I’ve added a page to Sitar Making Links about this beautiful and unique sitar made by Alan Arthur Suits. He has sent me some pictures and info about the construction of this sitar. Click here.
Alan writes on his website:
“The sitar was built to concert level quality, using the highest grade materials and craftsmanship. The body is a natural gourd as is the top tumba (gourd resonator). The main body is Spanish cedar (virtually identical to Himalayan cedar or Tun wood). All the ornaments are real ivory recycled from 70 year old piano keys. The bridges are African blackwood, a species of rosewood, one of the hardest known woods and considerably harder than ebony, with rosewood feet. The pegs are turned of Bolivian rosewood.”
“The sitar plays with excellent action and has a truly superb tone with great overtones, sympathetic response, and a Nikhil Banerjee style jawari. It will fit in standard fiberglass sitar cases.”
Old Naskar so called “teak sitar…??” turns out to be a regular tun sitar. This sitar has been repaired from a loose joint and twisted neck. Also the tabli has been lowered and the neck has been finished in an open pore look with 6 layers of Danish oil. Almost full restoration… see pics after:
This sitar was made in the “Sher Mohammad & Sons Sitar Makers”- shop in Bansanwala Bazaar, Lahore 1940 – 1950 by early sitarmaker Sher Mohammed. At that time, before the Partition, he taught sitar making to, amongst others, Rikhi Ram Sharma and Kartar Chand Sharma. At Partition time, both Rikhi Ram Sharma and Kartar Chand Sharma left Lahore and headed for Delhi where they both settled their own sitar shop (only 800 m. away from each other). Rikhi Ram’s shop became world famous due to Ravi Shankar and the Beatles. Kartar Chand, joined by his younger brother Hari Chand, remained low profile and continued making high quality professional sitars at Paharganj. They developed their own style of sitars and got specialised in repair work. Amongst their main customers was late Pt. Balaram Pathak, and his son Ashok Pathak. In januari 1993 Kartar Chand passed away, and thus leaving the shop to his brother Hari Chand.
This unknown sitar suffers from a loose joint. The playing string came to almost 18 mm above the last parda. In normal conditions this distance should count only 8 – 11 mm.
The reason why the joint became loose is not determined, but most probably “a small accident” during transport has occured the owner said. Anyway, there is a noticeable crack in the joint…
Since this sitar suffers from more than this (cheap wood quality, a bended neck, and also a deformed tabli is there) and the budget is very limited, I agreed to give it a rather easy and cheap repair: cyano-acrylate glue, penetrated into the loose joint parts, reinforced with a metal locker plate. I saw this before on other “fast & easy repaired sitars” in India. Although it doesn’t look good, it worked out to be very efficient.
In other conditions, the better way of repairing this is described in the Repair section.
Adding an extra cikari string to this old Kartar Chand surbahar to meet the Balaram Pathak Garana style requirements.
No new cikari kuti will be installed because of the surbahar neck construction. The imposant surbahar’s head is jointed to the neck. Therefore it is not obvious to drill an extra hole through this construction. But the solution is very simple: The first tarav kuti becomes the last cikari kuti. Since this kuti can hold every kind of string, there is no need for creating another new cikari kuti. I simply removed the first tarav string, drilled a hole in the outer kuti’s region and mounted the last cikari string to it. Optionally, later, i can always install an extra tarav kuti on the utter last position to regain the original tarav strings number.
On this instrument we have been re-directing the first (SA) cikari string under the patri. This results in an increased playing comfort concerning the Laraj Kharaj strings: no more incidental touching of the first cikari string while playing meend on the Laraj Kharaj strings.
This mod is then completed by adding an extra cikari slide on the jiwari, re-organising the cikari slide positions on the jiwari, adding an extra cikari pin and finally installing the strings itself.
The cikaris tuning is according to the raga specifications, but combinations like f.ex. Sa Dha Pa Pa do sound very nice.
Also on this surbahar, i mounted a new Kharaj string from German’s famous string maker Pyramid Strings. It is a nickel flatwound on steel .046w (1.22mm diameter). Superb string. Unheard long and deep sustain while playing meend, unrivalled tuning-stable, very soft and warm, deep bass sound. A real joy for player and listener…
On a special demand from a young and dedicated Ashok Pathak sishya I’ve been adding an extra cikari string to his Rikhi Ram sitar in order to meet the Pathak Garana style specifications.
Here is the workflow: 1) Selecting and preparing a new kuti. 2) Marking and drilling the holes. 3) Fine tuning and fitting the new kuti. 4) Re-organising the existing cikari string positions and adding an extra cikari string slide on the jiwari.
5) Making and installing a new cikari pin which can hold 2 cikari strings. 6) Installing the string.
The general 4 cikari tuning is Pa Sa Sa Sa, but this can alter according to the raga you’ll play.
This early 70’s original Kartar Chand sitar just left the restoration booth. Complete body check-up and new polish has been done by late Kartar’s brother Hari Chand in New Delhi in march 2009 while I was there on a visit. The celluloid mother of pearl imitation parda lanes have been renewed. My part of the job was to refurbish the original pardas and fit them again on the new lanes. I also made and fit new stagghorn jiwaris for main strings and taravs. The original tuning pegs were used again but some taravkuti-holes needed a new bushing.
Note the very fine finger grips on these taravkutis and also the remarkable cherry-round tumba-shape which is very typical on all Kartar Chand’s sitars.
This sitar sounds amazingly bright and has a vivid tarav response. The meends play very easy and the instrument is very light-weighted.
This ravishing red sitar was made by dearest friend Hari Chand for my lovely wife Tine in 1995. The pictures were recently made by Luc De Gezelle.
The sitar is fully decorated with a discreet hidden om sign in the upper celluloid plate design. There are 12 taravs and 21 vanadium chrome plated pardas. All 3 jiwaris are made out of stagg horn and there is one extra cikari installed. Hari Chand has been working almost one month to complete this unique and beautiful sitar. It is one of the last sitars of this kind, 100% handmade by the master himself.
Watch this video from Mr Simonggill about present-day sitar making in Calcutta. Here the real work is done…!! These small factories almost cover the worldwide production of sitars. They produce prefab sitarbodies for all well-known sitar makers such as both Rikhi Ram’s, Hiren Roy, Srishty Musical, RA Sitarmaker, Hari Chand, Raj Musicals, Kartar Chand Dhiman, etc… Far gone are the old times…!!!
The music is from Ustad Vilayat Khan: Raag Hameer.