Photo report of a Kanailal & Brother surbahar kuti repair.
The main kutis of this surbahar are very specific. The surface is smooth and only cut with a saw. Original Kanailal replacement kutis are hard to find. When it is broken, repair is the most obvious solution. In this case it affects a cikari kuti. Note the peculiar position on the neck: it is mounted between the first and second tarav kuti.
Kutis are made out of sheesham (sissam) wood. This is a variety of Indian rosewood (Dalbergia sisso) which grows in the Himalayan foothills to Central and South India. Surbahar kutis are rather long. I used a 18cms long piece for this work.
1. Start with looking for a suitable piece of wood. 2. Cut the ball with a saw, sand the surface smoothly and mark the center precisely. 3. Drill a hole exactly in the center. (8mm diameter)
4. Make this hole square with a chisel. 5. Make one end of the piece of wood square as well (8x8mm) and make it fit exactly into the ball. 6. Apply wood glue and lock it into a clamp. Give sufficient time to completely dry out. (24hrs min.)
7. Remove the clamp and start making the shaft round. 8. Finish the joint and make the kuti fit nicely into the instruments neck. 9. Apply some new lacquer (Shellac) over the joint and fix the original deco pin on top.
This very impressive new Rudra Veena came to my workshop for initial setting and jawari. It is now owned by Fabio T., a very enthousiastic ICM adept and young italian filmmaker. This is one of the last rudra veenas made by maestro Murari Mohan Adhikari, the last representative of Kanailal and Brother, worldfamous Calcutta based musical instrument makers. It was originally ordered by late Asad Ali Khan and, although the instrument is already a couple of years old, it has never been played.
The first thing to do was a proper string setting. I noted that all the strings were mounted very high above the first parda’s position (lowest notes). It was just impossible to play MA tivra from the first fret. The baj tar had to be lowered by approx. 1.5mm on the tar daan to be able to reach the MA tivra correctly. After that, all the pardas were adjusted to their new and correct position on the neck. Adjustments needed for proper intonation to the SA & PA tar & kharaj were only very few.
The jawari work took almost 8 hours to complete. The original jawari surface was shaped only very roughly. Not a single string had a useful initial sound. Only heavy rattle and clatter came out. But I started to file, scrape and sand, string by string, slowly and steadily and finally realised a smooth and open sound with a stable and long sustain on each note. The only problem I encountered was on the kharaj tar. This 0.92mm plain bronze wire seems to be too stiff to be able to make a proper progressive contact with the jawari’s surface. This problem sometimes occurs on surbahars and sitars with a somewhat heavy kharaj as well. So I adopted their solution: change the original and ancient plain bronze heavy wire into a modern fine and flexible flatwound bronze on steel string. The result is amazing: A very deep, nicely round and fully evolving open sound with virtually endless sustain. Om Namah Shivaya…
Technical info on strings & tuning according to Asad Ali Khan style:
Cikari’s: steel 0,30mm (N°3) & 0.25 (N°1) tuned to G#3 (SA) & G#4 (SA)
Baj tar: steel 0,40mm (N°6) tuned to C#2 (MA)
SA tar: bronze 0,56mm (N°24) tuned to G#2 (SA)
PA tar: bronze 0,72mm (N°22) tuned to D#2 (PA)
Kharaj: flatwound bronze 0,92mm (N°20) tuned to G#1 (SA)
Laraj: bronze 0,56mm (N°24) tuned to G#2 (SA)