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Stuti

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Reply with quote  #1 
Well here goes, in the previous thread the subject of cold affecting the Sitar came up. I don't know much about wood and shellac, (that's why my Sitar looks like a hundred year old antique)Can someone explain how the elements of Sun, wind, heat, cold, humidity, etc affects the wood and varnish. Obviously you don't want to get the Sitar wet, and what kinds of wood and varnishes are on a Sitar? Are they all standard? I read Tun, Teak, Mahogony? and how can a person such as myself who lives in New York City with seasonal changes and different levels of humidity, keep an instrument in good condition without practicing voodoo techniques so to speak? I'm always in the outdoors whether I'm traveling by car with the Sitar, or out in the park. Thanks
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Anonymous

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Reply with quote  #2 
I will only speak to the issues of weather and humidity. You live in New York, as do I, so will obviously experience greater extremes of cold than sitar-wallahs in do in India, but they experience greater extremes of heat than we do. Players I know in Delhi and in New York don't particularly take any esoteric precautions. Common sense is the byword here. Don't leave your sitar sitting too long on the sidewalk on a snowy day or in 100 degree weather. Actually we purchased a 40 year old Rikhi Ram a few years ago that some citizen found (in it's case) sitting in a snowdrift next to bags of trash. It looked like hell, but sounded great. Most players of instruments made of wood agree; don't let it sit in direct sunlight. The humidty of the average steam heated NY house or apartment is within acceptable limits. If you lived in a log cabin with a wood-burning fireplace, I'd advise getting a serious automatic humidifer, but this is not really necessary for city dwellers. Most folks I know simply put their sitars away in the case when they're not being played. Some folks I've vistited in India like to keep their sitar in a large glass display case, but that's more a question of interior decorating, the way that a samurai might have his father's swords up on the mantle over the fireplace.
Cheers,
Keshav
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trippy monkey

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Reply with quote  #3 
This is always a very good point to keep bringing up about musical instruments & heat/cold.

I keep my instruments in their own bedroom & never have the heating on in that particular room so there's no chance of great changes occuring.

Here in the UK we don't tend to get quickly varying temperature fluctuations throughout the year.

We get cool during the summer & freezing through the winter so no great change there then

Kesh & his Rikhi Ram treasure. I HATE you forever

When I was in Varanasi in october last year I went to revisit a little music place just in from Assi Ghat. They had an old 8 string surbahar that I had a twang on in 2003. I decided to see if it was still there as I was intending to buy a nice new one on this particular trip in 2005. It WAS still there but OH DEAR. Nearly all the main decoration had warped & lifted off the wood due, I presume, to wood expansion since my previous visit.

I don't think there are such drastic heat changes in Varanasi so what might cause an instrument to deteriorate in just a few years like this? Damp? Drying out more?

My 45 year old 'Bhapulal C Mistry & Sons' has several little holes drilled straight through the tabla just under the main bridge. Expansion allowance????

Nick
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festus

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Reply with quote  #4 
Nick asked:"My 45 year old 'Bhapulal C Mistry & Sons' has several little holes drilled straight through the tabla just under the main bridge. Expansion allowance???? "

If you look under your bridge (if it's original )
you'll probably find two holes there where a bamboo or ivory nail was placed as a dowel of sorts for correct placement of the bridge.
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SitarMac

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Reply with quote  #5 
I noted Keshav-bhai's story about finding a Rikhi Ram in the trash heap and wanted to tell 2 stories about treasures both found and missed in my lifetime. This is also an invite for any others to tell their story should they have one.

