Saturday, February 24, 2007


‘I think the primary function of radio is that people want company’

- Elise Nordling The Future of Radio, SXSW 2006

Its 8.30 p.m. on a Saturday evening and I am sitting at home with my laptop typing this post. Keeping me company is the World Space receiver/radio. Music pours out of the speakers taking me back in time….

I have always been an aficionado of the radio. When I was a tiny tot, we had a big radio at home. It was a valve radio, and hence its performance improved as the valves heated up. It also had a magic eye that would light up once you managed to get an excellent reception, which sadly, was very rare.

My favorite station was Radio Ceylon, subsequently Christened Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation & then as Sri Lanka Radio. Radio Ceylon is the oldest radio station in South Asia being set up in 1923. I particularly remember listening to ‘Binaca Geetmala & to that inimitable voice of Mr. Ameen Sayani coming floating on the airwaves on every Wednesday evening. (Binaca Geetmala was a highly popular weekly radio countdown show of top film songs from Indian Cinema listened to by millions of Hindi music lovers, that was broadcast on Radio Ceylon from 1952 to 1988. It was the first radio countdown show of Indian film songs, and has been quoted as being the most popular radio program in India during its run.) During my teenage years, it was fashionable to send in requests to Radio Ceylon’s daily morning show – a radio programme, replete with RJ, English Songs, requests and dedications.

Then we had the BBC; the British Old Lady, that brought in news that our own Akashvani (All India Radio) hesitated in announcing. (Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s death was broadcast at 12 noon by BBC and at 6.00 in the evening by All India Radio). BBC would also satiate our thrist for cricket commentary, whenever India toured England. In fact India’s triumph at the Cricket World Cup 1983, was heard on the airwaves brought to us by BBC. Dwelling on the subject of Cricket Commentary, we tuned into The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) during England’s Ashes tour. And, it was on the airwaves of ABC that I heard for the first time Micheal Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ and Men At Work’s ‘Down Under’. Mind you, all this was prior to the digital era. So one would have to fiddle with the tuning knob to stay connected to the station!

Our own Akashvani or All India Radio (AIR) kept us company through thick and thin. I remember listening to the 6.10 p.m. five-minute Sanskrit news, when we were in school – it was done on the instructions of our Sanskrit master who wanted us to familiarize ourselves with one of the politest language on earth. (AIR covers 99.37% of India's populace, broadcasting from 225 centres around the country with a total of 384 channels and transmits in 24 different languages and dialects).

In the 1990’s I hosted a programme entitled ‘Music of my Choice’, a programme of light western music, on the airwaves of the Mangalore Station of All India Radio. It was an experience. The programme would be broadcast on alternate Saturdays and it wasn’t live. Recording would be done on a Wednesday. I would proceed to the studios of AIR in the morning, say at 10 a.m. My work would begin in the Music Library. There I would go through a reasonably good collection of Vinyl records, select a few, proceed to one of the unoccupied studios and play the selected songs. There was a two fold purpose of playing them; firstly to be sure that the records were in working condition & secondly to make a note of the time taken with the help of a stopwatch. After the songs were selected, I would prepare a few lines for each song as an introduction. Next, I would proceed to the recording studio and have my voice-over recorded on a spool tape. Having finished with the voice-over, I would hand over the tape, the list of songs and the selected records to the programme director. On Saturday, I would tune in to the station and at 6.15 p.m. and my voice would come floating on the speakers. It was a strange thrill!

But on one fine day, the AIR presenter goofed up. She played my voice-over alright, but the songs were in reverse order. People, who did not know that this wasn’t live, called me up asking what went wrong. Next day at church, I was being given strange looks. That was that! I did not go back.

In 2001, I purchased a World Space receiver. People around me were skeptical when I extolled its advantages. There were many ‘doubting Thomas’s’ amongst my friends. Gradually, they too wanted a set. Today, family and friends enjoy the convenience of World Space!

Radio is moving forward at a great pace. There is the internet radio & just today I was reading an article on how one could create a programme that could be podcast.

We have come a long way……..

Dwelling on the topic of Internet radio, I must share with you a very pleasant experience that I will cherish for a long time to come.

Out at the Indian Institute of Management, a dedicated trio gets together on a day of the week and run K–dio, short for Campus Radio of IIMK. It is the brainchild of Deepak Oram, a PGP I student. The idea for K-dio was born, I am told, over endless plates of maggi noodles and milkshakes out at the night canteen of IIMK. The first show went on air in January 2007. The RJs are Jayesh Jagasia and Nisha Surendran. There's never a dull moment with Jayesh around, a witty wise-cracker, as is apparent from his popularity on k-dio. Delivered in a low baritone voice and dead seriousness, Jayesh packs quite a punch in his PJs. Nisha Surendran is his ever dependable sidekick on K-Dio. She has impressed everyone with her wit, humor and amazing comic timing on air. Both are PGP I students. There is never a dull moment as I was soon to discover.

The K-dio logo

On February 17th, I had finished a course on Business Laws. (I was to leave the IIMK campus on February 18th.) At around 7.30 p.m., I had a call from Deepak, who invited me to be the guest on that night’s K-dio broadcast. I was intrigued and excited too. I readily agreed. Deepak told me that the programme would be live and would begin at midnight, and he would pick me up from my room at 11.45 p.m.

And so it was that at a few minutes after midnight, the internet campus radio K-dio went on air and for the first time there was a Professor as a guest. What followed was 2 hours of magic. I was interviewed, albeit hesitantly at first. Jayesh and Nisha conducted phone-ins, played requests and updated everyone on what activities were slated for the next day. It was a wonderful experience. K-dio reached a peak of 79 listeners in the wee hours of the morning. (I was told that this was a record of sorts, as the previous peak was 76 listeners)

RJs Jayesh & Nisha

Speaking to the trio after the show, Deepak remarked “We are yet to tap the full potential of K-dio, and a lot of ideas are flooding in from all quarters.” Jayesh, in his inimitable style said “One thing though is for sure - batches may come and go, but K-dio is here to stay!” Nisha chimed in “It's Live! It's exciting!”

As I walked back to my room, my mind replayed the words of a song that JJ had played just a few minutes back….

I'd sit alone and watch your light
My only friend through teenage nights
And everything I had to know
I heard it on my radio

- From the song ‘Radio Ga Ga’ by Queen.


Arka said...

Sir, what an amazing post ! loved it....

Pratibha said...

This whole Radio thing brings back such memories, when we had to use our imagination to the sound that comes out of the Radio..another nice one Lionel.

Anonymous said...

One of your best blogs Sir.... Prerana

Anonymous said...

Was VOA not there in the good old days?
I have decided to go for a world space radio.:)


rt said...

nice post sir...
even I remember the binaca geetmala was amazing..I loved the captivating voice of amin sayani...

Ashok said...

Lovely comments on Radio Ceylon brought back memories of childhood, we grew up with Radio Ceylon and listening to the radio greats like Vernon Corea.

This blog looks at Radio Ceylon - http;//

They were wonderful announcers.

Arun said...

truly nostalgic, and guess what i am reading this post by chance as i was searching for that morning music that used to be played on akashvani.
now can i have have it some how, for my collection.
where can i get it
please reply on