Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Part of the Family-Part II
Some inanimate objects are so much part of one's life, especially those that have been part of childhood. Inspired by my last post on Boseji, I'm taking a long trip down memory lane, remembering devices that have brought music into my life ever since I can remember.
This picture is the closest I can find on the Net to the Pye radio which was the first music supplier that I can recall, an important part of my earliest childhood, way way back in the nineteen-fifties. The 'tika' like thing between the speakers is what was known then as the magic eye, and therefore of great fascination. It would shine a bright green when the radio was properly tuned. We, my sister and I, used to love turning the knobs, and were scolded for doing so too rapidly or too hard. I was quite convinced that little people and orchestras lived inside the radio, and was always trying to peer into its innards.
A couple of years later came the tape recorder. This was a Telefunken spool player, which, together with the radio, became a major part of our lives. Once again, I have no access to any old family photographs, so I'm putting up as close a representative as I can find on the Net.
Both of these devices were acquired when we were living in England, as my father was posted there. I was about five years old , my sister seven, and our great big older brother was a true-blue teenager at sixteen, when the tape recorder came into our lives.
This was obviously a machine that was more fascinating than the radio, because we could chose what we wanted to listen to. That most of it was recorded from the radio was irrelevant. I wonder who did the recordings- was it my father , or my brother?
We had our favourite tape of children's songs, and spent hours listening to the Ugly Duckling, and the Little White Bull, and Thumbelina, and Maurice Chevalier singing 'Thank Heaven for little girls', and so many many others, which I have heard countless times and have sung to my children. Then there was this radio comedy called "The Clitheroe Kid", of which we must have recorded several episodes. We loved this awful boy who plagued his family, especially his older sister Susan, and a malaprop neighbour. My brother recorded Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, and Buddy Holly and Connie Francis and the Beatles, who were just beginning to be talked about. There would be strange, eclectic additions to the different genres- we had movements from Handel's Water Music, the rather haunting soundtrack of Shakespearewallah, Yehudi Menuhin playing with Ravi Shankar, some amazing tap dancing: Antonio dancing Zaffariado or vice versa.
Then my parents had their Hindi oldies. I don't quite recollect how and where they recorded those, but they were there.
Before we returned to India, we acquired a Garrard record changer. It was just the chassis, no case- a rather spindly, delicate looking structure. A case was made for it, an almost cube-like, suitcase like container. It was played through the radio, and the only record from that time that I remember was Cliff Richard's 'The Young Ones.' Records were very expensive in the sixties. But my father's more prosperous young cousin would buy KL Saigal and other records, and bring them over for my father to record on tape. That was the basis for our several hours of old music. By the time I reached college I could, very occasionally, save up and buy an LP. Of course, I did wish that we had a radiogram, but our real treasure was the tape recorder. It was a great companion to have when ill, or otherwise stuck at home. Recording on the microphone was great fun, something we'd only done when it was new- I recited 'We are off to Timbuktoo' in a teeny little voice, and my mother read something from her Essential English text, about the difference between a clock and a watch. Dad's cousin did some Raj Kapoor imitations, when we were back in India, good ones!
The radio was of course an institution unto itself- All India Radio held us in thrall, as we grew older and became more comfortable with Hindi lyrics. A great and unique treasure that accompanied us back to India in 1963 was a transistor. That was something new- to be able to carry it around was simply unbelievable, back then! It was our companion on the terrace when we slept there in summer. All too soon, affordable transistors invaded the Indian market, and you could, sadly, be assailed by transistor- toting roadside Romeos.
These were, till I left home, my childhood and teenage musical companions. I was in college when I first saw a cassette and cassette player, at a friend's house. It seemed so amazingly small, compact, plus you didn't have to thread the tape into the empty spool. The word 'stereo' impinged upon my consciousness around the same time. Technology was bringing in many changes............