The longest-running Indian-music program in the country has a home right here in Pittsburgh. Music From India has aired weekly on 90.5 WESA for 45 years. Each Sunday from 8-10 p.m., you can hear a mix of tunes from the golden age of Indian music (1950s through the 1970s), classical Indian and modern Indian music. The program also delves into the many subgenres of the Indian-music world.
The co-hosts of Music From India are volunteers who lend their music collections each week to make the show happen. Harish Saluja, the host from the show’s very beginning, is a filmmaker, artist and the founder of the Silk Screen Film Festival. Vijay Bahl, Saluja’s co-host for 40 years, is a clinical professor in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Medicine, and an expert endocrinologist.
When Bahl comes in to record his part of the show, he brings a small bag of CDs. Saluja has converted his music collection and the songs he wishes to play into digital files on a USB. Both listen to music in the car and keep notes about what they’d like to play on the next show.
Bahl is usually in charge of bringing in the new music.
“Luckily for me, he has to deal with the crap music,” Saluja jokes.
“Sometimes it turns out to be pretty good! You just have to sample a lot,” says Bahl, laughing.
In 45 years of Music From India, not a single show has been missed. This perfect attendance is a stunning feat, but perhaps more impressive is how many of those shows were lovingly recorded by listeners and kept for future listening.
Asked how much longer they plan to do the show, Saluja turns to Bahl and asks, “How long are you going to live?”
“The future of America is in opening doors as opposed to building walls and excluding other cultures, and one of the ways to get to know another culture is to listen to the music,” explains Saluja. “We are both committed to promoting our culture through this program. Here are the dances, music, movies that are available. Maybe it’ll enhance your life. We look at it as a public service.”