Jahn Oraha’s movements alternate between quick and slow, but always precise. Tools and parts are snatched rapidly. The electronic device he’s repairing is handled like a newborn.
Jahn Oraha, an Iraq native and Little Rock, Ark. resident for 30 years, moved to Dickson a few years ago and opened Sound Stage Electronics. Oraha has quickly gained a reputation for ability to repair anything. Chris Gadd/The Herald
“Looky here. Pretty, pretty,” said Oraha recently, while dusting off a diagram on the inside of a 60-year-old German radio. The drawing laid out the guts of the radio which Oraha repaired that same day.
Other vintage electronic devices – usually music-related – are in Oraha’s business space, Sound Stage Electronics, tucked away in the back of the Radio Shack shopping strip on Mathis Drive in Dickson. Some like the 90s-era, CD-playing juke boxes, are fixed. Others, like the early 1900s Columbia “Grafanola” record player will take many hours of work.
Oraha was proud to show off the 4-foot-tall Columbia and Sonora phonographs, but also noted they were both a “mess.” However, that description has never stopped the Iraq-born Oraha before.
Wyatt Harper, Sr., of Dickson, calls Oraha “a Dickson treasure.” Oraha rents the space from Harper, but the landlord’s enthusiasm for Oraha isn’t about the monthly lease payment. Harper said “it’s a joy to see him working” and “fix things that no one else can fix.”
“How many people do you know who love their craft like that?” Harper said.
Oraha learned the foundation of his skills at a trade school in Iraq. A few years later, in 1978, Oraha would join his brother, George, in Little Rock, Arkansas. But not before the two siblings played in a “soft rock” band in the late 60s and early 70s in Iraq. Oraha was the drummer while George played guitar.
Upon arriving in Little Rock, Oraha began work at Sanford TV, an appliance and repair shop. He worked there until 1990 when he took an electronics repair job at Montgomery Ward where he stayed until 2000 when the company closed nationwide. Oraha continued using his electronics expertise at an appliance rental store until starting his own business in 2008. As in Dickson today, Oraha relied largely on word of mouth as customers talked about the guy who could “repair everything.”
In 2012, while on a weekend trip, met Paula Donegan, a Dickson native.
The two became friends and that friendship, coupled with the close proximity to Nashville musicians, were the only reasons Oraha needed to uproot from his home of the past 30 years, Little Rock, and move to Middle Tennessee. He has since settled into his Dickson life, finding friends like the Harpers who he’s joined for Sunday church.
Oraha set up shop in the Preston Thompson shopping center on Henslee Drive and word spread.
“You fix one musician’s amplifier and he goes play and he tells his buddies and friends,” said Oraha.
In his cozy work space, with his flip cell phone situated next to small drawers of smaller electronic parts, Oraha stands next to a table of tools, most of which are decades old.
Using those implements and repurposed parts, Oraha does more than repair. He also creates. Recently, he constructed a motion controlled “Pedaless” sound control device. The instrument resembles a pedal but inside is actually a motion sensor that determines the sound effect: Wa Wa, distortion, volume control and more.
The repairs of electronic heirlooms can also be emotional. Oraha said a woman brought in her grandfather’s decades-old radio he used to listen to. She wanted to repair it for a Christmas gift.
Returning to his shop for the restored radio, she could hardly believe the result.
“Is that grandfather’s radio? I said, Yes, it is,’” Oraha said.
“’Oh my God. My grandpa be very happy,’” added Oraha, quoting his customer.
Oraha doesn’t just fix the electronic components, he takes extra steps in actually cleaning the equipment and seeking out the replacement pieces that may or may not play a part in the actual function of the device.
“I have to clean it. I have to make it shiny, just like grandpa and grandma used to listen to,” Oraha said, looking at the two phonographs that qualify as furniture. “So they can play Dean Martin music. Delicate, delicate job. Has to be done exactly right.”