It was time to remember Ameen Sayani again, why on the 13th of February the U.N. observes World Radio Day.
He remains the quintessential radio jockey, India’s first and India’s most memorable. When Ameen Sayani came on air, millions listened. Today, at age 90, he’s no longer heard, but for those of my generation and after, his golden voice lives on.
He started out with All India Radio (AIR), which was conservative and stingy with film songs, although they were most popular. Between AIR (since 1951), AIR’s Commercial Service (since 1970) and various foreign stations (since 1976), says the Limca Book of World Records, Sayani has produced or compered over 54,000 radio programmes and 19,000 advertising jingles. These included a six-part Music for the Millions for BBC World Service. He also compered stage shows, musical evenings, trade presentations and beauty contests. He is best remembered for his Binaca Geetmala, a regular film music programme, mainly over Radio Ceylon (now the Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation). Thus Radio Ceylon stole the thunder from AIR. Sponsors Binaca was a toothpaste brand, which later became Cibaca. After an over four-decades run, it was wound up.
Mohan Sivanand is a journalist and artist. He was with Reader’s Digest for 32 years, serving as the magazine’s India Editor-in-Chief for a decade until his retirement in 2015. He teaches journalism at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai.