Sung by Uma Pocha, the tune travelled to Sri Lanka and beyond, serving as a reminder that it’s impossible to predict how sounds travel. In this case, Radio Ceylon played a big part.
In the 1960’s, Ceylon, as the country was then called, was very familiar with latest Hindi film hits. The Indian government had banished film music from All India Radio only a few years after Independence, so Radio Ceylon, left with several powerful transmitters set up by the British for wartime broadcasts during WWII, saw an opportunity to draw in advertising revenue. In 1952, for instance, it started the Binaca Geetmala countdown of Hindi film hits, a show that it continued to broadcast until 1994. Bombay Meri Hai, which was broadcast frequently on Radio Ceylon’s pop programmes, had a great advantage. The dholak-propelled rhythm is remarkably similar to the beat that enlivens the baila songs that Sri Lankans love, so it wasn’t surprising that they adopted Bombay Meri Hai with such a passion.
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