Last week, when we were rearranging the things in the rooms of our house, I came across a box which was full of Audio Cassettes ( AC in short ). This took me to some good old memories.
Those days- I am talking about 30/35 years back - collecting AC was a craze among many people. And we were no exceptions. The types of AC's were -Slokams ( Vishnu sahasranamam, Venkatesa Suprapadam for eg ), Bakthi Paadalgal ( Murugan Paadal, Iyyappan Paadal, Vinayaka stuthi etc ) , Carnatic Vocals ( MS, MLV, Madurai Mani Iyer to name a few,)Carnatic instrumental( Kunnakkudi, Kadari, Gayathri, Mandolin Srinivas etc), Dramas( SV Sekar, Kaathidi Ramamurthy, Poornam Visvanathan, Mouli, Crazy Mohan, et ), discourses ( balakrishna Sastrigal, Kripananda Variar etc ),the cinema Songs ( in various permutation and combinations ),Childrens Rhymes, and personal recordings of voices of family members etc.
And how do you collect them ? It was really an interesting hobby,though at times it pinched your pocket.
choice 1 is buying. The AC's used to cost Rs 30/35 and during Music festivals days, we used to get 10% discount. I remember, I and Girija used to regularly visit the Annual AC mela in Dec at TTK road (near Naradha Gana Sabha) . We used to buy 20/25 Ac's every year.
Choice 2 was recording from a friend or relative . For this, we used to buy blank Cassettes and then do the recording as and when possible. For this purpose, we used to carry blank cassettes whenever we go to a relative's place!. The blank ones used to come in 3 types, 60 mins duration, 90 mins duration and 120 mins duration. Since the price difference between a 120 min AC and 60 min AC was only about 20%, I initially thought that 120 mins AC's are cheap considering that we get double the time compared to a 60 min AC. Accordingly, I used to buy a no of 120 min AC's. Only later on, I came to know that the 120 min AC's put a heavy load on the Tape recorder and when the tape recorder has to pull the tape of 120 min AC's, it puts a high strain on the AC's too. Consequently, the life of both AC's and tape recorder gets shortened. After that, buying 60 min AC's became a standard practice.This method of taking copies from friends/relatives was widely followed by many and of course, many of our collection falls in this category.
Choice 3 - Giving a blank tape to a shop and ask them to record what we want. This worked out cheaper as the AC's bought ready-made from the shops used to have only a very limited songs - say 4 or 5 each side. When you get it recorded from a shop. you get 9/10 songs each side . Another advantage in this practice is that the shop will keep a huge collection of AC's and it is very easy to get any song that you want. I remember Suba has collected so many AC's this way.
Choice 4- Record the AC from radio ( Tv's had not invaded the homes those days.) Or, record while the children talk.( I still have AC with Sudha/ Suba's voices recorded in 1985 at Pondy ). This will serve as a very good memory.
Choice 5 - Get a AC from a friend/relative and conveniently forget to return ! ( I have lost a few AC's this way !! )
The first Tape recorder I had was a Japan made National Tape recorder which was purchased from Singapore, thanks to one of my friends who went there in 1978. With this Tape recorder, I have recorded many many AC's . The treasure among them are the AC's containing the voices of our mother, the young age Sudha/Suba, and the Ammavasya tharpanam recited by our great Venkatrama Sastrigal.
There were a number of brands for the blank AC's . But the two brands that I remember easily are TDK and Sony. I have purchased hundreds of blank AC's ( mainly from Burma Bazaar) for me and for relatives / friends. I have even gifted a set of 5 / 10 Blank AC's during the marriages of some of my friends.
Though we used to collect a no of AC's in all the above ways, I doubt whether we use these AC's to that extent. Girija was using this in the kitchen for many years when she used to play the slokams in the mornings while cooking.She was also fond of old songs which she used to hear when she gets some leisure time amidst her busy schedules. . But generally, most of us would heard some AC's 20/25 times, some others for 10/15 times. Many Ac's would have been used for less than 10 times . After some time, most of the AC's would not have been touched for many months !! Due to dust and normal wear and tear, the tapes would become not usable after a few years , but we will not dare to throw them away even after that. What do you say ?
Any guess on the AC that I have used maximum number of times ? It is the Ammavasya Tharpanam AC which I would have used atleast 200 times since it was recorded 20 years back !!!
With the advent of CD's, MP3 technology, internet etc, the AC's have now became a costly proposal and it is naturally going towards a slow death. No wonder , the tape recorders are also fast disappearing from the market. But we will definitely cherish those years when we meticulously searched here and there for the songs we wanted and had a big grin when we at last succeeded.