Note: See update at the tail-end which sort of puts a damper to this party!

WorldSpace Satellite RadioShruti Carnatic Radio Channel

If you are a carnatic music fan living in the US, in case you have not heard, the 24-hour carnatic music channel Shruti on WorldSpace satellite radio is now available online!

I have heard only positive things about the programming on Shruti – my parents in India love it. They say it has excellent programs that satisfy both the casual and the serious listener, and that the audio quality is also quite good. I have heard something similar in rasikas.org too – and believe me good compliments from that community don’t come that easy ๐Ÿ˜‰ !

I have heard about the release of the online version of Shruti a few weeks ago on rasikas.org, and today, I finally decided to give it a try. Well – it just works (albeit not on Firefox?)! It requires registration (free to “just try it” for 24 hours) which strangely mandates that you provide a phone number. I made up one and gave it in US style i.e. (nnn) – nnn-nnnn. It rejected it saying only numbers are allowed. It obviously expected the Indian format. The fact that I couldn’t guess that beforehand only shows that I am like most people in US – US centric! Shame on me!

Once registration was done, it sent a temporary password to my email address, which I arrived pretty much instantly. Using that I logged on, and the first thing it asked me was to change my password. I liked that. Soon I was able to play the carnatic channel Shruti – Sanjay’s bhairavi, Hyderabad Brother’s kalavathi, Balamurali’s chitrambari, John Higgins’ Anandabhairavi, Namgiripettai Krishnan’s chayatarangini , Alathur Brothers’ chakravaham, and an exquisite saveri by the not frequently heard Smt. Ranganayaki Rajagopalan on the veena (karaikudi style) so far.

The audio quality is excellent. Very few glitches/pauses in streaming audio – only twice in about one hour of listening. That is not bad at all. I am at work with a fast connection. Maybe that has something to with it, but I expect it to be as good at home with my DSL connection too. I should note though that website itself is sluggish – but it does work. And of course, the window that has the radio player did not come up when I used Firefox as the browser.
I think I have been waiting for this day for a long time and it is finally here. I remember a couple of years ago checking if WorldSpace satellite radio is available in US just so that I can get Shruti, and being just plain ticked off that the US market had only stuff that was US centric for mainstream US tastes (sigh!). But now, the internet has once again shattered a silly “old world” hurdle. I cannot wait to hear the interesting programming on Shruti that I have heard about so much about.

BTW, the main link is http://worldspace.msnserver.com/index.aspx, and the link to Shruti is http://worldspace.msnserver.com/shruti.aspx. Note that there is also a Hindustani channel , as well as Bollywood, Telugu and Kannada hits channel (How come no Kollywood channel?).

The whole operation seems to be in beta stage, and I am crossing my fingers that it will remain online for a long time. If the quality continues to be as good, and reliability is good, I will not hesitate to start subscribing to it (one price of $9.99 per month for all five channels). From my experience so far, I highly recommend it for all carnatic listeners.

Thanks to WorldSpace radio, thanks to Shruti, and more importantly, thanks to the internet and the world wide web for making this possible!

UPDATE (Sep 28 2007): Well I am not “loving it” now. At the tail-end of my 24-hour period, the connection went out for a couple of hours. So I decided to get a feel for their tech-support. I sent them email asking whatโ€™s up and some suggestions on making it more widely accessible (other browsers). No replies to this day! They are asking for $$ commitment but canโ€™t reply customer support emails – how pathetic is that? So right now my stand is – unless they can improve reliability AND tech-support, I am going to hold off.

Online Shruthi Verdicts:
Initial Verdict: Big Thumbs Up
Current Verdict: Thumbs Down – Way Down. If I am hand is up, its not the thumb which would be out ๐Ÿ˜‰

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