INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: Surbahar...

 

Author Message
Stephen
Surbahar... Apr 15, 2003 09:50 a.m.


Hey Russ,
Yes, I finally took the leap and aquired a surbahar. It's something I should have done a few years ago. As you may have figured out by my past rants, I'm really into the Dagarbani and Khandarbani schools of Dhrupad and the preservation of ICM painted by the rudra veena. This instrument allows me to explore these styles, while drawing on what I've picked up on the sitar. I just love the sounds that are emulated in the lower registers that almost approach the inaudible.
As for the instrument itself, it fits me like a glove. I'm a rather big guy, so the daunting size of the instrument is not a big problem (although my forearms were on fire for the first week). One thing that was a problem at first was that the instrument tended to wander to my right as I played. You probably have noticed that the lower tumba of a surbahar does not really rest on your foot like a sitar, but has a "foot" of it's own that aids in maintaining the 45 degree angle. The way that I got around the wandering was to tie a leather shoelace to this foot and then bring it around my foot one half wrap so that it is essentially anchored to my foot. This allows me to sit in a more correct posture and not do battle with the instrument. As far as transitioning from the sitar, it was like going from a mandolin to a (resonator) guitar. And I sure don't run out of room on the meends, you really can pull a whole octave, although I really haven't started utilizing much more pull than a fifth. Very rubbery! I have noticed that it is a lot more sensitive to the pressure on the string and just a heavier pressure on the string will yield a slight meend unlike what would occure on my sitar. This might actually happen on my sitar and I just wasn't able to hear it, this instrument is much louder.
So, all in all, I'm very pleased with it. It is a strange feeling when I switch over to the sitar now. It feels really tiny, if you can imagine that.
Drawbacks: There are not very many people on the internet that are publishing information on this instrument. I wish I could find a source for Q and A about the surbahar that is as informative as you folks that have aided me tremendously in my voyage with the sitar. If anyone out there does have leads for good sources of information on the surbahar, please reply to this post, or send an e-mail to me directly - stephen.bradley@tetratech.com
Russ
Re:Surbahar... Apr 15, 2003 04:37 p.m.


Know what you mean about lack of info. That's the one big reason why last year I posted a query here as to whether we needed a "Indian Strings" forum, which would include sitar, tamboura, sarode, surbahar, sarangi/esraj/dibruba, even violin, guitar and mandolin. That way all kinds of folks could jump in. But, I didn't get much feedback, so I let it slide. Too bad.

Anyway, before I left the Santa Fe area a few years ago, I knew a surbahar player and teacher in town named Steve Landsberg. He was the only American disciple of Ustad Mustaq Ali Khan. Didn't know him that well, but I did manage to go to a coule of his local sitar and surbahar recitals. He is quite good, somewhat commercial, and loves to talk about his love, the surbahar. So, he would be a good contact for info. Check out his site at ragascapes.com. His email is on there as well. BTW, at 6 ft and 230 lb, surbahar might not be too big for me either.

Neal
Re:Surbahar... Apr 15, 2003 07:44 p.m.


My sitar teacher also plays and teaches surbahar. I am sure he would be happy to answer questions you may have. his site is

