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festus

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Reply with quote  #1 
Hello to all....
one of my many sitars has it's frets tied with gut string :?
Has anyone ever seen this used before ? I haven't ...but there is so much I haven't seen.
Bharat told me that he has never heard of gut string being used ..... but this looks to be original to the instrument, with every fret tied the same and with the usual knots.
Thanks
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Anonymous

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Reply with quote  #2 
Actually, I asked all the makers that Sitars Etc. deals with and other knowledgable people, and none had any knowledge of gut string being used in the past. It is certainly not used now. Some even went further to state that it would not be "appropriate" , for whatever reasons which they did not elaborate.

Most said historically they did had never seen gut used. This came for the older makers.

Bharat
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Sitarfixer

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Reply with quote  #3 
High caste Nagar Brahmins have a real "thing" about dead animal parts. I think that goes to explain why any instrumentalist whose axe has such offending components like goatsin drumheads, goat skin Sarangi heads, etc, gets a bad rap and billing. Hey! Wait a minute. How about all those dearly loved Sarod players sporting those goatskin emblazoned instruments. Double standard there!!! Foul !!! I've even seen a real fight and threat to walk by a mridangam player if he had to sit on stage with the bass head exposed to the audience. Something to do with the dead animal head being exposed. Never mind the mridangam has a goatskin on both ends. I think he just wanted to show off his fettlesome, fleet of fingers, flights of fluid forte! If anybody is up on that tradition, I'd love to be educated on that subject. How about those bone or horn bridges? Tuning beads??? Saraswati Venas try their best to comply with this dead animal hangup. (Incidentally, I fully support animal rights groups just in case). That instrument gets into wax, brass, wood, plastic, crushed velvet. No animal at all. Heroic effort! Jeeez!, Am I ever on a ramble tonight! Getting back to the fret ties. My first sitar (Apr 19 1969) from Miraj had gut thread for the frets. A lovely garnet red color. Held up sorta well but no match for the good stuff, the #3 gold braid thread you can get now. (#5 just a tiny bit too thick, especially on slightly thinner frets). I overhauled quite a few sitars that had the gut thread. It really didn't last long enough. All such instruments had a late 50's - early 60's vintage. I run across one here in Hell once in a while but not on any new or recent stuff. Unless you've got a real collectable jewel with this gut stuff on the frets and want to keep it all original, I'd get that gut crap off, Round out the fret slots, (I just know it needs to be done) and put on some of that good stuff. Cheers!
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David Russell Watson

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Posts: 352
Reply with quote  #4 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "festus"
Hello to all....
one of my many sitars has it's frets tied with gut string :?
Has anyone ever seen this used before ? I haven't ...but there is so much I haven't seen.
Bharat told me that he has never heard of gut string being used ..... but this looks to be original to the instrument, with every fret tied the same and with the usual knots.
Thanks, Mike
This is probably the original means of tying
the frets, since on the oldest members of the
sitar's family the frets themselves consisted
of no more than lengths of gut tied tightly all
the way around the neck. Even after metal
frets were first added, the binding was still
tied all the way around the neck, running in a
channel in the top of the fret.

Once the metal fret came into use and the
gut was no longer required to act as anything
besides binding, any suitable material could
be substituted, and since, as sitarfixer has
already noted, brahmanic hinduism looks upon
any product of the slaughterhouse as unclean,
there was a strong inclination use something
besides gut.

David
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Anonymous

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Posts: 987
Reply with quote  #5 
What I did get, and forgot to mention, was that at one point, cotton thread covered with wax was used. They said this resembled gut strings. Most of the answer we got were from Kolkata. It cold be that makers in other parts of India did use gut. But cotton being plentiful and gut being expensive in comparison, I can see why one would favor cotton over gut.

Bharat
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David Russell Watson

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Posts: 352
Reply with quote  #6 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Sitarfixer"
High caste Nagar Brahmins have a real "thing" about dead animal parts. I think that goes to explain why any instrumentalist whose axe has such offending components like goatsin drumheads, goat skin Sarangi heads, etc, gets a bad rap and billing. Hey! Wait a minute. How about all those dearly loved Sarod players sporting those goatskin emblazoned instruments. Double standard there!!! Foul !!!
But remember that the sarod, just as the sitar,
began its career in India as a foreign and unclean
instrument, associated with Muslims, and Iranian
and Turkic music.

