When I was growing up during the sixties and seveties, music was am important source of entertainment, at least in Bandra. More particularly, western pop music. And Radio Ceylon was the main source of this music. Every morning as you walked through the leafy by-lanes or past houses in the East Indian villages called gothaans, your heard music from this radio station wafting in the morning air. So I’m happy to share my musical memories of Bandra.
Musical Memories of Bandra
According to Corinne, who grew up in different parts of the country, Radio Ceylon that later became Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation was a popular source of entertainment even in those places too. And the request programs were by far the most popular with most of the those asking for a particular song seeming to live in places like Kazipet, Bitragunta and other Railway colonies.
All India Radio too had weekly request program, ‘Saturday Date’, but it did not command the same allegiance amongst listeners as Radio Ceylon. The announcers of the latter station or the disc jockeys as we would now call them, seemed to be on a first name basis with the listeners. In fact, if I recollect right, these announcers once visited India and traveled to some of the places mentioned earlier to meet the listeners.
In those days, the radiogram which was piece of furniture combining a radio and a record player with two large speaker occupied the pride of place in many the drawing rooms of many houses in Bandra. Since we only had an old Telefunkin radio and a record player that constantly went for repairs, for some reason, I associated the radiogram with affluence.
To increase business, many restaurants and cafés invested in a juke box. Such places would be packed with young adults who would listen to music over endless cups of chai (tea). But this phase did not last too long as stand alone record players, manufactured locally, hit the market.
There were two music shops in Bandra, ‘Twist’ (on Linking Road) and ‘Sweet Melody’ ( on 33rd Road – off Linking Road), which sold LPs and 45s. Sweet Melody still exists, but now sells TVs and other electronic equipment. These shops had little booths each containing a turntable and you were allowed to sit in there and preview the albums or singles. Like trying clothes today at some stores, you were only allowed to take only three or four records into the booth, at a time.
Given that music was an integral part of life in Bandra, it was not surprising that many youngsters got together to set up beat groups or bands. When these groups practiced passers-by were entertained, but I am not sure the neighbors felt the same!
These groups got an opportunity to showcase their talent at the annual Bandra Fair in the month of September. At the fair there were two places that had live entertainment, the WigWam that was run by the ex-students of St. Stanislaus High School and the September Garden run by the Mount Carmel Church. The former was designed as a Red Indian wigwam, complete with the mask of an Indian Chief hanging at the entrance.
The music bug bit at an early age. I remember when I was in school some of the seniors used to perform as a group for school functions. And the high point was the drum solo by a student named Paul Fishery. It was reserved as a finale and we always shouted for ‘one more’.
Paul later went on to be play with the ‘Juveniles’ that became the ‘Combustibles’, a leading Indian beat group in the sixties and seventies. And just down the road from where I lived and continue to live, another group of youngsters formed ‘The Friendship Clan’, which attained much popularity and regularly played at various beat shows and Catholic weddings.
Part of the reason for the proliferation of talent was the annual talent contests that the various churches in Bandra organised for the parishioners. Normally held during the monsoons, the contestants were classified age wise, with separate contests for classical and modern music. And again these categories were split into vocal and instrumental.
Somehow, the whole community appeared to be involved in these contests with the parish being divided into zones based on geography and competing against each other. If you didn’t have talent to sing or you didn’t play any instrument, you helped by ferrying small children to the pianist’s house for practice. Or did some other odd jobs to ensure that your zone did well.
In those days, ‘terrace parties’ were a regular feature in Bandra on weekends. Any party whether on a terrace or in the house meant music and dancing. Not just music played on the radiogram or turntable; invariably there was singing with someone strumming a guitar. At times, the guitar would be supplemented with a bass (base?), a home made contraption which produced a bass sound. It was made by taking a wooden crate and drilling a hole in the centre of one of the sides. Through this hole a thick rope would be passed and the rope was knotted inside the box. The other end of the rope would be attached to one end of a wooden pole in such a manner that when the pole was placed perpendicular on the box, the rope was taut.
I have not gone into who was a popular artiste or which song topped the local hit parade charts. Those are personal preferences and I am only attempting to highlight the importance of music to us in Bandra, when I was growing up during the sixties and seventies.
I am taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013.
Do take a look at these links for more:
Bombay, It’s Ours
Sixties Mumbai Garage Rock Band Gets Vinyl Reissue – about The Combustibles
More about The Combustibles
Sample some Bombay Duck?
Now, this was one beautiful walk down Bandra of the 60s and 70s. Given that I have visited your city only a couple of times when I have stayed there for more than just a couple of hours, this nugget of information about Bandra and its music scene in these years was interesting. And based on the flow with which the post went it is clear Jose, that you are extremely nostalgic about this topic for sure. A lovely take on today’s prompt.
I love those radios. very nostalgic. I remember my grand dad listening to the morning regional news on radio every day and he turns it off when the Sanskrit guy starts, “Ithi vaarthaahah shooyanthaaam …. some baladevananda sagara….” 🙂 🙂
the bombay duck was nice- a song with a story- can’t say i like it much, but i could understand about the music of those days… liked bombay meri hai more.. the rhythm and the feel was contagious…
Very nostalgic post. I remembered Radio Ceylon, and Binaca Geetmala and also the juke boxes in shops. Jose, the post is simply superb.
A nostalgic walk down the lane of music. I just loved the post.
This made for an interesting read. Remember, mom and dad listening to Radio Ceylon and we had a similar radio too.
Love the nostalgia invoking read of the music scene of good ol’ Bandra. I’ve heard of those guitar-infused terrace parties too (from parents of friends). I’m sure it was a great affair 🙂
Oh I remember seeing a juke box in one of the restaurants in Bombay almost a decade back. It’s functioning was kind of complicated.. You had to put in some money if I remember correctly and we didn’t find the change so couldn’t hear it play.
Your sharing brings to mind a radio station here in Singapore known as Rediffusion. It used to be community and social radio, but went out of fashion when new wave wifi swept in. Thanks for sharing!
Jose, when one pronounces B-a-n-d-r-a , this itself is music is to the ears.
Radio Ceylon too was an indispensable part of my growing years. A.I.R. lagged behind.
We had an old Murphy radio set which looked more or less similar to the pic in yr post.
you know what… a terrace party with good friends and a few guitar strings… the picture frankly sounds divine to me. I would honestly have loved it anyday over a crowded pub with techno beats…
Another nostalgic post… Loved it! 🙂
Thanks Sir, for giving us the feel of what music was in Bandra at that time:)
Took me back in time to those Radio Ceylon days when I was glued to the SW radio with the swish swish transmission. Those were good days.
Jose you had one of the most wonderful time in Bandra! Sounds so much fun. And I somehow never heard of these request shows on radio. Those must have been super cool! And this guy making it big as a drummer reminds me of one of my own seniors… He is now back in town and always collecting kids planning musicals.. Ahh some people do get their lives straightened 🙂
In most of the posts on this prompt have paid a tribute to Radio Ceylon. Those were the days when music was a soul food. It was more of a family time.
What a thrill. Didn’t know that the Friendship Clan had a mention on the Web.
Saw this post for the first time.
Was part of this super experience for more than a decade.