Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 64, Tuesday November 07 , 2006



Special Feature

Radio-cobwebs and memories

The moth-eaten, battered box sits on the old man's lap. Two of its knobs are gone. One of the dials is broken. There are occasional sizzles of static, bursts of words- not from the man, but from the box itself. There is a mild smell of Mr. Clean, which the man diligently wipes the box with everyday. Every now and then it sputters. Then it breaks into a song. It sings. He has his eyes closed, his breaths fitting into a monotonous pattern of shallow rise and fall. But he is not asleep. The ears usher in the words- the static, the songs.

This is a scene not unusual to Rehana Azim. With her husband's retirement, the radio has become the centre of his early morning life. She chides him for his 'harmless addiction', but it is addiction all the same. Nonetheless, she likes the scene. And she secretly loves the music the box has to offer. In about an hour, he will be gone to play a lackadaisical game of chess with Mr. Sabeer Islam downstairs. That is her time. She sits with her cup of steaming afternoon coffee and turns on the set for some old Bangla songs while waiting for it to cool. Yes, may be it was a harmless addiction…

Life today is a one-way run on the fast track. We tend to run, run and run till we wear ourselves out. Technology has evolved in a similar fashion-advancing mediums of entertainment which are slicker, smarter and with increasingly sophisticated audio-visual capabilities. I-Pods and flat-screen televisions are flooding the market and the audience is gulping them up.

Yet in the midst of it all, people like to take small hikes down memory lane. To relive those times they cherish and they endear. There is a certain feeling, a certain emotion that the sight of radio evokes. It is a kind of nostalgia. The very sight prods those years and decades old memories to resurface. Despite the hi-tech innovations in the field of entertainment, radio retains the regal pride of an antique. When asked about her early encounters with the radio, Mrs. Nafisa Haque breaks into a wistful smile. "When we were young, we used to huddle close to the radio with a piece of scrap paper and a pencil. They would play the popular songs and we would scribble down the lyrics. We would then learn them by heart. It was so much fun singing along to the same songs when they were next played."

She continues, "But the whole atmosphere changed when the news came on. Everyone became silent. The elders were rapt listeners and my father used to get mad if anyone spoke." However, these days she hardly has time to enjoy the radio.

Mr. Bashar, a resident of Mohakhali, is another radio buff. He still holds on to the habit of listening to the news flashes before he goes in for a shower. "I just keep it turned on while I massage my limbs with oil. I do not have much scope to watch the news on TV. So, radio keeps me updated."

Radio in Bangladesh has come a long way. It has quite an intriguing history that deserves to be shared. The British times saw the introduction of All India Radio.

The Dhaka station of AIR was initially situated in a rented house in Nazimuddin Road (now, Borhanuddin College) and the first item that was aired was a message by Rabindranath Tagore. The station was inaugurated by A.K Fazlul Huq. Transmissions started at 5pm and closed at 10pm. In the Pakistan times, Radio Pakistan had one of its three centres in Tongi, Dhaka.

The Liberation War brought radio into the limelight like never before. Overnight, radio assumed the role of transmitting war messages and airing motivational messages for the public. After the establishment of the Mujibnagar government on 17th April 1971, 'Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendro' came into being. It started broadcasting from May 25 of the same year. Radio assisted the emergence of the liberation activists like Mustafa Monwar, Aminul Rahman and Abdullah-Al-Faruque. Popular programs included 'Charampatra' and 'Jallader Darbar', both of which were satires focusing on the inhumanity of the war. They were comical depictions of events and the war officials which helped uplift the morals and preserve the patriotism of the public.

"We used to live in a Bihari colony at that time. I remember we all used to go under the blanket and listen to the radio. We were all so scared, the radio was kept out of sight at all times," says Faruq Nawaz, a retired army officer.

Over the last decade, people have been losing touch with the radio as Television and mp3 players gained market control. But it did not take its last breath. Fortunately, as the saying goes- history repeats itself. Radio has in recent times achieved popularity tantamount to that of the television. It has merged with modern technology and is available in most cell phones today. "I like both Radio Today and Radio Furti. They play all types of songs, and their RJs are not as boring as they used to be. I listen to both the stations all the time," says Adiba, an A'Level student from the Aga Khan School.

No matter the form- be it the conventional transistor or the hi-fi mobile phones- radio has proved to be immortal. For many, radio will be a reminder of all those little things in our lives past. For others, this is just the beginning…

By Shahmuddin Ahmed Siddiky
Photo: Amirul Rajiv

Shop Talk

Music wherever you go
Music has always been an integral element, an eternal demand of the human soul. Despite the fact that the thirst for music remains immutable, the modes of listening have certainly gone a distance. Small. Portable. Stylish. Yes, that is quite a distance. These days, it is surprising how these complicated-looking gadgets can make listening to music so much easier.

