You’re wide awake in the middle of the night. Unable to sleep and greeted by solitude and distress, you are literally longing for company. Your hand anxiously reaches out to your cell phone and the pair of headphones. You hastily probe for the Radio button. While fiddling with the radio dial, you discover why radio appeals more at night and why the songs that appeal to you most are those whose lyrics anticipate your present life crisis and troubles.
With the introduction of several private radio stations in Pakistan, currently, there are plenty of channels featuring late night shows allowing radio enthusiasts to sacrifice a night’s sleep. Gone are the heydays of Radio Pakistan. Although the programming quality has considerably declined and the format, content and technical instrumentation have experienced some major changes, radio broadcasting still continues to attract a large number of listeners in this age of media and technology revolution.
It’s intriguing to notice that the trend of listening to radio hasn’t changed much with time. In the current post-video age of social media, how does radio continue to make its presence felt? Is it more imagination-oriented that it makes one think or fantasise visuals rather than showing them? Or is it because it’s more accessible since all you need is a small cell phone with a pair of headphones to reach it?
While the day time transmission features information on a variety of topics including politics, social issues, culture and civilization‚ health and hygiene, driving tips‚ horoscopes‚ sports‚ weather updates‚ fashion and style and even stocks and business hints, the moment you turn on the radio during midnight, perhaps the first sentence you’ll hear would be something like: "Do you believe in love?" or "Why do we hurt those we love?"
Longing, loneliness, love and late night radio shows form a handy four-L formula for insomniacs, night-drivers, night owls, travellers and third-shifters. Though the music gets better the later the hour, the conversation and the language gets unbearable. The format of most of the late night shows consists of a combination of live calls, live music, discussions and poetry renditions. From pick up lines to flirty comments, from heart-rendering personal stories of failure in love to substandard poetry, the subject matter covers frivolous discussions on topics like love, life, relationships, happiness and failures.
Interestingly, most of the RJs would almost sound like love therapists or meteorologists at this time of night. Either they would discuss how city fog can reduce the visibility to near zero or how love can reduce the peace of mind to near zero.
It is also interesting to note that people belonging to different classes and age groups have contrasting music tastes, inclinations and listening preferences. It is mostly the elite and the upper middle class who would listen to FM 89. However, FM 103 and FM 91 are usually heard by those coming from the lower and the lower-middle class families. The middle class however, has FM 89, FM 100, FM 101 or SAMAA FM 107 as its favourite. The oldie Indian songs from 70s and 80s era played on 106.2 mostly attract the middle aged folks. More mature listeners would want to listen to FM 103 programmes hosted by Afzal Sahir with his collection of soulful sufi music and ghazals.
If you tune in to FM 101, you would discover that RJ Hasnain’s husky voice is enough to get him endless calls from thrilled and enthusiastic teenage girls. "I can’t sleep without listening to your voice." some female caller would say. On the other hand, RJ Sana Humayun of SAMAA FM 107 has a tremendous male fan following. "Aapki awaz ne meri zindagi badal di hai", would say a male caller.
Although the popularity of a show depends on various factors, a sweet mesmerising voice can turn heads very easily. Those up for listening to some good music tracks would find the best stuff after midnight on FM 89. Electrotherapy (Saturday, midnight) by RJ Saleem can surely drive you crazy. MixSet (Friday, midnight) by RJ Aly Rana is a fulfilling appetizer for the party freaks. The lovers of rocking and fast music, club thumping, and electro house can tune in to FM 91 to enjoy the programme on Kynetik Sessions with DJ Shahrukh (Saturday, midnight).
SAMAA FM 107, with its two most popular late night shows: Slow Jams by RJ Sana and Lagatar Non Stop offers a wide variety of smooth yet funky Indian and Pakistani contemporary hits.
The popularity and success of any radio programme predominantly depends on its format and content as well as the style of presentation techniques by. Unfortunately the lack of subject knowledge, language inefficiency, fake and artificial accents and flawed communication skills of most of the radio presenters displeases the listeners. Moreover, the inability to name the tracks they are playing and constantly talking or playing jingles rather than getting on with the much-awaited tracks is the next biggest turn off for the radio nerds. Although listening to politics or news could be the most dreaded thing at this hour, there should at least be some constructive programmes for all those who are interested in literary and intellectual discourse.
How the radio during the late night shows remains flooded with empty love talk, random banter and sleazy personal stories, leaves one to think about Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s famous Urdu poem: "Aur bhi gham hain zamaane meN mohabbat ke sivaa raahatein aur bhi hain vasl ki raahat ke sivaa".