When Aniruddha (Andy) Sathe and Shalini Dixit (Shaiely) co-founded a live-streaming radio station out of Williamson County a little more than two years ago, they had no idea how significant an impact it would ultimately have on its listeners in the Greater Nashville area and, indeed, across the world.
Andy and Shaiely moved from their home country of India to Brentwood in 2001 and 2008, respectively, and they later met at a mutual friend’s house. It was there that they discovered a shared passion for music and, specifically, felt a void for an entity they treasured in India known as Bollywood radio.
In India and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the friends said, Bollywood music is as nurturing to its listeners as it is entertaining.
“It’s like an integral part of your daily life,” Shaiely said a couple of days after Shuddh Desi Radio celebrated its two-year anniversary on March 3. “The radio must play in the background. When we came here, and like so many Indian people and people from Southeast Asia came here, we were all lacking the radio experience.”
“After moving to Nashville,” Andy added, “I think one of the important things we were missing, as pretty much every Indian that moved here, was the music of the radio experience that we had growing up. When we would study or do anything such as cooking or entertaining or simply relaxing, we would have the radio as our companion. It would always need to be in the background.”
And now, not long after Andy and Shaiely celebrated their second anniversary with their radio jockeys (RJ’s) and a growing community of friends, supporters and listeners, their Shuddh Desi Radio is very much in the foreground. The COVID-19 pandemic has given their station a whole new dimension.
Whether it’s on-air through streaming radio or online through its website and various social media accounts, Shuddh Desi Radio is providing an essential service for its audience. Bollywood music — which stems from the popular Bollywood cinema of India — is a soothing distraction in these difficult times with its lively and melodic sounds. It can act as a balm to the daily malaise from the news of the coronavirus outbreak.
But the concept of Bollywood radio is also in its role of keeping listeners informed on various topics, both those from world and regional news to those pertinent to culture and entertainment.
“Our first aspect was to get the radio experience back here in the United States,” Shaiely explained. “The second part was, it’s not just about the music. We wanted to focus on other important topics and information, like health and wellness, politics, fashion, education, finance. We are focusing on all these aspects."
That includes, of course, the topic of COVID-19. Shuddh Desi Radio has been addressing it through its Facebook page with physician interviews, live sessions from musicians and even yoga lessons. It’s RJ’s also interact frequently with listeners.
Shuddh Desi Radio has evolved considerably since launching two years ago. In addition to its studio in Williamson County, it also has one in Atlanta and seeks to add more locations.
In addition, it has covered events that are of interest to its listeners. Last year, for instance, station reporters attended the “Howdi Modi” event in Houston, where nearly 52,000 people showed up to witness a meeting between President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Shuddh Desi Radio brought to its listeners live updates, video and interviews.
In December, the station was invited to cover the Miss Universe Pageant that was held in Atlanta.
“It was a moment of pride for our radio station to bring both these events to our listeners,” Andy said.
The station has listeners in India, where it’s said the language changes every 50 miles, as well as in the rest of the world. Andy said Shuddh Desi Radio recognizes the fact that musical and cultural heritage of India that dates back to several centuries need to be presented in different languages, and the station is broadcast in six different Indian regional languages including Hindi.
The station’s audience in the Greater Nashville area continues to grow as well. Andy and Shaiely aren’t surprised by that; they knew there were plenty others who shared their passion.
“Being in Nashville, you have a little bit of everything,” Andy said. “You have country music, rock and roll, jazz, others. The part that was missing was Bollywood music, those fast, catchy tunes.
“We are proud to say that we are giving Bollywood music to Music City.”