Reminiscences Whether it was film songs, Carnatic or Western music, these programmes were popular with listeners. Randor Guy
In those days, the Carnatic music concerts took place between 7.30 and 9 p.m. Exactly at 8 p.m., the All India Radio (AIR) clock would ring eight times, even while the concert was going on.
Once a month on Sunday afternoons, between 3 and 4 p.m., there were Carnatic mini concerts by singers, who had not yet made a name for themselves in the Mylapore music circle but were well on their way. One such singer, with a long name, was Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna. He shifted to Madras and his career zoomed upwards. He became an icon and was known by his shortened name, Bala Murali!
There were also music classes, ‘Isai Payirchi,’ in the evenings and the songs so taught were published in the AIR Tamil Programme Magazine, Vanoli with the swara notation, and many listeners would cut out those pages and file them for their future reference.
All India Radio, Madras, used to broadcast soundtracks of Tamil movies for one hour once a month on a Sunday at 3 p.m., and this writer remembers listening to movies including ‘Kannamma En Kaathali…’ and ‘Vidyapathi.’ These films were produced for AIR by ‘NYE’ Bhooma, the daughter of the South Indian movie pioneer, S. Soundararaja Ayyangar who signed his films as ‘S. Soundararajan.’
A range of instruments
All India Radio also had its own orchestra with a wide range of instruments including Western ones such as the clarinet and piano. They were known in Tamil as ‘AAA EEE RAY for All India Radio. In those days, the linguistic fanaticism of translating even proper nouns into Tamil was happily unknown!
There used to be light music sessions with a prominent musician and the Orchestra. One such programme, which became a success, was with M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, the first super star of South Indian Cinema, who was also a trained Carnatic musician. Interestingly he did not sing his famous movie songs!
All India Radio published its programmes in Vanoli, a fortnightly in Tamil, and which also contained some articles. Vanoli’s cover, invariably had a photo of a popular musician such as M.S. Subbulakshmi. Many families (including ours) used to preserve them and later had them bound in a book.
The Western music programmes were broadcast between 5 and 5.30 p.m. almost every day and the children's programme in English, once a week. These were very popular. Once a week, there would be film songs of 30 minutes duration. During a certain period between 7.30 and 8 a.m., there would be 30-minute long sessions of gramophone records by Carnatic music giants including ‘Ariyakudi Ramanuja Ayyangar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar and GNB. These programmes were also popular.