One of the chief objectives of the NCPA is to maintain the continuity of the great masters of Indian classical and folk music, dance and drama and to record and preserve the finest performances in these arts which were handed down through oral tradition over generations.

To this end, on December 29, 1969 the Recording Auditorium (the present-day Little Theatre) of the NCPA was inaugurated. Recording began on 12 August 1970, when the late tabla maestro, Ahmed Jan Thirakwa Sahab – then already in his eighties – played an exquisite tabla solo and answered questions from Pandit Nikhil Ghosh about his gharana. This historic recording paved the way for a series of recordings in the coming years.

International Music Collection (IMC), of the British Library National Sound Archive, and Music for Change, a charitable organisation working to support community music project throughout the world, did a survey in December 1999 of sound archives around the world and listed the NCPA Archives in its Final Report of "Archiving the Music World".