http://www.davidpontbriand.net

PS what is the main sound difference between the rudra vina and the surbahar

PPS What maker of surbahar did you buy


Hey Russ,
Yes, I finally took the leap and aquired a surbahar. It's something I should have done a few years ago. As you may have figured out by my past rants, I'm really into the Dagarbani and Khandarbani schools of Dhrupad and the preservation of ICM painted by the rudra veena. This instrument allows me to explore these styles, while drawing on what I've picked up on the sitar. I just love the sounds that are emulated in the lower registers that almost approach the inaudible.
As for the instrument itself, it fits me like a glove. I'm a rather big guy, so the daunting size of the instrument is not a big problem (although my forearms were on fire for the first week). One thing that was a problem at first was that the instrument tended to wander to my right as I played. You probably have noticed that the lower tumba of a surbahar does not really rest on your foot like a sitar, but has a "foot" of it's own that aids in maintaining the 45 degree angle. The way that I got around the wandering was to tie a leather shoelace to this foot and then bring it around my foot one half wrap so that it is essentially anchored to my foot. This allows me to sit in a more correct posture and not do battle with the instrument. As far as transitioning from the sitar, it was like going from a mandolin to a (resonator) guitar. And I sure don't run out of room on the meends, you really can pull a whole octave, although I really haven't started utilizing much more pull than a fifth. Very rubbery! I have noticed that it is a lot more sensitive to the pressure on the string and just a heavier pressure on the string will yield a slight meend unlike what would occure on my sitar. This might actually happen on my sitar and I just wasn't able to hear it, this instrument is much louder.
So, all in all, I'm very pleased with it. It is a strange feeling when I switch over to the sitar now. It feels really tiny, if you can imagine that.
Drawbacks: There are not very many people on the internet that are publishing information on this instrument. I wish I could find a source for Q and A about the surbahar that is as informative as you folks that have aided me tremendously in my voyage with the sitar. If anyone out there does have leads for good sources of information on the surbahar, please reply to this post, or send an e-mail to me directly - stephen.bradley@tetratech.com[/quote]

Stephen
Re:Surbahar... Apr 16, 2003 07:57 a.m.


Hey Neal,
An RKS pro, standard offering but got $200 off. It came in great shape, a quick tuning and I was playing away. I did have to adjust the frets to my liking when I did the more thorough tuning, sounds fine though.
Difference between surbahar and rudra veena aside from the obvious is that the main playing strings are tuned upsidedown. If Albert King had played a rudra veena instead of a flying vee, he would have shaken us up a bit as he was a lefty that didn't reverse the string order. The tuning on the surbahar is the same as with the sitar just tuned a fifth to an octave lower.
Amitava
Re:Surbahar... Apr 16, 2003 01:12 p.m.


Manner of holding/sitting can be different. No curved frets either. Zither construction on the Rudra Vina. There are several pictures on the web if you search google. Asad Ali Khan and the Dagars (Zia Mohiuddin http://www.raga.com/cds/219/219text.html) are two well known exponents. Latter has passed away.
Stephen
Re:Surbahar... Apr 16, 2003 01:30 p.m.


Amitava,
By mentioning Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Asad Ali Khan, you have covered my two favorite musicians (both play the rudra veena). Another musician that I'm keen on is the surbaharist, Chandrashekar that has one CD available through Makar. I would like to find more of his music as he was a student of Z.M. Dagar's and the influence is carried on quite well. I should also mention that Z.M. Dagar's son, Bahauddin, is quite good. I look for him to carry the binkar and Dagarbani traditions into the future. His music is well represented on the Makar lable (www.makar-records.com)
Remco
Re:Surbahar... Apr 16, 2003 03:38 p.m.


Ohhh wow!!! Surbahar is definitly on my wishlist. My teacher studied with Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, so I really hope to be entering the more Dhrupad-realm in the future!!! BTW next weekend: Ali AsadKhan in Amsterdam!!! Yes!!! Where did you buy your Surbahar? Did you buy it unseen?

Peace,

Remco

Remco
Re:Surbahar... Apr 16, 2003 05:16 p.m.


Just curious: is the tension heavier than a sitar. You say the strings feel more flexable, but do you need more strength to play the instrument? You always read that the surbahar is more difficult to play than a sitar.

Peace,

Remco

sitarsrule
Re:Surbahar... Apr 16, 2003 05:48 p.m.


I found the surbahar rather fun the few times I've had one in my hands. Imrat Khan on Nimbus Records plays the surbahar. Raga Marwa is the Name of the C.D I have it is great. The Sitar I built has a deeper sound because I chose mahagony to build the body out of , so it sounds a bit like a surbahar. I think that these Instruments are like the voice of God very awsome in nature.............Peace
Stephen
Re:Surbahar... Apr 17, 2003 08:02 a.m.


Remco,
I can see where anyone who finds it difficult to hold a sitar would definitly have a problem with a surbahar, but I don't really find it to be any more difficult to play. Actually, I am finding that it is easier for me to be "expressive" with it. This might be due to my heavy handed nature.
I did buy it sight unseen, but have had good luck with instrument purchases. I have yet to fall victim as in some of the horror stories you guys have told. I got a really great deal on it due to an error on the seller's part, $200 bucks off. For this reason, I don't think I should reveal where I purchased it from. I will say that this person was great to deal with.
Remco
Re:Surbahar... Apr 21, 2003 06:15 p.m.


