This sitar was made in the “Sher Mohammad & Sons Sitar Makers”- shop in Bansanwala Bazaar, Lahore 1940 – 1950 by early sitarmaker Sher Mohammed. At that time, before the Partition, he taught sitar making to, amongst others, Rikhi Ram Sharma and Kartar Chand Sharma. At Partition time, both Rikhi Ram Sharma and Kartar Chand Sharma left Lahore and headed for Delhi where they both settled their own sitar shop (only 800 m. away from each other). Rikhi Ram’s shop became world famous due to Ravi Shankar and the Beatles. Kartar Chand, joined by his younger brother Hari Chand, remained low profile and continued making high quality professional sitars at Paharganj. They developed their own style of sitars and got specialised in repair work. Amongst their main customers was late Pt. Balaram Pathak, and his son Ashok Pathak. In januari 1993 Kartar Chand passed away, and thus leaving the shop to his brother Hari Chand.
This unknown sitar suffers from a loose joint. The playing string came to almost 18 mm above the last parda. In normal conditions this distance should count only 8 – 11 mm.
The reason why the joint became loose is not determined, but most probably “a small accident” during transport has occured the owner said. Anyway, there is a noticeable crack in the joint…
Since this sitar suffers from more than this (cheap wood quality, a bended neck, and also a deformed tabli is there) and the budget is very limited, I agreed to give it a rather easy and cheap repair: cyano-acrylate glue, penetrated into the loose joint parts, reinforced with a metal locker plate. I saw this before on other “fast & easy repaired sitars” in India. Although it doesn’t look good, it worked out to be very efficient.
In other conditions, the better way of repairing this is described in the Repair section.
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…
On a special demand from a young and dedicated Ashok Pathak sishya I’ve been adding an extra cikari string to his Rikhi Ram sitar in order to meet the Pathak Garana style specifications.
Here is the workflow: 1) Selecting and preparing a new kuti. 2) Marking and drilling the holes. 3) Fine tuning and fitting the new kuti. 4) Re-organising the existing cikari string positions and adding an extra cikari string slide on the jiwari.
5) Making and installing a new cikari pin which can hold 2 cikari strings. 6) Installing the string.
The general 4 cikari tuning is Pa Sa Sa Sa, but this can alter according to the raga you’ll play.
This early 70’s original Kartar Chand sitar just left the restoration booth. Complete body check-up and new polish has been done by late Kartar’s brother Hari Chand in New Delhi in march 2009 while I was there on a visit. The celluloid mother of pearl imitation parda lanes have been renewed. My part of the job was to refurbish the original pardas and fit them again on the new lanes. I also made and fit new stagghorn jiwaris for main strings and taravs. The original tuning pegs were used again but some taravkuti-holes needed a new bushing.
Note the very fine finger grips on these taravkutis and also the remarkable cherry-round tumba-shape which is very typical on all Kartar Chand’s sitars.
This sitar sounds amazingly bright and has a vivid tarav response. The meends play very easy and the instrument is very light-weighted.
This ravishing red sitar was made by dearest friend Hari Chand for my lovely wife Tine in 1995. The pictures were recently made by Luc De Gezelle.
The sitar is fully decorated with a discreet hidden om sign in the upper celluloid plate design. There are 12 taravs and 21 vanadium chrome plated pardas. All 3 jiwaris are made out of stagg horn and there is one extra cikari installed. Hari Chand has been working almost one month to complete this unique and beautiful sitar. It is one of the last sitars of this kind, 100% handmade by the master himself.
Watch this video from Mr Simonggill about present-day sitar making in Calcutta. Here the real work is done…!! These small factories almost cover the worldwide production of sitars. They produce prefab sitarbodies for all well-known sitar makers such as both Rikhi Ram’s, Hiren Roy, Srishty Musical, RA Sitarmaker, Hari Chand, Raj Musicals, Kartar Chand Dhiman, etc… Far gone are the old times…!!!
The music is from Ustad Vilayat Khan: Raag Hameer.
Do you want to buy a (new) sitar ?
For sure when it is your first sitar then you might feel somewhat uncertain…??
Because very frequently this question has been put to me, I’ve decided to make a “check list” with 10 tips to help you to decide if the sitar which is laying in front of you is ok to buy or not.
If you really want to minimize the risk, then always go to a shop yourself and check the instrument thoroughly before you buy it. And, take your time for this. Buying a sitar online, with only a good looking picture and dito description on a fancy internet shop is looking for trouble. Sitars are always handmade and the overall quality varies very much. They are also very fragile. Unless you invest in a good fiber case, shipping a sitar by air or sea will almost always end up on arrival with a broken tumba (pumpkin) and / or broken kutis (tuning pegs), or even worse…
Another interesting article about this on the web can be found here.
Both Rikhi Ram brothers Ajay & Sanjay, and after them many others, make and sell this handy and compact sitar. Some call it “Ovation” sitar, some call it “Studio” sitar and also “Travel” sitar is commonly used for this successful innovative musical instrument. Commercially it is a succes. No doubt about that.
But here is a list of remarks and complaints with which players came to me after they have been buying a new travel sitar in New Delhi. In my opinion there are a number of improvements that could be achieved rather easily:
The pickup doesn’t sound good, and comes loose in no time. So you can install a better one. (see Travel Sitar Mods (1) )
The tuning machines are cheap and crappy, and can get stuck after a few string changes. Also here it’s a good investment to install better ones. (see Travel Sitar Mods (1) )
Not much care has been taken to fit the jora tar properly. Only one travel sitar from Sanjay’s Rikhi Ram was ok. Too often there is need for intonation adjustment. (see Travel Sitar Mods (2) )
There are also some complaints about the finishing touch:
Parda’s which were made too short are installed anyways. A friend of mine has lost a parda while performing on stage with his “brand new” instrument. Floops, suddenly there it goes…
The new style decoration strips look like a cheap copy of simple western repetitive patterns. And when they are fit on the body they are not always correctly matching.
And finally there is my personal opinion concerning the “amputated” head. Of course this square leftover stump is one of the main basic improvements made to recent sitar making and playing in general since many years. But to me, it doesn’t look beautiful. I regret the lack of creativity. Isn’t it a missed chance to make this sitar look nicer on stage?
So, inspired by my own developed series of new style sitars I want to introduce my ultimate travel sitar modification. For this experiment I use a travel sitar body which I’ve been buying from Raj Musicals in New Delhi.
I started with opening the sitar neck and removing the square stump piece. Then I created a new head piece derived from the SAS and SBS sitar heads draft. In order to maintain strenght in the new construction the original neck’s top plate also had to be renewed. The celluloid decoration will be re-used on top of the new plate.
Here is an introduction to the Fosse Electric Sitar. This instrument replicates the sound of the classic indian sitar. It is a new solid body electric instrument made out of carbon fibre by Gregg Fosse.
More info on www.fossesitar.com (soon ??).