Is it a new speaker? Is it a toy? Is it a dummy transistor? When I first saw the device, I was confused. It did look like a radio, I thought, but hey, who needs a radio set of this shape and size in this day and age? I was intrigued, and had to check it out.
I grew up in Jhumri Telaiya — the same Jhumri Telaiya that ruled the airwaves in India back then. Needless to say, it took me no time to connect with Saregama Carvaan. In fact much less time than the radio sets would take three decades ago to get tuned to the nearest station.
Saregama Carvaan Specifications: Dimensions: (W) 27 cm x (H) 17 cm x (D) 8 cm | Weight: 1.5 kg | Approximately 5 hours playtime under standard conditions | Audio jack: 3.5 mm | USB: 2.0 | Charger: 220V 50Hz, 5V 1A (CE Standard – Indian pin plug) | Warranty: 1 year
Saregama Carvaan price in India: Rs 5,999
Holding in my hands the device, much fancier and much more colourful and vibrant than the two Philips sets I had seen back home, I was already reminiscing my childhood days when one of its features caught my eyes: Geetmala. I switched it on, and there has been no going back since, or rather coming back — from the golden days of Binaca Geetmala melodies.
Saregama Carvaan stores in it ‘Geetmala ki chhaon mein’, a journey of Bollywood songs from 1952 to 2000, complete in 50 volumes, narrated by the evergreen Ameen Sayani in his gentle and captivating voice. Sayani takes you back in time as he shares his experience at Radio Ceylon, Asia’s oldest radio station.
Some of the songs I never knew existed, some I had completely forgotten, and some I thought I would never get to hear again — I found all of them here, with Sayani’s informed commentary for company. “A large number of letters would come from Jhumri Telaiya…” recalls Sayani in one of the volumes. I grin from ear to ear hearing about my place of birth as he wonders about and romanticises the hitherto unheard of land.
I left my hometown almost 20 years ago, and Carvaan has surely brought back a lot of memories, especially those associated with music. Radio played a big role in our daily lives then, and we would take out time for the music it offered, unlike now when music has taken a backseat, to be played in the background as we go on with our busy lives.
For those used to listening to radio on phone during walks, in between taking calls and answering WhatsApp messages, or in the car on the way to work and back, the size of Carvaan may be a put-off, but this very feature of it may help you realise you need to take a break, sit down and relax.
There is more to Saregama Carvaan than Geetmala. The device comes with over 80 dedicated stations pre-loaded with a strong repository of 5,000 retro songs under two categories of Artistes and Moods. You can select an artiste or mood and find all your favourite singers and music directors of the yore.
There are almost a thousand songs by Lata Mangeshkar alone, around 500 songs each by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosale, another 700-odd numbers sung by Mohd Rafi and over 200 by Mukesh, besides Hemant Kumar, Geeta Dutt, Manna Dey and Talat Mahmood. Rotating the jog-dial, you can hear Jagjit Singh in the Ghazals section, choose religious songs from Shakti and Spiritual sections, or take a Sufi, Film Instrumental, or Hindustani Classical pick.
The Moods category allows you to choose your favourite Romance, Happy and Sad numbers. Besides, there is a whole collection in the Artistes category where you can choose the music director or the lyricist you want to hear. There are hundreds of songs against each name.
An important feature is the fact that you hear the songs in a different sequence each time you play the device, recreating the old magic of listening to radio that came with a surprise element — you didn’t know which song was to be played next.
You may miss new singing sensations and popular contemporary numbers, but Carvaan offers FM radio to make up for that. You switch on the FM mode and it connects to the first available local FM channel, before allowing you to manually select the station of your choice.
So, will it appeal in the age of smartphones, fancy music players and iPods? Well, there is no point drawing any comparison, as Saregama Carvaan is evidently designed to woo an older, more nostalgic, audience, and hence can be a good gifting option if you plan to indulge your parents, grandparents or other elders in the family.
Carvaan can, however, double up as a speaker for all kinds of parties. Using Bluetooth or USB drives, it can play any music of your choice stored in other devices. The volume quality has little negatives to complain about, though it may not match up if you try to compare Carvaan’s sound to that offered by the high-end speakers available in the market.
Priced at Rs 5,990, Saregama Carvaan comes in two models — Electric Blue and Porcelain White. The most striking feature of the device is its design. With its shiny plastic body, its steel buttons and a large tuning knob, and the rotating volume dial made of plastic, the device complete with an LCD display panel successfully gives a modern makeover to the good old transistor.
Saregama Carvaan does not have a pause button, a drawback in my opinion, but maybe that’s its USP — good music, nonstop, and with no ad breaks.