I bought a Worldspace satellite radio receiver last month here in Bangalore, mainly to hear Worldspace’s 24×7 Carnatic Music Channel called Shruti. I must say I am satisfied with the investment I made (Rs. 1499 for the receiver without speakers and Rs. 500 for a three month subscription), after listening to the channel for whatever little time I got to listen to.
It is actually difficult to keep running a 24-hour channel dedicated to a genre of music without much repetitions and I think the people behind Shruti have done a good job when considering this. Of course there is so much to hear to in Carnatic Music and so much to be learnt which makes their task a bit easier. Worldspace broadcasts not only Shruti but also other channels dedicated to different genres of music in the world.
One of the good things about Shruti is that it plays recordings of old maestros which you generally don’t get to hear unless you are a real fanatic who has gone hunting around for old recordings and tapes. For example, I have a very few recordings in my possesion where mridangam maestros of yesteryears like Sri Palghat Mani Iyer or Sri Palani Subramania Pillai have played but I have already been able to listen to at least 5-6 songs on Shruti where Sri Palghat Mani Iyer played the mridangam accompaniment. I have also been able to regularly hear compositions sung by maestros like Sri Chembai Vaidyantha Bhagavathar, Sri Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Sri GN Balasubramaniam etc.
The two programs I usually try to hear in case I return home on time from office are Swara Sandhya from 7PM to 9PM and Swara Sandhya’s artist highlight section featuring a 2hr concert of a particular artist from 9PM to 11PM. On some days, recordings focused on a particular melakarta raga or very old recordings are broadcast from 9PM to 11PM. The Swara Sandhya program on Saturdays and Sundays is a request show where songs requested by listeners are broadcast. The program also features a ragam tanam pallavi almost everyday. Yesterday’s ragam tanam pallavi was one based in the raga mohanam by Dr. T.K.Rangachari. Yesterday’s artist highlight section featured Smt. D.K.Pattammal & Sri D.K.Jayaraman.
There is however one thing I wish the people at Shruti would do so as to make things even better. I would be happier if only they can at least indicate on the morning of a day (on their website) about the details of the programs that would be broadcast during the day with the name of the artist who will sing the ragam tanam pallavi in Swara Sandhya and the name of the artist whose recording would be broadcast in the artist highlight section. Though the names of the (standard) programs that are broadcast during the week are available, a few more details as requested above would really help.
Coming to Worldspace, there is one thing I wish they could do too …. though I am aware of some of the problems in doing this, if only they could convert the satellite signal reception to a terrestrial transmission and reception while still retaining their current revenue model, it would solve problems of portability of their radio set alongwith reception related troubles and increase their customer base by a huge number. Currently, you have to keep the Worldspace antenna pointed in a south-east direction with a clear line-of-sight to the sky (a glass pane in-between is fine but not a door or a wall) so that it can receive signals from their satellite up there. The reception though is very clear and of good quality.The receiver also, can’t be easily carried around along with you.
Though I have not encountered any issues till now with the radio set or with the service and I wish I don’t encounter any, it would be good if Worldspace’s call centre/technical staff is receptive and can solve the issue(s) fast just in case something crops up. Though every company these days claims to be customer-focused, its a pity to see the reality on the ground when the customer faces any issue with their product/service.