Tony Karasek, an american performing artist and technician with 30 years experience in instrument repairs and maintenance has finally made his first sitar. He writes:
“Due to increased market demand, the quality level of Indian instruments currently being produced has suffered significantly. (I made a living for years repairing them in California). Recognising this fact, I moved to Pune, India with my wife and family in April, 2003 to re-establish the high quality standards for instrument production. My intention is to produce a line of Sitars and Tanpuras based on those of the mid-20th century.”
After this adventure, he resides in Charlotte, North Carolina and made his first own handmade sitar. It took about 18 months and 3 rewrites to produce the “Karasek Sound Domestic Custom Sitar Number 1”. Tony writes about it:
“The priority was first and foremost – sound with finest quality materials, components, joinery and consistant fit and feel. To that end, this sitar came into being. The body is made of mahogany with padouk wood trim. Indian rosewood pegs, Arizona grown gourds, delrin bridges and faux tortoise shell trim finish off the rest of the instrument. Internally, there have been many new innovations that have not only produced a far more solid instrument but greatly enhanced the tone and resonance.”
I would love to see and feel this unique and most promising instrument in real and play it. Meanwhile for me there are only a couple of impressive pictures to see, and a youtube demo. All the above pictures are from Tony. You can find more of them and also a lot of very detailed and unveiling info at his website Karasek Sound here.
I’ve added a page to Sitar Making Links about this beautiful and unique sitar made by Alan Arthur Suits. He has sent me some pictures and info about the construction of this sitar. Click here.
Alan writes on his website:
“The sitar was built to concert level quality, using the highest grade materials and craftsmanship. The body is a natural gourd as is the top tumba (gourd resonator). The main body is Spanish cedar (virtually identical to Himalayan cedar or Tun wood). All the ornaments are real ivory recycled from 70 year old piano keys. The bridges are African blackwood, a species of rosewood, one of the hardest known woods and considerably harder than ebony, with rosewood feet. The pegs are turned of Bolivian rosewood.”
“The sitar plays with excellent action and has a truly superb tone with great overtones, sympathetic response, and a Nikhil Banerjee style jawari. It will fit in standard fiberglass sitar cases.”
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.
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…
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.
… the Adapted Multichannel Sitar.
Specialized Multichannel pickups zither module, and resonator modification by Leo Knapp. Strumpad, keyboard, MIDI sliders, MIDI switches, and electronics constructed and installed by Graham Bruce.
Where will it end ??? “We need a sitar … a double neck actually … with humbucking pickups … and a Floyd Rose bridge … and it all has to function properly. We need some mock-up renderings by tomorrow and the finished product completed in the next couple of weeks” This is the phone call that David Hill received some months ago from the production company of Mike Myers’ new movie “Love Guru”.
Read the rest of the story and see some unique photos about the making of this extravagant sitar by David Hill & Brady Milloy at the “12 fret” website …
If you google “electric sitar” then you ‘ll find over 200.000 hits referring to the Coral “electric sitar” which actually is an early solid body guitar that sounds like a sitar. Vincent Bell invented a number of electric guitar models for Danelectro and Coral. He designed perhaps the first electric 12-string guitar, and invented the electric sitar in 1967, using it on such hits as “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers, “Band of Gold” by Freda Payne, and “Heartbreaker” by Gene Pitney. See this funny early ad:
Also wikipedia writes this, but it is and remains a guitar, made for guitarists. It is not a sitar, isn’t it…?
Read also an interesting article “West meets East” by Frederick W. Harrison about how the sitar came to be heard in the western pop music.