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
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… 😉