Hey Stephan,
Got a question for you: how are your fingers (lefthand) compared to playing sitar. A couple of months ago I posted a topic on this forum about my callussus coming off. After couple of weeks things seemed to go better, but the last couple of weeks the problem reoccured. They come off clean and have to rebuilt them again. Last weekend the came off again (within a month). Maybe my fingers are too weak for sitar, so when I read about the surbahar...... The instrument has thicker strings, so I assume they cut less in your finger?

Hope you can help me out!!

Peace,

Remco

Remco
Re:Surbahar... Apr 21, 2003 06:19 p.m.


P.s.
Try to get hold of the CD by Pandit Ashok Pathak:
Ancient Court Raga Traditions, The Pathak Garana, dhrupad ragas on Surbahar on World Arbiter. A really great player. He lives in Holland and he was the one who "introduced" me to Indian music about seven years ago. He also a great teacher.

Peace,

Remco

Stephen
Re:Surbahar... Apr 22, 2003 07:44 a.m.


Hey Remco,
I haven't noticed much difference in callous retention from one instrument to the other. With all of the extra width of the dand, I find that I am a bit more aggressive with my meends which in turn has that callous building effect.
I had an old guitar player tell me that to stengthen callouses, play for a while just after any time my hands have been wet, just after a shower or cleaning up after cocktails for example. Perhaps though, in you case, maybe you are allowing your hand to get too wet, just asking for the callouses to slough off. You might try wearing Playtex gloves or something when washing dishes. You might also try some of that new "paint on" band aid to see if it has any protective properties.
Good luck in finding a solution short of buying a surbahar (although I think that would be a worthy excuse).
Russ
Re:Surbahar... Apr 22, 2003 02:19 p.m.


Or you can do the other old guitar trick of soaking your fingertips in alum salts and water for a while. Sometimes works to toughen up fingers. I still remember a funny post from Louis in France a year ago. He recommended wearing condoms on the fingers to keep them from getting wet in the shower (hydrating the callous). I don't know 'bout that one!

Got to admit that my callouses have almost disapperred from not playing for about 2 weeks. Too many excuses to list. It takes a long time to get callouses, no time at all to loose them! I'm almost going to have to start over again. Bummer!

Remco
Re:Surbahar... Apr 22, 2003 04:34 p.m.


Hahaha, the condom-trick: maybe I'll develop "a rubbery" meend-technique this way!! Seriously I've already tried gloves under the shower, doesn't really work. The last couple of weeks I've developed a cut in both fingers, so I'm developing harder skin, but still have a cut in the middle: where the string is positioned most of the time: sucks bigtime! Thank for all the advice!!!

Peace,

Remco

Stephen
Re:Surbahar... Apr 23, 2003 07:45 a.m.


As I've said (and done) in the past, with my doctor's approval, seal up those cuts with superglue. Just make sure it is dry before playing or you will have an excuse for not putting your instrument down. Reminds me of a high school art class many, many years ago where Paul X. was superglued to his chair. They had to cut the pants of that guy!
Russ
Re:Surbahar... Apr 23, 2003 02:17 p.m.


Indeed! I've seen the results of wet superglue in the hospital emergency room years ago (I used to be a med and x-ray tech). Not nice!
Hey, this might be a reason why some sitarists have more than one "playing track" on their fingers. When one is overused or cut though, just switch to the other while it heals. Just a thought. Does make sense.
Remco
Re:Surbahar... May 04, 2003 07:23 a.m.


Last weekend I went to Asad Ali Khan (Rudra veena): stunning!!!! The Veena doesn't have tarab strings but there are chikari-strings. There's also a low dronestring located on the other side of the neck and is played with the lefthand-pinky. Amazing to see him him fret with the lefthand and to meend and strike this drone-string!! He played it with two mizrabs and played the chikaris with his righthand pinky! The concert lasted 3 hours and he basically stopped because the venue told him to!! He shook his head and told the audience that the western audience never really took the time and are very hurried. As far as tuning goes: very, very low! I would say the low say is lower than the surbahar, but I'm sure individual players have their own tuning. I've read that surbahar was developed to circumvent the tradition to hand over veena from father to son by a veena player. So the tuning has to be similair.

