By Waseem Altaf
We had an old Bush radio at home. Whenever I listened to songs being played, though I was too young at that time, they always fascinated me. When my father went for Hajj in 1971, he brought back a Hitachi cassette recorder for me. From then on, as a young schoolboy, my life was to revolve around that device. Almost the whole day I would listen to songs from All India Radio (AIR) and Radio Pakistan. My father bought me two cassettes of BASF and Agfa brand (and later Maxell and TDK) where I would record songs of my choice. The first song I recorded was “Sunoji tum, tum bade wo ho” from film “Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.”
From 7:30am to 8:30am, I would listen to “Aap ki farmaish” from AIR; from 2pm to 3pm, I would switch on the transistor for “Aap ki Pasand” and at night it was “Tameel-e-Irshad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4XhvrGs-08 where they usually played old songs. I still remember announcers Mujeeb Siddiqui, Iqbal Hussain, Anzar Ahmad, Maryam Kazmi, Tahira and Mohammad Shafeeq from AIR (I don’t know where are they?) Some of the common names who would request songs to be played were Prince M. Naeem Najmi from Sialkot, Dr. V.K. Sharma and Manjoola Sharma from Handa? and Radhay Sham Pahwa. Listening to songs had become an addiction for me. Soon, I developed the expertise; the announcer would name the film, the singers and the music director and I would know which song would be played. I remembered hundreds of songs by heart and knew who composed for which film. R.D Burman (Rahul Dev Burman) was my favourite and he still is. I was so fascinated by his compositions that once I saw the video of the song ”Saamne yeh kaun aaya dil mein hui halchal” from “Jawani Diwani” in a dream. When I saw R.D. Burman’s picture for the first time in a magazine called “Ruby”, I kept looking at the picture for 30 minutes. He was my ideal. I had planned that I would become a music director like him. But whenever I shared this desire with my elders, they would always laugh it off. I knew all music recording centres in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Karachi.
My involvement in music was becoming an obsession. Once in Karachi, I wanted to record a song (Tu Jahan Milay Mujhay) from “Doosri Seeta”, but I was told that the EP would be available in 6 days time. I extended my stay in Karachi for six days just to get that one song. I purchased a book of Urdu/Hindi songs and would compose the songs in my own way. Whatever little money I would get, I spent it on buying cassettes and getting them recorded. Once my younger sister gave me a cassette and a list of non-film Pakistani songs to be recorded. I went to the recording shop and instead of the songs she wanted, I gave my own list of R.D. Burman songs. We had a big fight after she listened to the songs.
Apart from R.D. Burman, Laxmikant Pyarelal and Kalyanji Anandji were also in during the 70s. I would also admire them. Soon I had a big collection of cassettes and I knew precisely all the songs and their position on each cassette. My cousins and friends would come to my house just to listen to my collection.
Later, I would also listen to “Vividh Bharti ka Vigyapan Karyakarm” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJbqi7VnLJk and Radio Ceylon. Then there were small hotels in various parts of the old city who would play LPs and EPs for customers who would come to have food. I would take my tape recorder to these hotels and with the help of a microphone, record songs of my choice. My Hitachi was so worn out that pressing the “eject” button would not only throw the cassette out but also the encasement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMLEpaY5LIg
My music collection was my precious possession. Once a cousin of mine took away two of my cassettes without my knowledge. I raised so much a hue and cry that he had to immediately return those with an apology.
Due to several factors, my earnest desire to become a music director could not materialize but I still have a huge collection of music and it still inspires me.
Today, while driving my car with a friend sitting next to me and passing by a village named “Kuri” in the suburbs of Islamabad, I suddenly pulled up the car and played the super hit song “Dum Maro Dum” from the 1971 film “Hare Rama Hare Krishna.” “Do you know the connection between this song and “Kuri?” I asked. Baffled, he replied in the negative.
“Anand Bakhshi who wrote this song belonged to “Kuri” I informed!