The Week, September 2010
All India Radio (AIR) made significant contributions to the lives of classical Indian musicians and their passionate listeners across the country after the patronage of the British Empire ended in 1947. There was a time the annual output of Indian music on AIR was 50,000 hours and the number of artists on its rolls were nearly 10,000.There are close to 234 radio stations across India. It was quite prestigious to Broadcast or perform for AIR. Many musicians use to print ‘AIR Artist’ on their visiting cards or residence name plates.

I still remember that in New Delhi AIR my father and Guru Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb received the check of Rs 150/- after his broadcast. This was the fee for a ‘top grade artist’. AIR still has a system of grading artists. As I understand, ‘top grade’ persists even today, rung above an ‘A Grade’.

Since the last ten years Prasar Bharti has been responsible for the present and future of AIR and Doordarshan. I am told by some staff artists that which ever Artists retire, there is no new recruitment. My sincere good wishes and sympathies lie with the artists and their families working with AIR and Doordarshan. We must protect and preserve the legendary AIR Archive so that even a common person can enjoy the music of great masters. AIR always offered a balanced range of music which included Film Music, Folk Music, Bhajan, Ghazal, Qawwali, Urdu, Hindi Poetry Sessions and lots of light classical music which was also known as Sugam Sangeet. There were brilliant music composers in every Radio Station

After 1947, many young Indians were sent to proper schools and colleges to achieve formal degrees or diplomas to get a proper job in government offices. Most of these musicians or musicologists were absorbed by AIR and music departments in various universities and institutions across India. The music scene changed for the better as this absorption occurred. Discipline and punctuality towards the commitment of concerts was one of the most evident phenomenons of this effect. Majority of musicians are educated today and also performing all over the world. I am sure they are satisfied with their achievements.

While on duty and working for various government organizations, some musicologists contributed very positively to the world of music through their sincere work by writing books and becoming music critics, writers or performers. However, some also got committed to negative activities such as, destroying the great recordings of legendary musicians who belonged to different Gharanas (Schools). This destruction happened mainly due to the ruthless rivalries that existed between Gharana.

It’s a pity that we could not save many of our old heritages of precious and historical recordings, especially in AIR and Doordarshan. We must save our remaining treasure of great masters lying in our Achieves of AIR, Doordarshan, Film division NFDC, and our National Achieves. Security measures need to be improved and a stricter set up needs to be incorporated. Having said that, I am very happy to know that old recording of AIR and Doordarshan are now being released on DVDs and CDs. I am told that these are quite well distributed.