THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Music blog

14 November 2012

World and Traditional Music collections on YouTube

The first four archive film clips to be launched on the  British Library  - Sound and Moving Image  - YouTube channel are the results of a collaboration between the British Library World and Traditional Music and Moving Image departments, Dr Richard Widdess at SOAS and the Music Museum of Nepal. The digitisation, identification and editing of some of the film and non-synchronous audio material in the Arnold Adriaan Bake collection, C52, means we are now able to release some edited highlights from the Bake collection online. Furthermore each clip is specifically referenced in the summary of the YouTube clip to allow researchers to link directly back to the source material in the catalogue.

The first film begins with Bake's arrival in Nepal in 1931.

Title: Arnold Adriaan Bake: documenting music in Nepal. Indra Jaatra festival Kathmandu, 1931

Arnold Bake created a unique document of the religious music of Nepal through his films of the annual festivals which was where he found many of the musicians he would record for his research. In his films he also represented a changing culture and built landscape that would in part vanish in the earthquakes of 1933.

Many collections in the World and Traditional Music section hold a range of formats, reflecting the diverse nature of ethnographic field recording. Among these is C52, a unique collection of South Asian material recorded by Dutch ethnomusicologist Dr Arnold Adriaan Bake [1899-1963]. His collection spans not only many decades but also many formats of audio and visual material including wax cylinders, tefi-bands, reel-to-reel tapes and 16mm black and white and colour silent films, providing a complex and detailed document of music and ritual in South Asia from the 1930s to the late 1950s.

The collection itself is in many ways like a jigsaw. The recent digitisation of the 16mm film material by the Moving Image team enabled access to footage hitherto impossible in the British Library. This coincided with the digitisation of audio material from the collection. However the documentation, especially that of the films, was extremely sparse and in places non-existent. To add to the complexity the non-synchronous nature of the recordings means that although much of the audio and film footage is related it would not have been shot at the same time: in many cases Bake would record an event in film and then return to record the event in audio. The story could have ended there with a complex collection awaiting researchers to release its secrets………….

Excitingly the Nepalese material in this collection, which makes up at least half of the collection, became the subject of a repatriation project with the Music Museum of Nepal. With painstaking effort they honoured the exchange of knowledge by returning detailed documentation for the films to the British Library which has now been added to the catalogue and was the inspiration for the making of these short films.

Title: Arnold Adriaan Bake: documenting music in Nepal. Newar musicians, 1955-56

The second film introduces musicians from one of the main culture groups in Nepal, the Newar. Among the religious music performed by the Newar is Dapha, a form of hymn singing.

Title: Arnold Adriaan Bake: documenting music in Nepal. Matayaa festival, 1955-56

The third film illustrates the importance of ritual in Nepalese life. The Matayaa festival celebrates family ancestors with offerings at shrines. Musicians and devotees circumambulate the town making offerings.

Title: Arnold Adriaan Bake: documenting music in Nepal. Seto Machindranath festival, 1955-56

The final film allows a glimpse of one of the main features of the religious festivals in Nepal, the mobilisation of the chariots carrying the deities. This colour footage shows the dedication and worship related to the chariots and the precariousness as they are manually pulled through the streets during the festival. The mountains of Nepal can be seen on the horizon.

These represent only a small portion of the collection, with a great deal more digitised films to be released next Spring 2013, but we hope they will encourage researchers to come to the British Library to delve further into this and other collections.

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