Sachi R

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An idea for a Carnatic FM radio channel

Posted by rsachi on September 19, 2009

Sangeeta Setu FM Project

Music is an instinct unique to man. It uplifts one’s mood in a faster and deeper manner than anything else known to man. Music is the staple of Indian culture. Indian cinema can do with mediocre actors, indifferent storyline, poor direction, flickering photography, but not without music.

Indian classical music is like no other. It is based on thousands of years of artistic evolution and a robust structure. It has been passed on from teacher to student better than anything else. It has been preserved jealously as Gharana and Bani. It does not create a regional rift in spite of being called North Indian or Carnatic. It shows an unparalleled maturity in having absorbed foreign instruments, cross currents of musical milieu, lyrics from different inspirational streams, and moods of nine and more hues, and finally even the impact of electronification.

The genius of the 20th century musicians was to develop, spread and inculcate an abiding tradition of classical music using every modern development. The teacher started traveling on a bicycle, as did the student. The performer criss-crossed the country in trains, buses and motorcars. The traditions traveled thousands of miles and left their marks in an intriguing manner for musicologists to unearth. Witness this fact. The same Baroda court that honoured Veene Sheshanna in a procession of caparisoned elephants as grand as Jamboo savari, also clasped to its bosom a great musician from Mysore called Baksh. And his successor was the great Sufi mystic Inayat Khan. Inayat Khan reached the peak of classical music, gave some incredible 78 rpm recordings on instruments and in his voice at HMV Calcutta before 1910, and finally transcended his musical career into one of Sufi mysticism forever before he was forty. Any wonder that I see hints of Carnatic influence on the Sufi and Qawwali music of northwestern India?

The biggest influence on the spread of classical Indian music was the AIR. It is only very very recently that classical musicians have stopped to revere the role of AIR in their musical careers. Whereas Indian television has abject dependence on film songs and dance sequences, AIR has always been a huge promoter of Indian classical music. Even a thousand Maharajas could not have done as much for Indian classical music what AIR has done for the spread and nurturing of interest in the people across the land.

There is nothing more egalitarian or socialistic than radio. It is a powerful mass medium that reaches an expensive HiFi system as well as a humble transistor. And the genius of Indian classical music is that the listener can enthusiastically soak up the music whatever its bandwidth, by virtue of his supercomputer of an auditory-cerebral processor that works on enhancing the signal to noise much like the mythical swan that could drink milk and leave the water alone. My love of music was my mother’s gift, and she spent a princely Rs 400 buying a fine radio in the ‘50s. That is true also for many other families in the country.

Thanks to the advent of LPs, tape decks and cassettes, you will find here and there wonderful private collections of classical music of at least 5 decades. Great artistes who are no more with us will always be with us through these recordings. But there has never been a great way to reach this music to more people, until the advent of the Internet and the MP3 format. So today, here and there you will find well-meaning NRIs and techie enthusiasts putting great concert recordings on the net.

But the charm of the radio in its simplicity, energy efficiency, economy and the mass reach seems to have betrayed classical music. There are no FM channels in most Indian cities where you can listen to classical music. Some radio stations like Chennai and Kolkata FM stations still broadcast classical music, but with perhaps waning popularity or reach, in the clutter of TV stations, the chatter of FM Channels and the frenetic life style of most urbanites. In other words, something could and need be done to improve the marriage of FM radio and classical music.

Sangeeta Setu FM is an effort in this direction. The founding ideas are:

It will start with 2 hours (9:30-10:30 AM and PM) every day, perhaps and extra hour or two on weekends.

It will be Bangalore-based.

It will have only Indian classical music.

The music will be entirely listener’s choice based.

The listeners CAN ALSO bring in their music… their old recording or collection, and present it, with a brief personal introduction.

A Sangeeta Setu team for audio quality, musical content and contextual appeal, will preview the content.

Invited experts will comment at the end of the pieces about the music and the musicians.

Listeners will be encouraged to send in their musical recordings.

In other words, the FM broadcast by listener participation, harnessing the widespread gold mine of recordings, with expert presentation will be the hallmark of Sangeeta Setu FM.

The entire project will be based on NO PROFIT, NO COMMERICAL INTEREST AND NO ADVERTISING. But it will need money via contributions.

It will be an offering to music lovers and musicians.

Initially time will be purchased from good quality and popular FM channels and eventually Sangeeta Setu will have its own station.

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