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AIR completes 80% of its digital conversion

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As All India Radio celebrates its 80th anniversary, one item may well get ticked off on the regional station’s check list this year: the digital conversion of over 6000 magnetic tapes to computerised sound clips.

“Nearly 80% of the conversion process that we started in 2014 is over, and we hope to finish the rest by May,” said A. Rajaram, Library Information Assistant

“Of 6006 spool tapes, 4000 have been re-recorded through an internet-enabled system and simultaneously saved on to external hard disks, and as a back-up, on Blu-Ray CDs.”

The content covers music recordings, Tamil lectures, radio plays, and assorted folk music and feature programmes.

With the wealth of audio information available at the archive, it wouldn’t be wrong to call it a window to the historical developments in the region.

“Everything sounds wonderful when you replay the recordings,” said Mr Rajaram. “Programmes like Geetha Amuthachaaram and Bhakthi Malai are still very engaging to the listener, while some leaders’ speeches are unique to our station.”

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Among the voices captured on tape are those of Sir CV Raman, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Teresa when she came to attend the inauguration of a university in her name in Kodaikanal.

“AIR Tiruchi has always been known as a centre for quality classical music production, and we provide a lot of content for the rest of the country’s AIR stations,” said K. Natarajan, head of programmes.

Studio concerts by the greats of Carnatic vocal and instrumental music, from K.P. Sundarambal, Thiruvavaduthurai T. N. Rajarathnam Pillai to Sheik Chinnamoulana and Embar Raghavachariar are among the productions that were carried out by AIR Tiruchi.

To manage the vast amount of data, each record is assigned an identity number, which is the first point of reference for archivists. A computerised database of cue sheets with details of the name of the performer, accompanists, first date of broadcast and duration, among other facts, is also simultaneously being prepared.

An internet-enabled Studer mixing console has been pressed into service to play the spool tapes for re-recording. Around 10-12 tapes (approximately 6 hours of recordings) are converted daily.

“We have a very sophisticated editing system now, but when we listen to the old dramas, we realise how much work they have done on realistic sound effects with very little technology,” said P. Kamala, Library Information Assistant.

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