Posted: 18 March 2006 at 10:36pm | IP Logged
the most prolific broadcaster in India returned to IAR last Sunday
with the resurrected Binaca Geetmala now christened Colgate
Cibaca Geetmala. In the new format Sayani hopes to take his 40
year old radio tradition to the new generation and achieve "a
fusion of the past and the present". A chat with the unmatched
How does it feel re-starting
Colgate Cibaca Geetmala after eight years?
Geetmala is coming back, yes. But I've never left radio. There are
two reasons that people are not aware of this. One is that I've been
recording programmes mainly for expatriate audiences everywhere from
Radio Tarana in New Zealand to Radio Truro in Swaziland. The second
reason is that my programmes on All India Radio (AIR) are mainly for
the primary channel which goes into the interiors whereas city slickers
like you and me listen to Vividh Bharati.
So what d'you have on AIR and how come we
haven't heard of it?
I've done a two-year programme called Colgate Sangeet Sitare where
I profile music directors, a programme on AIDS called Swanash and
a series on career guidance called Opportunities Today. The problem
is that AIR has never been careful about promoting its own prograrmmes.
The organisation lacks internal as well as inter-channel promotion.
So naturally it suffers.
Your one-hour Cibaca Geetmala is now a 20
minute Colgate Cibaca Geetmala programme. Don't you feel restricted?
Yes, of course. But the sponsors have promised to increase the
duration to half an hour soon and then if all goes well, to an hour.
Right now it's certainly not an ideal situation for me. The 16 songs
that we showcased on the original programme have now been whittle
down to five. The chatting to listeners, which I used to do on any
topic under the sun, is out. I have to be brief, the songs have to
be brief, but it's still a countdown show.
What's the format like now, for the 20-minute
There are excerpts of songs from the 1940s,'50s and '60s which in
my estimation was the golden age of Hindi music, as well as current
songs. Since there's not much time, we showcase the current five top
hits one week and the runners-up the next week.
What according to you was the most memorable
period for the original Binaca Geet Mala?
Would say from the mid-1950s to the '70s. The popularity was unimaginable.
A few months into the programme, we started receiving 60,000 letters
a week and each letter would be scrutinised. There was no competition.
In newspapers, magazines, novels and films Geetmala was everywhere.
In Abhimaan I remember there's a scene where Asrani, secretary to
Amitabh measures his boss' success by the number of his songs being
played on Geetmala. In small towns like Jalgaon, community radio sets
were set up in parks with loudspeakers and the crowds would spill
onto the streets. I believe that the salaries of music directors would
be fixed according to the popularity of their songs on the programme.
It was the only public barometer of the popularity of Hindi film music
in its time.
Nobody bought a radio set unless Geetmala could be played on it. But
apparently AIR banned it for over 35 years...!
That's true. From 1952 to 1990 Geetmala was available only on Radio
Ceylon because AIR had banned Hindi film music in the early '50s when
Geetmala started. Radio Ceylon, on the other hand encouraged Hindi
film music and it had a fantastic following in those times. It was
only in 1990 after our endeavours that AIR agreed to take us on on
the condition that we changed the name to Cibaca Sangeet Mala
Tell us about how you arrived at the ratings of the songs for Geetmala.
There was a dual system in place to begin with. The most important
indicator was the record sales in various cities and to that we added
the number of requests from listeners. But as time went by we realised
that basing a countdown show on listeners' requests allowed for a
lot of manipulation by vested interests. So we eventually formed radio
clubs in the cities and hired men interested in music, whose sole
function was to listen to Hindi film songs and send us song lists.
I myself was involved in the process of setting up the system to arrive
at the final list.
There's an entire generation that's grown
up not listening to Ameen Sayani in the last eight years. How are
you preparing to tackle them?
The younger generation which watches TV shows like Antakshari and
Sa Re Ga Ma is exposed to both old and current songs on them. On Colgate
Cibaca Geetmala I cater to both. I start with a blast from the past,
move onto the new and then go back to the old. So people get the best
of both worlds. I'm trying to achieve a fusion of the past and the
present which I believe is the basis for all progress.
Is your voice the same as it was 20 years
ago – hasn't age made a difference?
My voice today is better than it was 20 years ago. In the interim
period I've given up smoking two or three times, and I haven't smoked
for the last five years. But I've never thought of myself as a good
voice. In my Radio Ceylon days we were all 'stylemasters like the
Hindi film heroes of old and tried to pep up our broadcasting. People
who imitate me use my style - I no longer do. I don't even shout
anymore, which I had to do once out of compulsion because the studios
weren't adequately soundproofed.
But nobody doubts that no one in this country can intone quite
so perfectly as Ameen Sayani...
My intonation came from my background, and my Hindi was a mix of Gujarati,
English and Bombay Hindi. When I started Hindi broadcasting there
was English and Gujarati in my speech, and I had to create a style
so that I could get away with it. The fact is that if if you ask me
to communicate in the simplest Hindi to the largest number of people,
I'm very good at it.
D'you think satellite television has killed
I've traveled all over the world and I say that nowhere in the world
has radio died due to television. The fact is that unlike in television,
In radio one half of the work is done by the viewer. And that is the
power of visulasation which lies with the individual when the radio
is playing. It's also a very powerful reason why radio will survive.
Edited by s.priya - 18 March 2006 at 10:44pm