Music

Meagan Pandian: Weaving Hands

Meagan Pandian in a white dress holding a harp
Photos: Ajay Singh of HillCast Studios

Described as India’s first and currently only pedal harp player, Mumbai’s Meagan (Meagan Chrines Alphonso) Pandian began playing the keyboard in church and also sang in the children’s choir. As a 7-year-old, Meagan had no idea that people still played the harp until she watched Greg Buchanan play Amazing Grace.

The Aldona-born Goan, who also plays the piano, violin and viola, has worked alongside some really great musicians like A.R. Rahman, Pritam, Shankar Mahadevan, Stephen Devassy and Sameera Koppikar, with her first harp performances being part of the Arijit Singh symphony concert series where she performed all over India and abroad. She has also performed with the Bombay Chamber Orchestra, the South Asian Symphony and the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic from the Czech Republic. In August, she performed at the Museum of Christian Art in Old Goa and at the Independence Day Harp Concert at Alliance Française in Panaji. Besides numerous corporate events and private shows, Meagan recently performed at the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa 2023 with Ranita Banerjee. She recently completed a four-city, six-concert tour launching the latest ESUV for Mercedes Benz playing alongside cellist Lavine Da Costa.

VERUS FERREIRA spoke with Meagan to know more about the harp and her musical journey.

Tell us something about your growing up days and how you got into playing the harp.
I once saw Greg Buchanan play Amazing Grace on the harp on the Billy Graham crusade on TV as a 7-year-old. In those moments, my feet didn’t touch the floor. The memory of his performance stayed with me. Since it is not possible to get a harp or even a harp string here in any music store, far from learning the instrument, I never even conceived of myself as being able to play the instrument.

In Nice, France, many years later on a scholarship for piano in 2013, I was at a multi-instrument summer school. There were students trolleying around their harps, getting harp lessons and even giving tea recitals in the canteen area. Even as a musician, it had never occurred to me that this was a possibility on the harp. I looked up the list of harp students at the summer school hoping I would find someone from India there. But, to my dismay, there were none. Now at 22, it dawned on me that I had kept this impossible dream just a dream for the last 15 years. I realized it was now or never. I came back to India after summer school and started researching how I could import a small harp online. I could not afford even a small 22 string harp. Harps, to my astonishment, can be very expensive going up to even 36 lakh rupees! Add to that the cost of transportation, the 35% import duty and 18% GST taxation that the Indian government levies on imported music instruments and you are left with an insurmountable figure.

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Verus Ferreira is a music journalist for over three decades. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book and the founder of Musicunplugged.in

Verus Ferreira

Verus Ferreira is a music journalist for over three decades. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book and the founder of Musicunplugged.in