The harmonium king, of Queens

It isn’t every day you hear a harmonium on the radio. So check this out from Wednesday’s The World, from PRI:

Mindra Sahadeo shares an apartment in the Richmond Hills neighborhood of Queens, New York, with his mother, sister and a rotating cast of about a dozen harmoniums.

Several of the instruments packed inside thick aluminum cases and piled inside the front door. More are stacked up in the living room, which doubles as Sahadeo’s repair shop. The word is out about Sahadeo’s harmonium workshop, and there’s a steady stream of hobbyists, yoga instructors, and professional musicians dropping off instruments for him to fix.

Sonny Singh, a member of the band Red Baraat, was relieved to learn about Sahadeo’s services when Singh faced a crisis with his own harmonium. I’d actually never seen a harmonium up close, so Sahadeo opened up one that he designed with a friend in Calcutta. Its body is a deep brown teak, with floral carving around a silver nameplate.

Music, of course, fills the apartment. When I got there, Sahadeo’s sister Nanda was in her room practicing. After we talked for a while — and, full disclosure, their mom fed me some pretty amazing Indian food — she and Sahadeo play a bit.


“Harmoniums for us are like sacred,” Sahadeo says. “It’s part of us, our culture and tradition and everything. I saw some harmoniums that came here — terrible, terrible condition. I always tell them, ‘Please, I’m gonna fix it and everything, but please, can you just, a little bit of care.’”

You of course should be able to hear one tomorrow, as part of a Hanuman Chalisa for Hanuman Jayanti.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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