Sunday, October 26, 2008

Binaca Geetmala Radio Show No.1


Perhaps the most successful sponsored radio show of all time (yes,you guessed it)was Binaca Geetmala aired by Radio Ceylon continuously from the year 1952 to 1988 when it was renamed as CIBACA Geetmala and later Godrej Cibaca Geetmala on Vividh Bharati. The show was aired on Wednesdays at 8 P.M. ,first as a half hour "HIT PARADE" and later as a one hour countdown programme.
The programme was anchored by the golden voiced Ameen Sayani, considered as the first RJ of India, a former student of St.Xavier's College, Bombay. Commercial broadcasting programmes were being recorded at the technical wing of the college at that time and Ameen Sayani was given the task of scripting, producing and presenting a half hour program of seven Hindi film songs.He was, reportedly,given a budget of Rs.125/-per week including his salary of Rs.25/-!!
The program was an instant success and the number of listeners sending their list of choices for the hit parade swelled to about 35,000 per week within a short period making it difficult for Ameen Sayani to handle them. It was then that CIBA, the sponsors, decided to make it a one hour count down program. The count down list was prepared first on the basis of the number of records sold and later from the responses received from hundreds of radio listeners' clubs which sprung up all over the country.The number of listeners rose to about 20 millions within a few years!!The rest was broadcasting history.
The program was so popular that Wednesdays were known as Binaca geethmala day. Fans kept everything else aside and waited with excited anticipation to hear the bugle playing the signature tune of the program and the sonorous voice of Ameen sayani beginning with"Behano aur bhayio ".People thronged the public parks to hear the community radio and the overflowing crowd created traffic jam. Hotels playing radios and shops did good business on Wednesday nights.Newspapers referred to the program for rating films and film songs.The program became an integral part of the lives of countless Indians from all walks of life and a subject of discussion among neighbours and when people met on the road.

The huge success of the program was not only due to the quality of music of the time and the meticulous selection of songs but also the inimitable style, silken voice, vocabulary and the knowledgeable mind for music of the presenter. Ameen Sayani had an uncanny knack of knowing the pulse of the listeners who identified themselves with the program and the presenter. It was an incredible feat that he produced and presented it with out break week after week for 40 years except on a few rare occasions when he could not present it for unavoidable reasons.( If I remember correctly, Sri Manohar Mahajan of Radio Ceylon presented the program on those rare occasions.).Those, including me,who could live and listen to Binaca geethmala, are the fortunate ones and we still remember nostalgically those wonderful days and the golden era of music. Ameen Sayani also made his mark in the film world as a successful compere. All worthwhile film events of those days including the prestigious Filmfare Annual Award functions were compered by him.
In the early 80's, HMV released a set of cassettes and CDs covering Binaca Geethmala programs and hit songs. In 1977 they had released two LP records of 25 top songs which came first every year for a period of 25 years from 1953 to 1977. The two LPs were titled "Binaca Geethmala Volume 1&2. A Silver jubilee presentation by Ameen Sayani, the broadcaster who has produced, scripted and compered Binaca Geethmala since its inception. " They are a treasure and delight for gramophone record collectors. Each song in the LP is presented with fluid commentary by Ameen Sayani which in his own words," is a chronicle of Hindi film song hits, a review of musical trends and the' musicalities' that set them" over a period of 25 years. The albums were released at the BinacaGeeth mala Silver Jubilee function on the 12th December 1977 at Bombay, one of the most glittering functions in the history of Indian film music.The jacket of one of the two LPs shows photographs of the function and dignitaries from the film world present. The center of the jacket displays ,very appropriately, the photo of a smiling AmeenSayani facing what but the inevitable mike!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Long Live My Old Radios

As an enthusiastic lover of music,in general, and film songs in particular,and pursuing the hobby of collecting gramophone records,I could collect thousands of film songs on vinyl records, cassettes, CDs and USB/SD devices. But I still love to listen to music on gramophones(Record players) and my old valve radios, a Murphy (Mayfair) , a UMS(p3) radio and a Phillips radio mainly due to their old world charm, good sound quality and the original undistorted voice available on records. Besides,when we play a record,cassette,CD or USB/SD device we get a song(s) of our choice. But while listening to a Radio there is an air of anticipation about the next song and very often,all on a sudden,we get a forgotten old 'favourite' giving us a lot of listening satisfaction.A radio broadcast (especially by AIR)usually gives the name of the singer,music director and even lyricist which adds to our information and helps to enjoy the song better.
With the advent of FM Stations, the number of radio listners has increased considerably and radio is gaining popularity again. Still,I prefer the old SW/MW stations and Vividh Bharati DTH service as they transport me to the nostalgic days of my college life in the 50s and early 60s; the happy days of listening to Radio Ceylon and Vividh Bharati; the Binaca Geetmala programme of Radio Ceylon by the golden voiced Ameen Sayani. The listeners' request programmes of RadioCeylon (now Srilanka Broadcasting Corporation) and the Manoranjan,Aap ki Farmaaish and Chhayageet and similar other programmes ( which are still available on AIR DTH ) were real treat to the ears compared to the cacophony and nonstop exercise of the vocal cords on trivia by the RJs of new FM stations.In the 50s and early 60s even radio was not available in many households. We used to stand before hotels,radio shops and public parks to listen to the songs blared out on radios!!Not only films and actors but also singers,music directors and lyricists were subjects of hot discussion after each Binaca Geetmala programme on Wednesdays(8PM)!!Those were the days!!I am happy that I could preserve my radios and can still listen to Radio Ceylon airing the same old programmes in the morning upto 8-30 AM.!!
Bye now.More on this later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nostalgic Memories on Music

I am a person interested in listening to old Hindi Film songs and my hobby is to collect old Gramophones and gramophone records particularly that of old Hindi films. I have a fairly good collection of old records. I still enjoy listening to radio music from my old Murphy Radio and UMS brand Radio.I will be writing on old Hindi film songs .I invite all to read them