This time I returned from India with rather mixed feelings. My best friend, and sitarmaker – teacher Hari Chand is seriously considering to get retired. He is now nearly 77 years old and suffers from pain in his hands, his knees and other joints. The daily trip from his house in Dashrathpuri (near Dwarka sector) to the shop in Paharganj (easiliy 1 -1,5 hrs one way) takes more and more of his spare energy.
He’s built his last complete sitar in 2008. Since then he is slowing down and reducing his daily work. He was still doing some setting and assembling work on selected and checked Calcutta prefab sitarbodies but also this came to an end. Now only some basic sitar repair work remained. Also the frequency of his visits to his shop decreased to only a few days a week. Arriving in his shop sometimes at 11:00hrs only, the working day often doesn’t last long. From 16:00 / 17:00 hrs onwards he is getting ready to return back home. The visit to his shop becomes almost a time-pass picnic only…
The flourishing days of Kartar Chand & Hari Chand are now long gone. Both brothers were very dedicated in making first quality professional sitars and they are famous for their unrivalled repair work. They are very closely related to the other world famous New Delhis sitarmakers family Rikhi Ram. Late Kartar Chand Sharma has been learning the skill from his uncle Rikhi Ram Sharma and Sher Mohammad in Lahore, 1943.
Ever seen these low, rigid and robuste wooden tables with a vice ?
It’s a clever and easy idea… to provide your universal bench vice with a stable and ergonomic base. It makes this handy basic tool so much more versatile. It’s a very useful tool for lots of sitar (and other -) work. A no-miss for jiwari work (!!), parda making and mizrab making. Over-all convenient for general wood work – cutting / sawing / drilling / glue-clamp. Although in India hands as well as feet are trained to perform together in sitar making, this always available, never tired and always strong helping hand will become surely your daily friend.
This photo: Hari Chand on my workbench, Bierbeek 2000. Photo by Shivoham.
I’ve added a simple and illustrated “how to build” guideline to Maintenance / Tools – page. Or click here.
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.