Mp3 Players
If your budget is a crucial factor but still crave for Linkin Park wherever you go, mp3 players can offer the much-needed relief. I am well aware that I am no shopping counsellor, but please do NOT buy the ones that look like walkmans. The mega size entertainment consoles have long gone out of fashion. So, unless you want to let technological advancements to surpass you, get the ones that resemble a pen drive. They are available from Tk.2000 to Tk.3000 (128 MB) and Tk.3000 to Tk.4000 (256 MB).

"Funky" cell phones
At this stage of human civilisation, mobile phones have become a non-biological extension of the ear. So, why not give your ear a treat? With every tidbit of life becoming incorporated into these phones ( e.g. internet, e-mail, camera,) mp3 players definitely do not want to be left behind. The Siemens BenQ series provides some of the latest mp3 phones (from Tk.8,000 and above). You can also try Nokia, although the minimum price threshold may be slightly higher. There are also some relatively newer companies that are promoting their mp3 phones, such as Bird. General price levels usually start from Tk.8,000 or 10,000 and can go up to as much as you can afford.

Radio is back. And it is very much an "in" thing. Most youngsters listen to the radio on their cell phones. Again, portability and utility plays a significant role in persuading the target audience. Yet, the conventional radio retains its majesty. Prices vary considerably depending on a wide range of factors- station-holding potential, reception quality, size, country of origin and so on. Car radios, for instance, can start from Tk.250 while radios that accompany CD Players could cost up to Tk.10000.

CD Players
These may not be the most portable of "gadgets", but the CD player has solidified its post as a piece of domestic furniture. Unlike I-Pods and mp3 players, music can be enjoyed by a crowd. All you need to do is invite a few friends, turn the volume up and dance the night away. Prices usually start from around Tk.7000 and can escalate to Tk.40,000 (and often, even more!).

These palm-size gadgets allow you to play music, watch videos and browse through pictures among many other miscellaneous functions. 2GB I-Pods would cost you around Tk.20,000 while 3GB ones could range closer to Tk.30,000. I often wonder who in their right minds would be prepared to go broke for the sake of listening to Linkin Park and having Michael Jackson moonwalk on their palms (literally!). But if you are ready to stretch the budget a little, you will not regret it.

By Shahmuddin Ahmed Siddiky
Photo: Amirul Rajiv

On the cover

We're celebrating the Radio Renaissance in Bangladesh all over Lifestyle this week. Toe-tap your way to our stories on this page and on the centrefold

Photos: Amirul Rajiv
Model: Tushar


Download daze…

Internet undeniably proves to be an indispensable tool. For e-mail, e-shopping, information extraction, chatting…and most importantly, downloading. Songs, images, videos, documents and so much more can be downloaded. And if you are blessed with a decent speed, it is in a matter of seconds that you will be listening to the new hit single from your favourite band.

So, where on the net are these songs and videos offered? For one, they can be downloaded off certain websites. The downside however, is that you would need to know which sites provide the items you require. To some extent- to a large extent rather- this can be overcome through Google search. There are also some online download engines like altavista.com, singingfingfish.com and lycos.com to facilitate downloads.

The alternative means of downloading is to install a download engine on your PC. Kaaza, Limewire, Ares, Imesh offer some of the widest networks which means a wider range of songs, movies, music and images to choose from. This is relatively easier in the sense that you can avoid hours of Googling for the items you need. All that is required is that you enter the title of the item in the search box, and the engine will automatically track it for you.

How you download is also a matter of opinion. The most popular appears to be using download accelerator software. As the name indicates, they tend to speed up the downloads and help cut back on download time. But, bear in mind that some download accelerators (such as DAP) do not permit resumption of downloading if the network suddenly goes down or if the power goes off (with load shedding being commonplace in Bangladesh!).

The greatest advantage of downloading is that you can have ANY songs and videos at the service of your senses. If you happen to miss an episode of your beloved TV series, you can just download it off the net. Better still, you can even watch the current seasons of the shows when they are airing the same shows minus two or three seasons in Bangladesh. And saving the best for the last, they come in absolutely free.

Nonetheless, it is crucial to make sure that you are downloading from legal sources. Although non-legal sources may seem attractive they are mostly involved in providing unauthorised music (which is equivalent to music piracy). Also, download files that have common extensions (such as .mp3, .wmv, .mpg, etc). Files with unknown or undisclosed extensions are likely to carry viruses.

By Shahmuddin Ahmed Siddiky




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