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Since 1st March, 1999
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In the Metro tucked away in a jeans pocket. In leather handbags, with the white wires peeping out. In classrooms, with the headphones cleverly concealed. In workplaces, where the 20-something professional moves his head to the music as he clatters away on the keyboard.

The iPod and its greater family, the MP3 player, are everywhere. But what are the listeners listening to? t2 eavesdrops...

For a song

The iPod is the coolest. But others will do too.

Business analyst Sanchayita Dutta, 24, is hooked to her MP3 player during the daily commute from Tollygunge to her Sector V office. “I’m obsessed with the Dave Matthews Band currently. It’s nice to listen to early in the morning,” she says.

It helps not to just entertain but to ward off conversation. “If I don’t have my MP3 player I’d probably have to make small talk,” she explains.

It’s all about the music for Nabanita Biswas, 24, who works for a recruitment firm. “I’m hooked to my phone throughout the day. I listen to a lot of soft Bollywood numbers. And a lot of Bryan Adams songs. Currently I’m really into songs from Aloo Chaat,” she says.

With an average of 250 songs per GB and about 8GB of songs in an iPod, selections can get a little eclectic. “Mine has Bollywood numbers, old and new. A lot of Robbie Williams, a few love songs from the 60s and 70s and Rabindrasangeet. And Bryan Adams,” says Sahana Sen Roy, 27, studying mass communication and journalism in the University of Minnesota.

Closer home, it’s a bizarre mix of Baul, metal and rock ’’ roll playing in comparative literature student Arka Alam’s 4GB MP3 player. “There’s Tool and Opeth, Ravi Shankar and Lalangeeti, some Ambiance Du Sahara as well as some Jefferson Airplane and Led Zeppelin,” he says.

Often it’s about that one song.

For Devika Mitra, content writer, 25, it was Led Zeppelin’s Black Mountain Side one day. “While travelling in the Metro I played this instrumental number from the Led Zep folder in my MP3 player. I hadn’t heard the song before and when it ended my hands automatically pressed repeat.”

It’s the contrast between an intense, maybe visceral, moment and real life, listening to a song that takes over your life while you walk down the road on a normal working day, which gets Nandini Sen, content writer, 24, really going. “There is this song by The Killers called All These Things That I’ve Done that I’ve listened to so many times that I know every note, know every subtle way the instruments change and sort of feel it in my pulse. It’s a lot like standing next to speakers and feeling the bass hit your heart. And while doing that, I’m walking down Gariahat, on a sunny noisy busy day with the hawkers calling out and I see them, but hear just the song. It’s fantastic!”

Sometimes it’s about a song that plays on but never gets boring. “I remember there was a time in college when I played Alanis Morissette’s Unsent for two days straight. Just one song,” says Soumya Chatterji, an MBA student.

Sometimes you just fall in love. Like Arka did with Kante Manfilas’ Agne Anko. “It’s one of my favourite songs. It’s got blues, riffs and beautiful melody and some Egyptian influences. At one point I would listen to the song 12 times in a day,” he says.

It’s not easy to do so on the usual CD player. There could be people around.

iPod vs the rest

Of all these solo-listening (some would say isolating) devices, the iPod is revered and coveted worldwide, but not everyone can afford it. Which is perhaps what makes it so cool. Arka could do with one. But the parents didn’t oblige.

City band Krosswindz’s Vikramjit “Tuki” Banerjee prefers iPods in transit. “Apple iPods have a very strong output. And the thrust of sound is strong. In comparison, MP3 players may sound wimpy. At home, however, I prefer to play music off my laptop through which I can pick whichever speakers I want,” he says.

Some do not actually want an iPod. Nandini prefers her Sony walkman phone to an iPod. “I can’t exactly afford an iPod. But I think it makes sense to have everything in one gadget. Which is why my phone functions as a phone, MP3 player and camera,” she says.

Singer Usha Uthup can’t make up her mind between her trusty, easy-to-operate CD player and her iPod Shuffle. “I have a problem operating the bigger ones. It takes far too long to wade through 2,000 songs to get to the one you want to listen to. Which is why I like the CD player. But then again, the iPod Shuffle is easy to operate and I can just tuck it into my kaftan while working in the kitchen,” she says.