The sarod is really no more than a Central Asian
rabab modifed in the direction of the vina, just as
the sitar is a modified Central Asian tanbur. But
while it makes little difference what material is
used to bind the sitar's frets, there really wasn't,
until fairly recent times, any suitable substitute
for leather to make the sarod's membrane.
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Sitarfixer"
I've even seen a real fight and threat to walk by a mridangam player if he had to sit on stage with the bass head exposed to the audience. Something to do with the dead animal head being exposed. Never mind the mridangam has a goatskin on both ends. I think he just wanted to show off his fettlesome, fleet of fingers, flights of fluid forte! If anybody is up on that tradition, I'd love to be educated on that subject.
Well it's just as you say. Leather is regarded by
orthodox upper-caste Hindus as unclean, and in
the old days drummers came almost entirely from
leatherworking lower castes. In fact the English
word "pariah" comes from the name of a caste
traditionally occupied as drummers.
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Sitarfixer"
How about those bone or horn bridges?
Horn is shed, and thus not the result of slaughter,
and is what was normally used on the Hindu vina.
The sitar has been working its way only gradually
to the same status as that of the true vina, and
orthodox Hindus have likewise only gradually come
to embrace it. The elimination of bone and gut
components has been part of that process.

Of course many, if not most, modern Hindus observe
no such taboos.
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Sitarfixer"
Tuning beads??? Saraswati Venas try their best to comply with this dead animal hangup. (Incidentally, I fully support animal rights groups just in case). That instrument gets into wax, brass, wood, plastic, crushed velvet. No animal at all. Heroic effort! Jeeez!,
Yes, although even the Sarasvati vina itself is in
part modelled after the Carnatic rabab! :wink:

David
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Anonymous

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Posts: 987
Reply with quote  #7 
I don't want to get into a long winded argument here as to the origin of various instruments. DRW has a very set and popular theory of the origin of some Indian instruments. Some reading this should also be aware that there are others who also strongly state and are equally convinced that many modern Indian instruments developed from older Indian isntruments with influence from the invading cultures and not as some would have it adopted from instruments of the invading cultures.
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David Russell Watson

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Posts: 352
Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "sitarfanatic"
I don't want to get into a long winded argument here as to the origin of various instruments.
Not to worry, for it shall never become necessary
for you to get into a long winded argument; you
may always just yield to me. :wink:
Quote:
Originally Posted by "sitarfanatic"
DRW has a very set and popular theory of the origin of some Indian instruments. Some reading this should also be aware that there are others who also strongly state and are equally convinced that many modern Indian instruments developed from older Indian isntruments with influence from the invading cultures and not as some would have it adopted from instruments of the invading cultures.
The opinion of these others, how strongly they
state it, and how well convinced they are of it,
however, is really of no significance. The only
thing that matters is the arguments offered for
any claim, their logic, and the evidence upon
which they are based.

It is widely acknowledged even among Indian
musicians themselves that the sarod developed
out of the rabab, and even rather recently, and
there exists no literary reference nor depiction
of either rabab, sitar, or tambura anywhere in
India until after the entry of Central Asian Muslims.
The same instruments are, however, depicted
and described in Central Asia and Iran well before
this time. The manner of construction of these
instruments is one alien to the native vinas, but
common practice all over Central Asia, Iran, and
Eastern Europe, down to details of the neck-joint
construction, arrangement of tuning pegs, forms
of decoration, etc. Further, just as this discussion
has brought to light, the older a sitar we have, the
more its various features tend to deviate from its
modern vina-like version, and the closer they come
to those of their Central Asian ancestors. Likewise,
the further back we go, the more exclusively we
find the sitar and sarod in the hands of Muslim
musicians and eschewed by Hindus, the sitar found
originally in no other context besides the Mughal
courts. Moreover, the history of the long-necked
lute can be fairly well traced, in literary references
and depictions, from its origins in the Sumerian pan
tur to the various versions used in Iran, including
the dotar "two string", setar "three string", chartar
"four string", panchtar "five string", shashtar "six
string", etc. During all of the same period in India,
however, there is no depiction nor written description
of any such instruments, the name 'vina' applying
at first entirely to boat harps, and then later to tube
zithers.

What is a reasonable person to make of such a body
of evidence but that the instruments in question
originated outside of India and Hindu culture?

Also, in regard to what readers should know: they
should also know that there is in India a strong
tendency in some circles to try to deny any foreign
influences on its culture, especially Muslim ones,
with some even trying to claim India as the source
of all human culture and Sanskrit the mother of all
human languages, contrary to what science tells us
on the matter. Raja Sourindro Mohun Tagore, for
one, went about inventing several new Sanskrit
names for a number of Indian musical instruments
which did not originally bear them, but didn't always
bother to indicate in his writings that a name was his
own invention, thus causing some confusion for a time
with Western musicologists who followed his lead.

Not until the history of Indian musical instruments
was looked at in the wider context of world history
did we get the clearer picture that we have of it
today, as, of course, India itself is but a part of the
larger world.

David
0
element-82

Registered:
Posts: 317
Reply with quote  #9 
Hi David,
Interesting discussion David. The only problem I have is that your argument is more of an argumentum ab silentio. Lack of depiction is not proof that they did not exist.

My first teacher was a rabab player. The first time I saw a sarode, the similarities between the two instruments are such that it would be difficult not to imagine some sort of common origin or lineage.

