Streaming Bollywood music on the web has been around for a while. Lovers of Hindi music will probably have explored the various options available on the web and zoomed in on their favorites. But my own experience has been mixed – many sites claiming to offer a good musical experience are choked up with ads or require player downloads (in.com is a refreshing departure but even it offers a bewildering array of choices for the casual listener who is just interested in listening to some good music). Few offer commentary on the song lists.
In the face of increasing complexity of content and services and multiple players in the field, eprasaran Internet Radio is an extraordinary simplistic attempt at creating a radio experience for listeners. But in its own uncomplicated way, or maybe because of its simplicity, it works.
Friends Atul and Vidya Vaidya and Milind and Madhura Gokhale started eprasaran three years ago as a way to create and broadcast Marathi language programs for the Marathi diaspora the world over. “We explored the traditional AM and FM options,” says Atul, “and came to the conclusion that it was not only too expensive but limiting in the number of people it would reach.”
Vidya and Madhura, both professional stage artists, brought their talents to scripting the shows while Milind provided the technical expertise in designing the website. On weekday evenings and weekends the friends work on compilations that are uploaded to the site. Initially the programs featured Marathi music, interviews with well known Marathi personalities, children’s programs and news. Very soon, public demand made it necessary to add Hindi music shows.
Today the site features two strands of Hindi and Marathi programming. Each week the eprasaran team puts up 10-11 shows. Some shows are compiled by loyal listeners who have an interest in a particular genre or era of film or classical music.
The technology is simple. Audio files are uploaded to the site by the team and can be listened to on the website without any downloads. The content changes every week. The shows are not interactive but listeners can send in their requests by clicking “Aapli Aawad” ( “your choice” in Marathi) and many do. The site gets listeners from over 120 countries and 750,000 hits a month( and growing).
I spent yesterday afternoon sampling some of the Hindi content and found it charming. One regular compiler, Subhash Kelkar, creates a regular show called Geetanjali featuring golden oldies. His style, whether deliberate or accidental, is very reminiscent of Amin Sayani’s on Binaca Geetmala from my childhood and I got a real kick out of listening to old Johnny Walker songs and some beautiful Lata and Rafi songs I would have a hard time finding on my own. The host also provides trivia about the songs that are played and I found it a delightful experience. It is also a boon to the listener that the songs have been chosen with a discerning ear – at many other streaming music sites the content is random.
With 3 years of programming behind them, the eprasaran team is sitting on a treasure trove of archives but is not quite sure what to do with them. (The archives are not available to the listener at this particular time.) “There is a mindset that everything on the internet should be free,” laments Atul. The site recoups its costs at present by providing live webcast services and some advertising on the site, though the latter is not intrusive at all, at least for now. Eprasaran even offers a broadcast of Bay Area theater company Naatak’s play Sultana Daaku for a modest price of $10 but there have not been many takers.
For now, the simple idea and the loyalty of thousands of listeners is keeping the team going. First generation Indian Americans will enjoy the weekly content and I definitely recommend trying out the programs at eprasaran .