Give us a beat for the voices of the past


All India Radio, Radio, TV, nostalgia, India

For that generation, the sweet nostalgia of music endures today.

By Bikram Vohra/Between the Line

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Published: Tue 22 Oct 2019, 12:14 PM

Last updated: Tue 22 Oct 2019, 2:20 PM

In a world where podcasts rule the world and radio has made a comeback with a slew of FM channels that belie choice, All India Radio, an institution to a billion people turned 83 on Sunday and ironically went unsung. But it did strike a note of nostalgia wrenched from voices of  the past that came out of a relatively tinny but so much loved brown leather covered transistor or a bakelite model that was larger and louder.
Just as much as one squabbles over the TV remote these days sibling wars over who can use the 'transie' was rife in the sixties and seventies.
And it evoked such wonderful memories. Of Melville DeMello and how he made a nation cry with his "The Empty chair' series after the 1962 war dedicated to those men who never came home. It made him a household name and even Prime Minister Nehru was reduced to tears.
Remember the honeyed voice of Ameen Sayani and his Binaca Geet Mala which was the prime musical slot from the day it was launched in 1952.  And now forms the crux of the 2st century's swiftly selling Sa Re Ga Ma Carvaan machine with 5,000 songs from the past and the perfect gift for grandparents and parents. For that generation, the sweet nostalgia of music endures today. For a newly independent country where the identity of states was distinctively different, it was music that was one of the initial adhesives that bound the country along with the railways, post and telegraphs and the military.
The older lot can recall there was Vividh Bharati with its mournful signature tune created by a German Walter Kauffman and its dull logo, not to forget the immensely popular Radio Ceylon with Vernon Corea, the Ganjwan sisters and the future star Sunil Dutt.
If you lived in Delhi there was 'A Date with You' with Santosh Goswami Friday nights where we could ring in and ask for requests for songs and this was the height of sophisticated communications. We thought it could never get better or more interactive. Then she became our neighbour and she was real, a person behind the disembodied voice and that was celebrity status like you cannot believe. The news . read by Lotika Ratnam, a name you could roll around your tongue like good cognac, the hardcore headlines from Devkinandan Pandey and Chakrapani . what lofty names. No 24-hour loops of dense drivel, just 8am and 9pm and you were well informed, your synapses not stunned into submission by endless white noise.
Women like Komal GB Singh and Usha Alberquque and Vijay Daniels were integral to those years and, in many ways, their voices a balm. They could walk down the street and no one would recognise them, their names so famous that often seeing them in real life kind of spoiled the mystique.
Cricket commentators were a tribe held in great esteem. There was no TV so we heard cricket and needed to use the words to create the imagery. Pearson Surita, the Maharajkumar of Vizianagram fondly called Vizzie, his nemesis Lala Amarnath who called a fool a fool and sent out delicious shock waves, Barry Sabhadakary and Devraj Puri conjuring up for us word pictures of what a Test match was. They never screamed when a boundary was scored or had an apoplectic fit when someone was out nor did they fling superlatives at their listeners. If you wanted to swear by Hindi there was the much loved Jasdev Singh.
We would often mix up the lesser known Hamed Sayani with his illustrious brother and they sounded pretty much similar.
The voices still haunt you from behind the pale. As radio returns and the voice becomes important again what with podcasts and instant speech delivered over social platforms the healing capacity of music once again has come to the fore. But the innocence of those days, the singularity of the radiogram and then the carry on transistor, the so little to choose from made the nexus between music, news and the listener a deep and abiding trust. That romance will never come again.

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