A social stamp

But iPod has the biggest number of fans with its user-friendly control, snazzy colours and clear sound. The virtual world is full of tags, quizzes and games around the iPod. One Facebook quiz tells you what kind of an iPod personality you have. Are you the boring Shuffle, or the cool Nano or the ultra-stylish Touch? According to another application on Facebook, the colour of your iPod means something. Are you a wild party animal and don’t care what others think of you? You must be the orange iPod. Are you girly, pretty, happy and peppy and a tad over-happy at times? You’re the pink iPod. If you’re the red iPod, you must be blood-thirsty and neutral most times. You’re a mild, balanced person if you like the yellow iPod and rugged, independent and friendly if you like the purple iPod.

There is even a “What iPod Touch Wallpaper Are You” application.

Bottomline? You’re with it if you have it.

What does your iPod/MP3 player say about you? Take the online test:

Put your MP3 player/ iPod or (any other playlist) on shuffle.

For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

You must write the name of the song no matter what. No cheating!

If someone says “is this okay?” what do you say?

What would best describe your personality?

What do you like in a guy/girl?

How do you feel today?

What is your life’s purpose?

What is your motto?

What do your friends think of you?

What do you think of your parents?

What do you think about very often?

What is 2+2?

What do you think of your best friend?

What do you think of the person you like?

What is your life story?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do your parents think of you?

What will you dance to at your wedding?

What is your hobby/interest ?

What is your biggest secret?

What do you think of your friends?

What should you post this as?

Vikramjit “Tuki” Banerjee: “Currently on my iPod there’s a lot of jazz: all of Miles Davis, some John McLaughlin and an Eric Johnson album. I’ve also been listening to Stanley Clarke’s If The Bass Could Talk..... There’s this track called Rainy Night In Tokyo by new-age jazz artiste Michael Frank. It’s about this musician hanging out after a show with his girlfriend, and listening to Duke Ellington while sipping on sake. It’s very atmospheric and has this chilled-out jazz environment.”

Bickram Ghosh: “I’ve been in and out of studios because of my work on Ashoke Viswanathan’s Diamond Murders. So these days I’ve only been listening to Sonu Nigam and Sunidhi’s voices on my iPod! But there are always some favourites on my iPod. They include Sting and some jazz. Another eternal favourite is Kishore Kumar. There’s always some Kishore in my iPod.... Aane wala pal from Golmaal.”

Usha Uthup: “I don’t follow trends blindly and I’m not a gizmo person so I still find the iPod a little difficult to operate. But the iPod Shuffle is quite simple and doesn’t have too many songs. Something that I always have on my iPod is Stevie Wonder, Jose Feliciano and a lot of Sting. Fragile and Bryan Adams’s Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman are songs I never tire of. There is also a lot of Sade and at any point of the day there will always be some RD Burman classics and a few songs from newer Bollywood films. Now there is music from Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Jab We Met and Delhi-6. I’ve noticed that only the Bollywood numbers change in my iPod; the western songs don’t change much. There are also a few songs from George Michael and Earth, Wind & Fire. My eternal favourites are the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Simon & Garfunkel. There’s some older Rahman songs and Ilaiyaraja, a few songs by Nachiketa, Raghav and Rupankar and Srikanto’s Rabindrasangeet. So you can see my taste is varied!”

Rupam: “What I have on my iPod is a difficult question, because I have three! The one I’m using now is the one I picked up abroad since it hasn’t been launched here. It’s a 32GB iPod Touch. Currently I’ve been listening to Black Gold — The Best of Soul Asylum, Get Over It and Actual Size by Mr Big, Nirvana’s Sliver and Unplugged in New York. I am also sort of studying the entire catalogue of the Beatles and Pink Floyd. Jethro Tull’s Aqualung and A Passion Play are also on my player.... The iPod Touch is brilliant since it lets me surf and look up the song, history and lyrics and other information even while I’m listening to the song. It’s so convenient.”

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