Preserving the treasure troves that once ruled our airwaves
On World Radio Day, Café takes a look at the herculean effort being put in by All India Radio’s FM Rainbow team in Goa to digitise its rich inventory and archives for posterity
At any given weekend in Goa, there is a ‘Retro’ theme party and even in the ongoing Carnival celebrations, you can hear and see Goans dancing to the golden classics. Given how music of a time gone by is still popular in Goa, Savio de Noronha, Channel Head at AIR FM Rainbow, Goa, had a dream, to revive and restore the music, interviews, talks, chats and other recordings that captivated the older generation. Savio, who has been associated with AIR Panjim studio since 1989, put together a strong team that has been on a musical odyssey for the last three years. In their endeavour to preserve, digitise old tracks, interviews, concerts, radio plays and other formats, they had to sift through the age old Vinyl LP (long play) records and magnetic tapes that ruled the airwaves in the ‘60s and ‘70s and the CDs that followed. This meant delving into its rich inventory, during which, the enormity of the project at hand, the annals of history and the impact Radio in Goa has had came to light. While All India Radio’s FM Rainbow has entered its silver jubilee year, broadcasting in Goa has been around from 1946 although the medium of radio made its debut in the country in 1927 in Mumbai.
Before Goa’s liberation, there was an initiative taken up by amateur radio operators that led to formation of a radio station, called Emissora – de- Goa in 1946. Less than a month after liberation, Radio Goa was taken over by the Government of India, and re-christened as All India Radio. On January, 24, 1994, the state was among only 5 cities in the entire country that saw FM stereo services being launched in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and Goa. For a larger part of the last two and half decades, FM Rainbow has been a major source of entertainment and news for Goans across the state. Looking at the records and the magnificent Panjim Radio studio station, one truly gets a sense of déjà vu ; the walls of the buildings are adorned with black and white photographs and the studios still have that old world charm and wonder. “It has been a fascinating project and each record in whatever format has a story to tell. For instance, some of the Konkani records are spelt as Concanim,” says Savio, his face lighting up as he walks around the large library. He points to the LP and is excited with the prospect of playing these old 1960 Vinyl records. “Many people are still nostalgic when it comes to the sound of LPs,” he says, while demonstrating how the sound of ‘Country Roads’ on an LP is different from a CD. Over the course of time, technology has galloped, bringing with it a sea change at the historic radio station in Panjim. “Prasar Bharati (India’s Public Service Broadcaster) was keen to digitise the treasures of the past,” adds Savio while talking about how this project got started. Having a strong personal interest to take this project up, Savio was ably assisted by an interesting team that consisted of retired employees and the present younger lot (age group stretching from 17 to 70!). The two generations were tasked with retrieving of tapes and transferring the same in its new digital form. “You have to remember that this was outside their normal routine and it was a part-time assignment at best. What united this team was that common passion to save something for the future and the love for music and desire to learn about the past,” adds Savio, who is a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to all things radio. Athos Fernandes, Pratima Shirodkar, Madhav Borkar and Bambino Dias were roped in as Domain Experts familiar with the old records. More importantly Rajendra Naik and Suhas Chari revived or resurrected the old machines such as ‘Meltron’. The current assignees consisting of Zulema Pereira, Priyanka Holi, Amey Joshi , Cher Fernandes, Runa Agarwal, Prashila Simepurushkar, Aditya Sakhalkar, Leena Naik, Aquila Fernandes and Avidh Morajkar, carried out a whole range of activities such as digitising, creating meta-data and storing the tapes back to original position in the library. “There is music of all genres and all languages including the Konkani Classics, recordings of top artistes ( that they themselves don’t have) and interviews with celebrities and top musicians of the country and other recordings such as that of Pope John Paul II’s Mass in Goa, among other important events,” adds Savio. It even has music from international countries as diverse as Peru and Czechoslovakia (as it was then). About 15 years ago, Savio and RJ Bambino had conceptualised the highly successful ‘Nite of the Fortnight’, which paved the way to Rainbow Hour that showcased original Goan music by Goan artistes and incidentally earned its place in the Limca Book of Records (2006) for being the first-ever live-cum-radio concert broadcast on radio. Now, Savio, Bambino and the rest of the team at FM Rainbow, with its appealing new social media avatar ( courtesy Lourdes Soares), are paying their tributes to an era that the next generation will have a chance to know about, thanks to their efforts.
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