Independent music’s foray into Indian radio is another step closer to building a stronger ground for alternative musicians in India.
The strains of tanpura drifting through the room on an early Sunday morning playing from All India Radio’s golden classics; the latest pop numbers, blasting through the car speakers while driving to work with our favourite RJ taking requests; some plain sweet rock n roll on a Saturday night. Radio stations have been a part of every generation’s formative years.
It may not be as popular a medium as television, but it has definitely shaped our listening experiences, choices and tastes in music. While terrestrial radio stations are known to be conventional, over the last few years, new, independent and alternative music have found their way onto online radio stations, quickly becoming some of the best platforms for Indian alternative artists across genres. Some mainstream stations are also taking baby steps, embracing the spirit of indie music. While it might be a hard task developing listenership for non-popular genres, it is a fast growing platform.
Many Indian radio stations are adopting initiatives to actively create on-air space for local artists. Monkey Radio from Hyderabad is a fine example of great passion and dedication to genres including dub, D&B, folk, ska, reggea, ambient and roots. Something that started as a voice for alternative music on radio, this crew has stayed true to their calling. Says Balusubramanyam aka Dakta Dub, founder of Monkey Radio: “I was not so much into radio ‘till I moved to Budapest. While studying there, I pursued radio production, DJing at Tilos Radio, a community station. I also listened to BBC Asian Network online radio etchnotechno.com, dub.com and rastamusic.com. All these radio stations have so music variety, it inspired me to make Monkey Radio India. Monkey Radio station is not fully listener interactive although that is the goal.”
Other radio stations falling under the same category include Planet Radiocity. It captures Mumbai’s indie flavour with a 24/7 aptly named web-based show called Radio City Freedom. On Fridays from 4-6pm with a special RJ lead section, it showcases artist interviews and music. Radio One, Bangalore functions on similar lines with interviews and music from musicians visiting the city for live performances and of course the buzzing local talent.
It’s interesting to see radio stations slowly but surely making niche genres and local talent a part of their on-air show schedules. Chennai Live 104.8 fm, a terrestrial radio station, has a one hour slot on weekdays. Rohan Sen, former music manager and presenter at the station believes that radio stations were made to inform and educate people and that it’s the purest medium for music. Chennai 104.8fm (http://www.chennailive.fm/)is a standalone station with no bigger mandate and that means more programming freedom. “I joined Chennai Live in 2011 and noticed a serious lack of initiative in supporting local artists. We started The Indian Music Hour (http://www.chennailive.fm/rj_list/rohan/) that ran weekdays 5-6pm […] featuring artists from all genres and from all over the country. TAAQ, Raghu Dixit, Swarathma , Dualist Inquiry, Gods Robots, Blek, Skrat, The F16’s, Pentagram, Grey Shack are just a few of the artists featured. We ran a show called ‘Out of the Box’ which was a live jam and conversation in the studio. We also did album launches for artists where the entire Indian Music Hour featured only tunes from that new release.”
Radio 79 Delhi owned by independent record label and events company Audio Aashram, showcases some interesting weekly shows and is one of the leading independent radio stations in the country. Amrisha Prashar aka IAMRISHA has been working with Radio 79 since October last year, has her own weekly radio show called ‘A Worldwide Thing’ and loves the experience of being part of an independent radio collective:
“I have a much defined style and sound that I like and the radio station gives me the creative license I need to showcase this. My sounds are underground and right now don’t have a mass appeal which a mainstream station would want. […] The show features a range of genres from Digital Cumbia in Buenos Aires to Ghanian Highlife. There is a strong focus on bass sounds, London D&B and hip-hop too. It’s pretty eclectic and heavy on curation.”
“Radio shows and live events go hand in hand as they are both great tools to promote independent music. We have to all support each other and build a strong foundation for the scene” he explained. They’ve broadcasted 42 episodes of ‘Pressure Drop’ so far. His radio show occasionally has special themes such as a specific artist/ group, music festival or sub-genre.
While some radio stations are part of a bigger mainstream organization and get their funding from the mother ship like Radio City Freedom, stations like Monkey Radio are based on self-sustainability. “All the program makers of the Radio contribute a monthly donation to the Radio. During other events, we raise donations. Also when some of the crew making gigs/club nights together, we give a percentage to the radio,” explains Dakta Dub.
Amrisha believes that there is huge potential for independent radio stations if done properly with the right PR backing: “Independent stations don’t have as much reach but it’s up to the team to maximise and find the best way and with everything being online the methods are becoming easier. I hope to see more independent stations and shows that help the indie scene here as there is a lot of talent and often talent that doesn’t go anywhere because they aren’t receiving attention. If there are enough indie radio stations/shows it can perhaps help inspire the mainstream to look to us and be inspired, giving the sounds greater reach to the masses,” she concluded.
Other Radio Stations:
*Radio One 94.3 (Multiple Cities)- (Terrestrial and internet)-http://www.radioone.in/ (Every Thursday night- one hour slot)
*My Opus-Bangalore (Internet)-http://www.myopusradio.com/
*Radio Flote-Bangalore (Internet) http://radioflote.com/
written by Shri K