What about literary description of instruments as opposed to depiction?

Pb

quote="David Russell Watson"]
Quote:
Originally Posted by "sitarfanatic"
I don't want to get into a long winded argument here as to the origin of various instruments.
Not to worry, for it shall never become necessary
for you to get into a long winded argument; you
may always just yield to me. :wink:
Quote:
Originally Posted by "sitarfanatic"
DRW has a very set and popular theory of the origin of some Indian instruments. Some reading this should also be aware that there are others who also strongly state and are equally convinced that many modern Indian instruments developed from older Indian isntruments with influence from the invading cultures and not as some would have it adopted from instruments of the invading cultures.
The opinion of these others, how strongly they
state it, and how well convinced they are of it,
however, is really of no significance. The only
thing that matters is the arguments offered for
any claim, their logic, and the evidence upon
which they are based.

It is widely acknowledged even among Indian
musicians themselves that the sarod developed
out of the rabab, and even rather recently, and
there exists no literary reference nor depiction
of either rabab, sitar, or tambura anywhere in
India until after the entry of Central Asian Muslims.
The same instruments are, however, depicted
and described in Central Asia and Iran well before
this time. The manner of construction of these
instruments is one alien to the native vinas, but
common practice all over Central Asia, Iran, and
Eastern Europe, down to details of the neck-joint
construction, arrangement of tuning pegs, forms
of decoration, etc. Further, just as this discussion
has brought to light, the older a sitar we have, the
more its various features tend to deviate from its
modern vina-like version, and the closer they come
to those of their Central Asian ancestors. Likewise,
the further back we go, the more exclusively we
find the sitar and sarod in the hands of Muslim
musicians and eschewed by Hindus, the sitar found
originally in no other context besides the Mughal
courts. Moreover, the history of the long-necked
lute can be fairly well traced, in literary references
and depictions, from its origins in the Sumerian pan
tur to the various versions used in Iran, including
the dotar "two string", setar "three string", chartar
"four string", panchtar "five string", shashtar "six
string", etc. During all of the same period in India,
however, there is no depiction nor written description
of any such instruments, the name 'vina' applying
at first entirely to boat harps, and then later to tube
zithers.

What is a reasonable person to make of such a body
of evidence but that the instruments in question
originated outside of India and Hindu culture?

Also, in regard to what readers should know: they
should also know that there is in India a strong
tendency in some circles to try to deny any foreign
influences on its culture, especially Muslim ones,
with some even trying to claim India as the source
of all human culture and Sanskrit the mother of all
human languages, contrary to what science tells
us on the matter. Rabindranath Tagore, for one,
went about inventing several new Sanskrit names
for a number of Indian musical instruments which
did not originally bear them, but didn't always bother
to indicate in his writings that a name was his own
invention, thus causing some confusion for a time
with Western musicologists who followed his lead.

Not until the history of Indian musical instruments
was looked at in the wider context of world history
did we get the clearer picture that we have of it
today, as, of course, India itself is but a part of the
larger world.

David

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Surbahar Dude (formerly Sitar Dude)
http://sitarplayer.net
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festus

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Posts: 188
Reply with quote  #10 
Thank you all......... nice to be enlightened by the enlightened ones

Sitarfixer said : "My first sitar (Apr 19 1969) from Miraj had gut thread for the frets. A lovely garnet red color. "

Do you know what they used exactly for this color base? My first ('68/'69)and a couple after were of the same color ,one on the bench right now that i'm repairing (raising from the dead)

Once again thank you ALL, :wink:
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David Russell Watson

Registered:
Posts: 352
Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "element-82"
Hi David,
Interesting discussion David. The only problem I have is that your argument is more of an argumentum ab silentio. Lack of depiction is not proof that they did not exist.

The lack of depiction is one aspect only of
my argument, and so that aspect only is ab
silentio
but none other, but the question is
whether these instruments are of indigenous
or foreign origin, and the fact that they are
first depicted and described in Central Asia
and Iran, and don't appear in Indian literary
or artistic depictions until after Central Asians
begin to enter India in large numbers does
indeed increase the likeliness of their origin
in those areas.
Quote:
Originally Posted by "element-82"
My first teacher was a rabab player. The first time I saw a sarode, the similarities between the two instruments are such that it would be difficult not to imagine some sort of common origin or lineage.

But of course. Now compare the Afghan tanbur
and Persian setar to the Indian sitar and see if
the same does not apply.
Quote:
Originally Posted by "element-82"
What about literary description of instruments as opposed to depiction?

There's neither depiction nor literary description
of these instruments in Indian, either one, until
after the entry of Central Asians during India's
Islamic period.

Of course, though, in the form which they have
finally assumed in India today, they must be
regarded as the descendants of the indigenous
vina as well.

They're hybrids.

David
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