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FM radio

(Published in "Studio Systems" May-June 2002 issue)

The sudden influx of FM stations in Bombay came as a welcome relief from the "saas bahu" and filmy fare handed down by the TV channels for years now. The appearance of my studio peons with their tiny FM radios and headphones was indeed an indication as to how much the masses have embraced this new medium. Already, many media professionals in private conversations have started talking about how this medium is going to revolutionize the entertainment business. As usual, I feel we are jumping the gun and rushing to glamorize the newcomers before they are time tested. Let the gloss of newness disappear and only then will the true winners appear!

The four FM stations in Bombay have opened to big media splashes and each one is doing their best to outshine the other. I hope they have the deep pockets to last the years ahead as it is going to be no cakewalk, especially with the crazy license fees. The new challenge for India will be the need to satisfy the huge demand for media professionals for this revitalized medium as hundreds of FM radio stations mushroom all over the nation. Today, Radio is the cheapest and the most convenient medium available that can reach the corners of this huge nation and help in speeding its progress. A cheap Chinese FM set costs under Rs. 100! Let us hope the government with it's draconian powers does not play the spoilsport on what promises to fulfill the entertainment and knowledge needs of what is essentially a poor and backward country like ours.

AES India and Digital Audio

The new committee of the AES, India section was elected recently and the work of this society started off with an excellent seminar on Digital Audio by Jayant Datta, a practicing digital audio engineer, currently based in the US. The co-founder of Discrete Laboratories, he serves as a digital audio consultant to high-end audio and video manufacturers and provides them unique, customized and innovative hardware and software solutions. He is also an adjunct faculty in Electrical Engineering at Syracuse University, where he teaches Digital Audio Signal Processing. He has designed the first digital mixing console for on-air (broadcast) applications [which won awards at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention] and developed numerous audio-processing algorithms for real-time digital signal processing (DSP) solutions.
Jayant has authored numerous technical papers and articles, including a few at AES Conventions. He regularly chairs digital audio sessions at international conferences and is a member of the AES Technical Committee on Signal Processing. In his talk, Jayant introduced the basics of digital audio, examined the differences between analog and digital systems, and discussed digital mixing console design. He touched upon several interesting topics like sample rates, sample rate conversions, DSP, surround formats, converters etc. Numerous misconceptions of the attending members were cleared at this seminar and it was interesting to learn how recording at low levels in the digital realm actually affects the recording quality, as it does not utilize all the bits available. The scramble for higher bit rate and sampling frequency was also questioned.
Being an insider to the manufacturers of professional Audio equipment Datta divulged how some silicon manufacturers program their chips in different ways than others. This has resulted in them having a much better performance than chips that have stunning printed specifications to their credit. A member produced the specifications sheet of a high end AD/DA converter and it was shocking to note that it lists almost nothing worthwhile. Yet it costs an arm and a leg! To that Datta cited the example of a Rolls Royce car, where the buyer is not aware about the engine power, but goes ahead and spends a fortune on that luxury.
There was argument on why there is no set reference standard between digital and analog levels, since broadcasters have stringent rules, that if met in the analog format, don't show the same results in Digital and vice-versa. This has proved to be a big problem for studios. All in all, the seminar was an enlightening experience and the AES (India) members were really proud to learn from a fellow Indian who has reached international heights in the emerging technology of Digital Electronics.

Cheese

Nowadays every time musicians meet, they discuss the bad state of the music business and it is strange to hear them using economic terms like "recession" and "cyclical changes" etc.! Unfortunately it is not recession that is the only reason responsible for this sorry state. Something intrinsic has changed. Music business as known to us for the last 50 years is no longer the same and the changes taking place have placed a major burden on people who are unable to cope with it. Technology has changed the market place for numerous industries and managing this change has become the major focus of the people affected. No wonder, one of the most popular books that is ruling the best selling lists all over the world is "Who Moved My Cheese?" An excellent treatise on ways to deal with change in your work and life, Dr Spencer Johnson, the author, will show you how to anticipate change, adapt to change quickly, enjoy change and be ready to change quickly again and again. Surely a 'must read' for folks from the music business!


Dubai

In the month of May, I had the opportunity to visit Dubai on a working holiday and it was a revelation to see the changes that have taken place there. It was more than five years since I had been there last and to develop a city that is as plush as any in Western Europe is truly a feather in the cap of the enlightened leadership of the Emirates. Just two and half hours from Mumbai, Dubai offers attractive facilities to the IT and Media industry and is soon developing into a major tourist stop, offering the finest of shopping, nightclubs and entertainment.
Living in Bombay, where there is very little live Rock or Pop Music, Dubai can veritably be a paradise! Every small club boasts of a live act and Hotels have many live bands playing in their various outlets. Fortunately, my friends made it their business to show me around the nightspots and it was truly amazing to see the incredible international talent on display. There are numerous Phillipino, Sri Lankan, Australian and Canadian bands playing at trendy clubs and I was fortunate to hear this truly incredible guitar player who played exactly like Hendrix. He even sang and looked like him and what more, he was left-handed too! For a city of under 2 million people, Dubai really swings. It was a very tired Nandu that returned back to Mumbai for a well-deserved rest. Truly performing live will always remain the backbone of Musical activity and the magic of Live music is a joy that has few equals!


War

The war clouds over India have further vitiated the depressed market conditions and Music companies are sitting tight on their hands waiting for things to improve. This seems to be the general sentiment all over the country and there seems to be no clear idea in which way we are heading. The uncertainty has made an already immature market a non-starter. The futility of war as a solution in today's nuclear world, where ideologies and not countries fight with each other, seems to have been lost on the leaders of today. It is only a superpower like America that can take on a poor Afghanistan and hope to win! Even then, it will be only a temporary victory because even as we speak, the leaders of Al Quaida will surely be plotting an even deadlier version of the Sept 11th attack.
The political compulsions of our leaders have made them warmongering pundits and the loss to the nation in economic terms has been colossal! Already, just the threat of war has cost the nation millions in lost investment opportunities, something that we will take years to recuperate from. The enormous sacrifices that our empty stomached masses will have to undergo while their leaders gorge themselves on five star meals is an appalling sight that only Indian can tolerate
The drought of leadership in the country at the highest level is a sorry picture for a country that has some of the finest brains in the world. Unfortunately, these people would rather sit on the sidelines and watch this country be reduced to rubbles. Luckily the war posturing has reduced of late and I hope we can get back to our main task of nation building. The issues that plague Pakistan and India can only be resolved on the diplomatic table and in a spirit of give and take. There has to be softening of stances on both sides, as surely it should be obvious to the people of both the countries that 50 years of war has caused irreparable damage to them. Today, if it had not been for this problem, the beautiful Kashmir would have been one of the richest states in the union!
Here's wishing that good sense dawns on the people of this great sub continent and we see peace and prosperity once again.

Nandu Bhende.


 

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