Live from Mumbai
For six months of the year, Vidhi Salla, host of “Vidhi’s Bollywood Jukebox,“ produces her show for WVEW from her childhood home of Mumbai. The rest of the year, she does the show in Brattleboro.

Live from Mumbai

Brattleboro woman hosts music program for WVEW from her childhood home

BRATTLEBORO — Every Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m., the airwaves of WVEW are filled with the sounds and stories of Bollywood.

Vidhi Salla, host of “Vidhi's Bollywood Jukebox” on the nonprofit, community-supported radio station, takes an in-depth look at India's multi-million-dollar Hindi-language film industry.

The name “Bollywood” is a portmanteau of “Bombay” - the former name of the city of Mumbai, which is where the industry is based - and “Hollywood.”

Mumbai is also where Salla produces her show - at least for the colder half of the year. She and her husband, Joel Eisenkramer, split their time between Brattleboro, his childhood home, and Mumbai, hers.

“Vidhi's Bollywood Jukebox” is a first for Salla and for WVEW. Before the show's first broadcast, Salla had never hosted a radio program.

And nearly all of the programming at WVEW throughout its 13-year history has been produced locally, with the exception of a handful of nationally syndicated shows.

For regular listeners, and those well-versed in the appeal of low-power FM (LPFM) radio, that's no surprise.

In an era of massive media consolidation and as a medium that requires a high financial barrier to entry, LPFM is one of the only avenues for local radio programming by and for people living in a particular area.

As of 2016, more than 1,500 stations in the country operate under the LPFM license, which requires that stations air only educational and non-commercial content.

When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began offering LPFM licenses nearly 20 years ago, it opened the airwaves to hundreds of schools, churches, and nonprofit community groups, like Vermont Earth Works, WVEW's parent organization.

Brattleboro got WVEW, its own licensed LPFM station, in 2006. Since then, it has provided hundreds of people and groups access to the airwaves.

Currently, WVEW's schedule includes approximately 40 hosts providing a wide variety of programming, including local, regional, and national news and topics of political and economic interest, songs and stories for children, religious shows, interviews with artists, sports talk, many genres of music, and more.

Other than a handful of nationally syndicated shows, like “Democracy Now! and “This Way Out,” and two local programs recorded in nearby towns, all of WVEW's shows originate from the station's studios, on the seventh floor of the Hooker-Dunham Building on Main Street.

Except “Vidhi's Bollywood Jukebox.” It comes from 7,500 miles away.

'Out of the ordinary for Vermont'

A few years ago, Eisenkramer gave Salla the gift of a yearly membership to WVEW, which granted her the ability to host a show. Eisenkramer formerly hosted his own show at the station and has been involved in community radio since he was a sixth-grader at The Neighborhood Schoolhouse.

Soon after “Vidhi's Bollywood Jukebox” debuted on WVEW, it quickly garnered faithful and enthusiastic listeners.

“[A] few weeks into my show, I had regular callers who phoned pretty much every time I went on air to tell me they're listening to the program and really enjoying it,” said Salla.

“A female caller complimented me on the show I did about female directors during the peak of the feminist #MeToo movement,” she added.

“I knew I was doing something completely different and playing music that's out of the ordinary for Vermont (to the best of my knowledge). So I had zero expectations. By and by, people started connecting with my passion for cinema. Some liked my commentary, some liked the music,” said Salla.

“Numerous listeners and WVEW DJs have remarked on how much they love Vidhi's show,” WVEW Board President Daniel Quipp told The Commons.

“They appreciate the stories and context about the music that Vidhi provides and people love the chance to explore a musical genre that is seldom heard on the airwaves in this part of the country,” Quipp added.

Salla noted how easy it was to get a show. “Within a week of signing up and meeting Daniel Quipp for training, I was already on air!” she said.

But with Salla and Eisenkramer living during the winter in Mumbai, where she is a writer and he is a touring classical Indian musician, “Vidhi's Bollywood Jukebox” went off the air for half of the year.

Until late December, by which time Salla had rigged up a home studio and began sending her prerecorded shows, via the internet, to WVEW.

Once the show is recorded, Salla emails the file to Quipp, who uploads it to WVEW's automated system for broadcast on Thursday afternoons.

The automated system, Quipp noted, is a program called Megaseg, which steps in when there's no live DJ in the studio.

The software plays music - “a WVEW DJ-assembled grab bag of alternative sounds” - and airs pre-recorded and syndicated shows, and the station ID, at the appropriate time.

“When Vidhi left to return to India this fall many of our listeners were disappointed,” said Quipp, “so we're really glad that she's been able to continue making the show each week and we feel really privileged to be broadcasting it.”

This move allowed Salla to broadcast her popular show year-round. And, thanks to her base in Mumbai, her work in theater and film journalism, and her friendship and connections in the industry, she is able to conduct on-air interviews with performers and producers working in Bollywood.

When “Vidhi's Bollywood Jukebox” airs on WVEW on Thursday afternoons, it's about 2 a.m. In Mumbai.

Because Salla is not doing this live, she set up an email address ([email protected]); a website (, where all episodes are available on demand; and an Instagram account (Vidhisjukebox) - all for her listeners, from whom Salla wants to hear.

'Such an intrinsic part of the Indian culture'

For Salla, Bollywood has been a lifelong love.

“I've grown up listening to Bollywood music because of my father who's a huge fan. Gradually, I came across trivia and anecdotes that are now a part of my memory,” Salla said.

“I'm always curious to find out background anecdotes” about Bollywood films, said Salla, especially “stories about the making of cult classics or my favorite films or iconic songs that have stood the test of time.”

She says she “often reads biographies of famous Bollywood celebrities. An all-time favorite is the autobiography of actor Naseeruddin Shah. He's an excellent writer apart from being a brilliant actor.”

“My most fond memories are as a kid listening to film songs that played on the radio on Sunday mornings and school holidays,” said Salla.

“Also, our dad took us out for movies very often,” she said. “Even during our examinations he'd say, 'If you've finished revising the syllabus, let's go for a movie. Your mind will be refreshed.'”

One of Salla's fondest WVEW-specific memories is when her dad, mom, and brother joined her on the air in Brattleboro, during their visit from India.

Salla and her family played - and sang - their favorite Bollywood songs, and reminisced about movies they watched together, and shared facts about the films, directors, musicians, and actors.

“That was so incredibly special!” said Salla.

“The two hours when I'm inside the studios doing my show are extremely enjoyable. Sometimes I'm even dancing in the radio station when a fun song is playing,” Salla said.

“Vidhi's show is unique for our part of the world,” said Quipp, who added, “Being able to listen to two hours of thoughtfully selected music from another culture every single week is a real joy. Her knowledge of the stories behind the music and movies also adds to the experience.”

“I love this music, but moreover, I love how it's such an intrinsic part of the Indian culture. Bollywood has shaped many people's lives. People from small towns and rural areas of India come to Mumbai with their starry dreams. This is the place where all those dreams get realized,” said Salla.

And the music of Bollywood, she said, “over the years has absorbed all sorts of influences from around the world. There's big band, swing, rock and roll, disco, funk, dubsmash, EDM.”

All of this, she noted, is fused with Indian music.

“It doesn't get any more global than this,” Salla said.

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