The best part of growing up at home was listening to the radio. I don’t think I would have known so much as early on as I did if my Dad had not turned on the radio whenever he was at home. My dad was a compulsive radio listener. My mom told me that early on their in their marriage, the Vividh Bharati channel was always on at home. After his 3-4 year stint in Calcutta and return to Chennai, I have never heard him listen to film music at home. Vividh Bharati was like a ‘blocked’ channel on our radio in the mid-late seventies and early eighties. But from 1975 till I got married in 1993, I have listened to an unbelievable amount of carnatic music on the radio.
The first carnatic music program was ‘Isai amudham’ at 7.00 to 7.15 am. They regularly played recordings of the great masters. But some of the special off beat records that I had enjoyed was NC Vasanatakokilam and Mysor Raja Iyengar singing Jagadoddharana. Then the 8.00 – 9.00 am ‘Arangisai’ was always on. Interestingly the radio would be switched off at 7.15, while my father read the paper and we got ready to go to school. Just as we sat down to eat breakfast, dad would saunter in and switch on Madras A again for arangisai. Of course some days he may have read in advance that it was someone he did not want to listen, and so the radio would be silent! My school bus was only at around 8.30 and so I heard the first 3 songs definitely before running off to school. More than the music, the announcements were the main source of information. Names of songs could be easily connected to raga names, composer names etc. Names like V Thiagarajan, Coimbatore B Dakshinamoorthy, Madras A Kannan, Ramanathapuram MN Kandaswamy, Palghat Sundaram and V Nagarajan all made as much sense as Dennis Lillee, Andy Roberts or Sunil Gavaskar.
Then FM was introduced in the early eighties and I had a friend who was a crazy Hindustani Music freak. He would record all the programs of people like Paluskar, Jitendra Abisheki, Mallikarjun Mansoor, Basavaj Rajguru, Siyaram Tiwari etc etc. He also liked the RTPs broadcast once a month in the carnatic music section. That was also the time my dad had got a cassette player from England and I remember recording my first concert – an Arangisai concert of Dr BMK singing Kamalambam bhajare and Ganamalichi (his own composition in Kalyanavasatam). It was a C90 TDK cassette that my mom had got from a friend in malaysia. So after the one hour program there was still space left. So the next day there was a broadcast of a Trichur Ramachandran concert and I recorded the last half hour with Bhairavi – Balagopala and a slokam. FM was a great channel and regularly played all the records and LPs. Once a week the National programme of Music and the special arangisai were also broadcast on FM, the station offering stereo for the first time.
Many years later I was just leaving home for a radio programme and my Dad asked me where I was going. I told him I had a live programme. He said “This morning? At 8.30? Arangisai? After listening to GNB & MLV and Semmangudi I have to listen to you now????!!!!”