Home Entertainment Stereos on, boots open: Our first style of western music in 70s Madras was courtesy the Anglo-Indian neighborhood

Stereos on, boots open: Our first style of western music in 70s Madras was courtesy the Anglo-Indian neighborhood

Stereos on, boots open: Our first style of western music in 70s Madras was courtesy the Anglo-Indian neighborhood

Sharing is caring!

‘Widespread radio programme ‘Listeners’ Alternative’ will need to have been the primary try on our half to westernise ourselves’ 

‘Widespread radio programme ‘Listeners’ Alternative’ will need to have been the primary try on our half to westernise ourselves’ 

In the event you have been from Madras of a selected time, of a sure age, and belonged to a particular socio-economic background, your introduction to western music  had to be via the prism of the Anglo-Indian. 

I communicate of youngsters belonging to middle-class households of the mid-70s, from households that didn’t personal turntables, and for whose determined, impressionable ears, radio was the only provider of music from each inside and past the borders.

The western pop music primer of the 70s was  Listeners’ Alternative, a well-liked radio programme broadcast on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. And the utmost requests got here from younger Anglo-Indian women and men. 

Whereas one would assume that the 70s belonged to Deep Purple, The Stones, Bob Dylan, The Doorways and the timeless strains of the freshly dismantled Beatles, because of the impassioned and chronic postcards, written in convent-perfected cursive little question, of the Cedrics, Sharons, Evitas and Winstons of St. Thomas Mount, Perambur and Arakkonam, our earliest musical influences from Western shores have been Carole King, Daliah Lavi, Wanda Jackson, Nana Mouskouri, Tom Jones, Neil Diamond, Tony Orlando and Daybreak, The Partridge Household, CCR, The New Seekers, Sonny & Cher, and essentially the most inevitable of all of them, The Osmonds: Donny, Marie and syrupy little Jimmy (along with his bathetic  Mom of Mine), working as a tag workforce. With the venerable Jim Reeves making appearances every so often. And above all, the 2 Anglo-Indian boys from Madras and Lucknow who’d made good, Messrs Engelbert Humperdinck and Cliff Richard.


“Our favorite compere was the sleek as silk, heat as milk Rupert Benjamin. When he spoke, it felt like he was talking on to the Devulapalli progeny”

A bi-weekly radio expertise

Listeners’ Alternative and pop music, once I give it some thought now, will need to have been the primary try on the a part of my sisters and myself to ‘Westernise’ ourselves. It appeared like music would do what movies and books couldn’t absolutely do. Father and grandfather have been proof. Each of them learn English literature, although very totally different varieties, and have been eager aficionados of Hollywood fare. But each of them remained stubbornly, quintessentially Telugu.  Thaatha wore a  lalchi and  pancha and wrote solely in Telugu. Dad did put on trousers and a shirt, tucking the tails in and placing on footwear every now and then primarily to impress us, however was nonetheless unapologetically Golt. Music, an uninterrupted food regimen of what the Anglo-Indians prescribed, we probably thought, could be the X issue that might cleanse us of our hitherto annoyingly ineradicable Goltihood, and switch us into cool Westerners like our cousins from two streets away.

Our favorite radio compere was the sleek as silk, heat as milk Rupert Benjamin. When he spoke, it felt like he was talking on to the Devulapalli progeny. Our biweekly radio expertise, huddled round grandfather’s refurbished  Bush from the 50s, immediately went up a notch when it was introduced by Rupert.

And now,’ went the standard request, ‘ for the listening pleasure of Michelle, Sylvester and Child Gladys from Tambaram, additionally Suraj and Nita from Haddows Highway, and Marakadam, Tamilselvi and Karthi from Kodambakkam, and, final however not least, Simon, Letitia, Ambrose, to not neglect Grandma and Grandpa Briggs from Chromepet — with particular birthday needs to Cousin Desirée who turns Candy Sixteen right now — we carry you Tony Orlando and Daybreak’s ‘Knock Three Instances’…

70s American pop group Tony Orlando and Dawn.