#1) First, my sob story.........In the mid 80's when I first took up this music as a young teen-ager, I had mad my parents miserable trying to get them to set me up learning ICM. I'll spare you all the details...and believe me there were many (They were convinced the HAre Krishnas had brainwashed me somehow)...ANyway, before long I had been taken in by Ustad Rafi Akbar Zada, who began my training on Rebab.......Although this was not my beloved Sitar, at least I was actually learning the music. Then came the day that I was walking through the small town of Decatur on the outskirts of Atlanta and I walked by the local band and violin store....There in the window....The most gawd aweful piece of tourist junk Sitar I'd ever seen. But to my unknowing eyes, it was beautiful.....Shiny varnish job...bright orange gourds to match bright orange wood......It was the best Sitar I'd ever seen.....But it cost 250$.......Where was I going to get 250$. I began mowing lawns, cleaning fish tanks, etc......you know the young earner gauntlet.

Fast forward to about 6 months later (Most of that time being in that shop pretending to know what I'm doing-strumming and squaking.....Sometimes, it doesn't seem all that much has changed..hee hee)......Where was I, oh yes...6 month later, I'm with my mother visiting my Grand mother and we are going to garage sales on a Saturday morning...I am an unhappy camper since I hate these things, and second, we have to get up at 6 AM to make all the good ones....So there we are in Nashville, doing the garage sale thing, when my mother comes over to me and says that this house has some Sitars for sale....I get out of the car where I have made my unhappy feelings well known and go look. Actually, there was one South Indian Veena and one Sitar. Both had been brought back to America in the 60's after some job the couple had down there for this or that. THe veena was a typical monster and was priced very high, but the Sitar was only 150$. My mother said that she'd by it for me if I payed her back.......I looked at this Sitar....It was dusty, the varnish on the tabli had begun to run crackle and the frets were all rusty, not to mention the bridges were all skued with a popped string here an there.....I had to think......This one was cheaper, but the one in Atlanta was soooo shiny and clean....but it was 100$ more.....I decided against it......One more thing (ANd this is the truth for you doubters, for I have kicked myslef 1001 times over this) This Sitar had a name tag which was etched- I didn't pay much attention to what it said entirely since my mind had been made up, but I distinctly remember reading "Kanai Lal..........." We left and this moment was forgotten until years later...

Footnote: Later that month, I was goofing off with school friends and threw my backpack at one of them and it ended up hitting a parked car and smashing the passenger window. All my savings went to pay for that window, thus my beautiful orange Sitar at the violin shop never was to be mine.


#2)Now for a treasure found.......By the early 90's, I was really into this music full force....My rebab playing was coming along nicely, and I was beginning to really eat, sleep, live this music...It was a glorious time (Still is!). I still yearned for a nice Sitar of my own, but having finished high school and now being a freshman in College...i REALLY had no money!! My mother had just beaten breast cancer and was going through a "Church on Sunday" sort of thing to thank God for her recovery (Prognosis wasn't good, but thats another story). Now our family were never big on religion or church, but my mother found a liberal Episcopal church and attend there for a time. I too went with her...not for any real reason other than to show thankful solidarity. The priest was a really great , friendly giving guy (Later turned out to be quite the scum bag, but thats also another story). It was mentioned to him after service that I was learning ragas, etc... He casually mentioned that he had some instrument...wasn't sure if it was a Sitar, that he got some years ago during something or another, and that he would love for me to have it since it sat in his sitting room taking up space. I went to his house keeping my fingers crossed....And sure enough, there it was...I bomber of a Sitar....about 30 years old and weathered, but just beautiful...Don't know what brand it was, but it was fully decorated and by the time I cleaned and polished it and strung it...It was beautiful and sounded fantastic....THus my adventure with Sitar began.........Thank you Father Chester Grey, even though you told the arch bishop of Canterbury that the communion set that he loaned to the church from the archdiocese had been stolen, while all the while it was in your closet. Even after insurance paid the claim...I still thank you!

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trippy monkey

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Reply with quote  #6 
Sri festus.

No, the holes aren't bridge aligners. They're drilled in the middle of where the bridge sits and not at either side where its feet would be fixed. So both in line with the neck rather than left & right for feet placement.

