Iqbal Matin of Rajshahi is a gramophone collector. He has nine gramophones, which are about 100 years old, and some 8,000 gramophone records in his collection. Of the records, more than 1,500 records are more than 100 years old.
Matin's collection is set up at his home in Sagarpara, Rajshahi. Not only does he collect them, but he can also talk for hours about the history, tradition and context of gramophone records – which is why he is known as the "Living Museum of Gramophone Records."
Reminiscing about how he got into music, Iqbal Matin said that he had a penchant for music since he was very young. He also played the violin and while doing so, read the biographies of great musicians.
When Matin was about 13 years old, Sharat Kumar Mitra, a zamindar of Kashimpur in Naogaon, gifted him a book seeing his immense fascination with music.
The book "Vrammomaner Dinponjika [Diary of a Traveller]" was written by Dilip Kumar Roy, a renowned musician and musicologist. The book fuelled Matin's collector's spirit.
He became interested in listening to, and eventually collecting, various types of music.
When Matin got into collecting records, he dedicated a lot of time, labour and money to it. Over time, he built a global network. The network helped him locate old records from around the world.
He has collected gramophone records from various countries including England, Australia and Thailand.
Matin has gramophone records of various sizes ranging from three to 16-inch records of 78 revolutions per minute (RPM). Matin has collected 8,000 gramophone records dating from 1903 to the 1930s. Of these, more than 1,500 are about 100 years old, that is, recorded before 1912. All these records are still functional.
His collection includes songs of Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Rajinikanth Sen, and Dwijendralal Roy as well as speeches by Raja George V, Queen Mary, King Edward VIII, Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, and Lord Mountbatten, among many others.
The collection also includes records of dramas staged between the: 1870s, 1880s, 1890s, and 1900s.
In India, the first song recorded on a 78 RPM gramophone, on 8 November, 1902, which is known as "Koler Gaan," is also in Matin's collection. The song was recorded in Kolkata and then printed in Hanover, Germany. It later came to the market in April 1903.
Matin's collection also includes 100 RPM Pathé records and a gramophone device collected from Hungary to play the tunes. Pathé records were only available in Belgium and Germany at that time, Matin said.
"The difference between the Pathé record and disc record is that – on the Pathé record, the pin comes out from the inside and on the disc record, the pin goes in from the outside," he explained.
According to Iqbal Matin, in 1877, Thomas Alva Edison invented a device called phonograph which played cylinder records. Later in 1887, he invented a disc record called Berliner as the cylinder record's compressor was not in a good shape.
Later multiple disk records were published from Edison's company. Matin has 99 records from that company.
"Gramophone records were only released in England, Germany, America, and India at that time. As the raw material for gramophones' 'lacquer' was found in Burma, India was an ideal region for gramophone business," Matin continued.
All the nine gramophones in Iqbal Matin's collection were made between 1910 and 1930.
Among them, two gramophones are called Morning Glory as they resemble the datura metel flower. The horn of the device is about 24 inches in width which makes it look like the flower. There is also a gramophone with the horn inside the device. This device dates from 1910 to 1913.
Other gramophones in Matin's collection include: Witch's Hat, Briefcase Gramophone, Kiddy Phone, Mikiphone, and Pathé Phone.
While asked about maintenance of the collection, Matin said that the records can break if they fall from hands and any minor scratch can damage them, which is why one needs to be very cautious while handling them.
Talking to The Business Standard, Iqbal Matin expressed his concern about the future of his collection. He does not know how the records will be preserved in his absence.
"If I give the records to BTV or the archives for preservation, they will not understand their value," he said.
Matin, a professor and former head of the Civil Engineering department at Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology, is an avid musician, critic, researcher, and popular violinist.
He has played the violin both within the country and abroad and has won the admiration of people from all walks of life.
He was born in 1956 and is a permanent resident of Sagarpara in Rajshahi. He has published several books – on engineering, geography, river science, geomorphology, and general knowledge – in Bangladesh and India.