This anonymous rudra veena was found by my friend Guillaume CZLT in Bombay Pekin Bruxelles, a shop for second-hand furniture in Brussels. It was quite badly damaged. One of the tumbas was badly broken, the main bridge had been torn off and lost, and all the frets had been worn away. The fretboard looked more like a pattata field. All the frets were loose and crooked on the neck. A cikari pin was broken… and one day there must have been strings on the instrument…?The work started with repairing the broken tumba. I counted 27 pieces (or small pieces) and 3 appeared to be missing. The puzzle was put back together in 5 stages. Fortunately, everything still fitted well and the transitions are usually smooth. A few coats of varnish over the whole finished this part. Colour matching was not done at this stage.After that, the frets were taken in hand. The old aluminium strips were easily lifted out of the holder. I ordered a set of 24 new pre-cut pieces of fret wire Wagner 9671 Nickel Silver Frets, Large/Jumbo, with dimensions (W x L x H): 70 x 2,75 x 3,2 mm. But first the fret holders all had to be made equal and properly attached to the central guiding shaft. And this one was crooked and irregular too. With a little trick I could get all the frets nicely in one row and fix them firmly in place. After that, I made the top even and flat and finally installed the new frets. That looks good!The last part is the new ghodi. A round base that is glued to the neck gets a nice straight surface. On top of that comes a removable ghodi that is firmly held in place by two metal pins. Quite a construction, but in the end it fits nicely on the whole. Because the upper part is removable, you can easily do jawari at any time. Now all that’s left is to put new strings on it…I think Guillaume will be pleased… 😉
Technical info on strings & tuning according to Asad Ali Khan style:
The scale measures 945cm & the instrument is tuned to G#
Cikari’s: steel 0,30mm (N°3) 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)
A sitar tuning peg or “kunti” works on the basis of friction. The peg is conically ground and is clamped into a conical hole. After some time, the surfaces will wear out and the peg will go deeper and deeper into the hole. Eventually it comes out deeper and deeper on the other side.
Usually the sitar pegs are made of a hard wood (ebony or rosewood or sheesham) and thus the hole in the neck, which is made of a softer wood (tun or teak), will wear out.
Time to mount new pegs that are a bit thicker. But actually there is nothing wrong with the original tuning pegs. A solution is to provide the holes with a new layer: the kunti bushing.
For this you can use sandpaper of a good quality. The back side, which is made of strong paper, can serve as a layer of wood while the rough sanding side provides an excellent adhesion inside the hole.
It is a matter of cutting out a well-fitting piece of sandpaper and gluing it properly into the hole. Make sure that the sandpaper fits perfectly and does not overlap. Also make sure that no glue gets between the kunti and the bushing. The glue should only be sitting between the rough sandpaper-side and the hole in the neck.
You can use the peg itself to fit the sandpaper in the hole and as a clamp to keep the sandpaper in place while drying.
When everything is dry, you can cut away the excess piece of sandpaper with a sharp chisel.
In this way, the original pegs can continue to be used.
Keep in mind that this bushing will have to be replaced after a while. The paper will wear out faster than the wood of the neck. It is best to look out for professional quality sandpaper. Then you will be at ease for a long time!
One of my dearest friends and guru, Hari Chand, passed away yesterday. He reached the age of 87. All what you can read on this site, I’ve learned from him. I am eternally grateful to him and my thoughts go out to him and his family and friends.
Death is not extinguishing the light,
it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. (R.Tagore)
Here is an old and worn Makhan Lal Roy & Son sitar with numerous defects coming to my shop. It is a very rare surbahar style sitar with very little decoration. I have no idea about the age of this sober beauty but she has clearly been through a lot.
View the main list of defects:
Neck plate is loose
Joint is loose
Pardas are worn
Pegs are worn & greasy
Tarav holes are broken
Tarav mount on tabli is broken
Lacquer on tumba is damaged
Additionally there are a few small things to do and finally new strings to be mounted & jawari done…
Unfortunately the owner decided not to have repaired everything at once. The cost is too high. The original tarav strings mount remains broken and the strings itself are attached to the main string mount as done on ordinary sitars, across the tabli. The lacquer has been cleaned thoroughly but remains as is. So I expect this sitar back sooner or later… but for now she is ready to be played on again.
Following the Sitanpura, here is now a surbahar transformed into a 5-string tanpura. This one has a mini swarmandal facility with 13 strings under the main strings (= the former taravs). The lazy Gurusoundz products are good for something after all… 😉 This surtanpura sounds awesome.
The scale measures 106cm and the string set is:
1: 0,56mm bronze string tuned to G#2
2: 0,46mm steel string tuned to C#3
3: 0,46mm steel string tuned to C#3
4: 0,46mm steel string tuned to C#3
5: 0,76mm brass string tuned to C#2
Hemendra Chandra Sen, passed away in 2010, was a very well known sarod and sitarmaker. His shop was situated near Deshapriya Park in South Kolkata. There he mainly made sarods for the most world famous players such as Alauddin Khan and his son, Ali Akbar Khan, Amjad Ali Khan and the young generation Tejendra Narayan, Partha Sarathi and Kamal Mallik. But also his rare sitars became very famous. I used to lay hand on one, made in the 70’s according to the previous owner. The sitar is in good condition but some restoration work has to be done. The shellac finish needs to be re freshened, all pardas cleaned and tied up, kutis re-fitted, mounting new strings & doing jawari. Now it is ready for a second (third or fourth ??) life.
Early 1970, Michel Dumont (Musician, flutist, graduate of the conservatories of Brussels and Valencienne, who became a theatre and opera decorator at La Monnaie/De Munt) 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 ghoraj 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