Lou Otten passed away on March 6. The 94-year-old Dutch engineer has contributed to creating the audio cassette as we know it. Even though his grievous death took away one of the most innovative thinkers of the century, his loss seems all the more real when you think about all the memories associated with the tape itself.
The magnetic tape covered by a plastic covering has not only changed the way the world listens to music but has also changed the way we live our lives. From pushing the pen in the middle to turning the cassette with your finger, getting to the desired track is the work of love, before that love turns to intimacy with the Walkman invention. Even though Otten is not with us, there are many people who keep most of his discoveries very close to their hearts or as Freddie Mercury put it, ‘Someone still loves you.’
“It was ’83 or ’84 when I had a cassette containing a compilation of all my favorite songs. The cassette got stuck in our car cassette player, ”recalls veteran musician Bilal Maqsood. He kept trying to pull it off and it ended up breaking. That Mera Bichraa Yaar the singer then tries to save the situation by sticking the tape together with nail polish; a trick he tried for the first time. “And then when I played it again, I clearly remembered, there was a Paul Young song, Love of the Common People, I thought. So the song will play and crack in the middle because of the nail polish. That part of the broken footage was something that stuck with me. “
Actor-singer Khaled Anam from Peera Ho fame is indebted to Otten’s invention. It was a life changing experience for a generation of listeners who rely on LP (Long Play). “Bringing music became very easy for us and so did maintaining our own collection,” recalls Anam. Regarding his most prized cassette, Anam managed to lock it up after much deliberation. “It’s very difficult to name one valuable possession of the thousands of tapes I own. But this breed should be among the top ten. Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. It had their biggest hit and it was clear Paranoid inside it. This is the original from the 70s. “
Bilal Ali from Kashmir appears to have inherited his hearing from his parents. It was her father’s collection of tapes tucked away in a cupboard that set the tone for her listening experience. And it wasn’t until 1999 that the singer made her first personal purchase. “That’s when I understood how my father felt after buying the cassette,” Ali recalled. “The cassette is a Limp Bizkit album and maybe it was the first item I had that was made of plastic but it moved me emotionally. I wish I still had it on me. “
For the guitar genius Imam Hamdani who has collaborated with various artists, the most beloved cassette memory, like many others in his generation, belongs to Noori. “I don’t have any pictures, but I can tell you that the first cassette I bought was Noori’s Suno to mein hun jawan. I got it for Rs30 and I must have listened to it over a hundred times, basically from 11 to around 14 years of age, ”said Hamdani.
Abdul Rehman of Auj is a bad boy like him as a vocalist. He indulged his father’s experience by recording something irrelevant to the collection his father was so fond of. “My brother and I were not more than 10 years old when we found the recording option on my mother’s cassette player,” recalls Rehman quite fondly. “We took the cassette our parents wanted most and recorded it, I don’t even remember what song it was. Then when my dad played with it and found out what we had done, it was worse than when we tried to fill his cigarette with spices to “help him quit.” “
For the VJ turned cassette singer Dino is more like a personal investment that he will cherish for years to come. As a boy in his early teens, Dino would save up to buy a few albums together from the Off Beat music shop in Boat Basin, Karachi. “I remember buying Dangerous Michael Jackon, George Michael’s Listen Without Prejudice, and the PM Dawn album all at once,” said Dino.
“I think that’s how my obsession with tapes started and so much so that there was a point in my life where I had about 700-800 tapes but unfortunately they all disappeared when we moved house. So all I can say is, I have a lot of respect for Lou Otten for making so many memories possible for me. ”
As for Sounds of Kolachi frontman Ahsan Bari, his memory of the tape sticks to his love for Junoon. “I will listen to Junoon’s album Azaadi repeatedly, so much so that the tape stopped working. Then when will Junoon release it Parvaaz, I have told all the shop owners around me to notify me when the tapes arrive. “
To his dismay, a shop two to three kilometers from his home had received 30 of Junoon’s new tapes. “My friend called me at 7pm to tell me they were selling like hot cakes. So I took Rs20 from my mother and ran. When I came back and finally heard the tape, I couldn’t put into words how it tasted.”
As for Ali Gul Pir, if it weren’t for Lou Otten, where did he get the inspiration to become a rapper? “Our mother used to take us to a school 1.5 hours away from our house. So going back and forth is a journey of hours. It would be boring and our mother would listen to Indian songs. My brother has Discman but I have nothing. -what, “said the comedian and artist.
“So one day I got good grades and my mum bought me a Walkman. But only forward and not backward. The first CD I got – and it was also my first purchase of rap music – was Puff Daddy’s. There is no way out, which features the song It’s all about the Benjamins. Puff Daddy worked extensively with The Notorious BIG (Biggie) and The Commitment while making the album. And I love Biggie. I listened to it an hour and a half straight. It was the beginning of my love for rap music. I’ll then change sides of the tape because you can’t rewind. So I ended up using the cassette. I think I even spoiled it because I listened too much, “he concluded.
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