Home General Chaman Lal Chaman obituary | Television & radio

Chaman Lal Chaman obituary | Television & radio

by kenya-tribune

My friend Chaman Lal Chaman, who has died aged 85, was a television and radio presenter whose face and voice were well known to the Punjabi-speaking community in the UK. He was also a poet and published two collections of poetry in Punjabi.

Born in the village of Partapura, near Jalandhar, in eastern Punjab, before the partition of India, to Harbans Lal Pun, a clerk, and his wife, Hanso Devi (nee Sirpal), he attended Anglo Sanskrit high school in Rurka.

In 1952, he sailed to Nairobi, Kenya, to join his father, who had gone there to make a better life, and began working in the post office. In 1959 Chaman got a job as a full-time radio and TV presenter and newsreader for the Voice of Kenya, the national broadcaster.

By 1971 he was its head of radio operations, covering programmes in 14 languages including English, Kiswahili, Punjabi and Hindustani. He took a keen interest in the cultural activities of the Asian community in the country, in particular music, dance, poetry and plays at the Kenya National Theatre.

In the 1950s the Indian community in East Africa, mainly of Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus from undivided Punjab, lived a harmonious life with a total population of 177,000. Chaman, a Hindu Punjabi, was introduced to a circle of poets and political activists by my father, Gopal Singh, a Sikh communist trade unionist and photographer. Chaman joined the group, reading poetry at public functions including religious events in Sikh gurdwaras, Hindu mandirs (both places of worship) and Muslim community venues.

In 1974 Chaman moved to London and worked for the BBC World Service (Hindi and Urdu), BBC One’s Asian Magazine, Radio 4’s Make Yourself at Home and on LBC. For a while he also worked with EMI (London) in charge of its Asian music repertoire. He was ethnic arts adviser in the London borough of Hounslow from 1990 until 2000.

After retiring in 2000, he worked with two popular Punjabi community radio stations, Sunrise, based in Southall, and Panjab Radio in Hayes.

Some of Chaman’s poems were set to music and recorded by the singer and composer Jagjit Singh and his wife, the singer Chitra Singh. Some of these songs appeared in films, becoming hits in India: Balle Balle (Bravo Bravo) in Bride and Prejudice (2004), directed by Gurinder Chadha, and Maula in Vaada (2005), directed by Satish Kaushik.

Chaman donated his sound recordings to the British Library in 2005, including rare interviews with Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian prime minister, just after the Chinese attack on India in 1962; with the actors Sunil Dutt, Pran, Raj Kumar and Dilip Kumar; and with the tabla maestro Alla Rakha.

Chaman is survived by his wife, Pushpa (nee Madār), whom he married in 1957, and two sons, a daughter and five grandchildren.

You may also like