Sonic Saturday

Revisiting the magic of AIR's National Programme of Music

For collectors, recordings of these old radio broadcasts remain prized possessions.

A year and a half ago, this column had discussed the role that the All India Radio or Akashvani had played as an Indian national public broadcaster over decades in bringing the best of Hindustani music to the listeners.

Through this period, musicians have regarded the clearing of auditions for eligibility to broadcast and the subsequent periodic broadcasts as important milestones in their performance careers. Of these broadcasts, some have been considered more significant, as they reach out to a wider audience. The National Programme of Music is one such broadcast and being selected to record for it is in itself cherished by musicians, notwithstanding the stiff competition that is offered by television and other attractions.

For collectors, recordings of old radio broadcasts, particularly those of National Programmes of Music, remain prized possessions. They are guarded zealously, despite the static that accompanies many of these broadcasts, as they are wonderful documents of musical renditions that went on for a total of 90 minutes.

At times, a well-known musician or scholar would present the National Programme of Music featuring archival radio recordings of a maestro of yesteryears. The next track is a National Programme broadcast in 1975, presented by Gyan Prakash Ghosh, prominent composer and teacher. He elucidates on the gayaki or vocal style of Patiala gharana maestro Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, who is accompanied on the sarangi by Bade Ghulam Sabir Khan and on the tabla by Afaq Hussein Khan. Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s son and disciple Munnawar Ali Khan provides vocal support.

The track begins with two compositions in the pentatonic raag Bhupali. The first composition is set to Ektaal, a cycle of 12 matras or time-units. The melodic elaboration is replete with broad gamaks or oscillations on notes that accentuate the majesty of the raag. The gamaks give way to taans or swift melodic movements that traverse across octaves. Known for his malleable voice and incredible intonation, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan seamlessly moves through these phases and sargams or solfège, maneuvering his voice from a heavy and earthy projection to a delicate one.

The second composition in Bhupali is set to the 16 matra Teentaal.

Bhupali is followed by a medium-paced composition in the raag Rageshree set to Teentaal.

The concluding composition is based on the raag Bihag, but deviates from the conventional structure of the raag.

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How music can help drive social change

Indian brands are creating music to inspire action for social good.

Music has the power to cut across age, class, geography and even language, a critical quality in a diverse and multi-lingual country like India. Through poetry and melodies, music can communicate complex messages and hard-hitting stories gently to a large audience. So it is not surprising that music is often used in advertising to create catchy jingles. But many brands with a sense of social responsibility have also used music to spread messages of social change. Some of these songs have even become a part of popular culture.

The ‘Doodh’ jingle, a public service message from the 1990s, is among the earliest Indian examples of music being used by brands to spread awareness. Sung by Kunal Ganjawala and composed by Leslie Lewis, it spoke of the benefits of drinking milk in a fun way. The jingle had a hummable tune and was one of the first to use a mixture of Hindi and English lyrics, making it distinct and unforgettable.

Brands have also turned the spotlight on social problems through music. Nestle has recreated the iconic song “School Chalein Hum” for its campaign to spread awareness about girl child education. The song was originally composed in 2006 in support of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a government programme to provide primary education for all. It has now been reinterpreted by Nestle in collaboration with Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy and features singers Anvita Dutt and Harshdeep Kaur along with young girls from the Nanhi Kali program. Its lyrics have been rewritten to show how education is the stepping stone to the dreams of young girls. The video captures the infectious enthusiasm of these girls. The song struck a chord on social media and was shared by several influential policy makers.

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Other brands have also employed music to reflect the unpleasant aspects of reality and build the desire for change. A part of Dove’s efforts to change the standards of beauty for women, the #changetherhyme campaign reflects beauty stereotypes imposed on young girls. It uses the nursery rhyme ‘Chubby cheeks, dimpled chin…’ sung by kindergarten kids and contrasts this with powerful imagery of Indian female athletes training, urging viewers to break unnecessary ideals imposed by society. The widely shared song has received over 6 million views on YouTube.

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Another example of music being used to depict social realities is Whistling Woods’ ‘Dekh Le’ campaign. After the horrific 2012 Nirbhaya rape, Whistling Woods commissioned some of its alumni to create a public service commercial against eve-teasing. The video shows women flashing mirrors or sunglasses at lecherous men to show them how ridiculous they look. This video was set to the song ‘Dekh Le’ composed by Ram Sampath and sung by Sona Mohapatra. It was enthusiastically shared on social media. It received over a million views in its first week and has over 6 million currently.

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At times, brands have also spread messages of positive change and optimism through music. In 2007, Times of India, with Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy and Gulzar created a song called ‘Tum chalo toh Hindustaan chalein’. A simple video with powerful lyrics, it calls on citizens to be the change they wish to see in the country. The song was created for its “Lead India” contest which invited people to nominate inspiring leaders they knew from everyday life. The video and song remains inspirational even today.

Music has the ability to amplify social messages, which is why Nestle has used the medium to create awareness about girl child education. Suresh Narayanan, Chairman and Managing Director, Nestlé India said, “Music is one of the most powerful and influential means of uniting people for a cause. As part of our corporate social initiative, #EducateTheGirlChild we decided to create further awareness about girl child education through a song. This song represents the collective societal objective to spread awareness and evangelize support for the cause.” Nestle has been working with Nanhi Kali, one of India’s largest NGOs, to improve the state of girl child education in India. To show support for this cause and increase awareness, Nestle even changed the packaging of 100 million packs of some of its most iconic brands to include a message about girl child education. On Social media, its #EducateTheGirlChild campaign has sparked a conversation through powerful films and stories about girls facing barriers to getting educated.

The state of girl child education in India has tremendous scope for improvement. While millions of girls are denied education, some have immensely benefited from focused initiatives and some have fought their own way through. To help India’s girls go to school, join the conversation.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Nestle and not by the Scroll editorial team.