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Earlier this year, the citizens of Norway woke up to a rather dismal announcement: by the end of this year, the country plans to completely do away with FM radio in favour of Digital Audio Broadcasting. Countries like the United Kingdom and Switzerland are expected to follow suit.

First video and now the Internet seems to be killing the radio star. But could the same hold true for India? While we may be basking in the glory of the World Wide Web 24/7, few things can match the joy we experience when we are driving or going about our daily chores and our favourite song pops up on the radio. We Indians are, after all, an emotional bunch, and sometimes all it takes is a familiar tune to lift our spirits.

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So what is it that makes the radio, a mere audio medium, hold its own against TV, mobile and the Internet? What makes it so charming that everyone from grandparents to children, from CEOs to rickshaw walas, can’t get enough of it? We took a trip down memory lane and across the world to find out…

Reflections On The Radio

While some of us remember waking up to Akashvani during our school days, others can’t imagine their daily commute to work without the company of their favourite songs and RJs. Anuja Bhardwajan (24), a scholar and former journalist, sums up this relationship rather succinctly: “Radio has been the primary source of entertainment for me since childhood. It is still played in my house every morning. It did take a dip somewhere in the late 90s, but after the launch of channels like Radio Mirchi  (98.3) , Red FM (93.5) and Radio City (91.1), there has been no looking back. Radio keeps one updated on current affairs, music and city events. The fact that even the Prime Minister is using it now speaks volumes about its reach.”

Nation, Nostalgia And Radio

With most of us harping about being ‘90s kids’, it is no wonder that nowadays channels like Radio Nasha (91.9) and Redtro (106.4) exist simply to feed our nostalgia and are doing remarkably well.

But for Indians overseas, the medium holds special significance. Stations such as Radio Plus Indiz (Mauritius), Mera Sangeet (USA), HUM 106.2 (Dubai) and SBS Hindi (Australia) broadcast shows in various Indian languages, keeping Indians across the world connected to their homeland. “For someone who is miles away, longing to hear the voice of their loved ones, radio carries a distinctive charm and comfort. Listening to someone talking of their homeland, in the language they grew up speaking, brings back a thousand memories, taking them closer to their roots,” says Vijay Prakash Singh Jayara, who creates content for the SBS Australia Hindi broadcast Laut te Parinde. He poetises that bittersweet emotion beautifully: “Apne vatan ke parinde ko dekh kar hota hai khushi ka aagaaz, vatan ki maati ki sendhi mehak ka ehsaas dilati hai radio ki awaaz”.

Read his blog “My Yatra Diary” here.

Music And Beyond…

While radio has played an integral role in the dissemination of information since its inception, music continues to be its core, whether it’s regional music (Sangeet Bangla) or international (Radio One 94.3), new (Red FM 93.5) or old (Radio Nasha). The struggle to stay relevant, however, has not been easy, and this is where the medium has done a commendable job. Take, for instance, Radio One, that broadcasts popular music festivals from around the world, like Tomorrowland. Catering to a more desi janta, 92.7 BIG FM has slots for chat shows featuring celebrities, comedies (Hansi ke Rang, Surendra Sharma ke Sang) and storytelling (Yaadon ka Idiot Box by Neelesh Misra).

Apart from entertainment courtesy veterans, the medium has also served as a platform for the youth to showcase their talent (music shows like Unplugged on Redtro) and voice their opinions. Delhi-based singer Tulja Sharma shares her experience of working for AIR’s erstwhile youth-centric channel, Yuvavani, “At Yuvavani, I hosted a show and worked with other talented artists, learning new techniques and creating new compositions. It really helped me push my boundaries and grow as an artist.”

In a world where the need to stay connected and updated (FOMO) consumes us almost completely, radio is probably the one medium that allows us to sit back, relax, maybe even close our eyes and give ourselves a moment of sanity as we bob our head to our favourite tunes, chuckle at the RJ’s banter, relate to conversations from around the world and just be.

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