Anyone born in the 1980’s and 1990’s will surely remember the magic woven by music tapes while growing up. My earliest memories of music include bollywood songs like “Johnny Johnny Julie ka dil”, “Jilele jilele”, old bollywood songs re-sung by new singers and english numbers of Boney M.
We had a Philips tape recorder cum radio. Deta had a whole music system in place by installing sound boxes and amplifier. He would play ghazals usually in the evenings. Deta had a huge collection of music cassettes. His taste ranged from old hindi songs, ghazals to classic english songs. He had hundreds of them and we often joked that we would use his cassettes instead of bricks to build our house. As he had lost several of them after lending them out, he had stickers saying ‘No lending’ typed and then pasted one on each cassette. Listening to music was a task in itself. When the sound of the music went haywire, it meant that the ‘head’ of the tape player needs to be cleaned. It was made sure that the head cleaner was always in stock. Problems would arise if the reel of the cassette got entangled in the player. Once the tangled reel is freed from the player, a pencil would be enough to wind it back in. But on bad days, the reel required to cut and joined again. And that meant some portion of some song would be gone. The cassettes also needed to be put in sun from time to time inorder to keep the reel dry and free from fungus.
As my sister and I grew up, competition for the player became high. And finally we got our own upgraded Philips cassette player which we kept in our room. Latest bollywood songs and latesh english pop music ruled our room. Since we sisters got no pocket money, we saved the small notes given to us by our grandparents, uncles and aunts to buy the english music cassettes. One english cassette came in around 100 or 120 rupees which was a fortune in those days. Exchanging cassettes with friends was also a very profitable option. In later years we carried the player to our hostel too (we two were in the same institute).
But listening to songs was not the only job. Knowing the lyrics of the songs was very prestigious. So the songs needed to be written down and memorized. I had two diaries, one for english and one for hindi songs. Cassettes were played, paused, played, stopped, re-winded, paused so as to jot down the lyrics. The first cycle of song writing was done on rough paper. They were written in the diaries only as fair copies. May be understanding the woes of teenagers, written lyrics started to com inside the english music cassettes.
I listened to music before leaving for school, in the evening before sitting down to study, while solving maths problem and to take short breaks when studying. I remember once my sister and I were listening to rock music at full volume at noon time. It was a hot summer afternoon and Deta just came home for lunch. He shouted at us and said that all we needed to do then was to build a bonfire in the backyard and warm our hands! He was so angry to hear such loud music in the middle of a hot summer day. Sometimes he would say that all his plants would die hearing such music.
I think it was around the year 2006 when mp3 music became a rage. People no longer bought cassettes and cassette players became obsolete overnight. A couple of years later, we bought a Philips CD music player for our home (Yes, we are Philips fans!!). Since then I have gifted several music CDs to Deta. His favourite ghazals and other compilations. But he does not listen to music anymore. He says playing music has lost the charm. Cleaning the tape head, checking the cassette cover to see what song comes next, forwarding or rewinding the cassette to play your favourite song, all that was a part of his magic of listening to music.
Well, I am doing quite well without cassettes though. I have sound boxes in my room and play music from both my laptop and cell-phone. But yes, my entire generation has lost the magic of cassettes just as the generation of my parents have lost the magic of gramophone records.