Friday, August 05, 2005

My Day as a Radio Jockey

Once a week, between 11 am and 5 pm, I anchor three one-hour shows on one of the FM stations in Bangalore. The first show's format is old Hindi film songs, the second one is a western music show, and the third one is an all request hour where I play Hindi film songs that listeners have called in the previous hour to request. A Kannada radio jockey (RJ) anchors the other three hours.

My work actually begins the day before when I go into the station and pick the songs I want to play on the old Hindi music hour and the western music hour. Then I come home, troll the internet and try to find interesting information, anecdotes or trivia about those songs.

I've developed a pattern now where on the oldies show I ask my listeners two trivia questions about the artists I play (Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, Geeta Dutt, etc.) or the actors in those old movies, and in the western music show, if I'm not doing a special on a particular artist, I have a topic for discussion throughout the hour.

Most of the shows on my radio station are interactive. The listeners interact with the RJ in one of two ways: either by sending in SMSs to designated mobile phones in the studio or by calling in on the studio line. Messages or calls relate to a number of things. They could be requests for particular songs, dedications of songs (X dedicates a song to Y for a birthday, anniversary, or just chumma), responses to questions posed by the RJs, or traffic updates.

So at 10 on the morning of my show, I walk into the studio and check my cue sheet that has a list of ads to be played and special instructions, if any. Following that, a quick peep into the computer to figure out the files where the promos and ads are located. At 11 am, following a two-minute news update, the microphone, the console (with a lot of blinking lights and about 12 faders), the CD players, the telephone line, the mobile, the computer, and the spool tape player (yes, we have those too) are all mine.

Of course, in the minutes before I go on air, I am cursing myself and wondering what the hell I've gotten myself into. Couldn't I have just shut up and stayed home?

Anyway, at 11:02, it's too late to turn back. I make my initial announcement ("It's just past 11 am on this fabulous Friday, and you are listening to Meethi Yaadein on FM ___. This is Sujatha, with you for the next hour as I....") and play the first song. My butterflies generally settle down somewhat.

SMSs have started coming in by then. So it's play a song, pull that fader down when the song ends, push up the announcer faders, read messages, push the computer fader up, play ads and promos, pull the computer fader down, push up the announcer faders, say something about the song coming up, pull down the announcer faders, and push up the fader of the system from which the song is playing. If there is a live caller or if something is going from the spool player, then pushing and pulling the appropriate faders there.

After an hour of this, it's a two minute news update again which is read by a newsreader from the news division. By now, I've completely settled down and have a lot of fun on the western music show. It's an awesome feeling to play a song you love and have your listeners listen to your songs. I'm usually belting the songs out in the studio myself. The listeners are also very interested in responding to discussions. Quite a few times, I've received messages asking what the topic was because they had tuned in late. There was a good response today to a discussion about the Discovery astronauts and their courage.

Between 1 and 1:30 pm, listeners call in to request songs from Hindi films and from 1:30 and 2 it's a mad rush to gobble some lunch and get the songs. The hour between 2 and 3 is extremely popular and the requested songs, even though they are played often, are nice tracks to listen to. After being out of touch with Hindi films and songs for so long, I'm now aware of what is released when and I at least know the names of all the new singers.

Although I am not on air between 3 and 5, there's a bunch of administrative stuff to complete and I have to be in the studio until the English RJ for the 5pm to 11 pm transmission shows up. I usually leave at 5 pm and am home by 6.

This is so completely different from anything I've done so far. Although I'd done shows for the youth program while in college and did a few children's shows after I came back, they were all pre-recorded. The feeling of being on air live and the knowledge that the moment words come out of your mouth they've gone on air (there is no time lag here unlike in the US) make for quite an experience.


Anonymous said...

Reading your post reminded me of "Kareena Kareena" (tv serial on Zee TV).
Keep up the good work of sharing your experiences. It sure sounds like an interesting and fun job (except for the butterflies).

Sourin Rao said...

Fascinating stuff. Do they have a Howard Stern type character in India ? I tell you, someone like that will be a superstar overnight.
What western songs do u play ? Please dont tell me Richard Marx !!!

gawker said...

