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StVitus

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Reply with quote  #1 
I just picked up a used RKS sitar on Craigslist. The seller’s parents brought it back from India in the 1990s. It’s in great shape aside from needing new strings. The fret thread is old and faded, so I’ll probably replace it while I’m changing the strings. It has very intricate carvings of peacocks on the reverse of the neck joint.

Hi-res gallery is on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/28813954@N02/33957692326/in/album-72157679960657322/

http://i.imgur.com/vxtrARd.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/DyIKWDn.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/Sl5KErW.jpg
http://i.imgur.com/o0yMgyw.jpg
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StVitus

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Reply with quote  #2 
I have some more details about this instrument. There is no serial number. The top of the headstock is simply unfinished and even has a little hole where the top and neck meet. It has spots of white residue and glue that suggest a piece of penwork fell off.

The wood and finish are gorgeous. It has a nice dark black grain and shimmers with a bit of depth in the light—this isn’t cheap wood!. All the carved bone parts are well done. The main jawari has no ornament carved around the sides but the sympathetic bridge does. The quality of the penwork is good—all the little circles are placed evenly and the dots are centered in them. Inlay work is sloppy with visible pre-carving marks, mismatched filler on the body, and missing filler on the pegs. The decoration is very well carved with every leaf smoothly scooped out. Peg heads are carefully carved. There’s a little of what looks like glue on the finish around the nut. Hopefully that doesn’t meant some idea got the bright idea of gluing the nut into the slot with superglue.

What’s the story on Mrs. RKS in Varanasi? I’ve found mentions online of RKS having branches in Kolkata and Varanasi, but I can’t find anything else about the Varanasi branch.

Here’s a photo of the case it came in. To me it doesn’t look like something from the 1990s, but how would I know?
http://i.imgur.com/wW5bLk0.jpg
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StVitus

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Reply with quote  #3 
Would it be worthwhile to try replacing the missing cap on the headstock? Is there someone in India I could mail a tracing of the shape to get a replacement made? I would just ask RKS, but they don’t seem to have noticed that a domain squatter stole their URL. I know I could just mask it off and finish it, but it would never match.
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Lars

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Reply with quote  #4 
I know his daughter a bit who stayed in Varanasi so I'm assuming RKS wife did as well. His daughter had a fabric shop but sold it after her husband passed away. Anyway she's a relative of a very good friend of mine and about 10 years ago took me upstairs from their shop and there were perhaps 50 market sitars up there but nothing worth messing with for me at the time. This particular sitar looks like it was from one of the body makers in Kolkata, looks like a higher quality one so probably Halder with unknown fitting, etc. but there are a few in Varanasi who do this. Looks like it has good potential, have never seen that label before though! I'll ask about it this summer if I run into her...

Lars

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StVitus

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Reply with quote  #5 
Thanks again, Lars. I picked up fret string today—along with some great beads shaped like monkey heads—so hopefully I’ll have it cleaned up and ready to play with new photos by Monday.
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MatSitar

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Reply with quote  #6 
It is really beautiful! Enjoy!
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StVitus

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Reply with quote  #7 
Tonight I took the sitar apart. No bad surprises. On a fun note, all of the chikari pegs are numbered! The go from / to X///. I’m taking that as a good sign. I doubt anybody would bother on a cheap sitar.
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StVitus

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Reply with quote  #8 
And it has compound radius frets! There’s a great deal of curvature near the neck, much less so near the nut. This makes sense—doesn’t Ajay Sharma own RKS?

The frets themselves aren’t as nice as I’d like. I thought they were just a little corroded from twenty years of disuse. But the metal seems to be a high-carbon steel that was never fully polished. So there are lots of tiny pits and cracks with a bit of rust inside. It looks nice, but as a guitarist used to glassy-smooth frets, it’s a bit offputting.
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StVitus

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Reply with quote  #9 
I’ve also noticed this one has a fairly large tumba. The tabli is around 13mm wider than my other sitar—which seems average—and around 12mm deeper. That adds up to a lot of volume. Hopefully I can get some big bassy sounds with a low sa string.
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StVitus

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Reply with quote  #10 
It only gets better. When I took the instrument apart the pegs had almost no smooth spots. I doubt this instrument has been used for an hour. I basically paid someone to keep it on a drying rack for twenty years.
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StVitus

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Reply with quote  #11 
Taraf strings are in place and sound nice. All of the frets have been tied. I’m letting it rest overnight with the taraf strings so I don’t warp the neck with the sudden introduction of tension.
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Lars

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Reply with quote  #12 
Just a follow up to this as I'm in India hanging out with some of RKS family and discussed some of the history.  The Mrs. Radha Krishna Sharma label ran for about a year after RKS passed away in Varanasi. His son went to Kolkata and started mass producing but his daughter Asha made a few for this year. Odds are it was fitted by a very young Rajesh Sharma (Mohan Lals son) who stayed with her at the time in the house by Laxmi Kund.  The bridge on this one you posted not from him. She stopped after a year when she married a fabric merchant. And that's the rest of the story.....

Lars

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StVitus

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Reply with quote  #13 
Thanks Lars.
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