The Jewish connection to AIR tune
I felt really elated all of a sudden at hearing the familiar tune. Many would remember that two minutes tune in their lives, at some moment or the other. It was the AIR Signature that came out from the other room. Initially I thought it was the opening of Transmission III of Akasvani Guwahati in the evening. When I saw, it was the violin that played the AIR tune by classically trained violinist from BHU Mr Dwipendra Sarma, the music teacher of our daughter. He put on some soothing music from a fiddle that made us sound impressive. I convinced that day that musicians are not only hear in tune, they also see in tune.
Violin is one of the best instruments to play, though it’s equally tough. For enhancing its resonance, the primitive bow is placed in front of the mouth. It needs a lot of practice for learning key signatures, notes, rhythms and bowings. The term resonance from a violin is related to Physics. Albert Einstein was a dedicated violinist from an early age who believed that the most joy in his life has come from playing classical music on his violin as a brainstorming technique. Coincidently the Nobel Prize Concert features only for internationally-renowned violinist to honour the Nobel Laureates. Learning to play an instrument requires coordination between hands and with visual or auditory stimuli. Violin lessons aren’t a waste of time after all. Learning an instrument between the ages of six and eight makes children grow up smarter and enhance motor skills development producing long term changes to the brain. But things don’t necessarily make them better musicians yet many Israelis follows because it makes it possible into acquiring learning skills very early in life. Lord Yehudi Menuhin, is the greatest violinists of the 20th century.
Music knows no boundaries and is truly a universal language. Surprisingly, India’s most recognized tune wasn’t composed by an Indian. It is Hitler’s genocide that gave us our favourite AIR’s iconic tune. Walter Kaufmann was one of the many Jewish refugees in exile. The Jewish man was a forgotten genius, who left Prague in 1934 for lives. They found a new home in India during Nazi’s infamous Holocaust. Kaufmann arrived in Bombay as a Jewish refugee and started beginning of his music career in India. He lived for twelve years in Bombay and worked for All India Radio. While Pandit Ravi Shankar went to the West to conquer the musical journey, Mr Kaufmann’s western technique got encounter with Indian music and also influenced by Asian Music from China and Tibet while he was the director of music at AIR.
He was a composer, conductor and educator, who did PhD in musicology at German University in Prague and created music with heart and intellect. The Czech man Kaufmann had composed the AIR tune based on raga Shivaranjini in 1936. Mehli Mehta the father of the composer Zubin Mehta is also believed to be the violinist of the AIR tune. Violin, viola, cello, and tempura used to make that famous tune. Beside that famous jingle to AIR’s legacy, he involved with various radio dramas and operas. Surprisingly AIR has not given any official reorganization to Kaufmann for his iconic work.
Radio was the only monopoly in the field of mass communication in our days. In recent times it faced stiff challenges from TV, Internet and Print Media. Interestingly, AIR has earned crores of Rupees from selling of ad slots at a premium price before and after PM Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’. However, high quality digital stereo FM station could suffice its presence after launching Delhi’s Vividh Bharti on FM mode. Lord Irwin, the Viceroy of India inaugurated the services of the Indian Broadcast Company (IBC) on July 23, 1927. But it originally started broadcasting by the Radio Club of Bombay in Jun 1923. The IBC later became All India Radio in June 8, 1936 that employed European musicologists John Fouldes and Walter Kaufmann for Delhi and Bombay respectively to oversee Western music. India finally adopted the name Akash Vani in 1958.
Kaufmann immortal work marked the beginning of a typical Indian day before the TV and the Internet took over. Even today his iconic tune makes each and every Indian nostalgic. Those were the days; the radio was a constant companion. Vividh Bharati Service proved its success connecting Indian soldiers posted on remote border areas. Radio is still having an impact on the communications gear despite the availability of digital platform.
Mr Kaufmann is an inventive and gifted musician as once recommended by Albert Einstein. In 1946, Walter left India for England as a Guest Conductor at the BBC. He was the Musical Director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Winnipeg, Canada during 1948-1957. Then he taught in the School of Music at Indiana University in Bloomington, US till 1977. While it’s been over three decades to Walter Kaufmann’s demise in 1984, he has been immortalised through his AIR Signature Tune that millions of Indians continue to wake up. AIR is now switching from analog to digital in a phased manner. The listeners can look forward to highly enhanced transmission quality like Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) in near future. And Mr Walter Kaulfman is always there to brighten our days.
The writer is based in Guwahati