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Raza Kazim and the Music Treasure of Sanjan Nagar

On  a sweltering summer day, Raza Kazim is busy producing music at his home  in Lahore. A cigarette in hand, he is manning a chunky, analogue mixer connected to high-fidelity speakers placed near the screen door of his cozy listening room. His fascination with sound is such that he has  fashioned his own amplifiers and speakers in a workshop two rooms away from the listening room.

He plays back what he has just  recorded. The room is suddenly filled with the notes of the Sagar Veena  played by his daughter, Noor Zehra. The sound seems so real, it is as if she is playing the instrument sitting right there in the room. The  listener can hear the nuances of the recording — every interval in the instrument’s sound, even the faint whirring of the spools, is audible.

Kazim,  the octogenarian founder of Sanjan Nagar Institute of Philosophy and  Arts in Lahore, has a passion for music production. A lawyer by profession and an activist by inclination, he is also a musicologist,  instrument maker and music connoisseur. Music libraries at his institute are brimming with unreleased recordings of Iqbal Bano, Noor Jahan,  Pathanay Khan and Reshma, all recorded by Kazim himself.

He  says he not only provides a suitable intellectual and emotional space  to the musicians he records, but also remains actively engaged in all aspects of the production process. He is also one of a handful of people  who still record music using only analogue mixers. Most others have shifted to digital ones.

Changes have taken place at the  other end of the musical spectrum too — in how music is accessed and  consumed. Consumers have moved from vinyl records to cassettes to compact discs (CDs) to MP3s and back, in the last four decades.

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