At 10:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Jamuna Iyer, a retired bank worker from Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, logs on to Nostalgiaana, an online community of music lovers. It’s time for his popular show – Jukebox – in which six songs from selected Hindi films from the 1980s are played on a loop for 30 minutes. Each song inspires a detailed discussion of its creation and composition, the singers and lyricists involved, the raag and beats used as well as lesser-known anecdotes.
When the title track of Yaadein (2001) – “Yaadein Yaad Aati Hain” – was played during a session, show hosts Kalpana Swamy and Kunal Desai explained how the song was the last piece recorded by the lyricist well known Anand Bakshi. A few key words from the song – nagme, kisse, baatein, yaadien – even made it into the title of the biography written by his son Rakesh. Part of the melody of the original is the introductory score of Sakhi Saheli, a broadcast on Vividh Bharti, still today.
While there’s no shortage of platforms for someone looking to listen to soothing music, what makes online music clubs important is the concept of “guided music appreciation sessions that they offer,” says Swamy, a keen-earned movie buff for “Hindi music, especially Bollywood.” minute, sprinkling it with anecdotes and trivialities.
Desai, an IT consultant by day, and Swamy, a communications professional, chose post-1980s Bollywood music for Jukebox because “the popular perception so far has been critical of 1980s Hindi music and more”. “People feel that Bollywood music became more rhythmic during this era and was a far cry from the kind of soothing melodies that marked earlier eras,” Desai says. The Mumbaikar duo scripts on excel sheets to break down musical nuances for an audience of people of all ages and different geographies, bound together by a love for good music. “And once you know more about your favorite songs, the joy of listening to them increases dramatically,” says Desai.
This shared joy of listening to great music is what brought together Shankar Iyer from Mumbai and Balaji Ramachandran from Chennai to launch Nostalgiaana two years ago. They would hold shows offline before Covid, but the pandemic demanded that everything be moved online. And that led to their first shows in April and May 2020, which continue to this day. Over 250 members meet three times a week online to listen to Hindi film music.
Members from various countries log on to Jukebox for Rs290 for three months, while Iyer’s Retro Radio Revival (R4) is offered at an annual fee of Rs2,500, which includes 12 monthly broadcasts plus 12 repeat broadcasts. The Nostalgiaana R4 team recently performed “Tera Dil Kahan Hai”, by Chandni Chowk (1954) for filmmaker BR Chopra’s birthday in April. “As music lovers know the variants of Saagar’s ‘Saagar Kinare’ (1985) and enthusiastically [recall] the song’s predecessors like ‘Thandi Hawayein’ (Naujawan, 1951) and songs with a similar progression like ‘Rahein Na Rahein Hum’ (Mamta, 1966), this lesser-heard beauty of Chandni Chowk is rarely mentioned,” says Iyer. He shares an interesting anecdote about the song: “Despite five lyricists in this BR Chopra film, information about the song’s lyricist is not available. [anywhere].”
In its recently concluded monthly theme of non-cinematic songs by singers of popular Hindi films, the R4 team presented a full song (2.5 minutes) made for an advertisement for Kolynos toothpaste. The duet, sung by Manna Dey and Usha Mangeshkar in a swinging rhythm, won over Nostalgiaana customers, given its total movie song feel. The song features composer Babul and lyricist Akhtar Romani, known for songs like “Chale The Saath Milke” and “Bekhudi Mein Sanam” (Haseena Maan Jayegi, 1968).
The concept of like-minded people coming together to enjoy great music online is nothing new. Previously, this happened on Yahoo groups and Orkut communities, but the presence of a new platform, be it Facebook or Zoom, that offers ease of getting together, with audio and video options, makes it a attractive offer.
In Bangalore, RMIM (rec.music.indian.misc), a community of underground music lovers formed in 1992 as an unmoderated Usenet newsgroup, now thrives on Facebook and WhatsApp. Its members discuss and debate trivia about Hindi film music of the 1940s and 1950s, both offline and online.
And, in Panaji, Atul Mishra and his wife, Lata, both retired nuclear scientists and former employees of the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, host online shows honoring Bollywood’s ‘golden age’ music directors on Zoom. Atul sings, whistles and plays the guitar; Lata joins him for duets. Atul anchors the shows with tons of background anecdotes. It captures the theme of their shows in three words – RCB to RDB, i.e. RC Boral to RD Burman. “We choose the top 100 songs from great composers like SD Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan, Naushad and Madan Mohan and present them to our audience of around 80 attendees every week,” says Atul. The show, which lasts almost an hour, is broadcast live on social networks; no more than 10 songs are played per session. For now, the pair are devoting shows to music mainstay OP Nayyar and will follow him with Khayyam.
As many old Bollywood Hindi songs continue to be rehashed and remixed, the desire to step back in time and listen to these timeless gems in their original form and discuss them with like-minded people is gaining momentum. like never before. And, for some like Mumbai marketing manager Renuka Arora, these vintage music clubs are just a way to “feel relaxed and connected”.