Thoughts and ideologies of Lokmanya Tilak, one of the foremost national heroes of India’s freedom struggle, have been well documented in print, but until now there were no records of the famous voice that had fearlessly declared in an open court, ‘Swaraj is the my birthright and I have shall have it’.
After almost a century of Tilak’s demise in 1920, his voice recording has been found in a soundtrack recorded on the Capehart recording machine owned by Karachi-based businessman Shet Lakmichand Narang.
Narang had imported the machine from America and had specially flown it to Pune to record the song rendition by Krishnarao, Bal Gandharva and Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale at Kesari Ganesh festival in Pune on 21 September 1915. After the two maestros- Krishnarao and Bal Gandharva - had finished their performance, there was some disturbance in the crowd. As Tilak stood up and admonished the crowd for causing the disturbance, his voice got immortalised in the recording. “It is my desire that people be quiet and listen (to the music). I will not tolerate if people cause disturbance. Though people may leave, it is my desire that the schedule programme should take place,” Tilak can be heard saying in Marathi.
Narang, an avid music lover, had over 100 similarly recorded tracks which have been well preserved by his grandson Mukesh Narang.
The voice recording was confirmed as that belonging to Tilak due to the efforts of Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale’s grandchildren. Sudhir Datar along with his wife Shaila Datar and his brother Suhas corroborated their findings as they sifted through various documents including related letters, and articles featuring the event that were published in the ‘Kesari’ newspaper then.
The transcript of the recorded voice matches with the article dated 21 September published in Kesari on Tilak’s brief speech at the venue. Kesari Mahratta Trust, an organisation run by his family, is in the process of turning the recording into CD format and is planning to play it during this year’s Kesari Ganesh festival on August 24.