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Jazz round the clock --
and it's good!

The World Space range of receivers: prices in India range from Rs 5,000 to Rs 12,000

For the first time in India, you can tune in to clear, non-stop jazz, thanks to digital satellite radio

It's compact, portable and can work not only on mains but also on batteries. If you sling it over your shoulder and can also manage to hold it so the antenna points eastwards while you turn in all directions, you could even ride a bicycle with it in the manner of the milk vendors of four decades ago belting out a scratchy version of the sound of Vividh Bharati to entertain the public besides themselves. But this is far from scratchy noise. It's digital satellite radio, brought to India by WorldSpace.

WorldSpace has brought clear CD quality sound, free from static and fade, to radio and has a choice of four receivers priced from Rs 5,000 upwards. It offers about a score of its own and other channels, including what's most important for me, the BBC World Service. Among the music channels on the Indian beam are some featuring Indian popular music, including a couple in Hindi and others in Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam. Others, on all its African and Asian beams, include one for Western classical music, and others for rock, pop, R&B/ soul/ funk, and, of greatest interest to both me and my readership, the jazz channel Riff.

For the quality of the sound, suffice it to say that it's worth amplifying through your audio system for the entertainment and edification of your faimly and your neighbours. It's also worth recording on your hard disk if you feed it into your "audio in" and have appropriate software, and then onto recordable CDs if you have a CD writer. You could record in MP3, or even first as *.WAV files and then onto the blank CDs in CD audio. For the latter option you'd need to pick and choose tracks sparingly, not easy to do when the channel's broadcasting round the clock and the standard of material is consistently high.

In about five days of listening for a total of three or four hours a day so far, I've been able to find out that there is some duplication of material but very little of what I'd consider less than good jazz. The selection is pretty broad in range, from swing greats such as Ellington, Basie, Armstrong, and Coleman Hawkins to contemporary giants of the calibre of Hancock. Charlie Parker, Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charlie Mingus, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Art Blakey and many many more who have made modern jazz what it is are all included.

There's another plus point for me: very little of either jazz rock or free jazz and other discordant avant-garde music that has blighted this otherwise creative and compelling art form. There's plenty of Latin jazz too, again something I applaud. I did however notice that there's just a shade too much space given to vocalists, many of whom have tended to cross the line from jazz into pop. I also noted a tendency to go by the established reputations of veterans and not pay enough attention to the younger musicians who are already, or are becoming, stars of mainstream jazz.

So Riff has cast its net wide in mainstream jazz, but to change the metaphor it has skimmed the cream of jazz artistes and perhaps has been a little less venturesome than it could be. Which is why I keep coming up very frequently against tracks from albums I already have and so would have to exercise great care to edit and select what to keep on record if I decided to.

There's another difficulty in doing so - the announcements only identify some tracks, and only minimally at that (lead artiste and name of track). I wonder if they could put up the list of tracks, the albums they're taken from and year of recording on their website. Even at 15 tracks per hour, that'd be only 2500 items on a list for a whole week, very manageable as a text file.

But none of this should obscure the fact that for the first time we in India have access to a dedicated jazz radio station, one that works round the clock as well. And sounds as good as CDs. So instead of wondering how to catch and record select gems from it on a CD, I should just take the advice I'm about to give you -- sit back and enjoy!


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Media praise for your favourite e-zine from India:

*For fans of Indian music, there's no better resource on the Web -- CNet
*Well researched -- India Today
*Fantastic site -- Hitbox
*Web's best -- Britannica
*Superb coverage... worth tuning in to -- Rediff
*Classy -- Deccan Herald

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