If this were my job, I would probably show up everyday at work drunk. God I hate public speaking. Especially if it's speaking to someone you cannot see.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Rajeshwari, Thanks! It's getting to be a lot of fun now. When I first came here, I had pitched a talk show to them. But they said there was no market here for pure talk shows and my only option to have half a chance of doing interviews was auditioning for the radio jockey position. So I did that and now, especially after the Greg Chappell interview, they've woken up to the possibilities of talk radio.

Sourin: Unfortunately not. There are very strict standards for on-air language and topics. All the RJs at my station are freelancers, so at the slightest hint of unwanted conduct, the station will simply reduce the number of our bookings.

Gawker: You would be a fantastic public speaker. You should seriously consider it. I mean, I'm rolling with laughter at just reading some of the things you write. Imagine hearing them from someone!

Sujatha Bagal said...

Sourin: About the music, I end playing the stuff I hear on radios in the US. I play Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Greenday, 3 Doors Down, John Mayer, Tina Turner, Shakira. Yesterday, I played Toni Braxton (Unbreak my heart). I try to stick to a particular genre, but yesterday I mixed it up and I liked the way the program was freewheeling. I might try that more often.
No, not Richard Marx, no Britney Spears, no JLo, no Hillary Duff, but I did play Scorpions once. I saw the CD here and a wave a nostalgia washed over me. Now I'm done with it. I am staying away from Air Supply though.

gawker said...

check out

Sunil said...

Perhaps Gawker is drunk when he writes? :-))

But seriously...though I love my own voice and all that, i'd be terrified if i had to RJ. Keep having fun.....and play some Queen on the show if you can.....remember our own Mumbai ka chokra Freddie Mercury, aka Farrokh Balsara :-))

Sujatha Bagal said...

Sunil: Although quite a few people are messaging in (and therefore there is an audience out there), I somehow make myself believe that no one is listening. Definitely helps the terror subside. I'm sure the psychologists have a theory about this.

Queen is one of my favorite bands and I do play them a lot! The next time I play them I'll dedicate the song to you.:)

Sunil said...

OMG.....touched, deeply!

Will tell my friends/family to keep an ear out for that!

When ever you play Bohemian Rhapsody or The miracle please...:-)

gawker said...

Wise man Sunil heh.

Suj .. are you allowed to make your own playlists?

Sujatha Bagal said...

Sunil: Absolutely.

Gawker: Yes. I have control over what I play, what I say, the topics I pick, the questions I ask, etc. Any requests or dedications?

Amit said...

Suj - U have my dream job.... I hope i can get a similar one some day

Sourin Rao said...

Play 'Stairway to Heaven', Lead Zep, dedicated to all the B'lorians out there.

Sunil, Queen is gonna tour the US pretty soon, though I dunnno who will fill in for the lead. Maybe diff artistes like George Michaels etc.


Sujatha Bagal said...

@mit: Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.:) Good luck with your dream. Go for it!

Sourin: Will do. Did you check out the audiofile I posted of the Chappell interview?

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Suj
Sounds like fun.
I'm glad that Sunil get's a song dedication.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sujata,
I'm new to your blog...what attracted me towards your blog? well,my passion towards radio. Your experience reminded me of my first program on air.I wish I could listen to your program but I am not a Bangalorean...:(. Have fun.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Thanks Jazz. SO what was your first program on air?

shub said...

wow! wish I'd had a chance to listen to you when I was in Banaglore... and I love old hindi songs:)
you must have a great soothing voice :)

N said...

So you are a RJ?Wow!! cool job!!
I never knew you RJ's had complete freedom to choose your own playlist...
Because I used to be a regular listener of RadioCity long back.In its initial days
it used to air good mix of hindi/english songs,but after certain point ,it
limited english tracks only after 10pm .
Hope things have changed now ,with increased competition.
Wow, glad to stumble upon some happening blog!!
so were u RJing in US too?

Anonymous said...

hey,I'm new to your blog and I just wanted to coment on how well your blog helped me to see the good and bad of being on air! I want to be a Radio Jockey my self when I'm done high school! So thank you for writting a blog about your work and what it's like to play songs that you don't really like. Also for how to keep a show interesting and exciting!

Anonymous said...