Peace,

Remco

LEFTY88
Re:Surbahar... May 03, 2003 08:40 a.m.


Neal, Do you learn sitar from David Pontbriand?
I am so jealous of that guy. I'm a lefty in Australia with no sitars in my reach. Not a lefty one anyway. Is it true he has a lefty Hiren Roy? Like I said, I'm so jealous of that guy.

I would like to recommend some recommended listening: Asad Ali Khan: Raag Jaijavanti from Nimbus Records. Good stuff.

Neal
Re:Surbahar... May 03, 2003 10:28 p.m.


Stephen, does the rudra veena and surbahar essentially sound the same?

I was thinking of buying a rudra veena(does anyone know where I could get one?)

How is the rudra veena played? w/ mizrab? do you fret the string? are there sympathetics?

Neal

Remco
Re:Surbahar... May 04, 2003 07:27 a.m.


Neal,

There are veena's offered at the store of the Ali Akbar Khan College (including a Kanai Lal):

http://www.aacm.org/shop/vina.html

Peace,

Remco

Stephen
Re:Surbahar... May 05, 2003 07:56 a.m.


Dang, Remco, I was hoping that Kanai Lal rudra veena would remain undiscovered in the depths of AACM's website until I had the green.
Yes, the two instruments are alike in many ways but do have subtile differences, no tarabs, flat frets, chikaris on separate frets on the side of the dand. Tuning is about the same as a surbahar, a forth to an octave lower than sitar. If you really want to know more, there is a book called "Rudra Veena" that is sold through one of the Indian book dealers (try Khazana, South Asia Books or BP Publishing), Kind of like "My Music, My Life" without all of the hype. I have a keene interest in this instrument but felt that it would be next to impossible to find an instructor in the US (I know of only one). As you all may know it is difficult enough here to find a guru for sitar, and more so with the surbahar, although I am meeting with Shafaatulla Khan (Ustads Imrat's son, Vilayat's nephew) to begin work on this instrument next week. I know a guy in Germany that studys with Asad Ali Khan (and is his concert organizer) that knows of several veenas available of both types, traditional and Dagar style. Carston Wicke at www.dhrupad.de.com. Give him a shout if you are really in the market for one of these rare instruments. If you are just monkeying around, I suppose one of the Mid-East type instruments would be okay to spin your wheels on, if you are serious, the Kanai Lal on AACM's site is the only one I've seen on the www, Carston has leads on a few more. Lars could do a little PI work and find one for you too.
BTW, I think Remco suggested Pandit Ashok Pathak's CD of music on surbahar. Great suggestion! Very nice CD.
Bob
Re:Surbahar... May 05, 2003 01:19 p.m.


Stephen -- Are you the Stephen in Louisville?
Stephen
Re:Surbahar... May 05, 2003 01:34 p.m.


Yes Bob, It's just me down here in Louisville.
Remco, how about that Kanai Lal surbahar that Pandit Ashok Pathak is playing (the "family surbahar", I'd love to find one of these in my family attic). That is probably the most beautiful instrument I've ever seen.
Remco
Re:Surbahar... May 05, 2003 03:16 p.m.


I've seen Ashok perform about 5 times over the years, but unfortunatly never on the surbahar. About 6 years ago I saw a concert that was unbelievable. I had tears in my eyes while he was playing an alaap, after the alaap I looked around and saw other people wiping the tears from their eyes as well, others sat there with their jaws literally droped open. I've heard some critcism on his faster playing (still.....I wish I was on that level), but his alaaps.....

Peace,

Remco

Russ
Re:Surbahar... May 05, 2003 07:51 p.m.


Alapana is what these instruments are made for. I heard Imrat Khan's 27 minute surbahar performance on Moutal's website (previously mentioned in another thread). His surbarhar playing puts me in a very mellow state of mind. Sitting down with a cup of chai and cranking his music up is a pefect end to a long day in my opinion.
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