70s American pop group Tony Orlando and Daybreak.
| Photograph Credit score: Wiki Commons

But it surely wasn’t like we blindly — or relatively, deafly — agreed with all their selections.

Jim Reeves and his ‘I’ll Fly Away  was a favorite unfavourite. Our liking for the track was inversely proportional to its reputation. There was a time when this track had change into a  Listener’s Alternative inevitability, to be outlasted or outwitted on a weekly foundation. Why would a track in Gentleman Jim’s lachrymose baritone about liberating oneself from the jail bars of life to succeed in god’s celestial shore be  that standard on a Saturday evening when glamorous Anglo-Indian {couples} have been reputed to bounce with homosexual abandon across the radio, I couldn’t think about. For us , ‘I’ll Fly Away’ grew to become what the Telugus had dubbed the  uchcha paata to demarcate these songs in movies that have been put in purely to facilitate pee breaks.

One other track — one we completely cherished, really — that was a  Listeners’ Alternative must-have was Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘Leaving on a Jet Airplane’.

What nice style!

The crescendo of our Radio Days got here when  the Rupert Benjamin introduced,  in his personal voice, after what appeared like a brutally limitless wait: ‘ Now for the listening pleasure of Rekha, Revathi and Krishna — identified fondly at residence as Bablu — we carry you Tom Jones and his ‘Letter To Lucille’.’

The postcard might have been written by my elder sister as a result of she had the perfect writing. However the track had been chosen by me! Rattling, we have been celebrities now. All of Madras would know our names. And what nice style  I had.

As I hit my teenagers and hormones did a hostile takeover of my schools, from listening to what the Anglo-Indians and radio advisable, I started listening to my ft. I had found dancing: a clumsy, unintentionally epileptic interpretation of what I’d seen in  Saturday Night time Fever and its spinoffs, which I put to cruel use at low-budget (largely) alcohol-free afternoon events. These dos have been organised swiftly on the houses — from Tambaram to Foreshore Property — of any buddy, acquaintance or passerby whose mother and father had been taken away quickly for something from a marriage to a funeral. Nearly as essential as corralling a minimum of half the variety of ladies as there have been boys, was preserving the intrusive Madras solar out of the venue, and attaining the appropriate shade of darkish by packing home windows with bulletproof newspaper. It was a time when music existed for one motive solely: to bounce with ladies.

Fly away

Because the 70s dissolved into the 80s, ABBA and Bee Gees held sway in T. Nagar and its surrounding suburbs. A few cassettes every was all one wanted for a medley of romance and rhythm until the mother and father of the host returned to shoo us away. Between the 2 bands, that they had sufficient quick numbers to heat up with, and an equal measure of gradual numbers to chill all the way down to (metaphorically talking solely). To the latter, we gradual danced — which was actually what it was all about — awkwardly, in sweat-soaked shirts, sporting silly grins and ill-concealed dangerous intentions with the extra brave ladies within the group.

When the Maruti 800 arrived with its built-in music system, somebody figured that St. Thomas Mount was a great place for impromptu dance events. With the stereos on, the boot open, whereas the boys took turns dancing with the restricted variety of companions obtainable, those ready their flip saved vigil to see if both the constabulary or the locals have been on their solution to poop our events. It was on one such evening, as I gradual danced with a stunning woman to Air Provide, the airport lights blinking within the distance, that one thing struck me.

I figured why ‘I’ll Fly Away’ and ‘Leaving On A Jet Airplane’ had been such favourites of the Anglo-Indians within the heyday of the radio. They have been each about goodbyes, and that’s what they have been making ready to do. Fly away, depart on jet planes, not realizing once they’d be again once more — because the lyrics went — to Australia, the U.Okay., and New Zealand. And depart us all poorer.

The author is a novelist, columnist and screenwriter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.