Nick
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festus

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Reply with quote  #7 
Oh ok... Well they wouldn't be for expansion allowance. They would be sound holes then or expensive stick incence holders. :wink:
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beenkar

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Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
This is also an invite for any others to tell their story should they have one.
Josh,

There are no sob stories. Call it providence or grace, my Veenas just came to me. And they kept on visiting- mostly unplanned, suddenly, without any prior notice. All of them behaved like brides to be wooed carefully. You need to keep them as you would keep a treasure oer perhaps like a harem. Otherwise they ensure that they leave you - accursed and pitied!!!

It has been my fortune that they visitied and left whenever they wanted to !!

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रंग भरयौ मुसकात लला निकस्यौ कल कुंजन ते सुखदाई
टूटि गयो घर को सब बंधन छूटि गौ आरज- लाज- बड़ाई
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beenkar

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Reply with quote  #9 
My teacher has a 100 year old Miraj Veena. But it never came to me because the grace was missing otherwise it would have come on its own.
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रंग भरयौ मुसकात लला निकस्यौ कल कुंजन ते सुखदाई
टूटि गयो घर को सब बंधन छूटि गौ आरज- लाज- बड़ाई
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SitarMac

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Reply with quote  #10 
Beenkar-ji,
You are sooooo right. I can't tell you how many Sitars have just come into my life unannounced, then later to go......A harem....YEs....I think you're right.. An excellent analogy!

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ragamala

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Reply with quote  #11 
Re unexpected finds I have a coincidence to relate.

Back about 1980 I bought a sitar from a young man in London, who was selling it because he was changing instruments to sarangi. I was happy with the sitar (and still am, although now I play it rarely for reasons explained below - it is a Radha Krishna Sharma from Kolkata, and was well-used when I bought it - probably dating from the '60s and better than any I saw when last visited Kolkata and checked out their shop/"factory").

Anyway the point is after a while I realised that the instrument that better suited my temperament was the sarangi too, as it happens. In the meantime I had toyed with the idea of a rudra veena I found in London but at the time the expense was too much - I kick myself now because it was very very beautiful in both looks and sound...

But anyway I started playing sarangi. First I had a cheap saarngi I bought in Delhi that just about did the job but my sarangi teacher said after a while I should perhaps look for a better one to progress with...

Some time later I met him for a lesson and he told me the tale of how he had visited a woman friend's house. She had no connection with ICM. He found hung on the wall there a sarangi she had found in a rubbish skip a few days earlier.

He instantly recognised it - old sarangis are often signed, and living in a small ICM world of sarangi in UK these things are known easily. It turned out it had belonged to a student he had taught before. The student had left him to study in India with Sultan Khan, a point which had grieved my teacher at the time because he felt SK had taken the pupil without due contact with him, but the pupil had later returned to the UK disenchanted and simply thrown the instrument away.

My teacher saw it as an opportunity for me to get a good quality Meerut sarangi, but his friend was adamant, she wanted to keep it as an ethnic decoration for her home... :-(

The coincidence of my teacher having a friend who rescued (if wall tapestry is a suitable end for an instrument, but at least it saved it from the breaker) a sarangi he knew about is one thing, but it also turned out that his previous student was the very same young man I had bought my sitar from some years earlier.

So check those dumpsters for Indian instruments - who knows what you'll find!

P.S. Nick

I have a sarangi with small hole in the back - the only explanation my teacher could come up with was that this was imported in the 60s when Customs guys did drill holes in Indian musical instruments to search for drugs, as for a while this was apparently a method of containerising the goods....

I've no idea if this is applicable to your sitar, but makes an entertaining alternative explanation..
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beenkar

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Reply with quote  #12 
Quote:
A harem....YEs....I think you're right.. An excellent analogy!
great????! we are on the same frequency.............recall bismillah khan saheb wooing his shehnai...................that is what these beauties demand........anything less and they dump you forever................

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रंग भरयौ मुसकात लला निकस्यौ कल कुंजन ते सुखदाई
टूटि गयो घर को सब बंधन छूटि गौ आरज- लाज- बड़ाई
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