Cringing as the DJ played loud music at a wedding across my house, I wondered where the good old days had gone when music had lyrics which people could croon as they hit the dance floors after blessing the newly-weds. That was music, I thought, as I understood my parents’ plight when they would criticise the music my sister and I would listen to. “Where have the good old days of music gone?” they would ask. “You call this music? Wait till you listen to Mohammad Rafi.” And it wouldn’t be long before you could hear Rafi saab singing ‘Pukaarta chala hu main’ on the huge cassette player in our drawing room.
Listening to old music was initially a compulsion. “The least you can do is let us listen to music from our days,” my parents would say, and songs from old Hindi films would follow. Evenings would be dedicated to the likes of Boney M, and my sister and I would try to compare our father with the ‘Daddy Cool’ in the backdrop of our parents enjoying their evening cup of tea after the day’s work of treating patients. It wasn’t long before I took a fancy to these songs and Boney M’s song became my shield for the times when my father would admonish me against spoiling his vinyl records from his days in medical college.
Once commercial radio channels entered my small town’s radio frequency wave, radios were no longer turned off at 9pm. Instead, cold winter nights would be spent with peanuts in front of the radio, tuning into the two new stations that had come as a blessing, and once the clock struck 11, they would play songs from old Hindi films. That is probably when my love for the old songs reached its zenith. Alone in my single room in college a few years later, I would find solace not in the glamorous songs of new Bollywood films, but in the soulful voice of Rafi and company.
Today’s music has been reduced to DJs playing pre-recorded tracks at concerts, frantically spinning discs and shouting on the microphone when the crowd starts running low on adrenaline. Despite my repeated attempts to develop a liking for that kind of music, I have failed. Perhaps old music is the one I’ve grown up with, out of compulsion initially, and later by choice, which is why I still tune into All India Radio’s ‘Jaimaala’. Fortunately, there are still some people who share my appreciation of old music, which seems to be losing its charm fast.