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An enterprising threesome has put on air India's first Internet radio station dedicated wholly to independent Indian music

PHOTO: MURALI KUMAR K.

UNITING TALENT Radio Verve, run by Gaurav Vaz, Shreyas Srinivasan and Kaustubh Srikanth brings together rockers from across the country.

If there's one pet peeve that unites rock music fans across the country, it's the lack of local music content on mainstream radio. However, while the rest of us have a tendency to hem and haw and promptly forget about the issue, the threesome of Kaustubh Srikanth, Gaurav Vaz and Shreyas Srinivasan didn't just stop there. Instead, they decided to pool their talents together and create a one-of-its-kind venture, India's first Internet radio station dedicated wholly to independent Indian music.

Welcome to Radio Verve, where the only conditions for playing music are that the music be Indian, original and with no affiliations to any record label. "I have a lot of musician friends like Gaurav who complain that there's no way to get their music out of a particular geographical area and niche audience," says Kaustubh, who kicked off the first avatar of Verve. "I started Infinity Radio, which played every night from nine to eleven. I put the music online and spoke about it live, and got great feedback. So I asked Gaurav and Shreyas to join in, and we started Radio Verve."

For those who came in late, aside from the fact that it is broadcast over the Internet, Radio Verve does not differ from any run-of-the-mill radio station as far as accessing it is concerned. Thus, any user who wants to listen to the station's programming need only go to the site and click on the link provided to stream the content directly. Alternately, one could also cut and paste the link provided onto an external media player like Windows Media Player or Winamp. Keeping in mind the nature of Internet access in the country, the site also provides users a choice between a low-bandwidth stream for those with dial-up modems and a high-bandwidth stream for those on broadband connections. "As of now we have a bunch of shows that have been canned on the site and keep looping, and we add on new content whenever we can," says Kaustubh. What that content translates to is not only albums produced by bands, but also interviews with bands, discussions and so on. "Right now the site is a work-in-progress, and a lot of the programming is ad hoc," admits Gaurav. "But that's because we're trying to work out the nitty-gritty of running the station seamlessly. We still need to resolve issues of what happens if someone we play on our station gets signed on by a label and other legal issues like that," he explains. Once such details get worked out, the trio are planning to expand their programming and provide more premium content to listeners.

At first glance, one might wonder if such output is viable on a sustained basis. After all, are there enough bands making music to fill up all that airtime? "We've found a lot more bands than we ever expected to play," clarifies Shreyas. "For example there is the band called Avial which plays only Malayalam rock music. Then there are some great bands from Shillong and the rest of the North East. It's like that old story about building the railways. At first, when people hear that the government wants to build a railway they wait by the site, but no work starts. They get frustrated and leave. Then the government comes in to see if the area needs a railway, but doesn't find any people around. So it doesn't build a railway," he philosophises. The problem, adds Kaustubh, is that even though a lot of talent is present throughout the country, much of it is usually isolated as there has been no collaborative effort to bring it all together. "That's what we're trying to do."

At present, since Radio Verve is still a fledgling venture, it runs on the commitment of the three guys behind it and the goodwill of everyone they know. "We spend Rs. 5,000 every month to keep the server alive, and we are lucky that a friend Atul Chitnis gave us the equipment and space to record our shows." But it isn't just the goodwill of people they know that's strengthening their resolve. What's really getting the trio excited is the kind of community building that is gradually taking place around the station. "There are people who are willing to write the code for our website, managers willing to help us out with management issues, bands that put up our banners for free at their concerts," says Gaurav.

What is also interesting about Radio Verve is that it is built entirely on free and open source software, taking forward the idea of a community-driven project.

"We make sure that we don't use any proprietary software on the website. Everything from our streaming software to our flash player is built on open source, and we don't close off any modifications we make to them," says Kaustubh.

For details, log onto Radio Verve at http://radioverve.com.

RAKESH MEHAR

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