Skip links

Ameen Sayani, Iconic Voice of Indian Radio, Passes Away at 91

Ameen Sayani, the revered figure in Indian radio, breathed his last on Tuesday in Mumbai following a heart attack at the age of 91. The news of his demise was confirmed by his son, Rajil Sayani.

Known for his mellifluous voice, Sayani initially served as an English-language presenter for All India Radio (AIR) in Bombay, now known as Mumbai, thanks to his brother Hamid, a broadcaster at AIR.

Interestingly, Sayani’s journey to radio superstardom commenced not on AIR but on neighboring Radio Ceylon. In 1952, a shift in policy by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s Information and Broadcasting Minister, Balakrishna Vishwanath Keskar, led to the restriction and eventual banning of Hindi-language film songs on AIR. Exploiting this opportunity, Daniel Molina, an American businessman in India, engaged Hamid Sayani to oversee his radio operations in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Hamid, in turn, enlisted his brother to host the popular Hindi film song show “Geetmala” (literally garland of songs). Sponsored by the Swedish company Ciba’s toothpaste brand Binaca, the show, launched in 1952 as “Binaca Geetmala” and later rebranded as “Cibaca Geetmala,” aired every Wednesday.

With its captivating mix of songs and the introduction of a countdown, the show became immensely popular across the region. Ameen Sayani, with his sonorous voice, endearing habit of addressing his audience as ‘sisters and brothers,’ and effortless rapport with the Hindi-language film industry talent, became a beloved figure. “Geetmala” eventually returned to AIR’s Vivid Bharati service in 1989 but met its end in 1994 due to the rise of countdown shows on satellite channels and song compilation programs on Indian national TV broadcaster Doordarshan. Despite the show’s conclusion, Sayani’s popularity remained unblemished. Over his career, he hosted approximately 58,000 radio programs and lent his voice to 19,000 radio spots and jingles. Noteworthy among his non-film radio work was the “Bournvita Quiz Contest,” which he took over in 1975 and the production of “Swanaash,” a 13-episode AIR radio series on HIV/AIDS.

In recent years, Saregama, the company holding the music rights to the golden age of Hindi-language cinema, released a 10-volume compilation titled “Ameen Sayani Presents Geetmala Ki Chhaon Mein,” covering highlights of the program’s history. The compilation featured Sayani’s interviews with legends such as Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Manna Dey, Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, and many more.

Tributes have poured in for Sayani, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing his condolences: “Shri Ameen Sayani Ji’s golden voice on the airwaves had a charm and warmth that endeared him to people across generations.” India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur added, “For most of us, he was the voice of the radio, who, with his magical wordplay, entertained and engaged us in a way no one had before.” Ameen Sayani may no longer be with us, but his magical voice continues to resonate. May his soul rest in peace.

This website uses cookies to improve your web experience.