When Ameen Sayani speaks, the world stops and listens. Such is the enthralling quality of the doyen of radio in India and the erstwhile presenter of the most popular of countdown shows, ‘Binaca Geetmala’.
Speaking as the Guest of Honour at exchange4media’s Golden Mikes 2014 awards ceremony, held in Mumbai on January 31, Sayani recounted his days as an active voice on the radio circuit. He recalled that radio broadcasters in the past would interact a lot with the listeners and keep them involved, thus ensuring that more people tuned in. “It still happens today, I know a lot of excellent broadcasters in the independent radio network who talk very well and interact with the listeners. But the biggest issue is that all stations play the same 100 songs all the time. I had to eventually call a few stations and bring it to their notice,” he said.
Sayani believes that the power of radio comes from music that its airs, and some of the most beautiful melodies come in the form of Indian film music. “The years of soulful tunes of the great music directors, performers, and artists – it is the parampara (tradition) and tehzeeb (culture) of India that is translated into the greatest language and the simplest tunes. Indian film music is probably one of the greatest promoters of the Indian national language and national integration,” he noted.
However, nowadays the soulful melodies are being overtaken by loud and noisy music of today. But it is a phenomenon not limited to India and is seen in the West as well. Sayani joked about how “melody died and rhythm caught on”. “I’m not saying that the older music was better and today’s music isn’t. This is the music that today’s youngsters like to listen to, and I must say that all those foot-tapping numbers also keep them healthy!”
According to him, “Many of the old broadcasters say that the best radio programmes are those where you not just hear, but also see the commentator. I take it a step forward and say that don’t just see them, but stretch your hand out and shake hands with them, smell the sweet fragrance of the art and the music. That is what radio is all about.”