides preserving sounds of mushairas and interviews with famous artists and litterateurs. The typed catalogue of his audio collection spans over 35 volumes which he remembers by heart at the prime age of 90. In some ways, the motivation for preserving such audio recordings by migrants like Lutfullah in Pakistan reflects nostalgia of the cultural heritage of undivided South Asia which they couldn’t access any more. This insecurity also led them to treasure such recordings in a way that no one else could touch them. Pakistani society and government institutions in any case neglected the past music traditions (and allowed many such official collections to be destroyed) as these couldn’t adapt into the nation’s Islamic identity. As with most private collections (even in India), Lutfullah still does not open out his collection despite numerous offers of digitization and preservation made by institutions within and outside Pakistan. This paper explores the closed nature of private collections and their role in preservation of culture yet their inaccessibility to public.

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Ektara India
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