Masti, in Singapore basti, @96.3 FM: -- Siraj Syed

Masti, in Singapore basti, @96.3 FM: -- Siraj Syed

Back in 1940, the old Indian New Theatres’ classic film Vidyapathi (spelt with the extra h after the t, as they do down south), ran to a good response in Singapore. It was in Hindi. Singapore was then a British colony, part of Malaya. When Malaysia and Singapore came into independent existence, in the mid 1960s, the influence of Hindi and Hindi cinema in Singapore got watered down. 


Statistics are not available for the 1940s, but the government’s Department of Statistics tells us that in 2015, the population looked like this: 
 
 

Singapore Citizens-3.375 million

 

Singapore Permanent Residents (PR/’Green Card’ holders)-0.527 million. 
 
Ethnic details come from the Ministry of Health:
  • Chinese 74.3%
  • Malay 13.3%
  • Indian 9.1%
  • Others 3.3% 

Of the Indians, the overwhelming majority consist of Tamil speakers. It is estimated that a mere 14,000 persons speak Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani. 

But the good news is that they can tune-in to a local radio station, for Hindi content. Yes, Singapore has its own Hindi radio station, and it is called Radio Masti. 
 

That was not its original name. When MediaCorp (Radio Corporation of Singapore-RCS and Television Corporation of Singapore-TCS had merged to form MediaCorp) decided to offer a 5 pm to 8 pm slot on its XFM 96.3 frequency (X is for expat) they settled for India’s industry major, Reliance. XFM was launched in 1998, and was Singapore's only radio channel specialising in French, German, Japanese, Korean and Hindi programmes. The French and German programmes on XFM 96.3 were relayed 'live', off the satellite feeds of Radio France International (RFI) and Deutsche Welle (DW) respectively. 
 
More recently, the programming was changed to play ‘world music’. Korean programming was discontinued in October 2014, when Amar FM (Bengali) replaced the time slot, at 8 pm. The rest of the programming was also changed, in 2015, to world music (mix of all languages, including Arabic, German, French, etc.).

A news report from Indian media, dated 24 June 2008, said:
 
Singapore’s MediaCorp, has joined hands with India’s Big FM radio network to offer the local listeners. Singapore’s only Bollywood radio station has been given the title of Big Bollywood 96.3 FM.

The radio station will broadcast live Bollywood entertainment every day, from 5:00 pm to 8:00pm, which will include Bollywood hits from the 2000s onwards. The station is targeted at Asians, who seek Bollywood entertainment. 

Programming mix will largely cover: 
  • Interesting Bollywood gossip and trivia
  • An interview with a Bollywood celebrity every day
  • Humour capsules from India’s well-known comedians Raju Shrivastav and Sunil Pal, and (anchor/comic) Shekhar Suman.
  • News from India, covering general news, financial news as well as sports news
The official signing ceremony between the two companies was held today at the Grand Hyatt, Singapore, with India’s young legendary singer, Sonu Niigaam, gracing the occasion with his presence.

Philip Koh, Managing Director, MediaCorp, said on the occasion, “The addition of Hindi programming on FM 96.3, we will further reinforce the stations position as a station for the expatriate community. The Hindi expatriate community is possibly the fastest growing one in Singapore’s quest to attract foreign talent to our shores. We are honoured to partner with Big 92.7 FM, to reach out to this audience and play a part in helping them assimilate.” (Mr. Koh served as Managing Director of MediaCorp Radio, of MediaCorp Pte Ltd., until April 1, 2009).

Big Bollywood went live on 1st July, 2008. 
And then came this piece of news, a bare 17 months after the launch.

“The deal between Reliance Media World, the company which runs its radio business under the Big FM brand, and Singapore-based MediaCorp Network, has gone kaput, much before it could run its full five-year course.

According to sources, Big FM stopped syndicating content to MediaCorp from 27 November. The Reliance ADAG-owned radio company had provided MediaCorp with 1545 hours of content, and it was to fuel Big FM‘s expansion to markets like the Middle East, US and UK.”

Nature abhors vacuum. Enter two sharply contrasting personalities, but individuals who share the same enterprising zeal. Mohammed Rafiqul Haque had been doing the rounds at MediaCorp to start a Bangla channel, while, unknown to him, a lady called Renuka Arora Bhagat was keen to put Hindi on the air. Interestingly, MediaCorp brought them together, and as it transpired, it was a Hindi station that came on air, to replace Big Bollywood.

