Today is the annual Vishwakarma puja.
The 2 bodies have undergone the finishing strokes : fine sanding, Danish oil treatment, parda making & setting, stringing and jiwari. And after assembling the hardware I could finally mount the pickups and electronics. A Kent Armstrong Slimbucker™ Jazz guitar pickup is on one of them, together with two black buttons : one for volume and one for tone control. The other sitar remains without a pickup. Thus leaving the option open to mount a customer’s desired type or combination.
This old Hiren Roy sitar, brought to me by Arnoud E. needs new pardas and some small repair work. Arnoud provided a full set of new pardas made by Hiren Roy Company, but some of them were made too short. Thus I decided to reuse a selection of the old pardas and fitted them at the end (the last 4, nearest to jiwari).
Also some body cleaning has been performed and together with new strings and fresh jiwari this sitar is ready for another life… finally almost a complete restoration.
Since the end of march 2009 I started constructing 2 new solid body sitars after the example of SBS-02. It is a tremendous improvement in time because plans are now available and I have a steady work experience.
Bodies and head are made from honduras mahogany leftovers. The neck is again made from african mahogany, but now stripped with two pieces of maple. And a piece of indian rosewood is glued on the head top.
This small instrumental tanpura has been damaged during transport from Calcutta to Belgium. Frederic tS. has bought it new at Hiren Roy and shipped it by air with Jet Airways. The parcel arrived in Belgium with a slight crack in the fiber case and the instrument itself was pretty damaged. The tabli and a small piece of the neck became loose over 70% of its contour. At the time of departure it was very hot in Calcutta, Frederic said but a newly made instrument from this famous instrument makers branch should be resistant to regular climatical circumstances as they occur very common in that region.
For me and you a unique occasion to discover the interior of such an instrument. The tabli is thin, measuring from 5 to 9mm, out to in and roughly cut with a round chisel. Also the back piece is cut very roughly and irregularly and is rather thin. At the tail a piece of bamboo is mounted and bamboo nails are used to fix the decoration again after the repair.
Just some pictures… (click to zoom)
German stringmaker Pyramid has made some special strings, suitable for “electric” (working with electro-magnetic pickup) full size sitars. They make brass wound polished strings for laraj & kharaj 0.55mm (.021) & 0.74mm (.030) and heavy kharaj 0.92mm (.036). And also brass coated steel wire ranging from 0.18mm (.007) to 0.38mm (.015), good for all other strings such as tarav, cikari, baj and jora tar.
I ‘ve ordered and tried the brass flatwounds for laraj & kharaj and brass coated steel wire for jora on my SAS-01 and SAS-02. The brass flatwounds sound very good, brilliant and accurate but a little more harsh than I am used with the bronze flatwounds from India. They are also not as flat as their bronze indian brothers. But the latter are very fragile. The bronze winding breaks easily while playing heavy meend. I don’t know (yet) how strong the pyramids are. The brass coated steel wire behaves quite similar to the full steel jora string. There is a noticeable improvement to the jora tar tuning problem but the overall sound volume remains the same. I had hoped that by using this brass coating the volume difference between baj and jora tar would become less. There is only a very small improvement. The only solution seems to be the fitting of a thinner jora string. Or, maybe someone can make me some bronze coated steel wire instead of brass coated ??
Another weirdie… to whom it may concern???…
… the Adapted Multichannel Sitar.
Specialized Multichannel pickups zither module, and resonator modification by Leo Knapp. Strumpad, keyboard, MIDI sliders, MIDI switches, and electronics constructed and installed by Graham Bruce.
To be seen on this site.
After more than one year of extensive and regular playing by my friend Chico, the ivory jiwari doesn’t show too much wear. This material is even much more resistant than horn!! Although it doesn’t feel as hard as horn, it is definitely much tougher.
Note that the jora string caused an almost bigger cut than the playing string…? (click on the photo to zoom in)
See the making of this unique billiard ball jiwari here.
Listen to Hans playing raga Bairagi at the entrance door of the shop.
It became a nice and realistic soundscape with live Paharganj streetnoise. For Hans it was the first time in months he touched a sitar. Considering this I think he is doing very well on a brandnew 24 parda sitar. The rich and warm sound and easy playability inspired him at once to improvise on Bairagi in the middle of the hectic New Delhi ambiance. Shame on us and sorry for you that we didn’t notice the laraj was a bit out of tune…
I arrived safe and well at Indira Gandhi Airport Terminal in New Delhi. Also my new SAS-02 in its solid stormcase came out unharmed. It was past midnight when we finally entered my dearest Hari Chand’s house in Dashrathpuri, so everybody went straight to bed…
The next morning I was very eager to show my instrument to my beloved friend and teacher. We started this project together in august 2003, while he was on a visit in my house in Bierbeek. At that time Hariji was an essential help to me in making the first solid body sitar SBS-01. This prototype has been tested by many of my sitar playing friends in Belgium, but Hari Chand never saw even this instrument completed. Immediately after this original and very promising experiment I started making plans for a series of new style sitars as can be seen on this blog (see tags SAS or SBS). In december 2008 this instruments trio was completed (see new style sitars).
Hari Chand was very impressed and uttermost pleased to finally see the result of my work. But, all this would never have been possible without his mastership and ever patient and precise teachings about this unique craftmanship to me. I will forever be grateful to him and his late brother Kartar Chand.
Soon Hariji’s young apprentice Rahul Gupta arrived in the shop and he played some nice tunes on the electric sitar during the noontime siësta. The Roland microCUBE -a very light and portable amp- is a fine companion to the Kent Armstrong Slimbucker™ Jazz guitar pickup. Rahul only had some minor problems getting used to the 24 pardas edition (“chromatic” as they say in India).
Later I visited S.Raj & Sanjeev Sharma at Raj Musicals, Rikhi Ram Sanjay Sharma and my good friend and N°1 jiwarimaster Kartar Chand Dhiman. They all examinated the SAS-02, thoroughly checking every parda on its position and meend playability but they could not detect any anomaly. Also the jiwari passed the serious tests. Most intriguing were the rather unusual selection of wood (walnut and mahogany), their finishing touch (danish oil) and the most accurate joints between the different parts. Minus points were noted to be the slight difference in weight and pure acoustic sound in comparison with a traditional sitar. But, it has never been my purpose to compete with a pure acoustic musical instrument. I only wanted to inspire the advanced and professional sitar players to a new world of sound.