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Tchad Blake on the Ahuja by Stephen Murray
{copyright 2000 Stephen Murray}

Tell me about the Ahuja.
It's Indian. I went to India in '92 and heard all kinds of sounds, day and night: music, people talking through these PAs in their homes, or in their stand-alone rooms. They're small temples, really, and there will be a PA horn on top of it. Sometimes it will be a priest and he's reciting letters to God. Sometimes they'll start playing this music at 5:30 in the morning, chants to wake up the gods. And it's really loud. You can hear it, literally, half a mile away.

So the Ahuja is the sort of PA system that they use?
Yeah. I heard it on that trip. On this one night in Jaipur, must have been about midnight, I heard a PA getting cranked up. And then another one with music. So there's a guy chanting and music. And then I hear some more music with harmonium and little finger bells and violin. And I'm thinking, "This is wild." So I got up and went for a walk and I found that it wasn't coming from anything close. I ended up walking many blocks discovering different uses of the systems as I went. A private wedding, a man in one of these little temples reading ecstatically - he must have been at 110 dBs. Then I got to this house and a man came out and greeted me and invited me in. I went up to the top floor and the whole family was up there with these big [PA] horns pointing out into the city, and, like, six mics pointed at different members of the family. Someone jumped up and gave me a pair of finger cymbals. I sat down and I ended up playing until dawn. When I left they were still going.

So they've got spontaneous personal broadcasts going?
Yeah, right. Well, you get the picture. I had to have one. So just before I left I went back to New Delhi. I told the guy I wanted the best one and he said it was the Ahuja, and I bought a whole system. And it's made its way onto almost every record I've made since then in some way. Something - the guitar, vocals.

So do you send the signal back out through the board and into the Ahuja for re-recording?
Yeah, or just directly through it. I really like using it as an amp. But I do use it a lot in mixing. I think one of my favorite sounds that I've gotten was the first thing I used it on. When I came back from India, I came back directly to New York to do Suzanne Vega's 99.9F. and had it with me. And we used it on the title track. Her background vocals are going live through the Ahuja - with an Ahuja analog delay.

It sounds like your attraction to it is based on both the unit's sonic properties and the experience that introduced you to it.
More the experience, actually. If you bought a PA here with a horn, it's probably going to sound pretty much the same. But the experience of hearing it 5 times a day was mesmerizing. I've got hours of recordings of stuff through those PAs.

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