Remember music lovers walking with transistors in hand at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in New York? Or hippies banging their heads with tape recorders on their shoulders in Goa in the early Seventies? The Saregama Carvaan digital music player invigorates such memories the moment you look at it. Its retro look, with a vintage-styled jog dial, transports you into the iconic era of rock ‘n’ roll. But here’s the twist: this modern-day speaker comes pre-loaded with 5,000 songs (all Hindi) from the golden era of Indian music.
So one afternoon, I tuned into the speaker and put on Lata Mangeshkar’s Lag ja gale, one of my all-time favourites. The rendition sounded different, as it was the original song recorded for the movie, not a YouTube upload, which I usually listen to. For a music buff, this minute difference in the tonal quality is what matters most. Kishore Kumar and Mohammad Rafi, two of the best singers the country has produced, were next on my list. Listening to all the original soundtracks of these legends has a unique feel to it. It’s like reliving the era of black-and-white celluloid.
And these are just a few of the legendary voices that one can hear on the Carvaan. With an option to change ‘artistes’, you can pick and choose who you want to listen to. From RD Burman’s Mehbooba mehbooba (Sholay) to Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s My name is Anthony Gonsalves (Amar Akbar Anthony) and Shankar-Jaikishan’s Awaara hoon (Awaara), the songs make you feel one with the music, something YouTube and other similar platforms fall short of doing.
To top it all, you can switch to different ‘moods’ depending on your choice—on offer are moods like ‘Happy’, ‘Ghazals’, ‘Shakti’, ‘Sufi’, ‘Hindustani classical’, ‘Spiritual’, ‘Film instrumental’, ‘Romance’ and ‘Sad’. I wanted to listen to Jagjit Singh’s ghazals, as it was raining outside, while my mother wanted to listen to some spiritual tracks—both spoilt by choice, but united by music.
Interestingly, the Carvaan also has the Geetmala, a weekly radio countdown show of top songs from Hindi cinema listened to by millions of music lovers back in the times of our parents. The collection is from the year 1952 to 2000 and is categorised into different sets of years. Geetmala, which was hosted by Ameen Sayani, still sounds fresh. The show, in fact, made Sayani and his baritone famous across the country. Undoubtedly, Geetmala is the biggest selling point for the Carvaan.
A lot of care has been taken to make the speaker look ‘retro’. The front panel houses a big dial (to switch between modes) and two buttons (for moving back and forth in the genre you have selected). The side panels have a volume moderator and aux input. Saregama (erstwhile HMV) has also added modern-day features to make the product more attractive to consumers. So you have Bluetooth, a USB port, as well as an in-built FM, which you can tune into.
The Carvaan has an output of 6W and a type-C charging socket. The sound output is decent, much like any other 6W-Bluetooth speaker. The bass output, however, is better compared to other products.
The Carvaan—which comes in four colours, electric blue, porcelain white, oak wood brown and charcoal black—is a good buy for small house parties or gatherings of seven-eight people. A major drawback, however, is its portability. Since it looks like a conventional transistor, it’s difficult to carry or pack inside your bag. The steep price (starting from Rs 5,990) could also be a laggard, as established players such as JBL and Sony pose strong competition in this segment.
But barring the price and portability constraints, the Carvaan is a solid product. Once fully charged, it can run for a good five-six hours. You can gift it to youngsters, as well as your parents, who can enjoy a musical walk down memory lane. We give it an eight on 10.
The Saregama Carvaan is priced at Rs 5,990 (for the electric blue and porcelain white variants) and Rs 6,490 (oak wood brown and charcoal black variants). It’s available in electronic stores, e-tail chains, Saregama.com and Amazon.in