Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mohammad Bandi, the courtesan of Patna

During 1902-1908 many ordinary artists of that period recorded for The Gramophone Company. They were the Bais, Jans or Bandis, otherwise known as dancing girls or courtesans, living under the patronage of kings and wealthy zamindars (landlords). Most of them belonged to Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Allahabad, Benares, Patna and Calcutta. 
Among these many nondescript dancer singers was one called Mohammad Bandi of Patna. Until 1908, it was customary for all artists to announce their names at the end of each recording. This was necessary to facilitate the record pressing company in making the record labels. Listen to Mohammad Bandi announcing her name at the end of her songs. These recordings are very rare and of great historical importance. (Source:

In 1901, J W Hawd came to Calcutta and soon a branch office was opened.  F W Gaiseberg arrived in 1902 for his first recording expedition and recorded about five hundred songs.  These were then sent to Joseph Berliner’s pressing factory at Hanover in Germany.  In order to have recorded documentation, for making paper labels, the artists were asked to announce their names in English at the end of singing.  This helped the technicians in Germany in making the final records ready for sale.  Hence, several records of that period have words ‘Made in Germany/Hanover’ printed on label and the announcement at the end.  Initial recordings were taken from ‘Nautch Girls’ (dancing girls) and ‘Baiji’s’ or ‘Kothewalis’.  Later on celebrities like ‘Gauhar Jan of Calcutta’, ‘Jankibai of Allahabad’, ‘Peara Sahib’ recorded prolifically for the company.  This continued for two more recording expeditions and about 3000 wax records were made, pressed in Germany and brought back to India for marketing.  

F W Gaisberg writes: ‘All the female singers were of course from the caste of the public women, and in those days it was practically impossible to record the voice of a respectable woman.  The songs and dances were passed by word of mouth from mother to daughter.  They began public appearances at the age of ten to twelve years.  The clever ones went up to the top and sometimes traveled all over the country in great demand at the wedding feasts of the wealthy.  As they began to make names for themselves many of them insisted that the word ‘amateur’ should be printed on record label.  Fees as a rule, were very reasonable in comparison to those paid in Europe, but recording expenses were heavy, since most of the artists had to be trained over long periods before they developed into acceptable gramophone singers".  (Source: Indian Gramophone Records by Suresh Chandvankar 11/02

Mohammad Bandi - Holi (Hori) 1907 - A Rare Primitive Indian Hindi Song
This HORI is one of the rare song that she recorded for The Gramophone Company.

Mohammad Bandi Tori Banki Banki Chitwan 1907 in Raga Barwa khayal

Mohammad Bandi in Raga Kafi Thumri 1908

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