In an almost seamless transition, Rafique, his wife Mosfiqua and Renuka joined hands. The Haques had already registered a company called Deshee FM, and with Renuka on board, the lively Masti 96.3 FM partnership was born, with the slogan, ‘Josh mein raho’ (stay in high spirits, possibly a pun on the saying, ‘Hosh mein raho’, stay sensible). Amar FM 96.3, Rafique and Mosfiqua’s Bengali project, saw the light of day, in October 2014.
 

Md. Rafiqul Haque is the Managing Director, Deshee FM (Singapore) Pvt. Ltd. and Radio Today 89.6 FM (the first Private Radio Station in Bangladesh). Mr Haque had started the Bangladesh station in 2006. Since then, he expanded his presence in the international bangla radio space by establishing brands in the UAE and the US. His latest passion is the popular NY Bangla Radio. Rafique’s other business interests are in the garments and food industries in Bangladesh.

Haque completed his Honours and Masters Degrees from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has also done various business management courses, from Harvard University and Texas Tech University, Euro Money in UK, and Singapore Institute of Management. His Hobbies include playing golf and flying aeroplanes, as an amateur pilot. A Bangladeshi citizen and Permanent Resident (PR) of Singapore, he is married to Mosfiqua Haque. 

Mosfiqua is a director of Deshee FM (Singapore) Pvt. Ltd. She was instrumental in creating the station ID, initial programme segments as well as the logo for the station. She has obtained Honours and Masters degrees from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Mosfiqua Haque is a Bangladeshi citizen, and a Singapore PR.

Deshee FM is incorporated in Singapore as a Private Limited Company, operating under a signed agreement with MediaCorp, as a legal entity. Radio Masti pays all fees/royalty against all music and other content through MediaCorp. Radio Masti is an infotainment channel, covering news, current affairs apart from entertaining content from across the globe, focusing on Singapore and India. The channel operates out of the MediaCorp Studio, at Caldecott Broadcast Centre, Andrew Road, Singapore.

Broadly, the content broadcast on Radio Masti comprises: 
 
News update 
Listeners’ dedications
‘Mausam ka haal’ or weather update of Singapore and four Indian metros
B-Town (Hindi film) gossips 
Several LIVE interactive on-air games: Zabaan Sambhaal Ke; Shabdcoach; Daawat-e-ishq; Paanch ya Punch and many more  

Listeners are extremely active on Radio Masti’s facebook page as the team keeps them occupied with various posts and interactions. 

Other content includes:

 

  • Masti Show Stopper 
  • Masti Most wanted
  • Masti Top 10
  • Masti Heart to Heart
  • Masti Voice Aapki Choice
  • Masti Sunday Ke Funday, with Renuka (yes, she goes on air too)
 
Renuka also hosts special shows such as: Corporate Baatein; Spectrum (joint initiative with the High Commission of India); exclusive conversations with celebrities and more.

It is fair to assume that besides the 14,000 Hindustani speakers (Indian, Pakistani), a significant number of Nepalese, SriLankan, Bangladeshi, Iranian, Bhutanese Mauritians, Arab, Africans, Malay, Indonesians and other ethnic groups/ nationalities enjoy Hindi content, especially film songs. And given a Mobile Phone Penetration Rate of 148.4%, access is no problem whatsoever. It is in this context that the listenership base of 1.6 million, with a minimum of 55,000 tuned in at any given time, begins to sound credible. Singapore being a highly mobile/ transiting (as in movement of people in and out of the country) hub, expats who relocate to different countries continue to tune in to Radio Masti, via the Masti phone app, irrespective of where they are. 89% of the total listeners tune in via the radio app as traditional radios are hardly to be seen. Listeners have requested for merchandise from as far as Israel, say Masti sources.

For reasons I shall ask her soon, why has Renuka retained only female radio jockeys in the seven years that they have been on air, and why are all three sales and marketing executives young ladies. The incumbent RJ is called Antara. More on Renuka and the three jocks that Radio Masti has employed so far, in the next edition. 
 

Watch this space for a full piece on future plans and direction of Radio Masti and Renuka Arora Bhagat, the co-founder and Managing Partner of Radio Masti. Till then, ‘Josh mein raho’!

To listen to Masti live, click on their facebook page:Masti96.3FM, Singapore
5-8 pm, SGT; 2.30 pm-5.30 pm, IST
 
Siraj Syed Siraj is the Consulting Editor of nrizone.com. See profile

 

Views expressed and claims made in the articles on this site are the contributors' own, and nrizone does not necessarily agree with them, or endorse them, in any way.
Contributions are published in good faith, with due diligence, and liabilities for authenticity or copyright lie with the authors.
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