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Lokvani talks to Harish and Binita Dang

Chitra Parayath

Be it the award-winning song from Lagaan, Mitwa Sun Mitwa or the soulful Chupke Se Sun from Mission Kashmir, Udit Narayan weaves his magic like no one else can in the Hindi Movie music scene. His repertoire is wide-ranging, having worked with almost every music director in Bollywood, he manages to win awards and accolades with exceptional ease. One would expect the upcoming concert in the Lowell Memorial auditorium on May 3 to attract Udit fans from all over New England. We tend to take star shows for granted these days, especially when the warm weather rolls around. It's easy to forget that until a few years ago, Boston did not even feature on the travel map when US tours were planned for Bollywood stars and artistes. All that changed when Harish and Binita Dang began organizing shows for the Indian community in the Greater Boston area.

The Dangs were among the first to bring Indian singers to the Boston area for concerts. "We think of some of them like friends", says Harish. "They feel at home with us, having done business with us. And we feel equally close to the artists." Singers who have visited the area under the auspices of “Sounds of India” include the late great singers Mukesh and Hemant Kumar in the 70's. Lata Mangeshkar has visited on numerous occasions. Kumar Shanu is another favorite artist and friend who has been heard in the Boston area.

"We look forward to the Udit Narayan concert, it takes a lot of effort and coordination by the organizers to host such a concert in Boston, we have made every effort to bring only the highest quality of shows to our community. We hope that it will attract music lovers from all of New England."

I recently met Harish and Binita at their elegant home in Lexington. Over cups of tea they take a trip down memory lane with me. Recounting their early experiences, they give a glimpse of the force and passion that made their unique community endeavor, Sounds of India, a successful business story.

On a weekend some twenty six years ago, around several hundred desi folks stood outside an auditorium in MIT waiting for the doors to open to the screening of the latest Bollywood blockbuster. After cooling their heels for a good bit, they were told that the film reels, alas, could not make it, and that the show had been cancelled. Harish and Binita Dang returned home, disappointed, and chagrined at the waste of their time. An idea, though, occurred to Binita., She saw the value of a broadcast medium to serve the Indian community in the greater Boston area, that would keep them posted of events, happenings, and, perhaps most importantly, cancellations.

The "Sounds of India" radio program was born and the rest, as they say, is history. One of the more enduring traditions of radio broadcasting in Boston, the Dangs have owned and operated "Sounds of India" for twenty six years now. For many New Englanders Sunday mornings are just not complete without hearing from their old friends, Harish, Binita, Neil and Amit on “Sounds of India” (Radio WRCA 1330 AM, 11am -1 pm).

They tell me that they owe their success to their following a simple rule: that their program be clean and uncluttered. The smooth running of a radio show takes a lot of hard work and Harish admits to, occasionally, feeling a little tired of the rigor after so many years. To their surprise and delight, their sons, Amit and Neil, caught the broadcasting bug and gradually took over most of the responsibilities of running the program. The result is clear in their current format, an eclectic mix of old classics and newer trendy songs. 'It came as a pleasant surprise, their interest in the radio show" says Harish with a fond smile. "Even though they don't speak Hindi very well, they enjoy Hindi songs and have a great understanding of the current trends."

Asked about how they have been able to sustain the interest of the fickle radio listener over the years, they laugh and tell me that they have been blessed with the support and goodwill of the community. Also, early on in their venture they made a decision that has held them in good stead over the years. To promote the interests of Indians in the New England area, they air announcements pertaining to community events on "Sounds of India" free of charge. Thus various community organizations and non-profit groups use this medium to promote events and raise funds, as well as communicate their opinions and concerns. Hundreds have used "Sounds of India" as a forum to spread the word about their activities geared to serving the community.

Enjoying tremendous goodwill and friendship among the community, the Dangs are all about providing good clean desi entertainment and useful information. A segment of their radio show which is very popular is the monthly hour with the Immigration Attorney Peter Allen when listeners are invited to ask the lawyer questions about immigration .I know several compatriots who depend on this very program to keep up to date with the often bewildering changes in laws and regulations.
I ask them if they ever think of expanding to another medium or expand their existing program. Harish and Binita answer in unison: such an idea holds no appeal for them. The radio program will remain their passion, they reiterate.
Inevitably, the conversation turned to the tragic events of the September 11. Harish says that this is the time for the whole country to unite, to come together as one and gain strength. Noting that America owes her greatness, in no small measure, to the diversity and vitality of the people, he urges all Americans to think as one and help eradicate feelings and thoughts of hate and discrimination.
Having trained as an architect, Harish Dang is now a Financial Consultant. He is Senior Vice President at Salomon Smith Barney and Binita Dang runs Meals on Wheels in Lexington. As I thank them for their openness and hospitality, they extend an invitation to me to view the taping of their show . I certainly do look forward to that. It’s not often one gets to witness an broadcast institution in action, and the Dangs are, if anything, truly an establishment unto themselves.

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Harish and Binita Dang, twenty five years ago

Togetherness is a tune

Amit and Neil Dang

Binita with Udit and Deepa Narayan

Harish, Binita, Amit and Neil at a Concert featuring Kumar Sanu

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