Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Radio

I was racking my brain thinking of an 'R' word for today's post when of all people, Himesh Reshammiya, came to my rescue. While fiddling with Saavn radio, I stumbled upon his song, "Mann ka radio bajne de zara", from his movie 'Radio'. This was apparently his 500th (!!) song, and his first after the rumoured throat surgery he had in order to acquire another (a non-nasal) voice. Sure enough, the song starts off in a very low-pitched non-Himesh way, but soon switches to his trademark style. Complete with atrocious lyrics like 'Fultu attitude de de tu zara'. And I thought radio was the perfect choice for today's post because of its significance in my life.

When I was a kid, I remember Akashvani playing a lot at home. I still remember 'Yeh Akashvani hai', Amin Sayani's Cibaca geetmala, and even narrations of Chacha Chaudhry and Sabu stories on radio. But it was the songs that mattered the most to me. I used to get very upset when someone of national importance died, not because I cared, but because they would stop playing the songs and play only some depressing shehnai tune all day long. I never learnt music formally, but I'd sing along with any and every song that played on radio. I could rattle off the lyrics of any song you named. The other day, my Mom asked me on Skype for the lyrics of 'Mann re, tu kaahe na dheer dhare' and I spouted it all out in no time. She asked me how I knew the lyrics of a song which was so old. I figure it must have been all the radio that I listened to as a kid.

When I came to Singapore, I was introduced to the world of English songs. I spent four years at university listening to the likes of Backstreet boys, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Alanis Morissette, Boyzone, Madonna, 98 Degrees, Toni Braxton, Ricky Martin, Robbie Williams, Enrique Iglesias, Santana, Cher, Ricky Martin. TLC, Whitney Houston, Sugar Ray, Savage Garden, Creed, Pink, Brian McKnight, NSync, Christina Aguilera, LeAnn Rimes, Mariah Carey, Blue, Destiny's Child, Eminem, U2, Kylie Minogue, Marc Anthony, Macy Gray, Whitney Houston, etc. etc. It was a whole new world for me. It was massive, it was different and it was totally new. I used to walk all over campus, listening to radio, all the time. Some of the RJs in those days were really amazing and funny and they were just as fun to listen to as the songs.

However, after I graduated, I grew out of it. Radio became a thing of the past. My radio time was split between MP3s and TV shows. Until I discovered the expat radio channel that plays Hindi songs every day from 5 to 8 pm. It reminded me of my childhood. It was kind of comforting to just listen to Hindi songs randomly playing at someone else's will. Once in a while, I make chai for myself and just sit back and drink and listen.

Though 99.9% of the songs these days are crap of the highest order, I need my Hindi radio station. I really cannot live without it. No matter what, the radio HAS to be switched on at 5 pm. Even Xena knows this now. I just have to say, "Xena, it's 5 pm!" and she runs to switch on the radio. I even used it as an alarm clock for Viv to make sure he didn't come home too late (i.e. after 8 pm) from work. "If the Hindi music has stopped by the time you return, be prepared to face a different kind of music," I used to tell him.

Once in a while, the channel plays the songs in the 'ek purana, ek naya' format, where they alternate new songs with old songs. They also do a 'showstopper of the week' show, where they pick an actor and play all his/her hit songs. I had reservations at first (who wants to listen to three hours of Ajay Devgn songs??), but I realised that almost every actor, in spite of some very bad movies, has some very good songs. A couple of weeks ago, I almost choked on my chai when the RJ announced that the showstopper of the week was Jacckkky (okay, I don't know how many c's and k's he's added to his name so I have played safe) Bhagnani! My first thoughts were, "Wha...??!! You're seriously going to play 3 hours of Jacckkky Bhagnani songs?? Does he even have that many movies? How much did his producer papa pay your station??" The RJ was inviting listeners to suggest songs on the station's Facebook page. I went to check and sure enough, there were many many people who were just as puzzled as me as to to how on earth they were going to play 3 hours of Jacckkky Bhagnani songs. They started off with 'Suno na sangemarmar', which is actually a nice song (okay fine, these days anything sung by Arijit Singh is erm, music to my ears), and some other random songs from whatever movies he's acted in so far. And then they stopped. I went aha, now what? And then the RJ reminded us of the date - 1 April. Good one!

Sometimes I wonder if radio is going to become a thing of the past soon. Like audio cassettes and pagers and walkmen (walkmans?).

That would be a sad sad day. 


Arun said...

"I used to get very upset when someone of national importance died, not because I cared, but because they would stop playing the songs and play only some depressing shehnai tune all day long."

Me too :)

But you do not want to hear me sing! :))

Anonymous said...

I never listened to radio when I was younger, but in Singapore, when I got a smartphone that had the FM app pre-installed, there was no looking back! At one point, personal playlists became the preferred thing, but there's no better way to expand your taste and listen to new stuff than to let the radio decide! :)

I love the 'only songs of a particular actor/singer/music director' thing, especially when you have to figure out the pattern yourself!

Thisisme said...

I agreed!! M a big radio fan...rather was! Amin sayani n cibaca geetmala..I was a huge fan of these programs. Then in 90s pvt radio came n I used to listen to air FM radio n then mirchi etc was all major fun! Then when I was in UK, there was this radio Chanel...suny or smithing..which used to plays Bollywood n that felt sooooo good! After that, I moved to my iPods...but have to say, these days radio is a bore... Since rjs do bahut saari bakwas n act wayyyy too its no more fun! But sometimes, just sometimes, radio is still funnnn :-)

Thisisme said...

Also in between all this was world space radio, dunno if u know abt it but in early 2000s, it was such a rage in Indian used to air all world music radio stations ...I reallllly liked that! Later god knows what happened to it!