Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Listening to music in the good old days

Almost everyone has an earpiece attached to the ears – either it is the iPod or a mobile.
And everyone is listening to his favourite music, available at the pressure of a fingertip on a teeny weeny button.
And the number of songs available on the tiny gadget is limitless.

Back in the late fifties and early sixties when I was a teenager, people like me who craved film music were totally dependent on the radio. There were no tape recorders or cassette recorders – these, if memory serves me right, flooded the market in the late 60s and early 70s. The CD players came much later.
(The first cassette recorder in our family was the one my husband and I brought back in 1973, after our two year sojourn in Manchester, where my husband did his M. Sc.Tech at the University of Manchester.)
So it was only the radio, and there would be only one in each family. There would be scheduled hours during which film music (both Hindi and Thamizh) were broadcast, and these too, mainly on Radio Ceylon. (I don’t know if it is Radio Sri Lanka today). There was no Vividh Bharathi, and AIR considered it in the main sinful to play film music, and had only a meagre slot for it.

And heaven help us film song aficionados, if the cricket matches were on, and the commentaries clashed with the music hours. Not being interested in cricket at all, I could never understand why the men in the family could not wait to read the scores in the following day’s newspaper. My argument was: how can I listen to music on the newspaper?
Many were the battles my brother Bala and I fought over radio time – which, most of the time, he won, for my father wanted to listen to the commentary, too. Most unfair.

And, o, the agony of having to wait for your favourite song to come on - either from the Shanker Jaikishen ‘Anari’ or the S. D. Burman ‘Pyaasa’ – you were assured of listening to it on those Wednesday nights, if it had a place in Binaca Geeth Mala, the Hindi hit parade, compered by the incomparable Ameen Sayani. And there would also be the request programme every morning at 8.

I remember waiting for the current favourite to come on, with paper and pen in hand, to jot down the words. So that we could sing along too. And if your mother called out to you at the crucial minute, you had to forego the song, and wait for another opportunity. Somehow, learning the melodies was never a problem
I liked to listen to pop songs too, and these we could get on Radio Ceylon’s service meant for Ceylon. Once again, the words had to be jotted down.

It would take at least four hearings to get the words right. Living in Pondicherry then, it was difficult to get hold of the song books of the different films. The Thamizh song books were easy to come by – and they were prettier too, in the form of a booklet with attractive pictures on the cover. The inside pages had a story synopsis, without a spoiler, along with the songs. The Hindi booklets were just a sheet of paper with the songs printed on both sides, and folded ingeniously to form a booklet of four pages. The cover just had the name of the movie and small picture of the heroine.

How easy it is to sing along (karaoke) today – one can just download the lyrics from the net, or buy the cassettes or CDs and keep listening to favourites.

I had a pretty good collection of song books, those bought from Delhi by a favourite uncle, and later Bala when he went to study there, the local Thamizh delights and my own book which had ‘fair copies’ of the Hindi songs transcribed neatly from the hurried jottings.
They are now lost - either when my father was transferred back to Delhi in 1962, or later when I got married.


Karthik Narayan said...

yeah i remember the time when my dad used to fight with my mom over the radio for cibaca/ binaca geet mala... good one. thanks for sharing

Viji said...

I remember Raji , hearing with you on Radio Ceylon "I wanna hold your hand" Till today when i hear this number i am transported to the "Naddu Room " in D2157 ...and before that during the Pondicherry days for a long time i also thought that these singers were little people who lived inside our Pye Radio. Till on one of the visit to Madras in Rajamony Mama's house i saw a radio all disemboweled - and no signs of Lata Mangeshkar or Rafi in the nuts and bolts

Groucho gawks said...

Vandana and I still fight on similar issues-only nowadays it is over the laptop computer than the radio. I want to follow the score on cricinfo while she wants to read things (that surely can wait)

Groucho gawks said...

Vandana and I still fight on similar issues-only nowadays it is over the laptop computer than the radio. I want to follow the score on cricinfo while she wants to read things (that surely can wait)

shankerjai said...

Music is my favourite subject (listening only) be it in any language and while surfing, I got yours. Yes but the Binaca days are gone and no such treat will happen. But Madam You did not mention your favourite Music Director/s, singer/s etc.

sudarshan pandey/03-04-09/kolkata

Ashok said...

Memories of Ameen Saayani announcing the top hits of the week "is haftey ki teesri/doosri/pehli etc. baadaan pe"...Wednesdays 8pm to 9pm glued to the radio.. everything else was forgotten during that hour.. what luck, there were no mobiles to disturb u.