Early 1970, Michel Dumont (Canadian actor and artistic director for the Théâtre Jean-Duceppe in Montreal) together with his wife Martine Mergeay (journalist and music reviewer at La Libre Belgique, Le Vif/L’Express and Musiq3) went to India to explore and learn about Indian Classical Music. They meet Ravi Shankar and purchase a sitar at the Rikhi Ram shop in New Delhi. They stay one year in Benares and face a profound study about raga in instrumental (Michel) as well as in vocal (Martine) techniques.
Last year (2020) unfortunately Michel passed away after suffering a long disease. His sitar remains alone…
It finally arrives on my table. It has clearly not been played on for a long time. The strings and pardas are rusted and there is a lot of dust on the body. The lacquer on the soundboard has been severely cracked and there is a dull and matte appearance to the whole instrument. The decorations are faded out.
Then I quickly started to remove all the worn parts and the pardas. The lacquer was well sanded and given a new layer of varnish. The decorations were then carefully and neatly scraped off. Then I cleaned and polished all the pardas and put them back on with new orange wires. The tuning pegs, too, were given a thorough cleaning and were given a good layer of fresh chalk. The original label was missing, so I copied it by hand as was common in those days. The sitar is also getting a new stagghorn jawari and, of course, new strings. This extraordinary sitar is now ready for a new life…
And it is one of the best-sounding sitars I have ever held in my hands. The tarav response is exceptional and the tone is particularly well balanced. It is made of exquisite teak wood in an era when a new instrument was still built with great care and of course, by one of the most passionate and experienced builders in India…
Good news for the thousands of “tourist”-grade cheap and crappy sitars, bought in India by trusting tourists eager for buying a “real” sitar as a souvenir. For many of them there is life after years of exile to the attic: the sitanpura is born!
I turned this old innocent banished beauty into a real full-fledged 5-string tanpura. And, it is also very flexible because it can be quickly converted into a regular 4-string tanpura. You only have to remove 1 string and put the remaining ones into another slot. You’re done…
Only one skill remains: jawari. Making the ghodi, installing it on the tabli, adjusting the angle and “doing jawari”. But also this can be learned by doing… with patience and persistance…
Sound sample:PlayPA-ni-sa-sa-SA Sitanpura
The string set is
1: 0,56mm bronze string tuned to G#2
2: 0,41mm bronze string tuned to C3
3: 0,41mm bronze string tuned to C#3
4: 0,41mm bronze string tuned to C#3
5: 0,76mm brass wound string tuned to C#2
One day I received a quite damaged and almost demolished tanpura. “Children have been playing with it…” was the comment of the owner. I wonder what game they have been playing, but it was certainly not a peaceful game. Or, at least at some time it went out of hands… as one can say?
The tanpura seems to be an old instrument, bought in Benares in the 70’s. It shows already some diligent life-signs, sensations and similar repairs. As such the gourd looks impressive. I will aim to maintain this mood. Just regain its spirit. That’s where it’s ever made for…
I started to remove every worn leftover hardware piece and glued all the cracks in the wooden body. There were many! And, even the tabli has completely come loose.
I restored some deco’s and took advantage of the situation to create some extra goodie carved into the celluloïd: an OM sign, in the middle of a simple repetitive circular design …
After that, some body cleaning and leveling has been performed followed by rough color matching. Mahogany as well as gulanagari red have been applied before, so I used it again now. Followed by a thin and fresh new protective shellac finish layer, treated with bee wax to regain it’s aged expression.
Doing jawari & mounting new strings to conclude…
Note: this is a large female size (35inch) tanpura.
Sound sample:PlayBenares tanpura
The scale (open string length) of this slim instrument is 90cms and it is tuned to F#.
The string set is
1: 0,41mm bronze string tuned to C#3
2: 0,30mm steel string tuned to F#3
3: 0,30mm steel string tuned to F#3
4: 0,56mm bronze string tuned to F#2
This year I’ve completed 2 plexiglass sitars. They are 100% See-Tar cloned replicas according to the original Purbayan Chatterjee copy as seen here on this site. Sound sample: PlayPlexitar on AER Compact 60 amp
Comes with a solid AUER CP 12416 Protective case Pro with locks & wheels in beautiful “blutorange” (vermilion) color.
I have improved the sound of my solid body sitar SBS-O2. I added one Lipstick ‘bridge’- pickup to the combination. The earlier 2 ‘neck’-pickups can be switched in parallel or in series and now smoothly be mixed with the additional ‘bridge’ pickup by means of one of the pot-meters. All the pickups are Seymour Duncan types and the sound possibilities are divers and very inspiring.
Sound sample: PlaySBS-02 & SH101
You hear SBS-02 thru an Orange CRUSH20 distorted amp accompanied by a Roland SH101 synth in a random modulation (complex tanpura) mode …
Note: May not be entirely suitable for pure ICM… 😉
More than one year ago, an awfull sitar was brought to me. At first sight it looked like it was burnt, but actually it was only drowned for some time. This sitar was stored in a basement which has been filled with water due to an inundation. Only after some time it has been rescued and luckily it was protected by a good fiber case. All the strings and hardware got ruined. The damage to the tumba was horrible but the neck seemed to have endured the misadventure well.
I removed all the hardware and pegs and started to let the sitar rest and dry up completely for almost one year. Then, after some time, the tumba’s lacquer finish started to peel off. So, I removed everything which was hanging some loose and made a new build-up. Fortunately it was a decent tumba, sturdy and round. Then colouring and a fresh full-scale shellac finish finally made it look like a new… real good Srishti Musical sitar.
Dear friends, please hereby find some info about different styles of tabli. Clicking on the pictures will show up a drawing presenting the thickness (in mm) on different locations of the tabli and a zoom showing details of the surface finishing on the backside. Notice the increased thickness at the jawaris section to prevent indent on the surface.
A new set of jawaris made by Dieter Zarnitz. The wood comes from leftover pieces of a construction.
“Cumaru” is a very fine, hard and durable construction-wood. “Angelim Amargoso” is very heavy and rougher than Cumaru. Both grow in South America. The colour you see is the natural one. The setting (“jawari“) can be done at the Sitar Factory (Belgium) or at Dieter’s house (Germany).