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CBS enters classical arena

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The Economic Times, December 6, 1987

With the release, in suitable phases, of Hindustani repertoire, both vocal and instrumental, within a period of 12 months or so CBS, the multi-national organisation and the third of its kind presently operating in India, has entered the recorded music market in the classical field.

CBS started its operations in this country towards the close of 1982. Initially, it confined its operations to the production and marketing of discs and cassettes containing the international repertoire which was imported in the form of tapes. The parent company is the biggest organisation of its kind in the world, with a vast network in several countries.

This means that the organisation’s ramifications are much wider than those of the Gramophone Company of India (HMV), the oldest firm to have started functioning in India in the first decade of this century; and Polydor, now rechristened Music India, which began its operations in this country some two decades ago.

“Flexibility in keeping with everchanging time sand tastes of the consumers” is the motto of CBS, as Mr Shashi Gopal, President of the Perennial Press CBS Operations, put it, when I met him the other day. For one with a rich and varied experience of 14 years in marketing, management and administration, he should know.

In reply to my question, Mr Shashi Gopal told me that even though CBS has embarked on its programme of expansion of its operations to cover indigenous music, Western music still enjoyed its high priority as before. That was because, contrary to general belief, the demand for international music continued to grow in India. He cited the phenomenal sale of Michael Jackson’s music – it has presently touched nearly 94,000 copies.

Coming to the Indian repertoire, he said that it came next only to that of Western music. Ninety per cent of the Indian repertoire covered film music. But he hastened to add that it was put out on a “selective” basis.

How and why did his company turn to non-film music which includes classical, light classical and popular varieties like devotional and lyrical music? “It was purely a logical consequence”, said Mr Shashi Gopal tersely.

Classical music, is now the latest sphere entered into by CBS. Did his company take the cue from the sudden but welcome spurt witnessed in the growing number of classical cassettes released by several indigenous but much smaller firms based in Bombay and many other metropolitan places like Pune and Bangalore?

Mr Sashi Gopal’s denial was predictable, but looked tacit. But he asserted that there was a definite market for classical music and that it was steadily growing.

Referring to the menace of organised piracy presently besetting the market, he replied with candour, that piracy came to serve a two-fold purpose – making music business “alive” and bringing about a perceptible reduction in the prices of cassettes.

He exuded optimism with regard to the present and future recording programme of his company. He mentioned to me that top-notchers in classical music like Ravi Shankar and Amjad Ali and a perennial singing artiste like Lata Mangeshkar were eager to cut their repertoire under the CBS banner.

His ongoing programme in the classical field is to rope in as many contemporary celebrities as possible within the company’s fold, and also giving due representation to the emerging talent. He has also plans to put out discs and cassettes of the music of Maharashtra, covering Natyageet, Bhaktigeet, Bhavgeet and even Loksangeet.

The discs and cassettes lately released by CBS in the non-film category have featured Ravi Shankar (sitar) and Amjad Ali Khan (sarod) and Bimal Mukherjee (also sitar). There are instrumental innovations like “Saaz, Raga Aur Taal” and “Mauj”. There is, besides, a two-part series, each styled, respectively, “Gayaki Raga Aur Taal” and “Traditional Thumris,” while the album, entitled “Swara Raga Sudha,” is in three parts. (These are basically demonstrative in content, character and approach, while “Saaz Raga Aur Taal” and “Mauj” are striking as much for their novel concept as much as their musical impact. Since all these are recent releases, it will be some time before we get a proper feedback.


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