Nice article, I have also some articles on Voice RJ and more on do read and give your comments this site is completely dedicated to voice talent

Anonymous said...

i wanted to know,how u prepare for your show,i mean how do start,what kind of preparations,suppose to be done before the show,as i m planning to get into this job

Anonymous said...

HI, I seriously am looking out for a career in RJing. I have a very good command over both English and Kannada, I talk fluently, I have a very good voice is what my friends say.. I just dunno whom to approach. I am very serious about this profession full time.. Cud u plssssssssss help?? This is my mail ID. Hoping for an earliest reply.....

Sujatha Bagal said...

Hi Anon (Dec 15), if you are interested, you should approach the Asst. Station Director at All India Radio or the person in charge of FM Radio. They have rolling auditions. They'll be able to tell you when the next audition is and you can apply for that. Good luck! And let me know when you get on radio. :)

Anon (Nov. 16), sorry for the delay. Was an old post, so I did not see this comment until today.

The way to prepare for a show really is to have a good grasp over language, stay up to date with what's going on in the music/movie world especially, but all the world in general. For each show you must get yourself ready with a playlist, a topic you are going to talk about, questions about that topic if you are going to involve the audience, etc. Good luck!

Anonymous said...



Sujatha Bagal said...

Sanjay, I would suggest working with the English division on All India Radio's AM channel. They often have openings for hosts and anchors, especially for Western music, classical as well as rock/pop/jazz, etc. That'll give you good experience and you can do that until you get your degree.

Good luck!

P.S. Please don't use all caps. Not really necessary. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sujatha,
Thank you so much.. didn't think of AM.. I've been trying to get some sort of contact number, but it just isn't happening:(.. could u give me a number, a link, a address??? anything.. just so that I can get in touch with the AM people..
Thanks a lot and Tc:)..

P.s. I do apologize for the caps, but it's my style.. No offenece meant:)..

Sujatha Bagal said...

The AIR numbers are 22268151 and 22268152. If I were you, I'd visit them once and talk to them. Getting anyone on the phone there is a nightmare.

Ask to speak to the people in charge of the English programming on AM and the Music division.

Good luck.

Sujatha Bagal said...

BTW, AIR is across from the Governor's residence on Raj Bhavan Road near the GPO.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for that.. will do the needful and let u know about my progress:).. I'm so glad I found you.. Bye:)..

Dilip said...


I did a voice over for one of your interviews (in Nov?) with a child specialist I think. Hope to bump into you sometime. Meanwhile, please do tune in on Fridays on the evening transmission and give me, a newbie RJ, your feedback. And yes, I'm on Rainbow too :) Look up my blog on

Unknown said...

hi sujatha,
Could you please tell me if i am supposed to do a course in RJing to get into this profession. Also im in chennai do i stand a good chance of getting into AIR keeping in mind that i do not speak or understand tamil?
But i can hit it off very well in hindi or english.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Hi Dilip. That's great to know! Good luck on your shows. Will listen for you and will check out your blog.

Nidhi, if you want to work for AIR, you will need to go through their training program. You should contact the FM division and find out when their next set of auditions will be. In Chennai, don't think it's possbible to be on radio if you don't know the local language. But do check with the station. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hey suj..hope you are fine..well..I had gone through ur article...and before that I hated reading...but this one was really intresting one...and real too...

Well...being a RJ is my dream...but right now I m studyin fr Computer Softwares...I dunno..from where to start.The suggestion u gave to Nidhi,I will try to follow.

T.H.A.N.K. Y.O.U. S.O. M.U.C.H.!!

Unknown said...

thanks sujatha!
But im still not clear what kind of training is that ...i mean how long is the traing and what do they train you in?I wonder if any local FMs would take me without tamil.

mookuthi said...

hi , now that you are here in the states...would you know how i could work as RJ to any local desi radio station? many thanks

Sujatha Bagal said...

M, I'm not sure about local FM stations here in the US. If you are thinking of a particular station, I would check out their website or call and speak to them and see how it goes from there. The other avenue to get on the air is via Indian programming (usually on Sundays) on public channels. But I would imagine that any work for these stations would have to start with some other position - as a volunteer, as an assistant or some such thing before you can graduate to being on the air.

Good luck with your search!

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