[Reader-list] 4th posting

Indira Biswas indirabiswas at hotmail.com
Tue Jun 29 12:29:37 IST 2004

This is Indira Biswas working on the topic ‘Mediation through Radio The 
Calcutta Radio Station and the changing life of the city (1927 – ’57). I am 
sending my 4th posting of the work done so far.
In this posting I would share with you some important findings on the 
musical programmes of the Calcutta Radio station.

Life of a radio station depends upon continuity of its programme – everyday, 
at fixed hours of time. Of all the programmes of the Calcutta radio station 
(henceforth the CRS), broadcasting of music constitutes seven eighth of all 
the programmes. Therefore, broadcasting of music only by few renowned 
professional artists – both male and female, could not meet the purpose of 
the new radio station. Hence, to keep the programme going, the search for 
amateur artists became an agenda of broadcasting staff of the CRS from its 
very beginning. Here, it seems, bringing in amateurs did not begin as 
nationalist agenda to cleanse music from the hands of prostitutes and 
mirasis. By the time the Government of British India began to take interest 
in Indian broadcasting in the mid 1930’s and nationalist leaders took in 
earnest the cleansing project defining ‘who and what would they sing’ in the 
scope of All India Radio, the majority of performers of the CRS irrespective 
of gender were middleclass Bengalees. In his first published report of the 
broadcasting in India, the first Controller of broadcasting Lionel Fielden 
has also remarked that the situation in Calcutta was different from other 
parts of India and there existed a liberal atmosphere due to influence of 
Tagore and Brahma Samaj

The Vetar Jagat projected one Pushparani Chattopadhyay, daughter of a senior 
police officer Pulin Behari Chattopadhyay as the first amateur artist of the 
CRS. Instances of young children taking part in radio musical programme and 
obtaining appreciation are many. The abundance of child singers testify the 
ardent need felt by the authority to get as many amateur singers as they 
could. To keep the programme going ‘programme assistants and even the 
Station Directors were always on the alert for news of artists who could be 
brought on the microphone’

The CRS also opened a music lesson programme of Bengali songs on October 14, 
1930. Pankaj Kumar Mallick took charge of the programme from November or 
early December 1930 and continued till 1975. The greatest advantage of this 
‘Music Lesson Programme’ was that music was taught with notation. Pankaj 
Kumar Mallick made it a routine to dictate notations and give the listeners 
instructions on how to follow them. In the initial years, the Vetar Jagat 
also published the songs with notation in advance. Those listeners who could 
follow the notations, could master the songs without mistake. The programme 
became extensively popular among its listeners

To be a radio artist, aptitude to sing admirably, became an increasingly 
coveted marker of status and gentility in Bengali middle class society. Many 
families craved their unmarried daughters to learn music to some extent 
expecting them to be acclaimed and chosen as prospective bride.

The urban cultural scenario witnessed a slow but steady change. While more 
and more girls came to take part in radio and gramophone, the craze 
intensifying with the passing of years, it remained mostly confined to 
unmarried girls.
Bye till the next mail.
Indira Biswas

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