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)
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…
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 ??