Memories of the Cassette Era

For many years, radio sets were considered to be a household must haves in many homes. These were used to listen to radios stations like Radio Uganda through the Amplitude Medium (AM), Short Wave (SW) and Medium Wave (MW) before the coming of Frequency Moderation (FM) stations. However, there is one thing that made a radio set stand out from others; and that is the CASSETTE part. It wasn’t easy for someone to own a radio box with a cassette that enabled playing of tapes. To some extent, a family with a cassette was considered to be a well off.
Even if many people had access to them, the cassette functionality was rarely used. It came to use mainly on Sundays and other holy days like Easter and Christmas days. This was because its battery consumption was high compared to listening to a radio station. The whole family plus neighbours in some cases (especially those who didn’t have their own) would converge below a tree shade and listen to their favorite songs like Ssekukkulu by the late Philly Bongole Lutaaya playing.
The cassette was given a lot of respect to the extent that in most cases if not all, it was only the head of the family i.e. father who had permission to operate the ‘machine’. His absence from home meant the radio had to be put to rest until when he comes back. My grandmother used to keep hers wrapped in a black polythene bag and every time you landed eyes on it, you would think she just bought it yesterday.
As time went on, my sister managed to get one but it was a real war if she found you using it without her permission. This led us to listening to it in ‘whisper’ or simply low volume. I still remember the first tape she bought was Funtula which would play from morning till evening at the shop we used to own. Later, lots of tapes or albums were bought especially for school choirs like King’s College Buddo and St. Balikuddembe.
Some of the common instances I remember are the rewinding or forwarding bit. We usually had pens which we would stick in the tape holes and roll around up to the desired point. This could be as a result of the buttons’ failure to do so. When the tape string broke, we would get cell tape and join it again. This meant that part had to be skipped when playing. I remember one day when I mistaken the record button for a play button! That story is for another day…
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