INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: Nikhil Banerjee sitar

 

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Remco_Helbers
Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 13, 2003 04:59 p.m.


Hi everyone,
Yesterday I went to see Debashish Battacharta on slideguitar (or actually 3 different instruments): WOW!!
what a stunning musician...unbelievable.....

While I was there I bought a double-live CD from Nikhil Banerjee and looking at the cover I noticed he had an extra string on his sitar. Does anyone know what his tuning was?

Peace,

Remco

Remco_Helbers
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 13, 2003 05:01 p.m.


I ment Bhattacharya, sorry for the typo...

Remco

Billy
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 13, 2003 09:26 p.m.



Namaste',
Billy Godfrey
Amitava
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 13, 2003 08:52 p.m.


Extra string? Sure? He did use a second mini bridge on the top for the kharaj and pancham (bass) strings. But I was under the impression that his was a "regular" instrument.
DaveP
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 13, 2003 09:48 p.m.


I think the extra string was steel and tuned to Ga or Ga komal like in the Vilayat Khan style.

That way he could have more of a chord sound with his chikari strings and still keep the benefits of the Pancham Kharaj string system.

Best of both worlds!

Billy
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 13, 2003 10:29 p.m.



DaveP (Oct 13, 2003 09:48 p.m.):
That way he could have more of a chord sound with his chikari strings and still keep the benefits of the Pancham Kharaj string system.

Best of both worlds!



Forgive my ignorance, but it seems on one of his recordings I listen to quite a lot, he plays what sounds like two different "chords" on the chikari. Is that possible, or am I mis-hearing it. Perhaps the extra string would help do that?
Namaste',
Billy Godfrey
Beenkarji
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 13, 2003 10:29 p.m.


Yeah, thats all the extra peg is, its just tuned to either ga, or the samvadi, whichever is more acceptable for a particular raag. I am thinking about doing that to my Naskar, but the only decent place I could put the peg is right where the nut is, so I current dont think I will. I wonder when the sitar will stop gaining strings, it seems every century it seems to gain a few more...hehe
Beenkar Ted Ceplina
DaveP
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 13, 2003 10:49 p.m.


Another way is to remove the Kharaj and replace it with steel (usually 1st string size). That means you still have the Pancham for the low octave. Works quite well and seems to be a good compromise considering the amount of time the Karaj is ever played, as well as dealing with its inherent tuning problems.
Billy
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 13, 2003 11:14 p.m.


Here's an interesting article I found at:

http://home.wanadoo.nl/luther7/PATH/style.html

The sound of the Pathak-style is very soft and smooth. The sharp resonating sounds, so typical for the sitar, is much softer and as Ashok Pathak puts it, "the sound is more round, like a human voice." It's amazing to hear how many different types of sound the Pathak sitar produces. The clear sound and the treatment of meend in the Pathak-gharana are easy to recognize. How are these different aspects created?

Firstly there are some adjustments on the instrument. Balaram Pathak started to change little things on his sitar. He worked out his ideas together with his sitar-builder Hiren Roy. Very important is the extra third bridge at the end on the neck of the sitar. Now the upper strings are tide over two bridges which gives a longer sustain, even if the string is stroke softly. This is important, because the soft stroke is part of the style, but long meends are important too. The bridges on both sides are not flat but a little rounded, this also longers the sustain, but besides this it makes the sound softer than the sitar-sound we mostly hear.

Another important adjustment is the eight string. The sitar traditionally consists seven upper strings. A lot of sitar-players nowadays are playing on a six-string sitar like Vilayat Khan, this means without the bass-string, that is hardly used in some gharanas. On the Pathak-sitar there is an extra string. Four strings are for melody, like the traditional sitar and instead of three chikari-strings there is an extra chikari, tuned in Sa to created a fuller sound.

Two adjustments of minor importance are the little screws on the top for the fine tuning of the chikari-strings and the extra fret on Re-komal.

All adjustments are there, of course, to serve those things that are historically important in the Pathak-gharana. In the sound they create two features make the sound easy to recognize. Firstly it's the important role of the alaap and the long meends that are moving slowly and are extremely sensitive. In the treatment of alaap there is still evidence of the history of veena-players and drhupad-singers in the Pathak-gharana. When a raga is played on surbahar they play in drhupad-style and not in the more common khyal-style. It moves slowly, the meends are dark and very fine in their melodic progression. The gat is, as prescribed in dhrupad, played with Pakhawaj instead of tablas.

The other feature is the great variety of timbre. It is provided in many techniques of playing, like playing on the sympethatic strings, playing small parts with a nail instead of the plectrum. More sitar-players are using this, but two techniques are only used by the Pathak-family. The flageolets are used very frequent, in the middle of a melody, or to serve as a base for a small melodic line. This technique is introduced by Balaram Pathak, just as the use of chords. Although this last technique is fully perfected by Ashok Pathak. It makes him the only sitar-player today, using chords.

At last the dynamic range from extremely soft till very loud is more extreme than any other sitar-style.

After reading this, I think what I may have heard on the Banerjee CD I was talking about was likely his playing tarbs with his left little finger nail.


Namaste',
Billy Godfrey
swansong
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 14, 2003 05:55 a.m.


Debashish, how incredible... Is he on tour!?! please tell me he's coming to California!

regarding the article it sounds kinda fishy. For one thing I'm not a physicist but I would think that having the bridge at the nut couldn't possibly increase sustain while making a softer sound (??) For one thing increasing the amount of buzzing area (from jawari) emphasizes upper harmonics on the string by transferring energy to create many overlapping waves of higher frequency, also known as rich overtones. This increased "tanpura growl" may be true of the third bridge but if energy is transferred to complexify the frequencies then the whole thing couldn't possibly sustain as long. hmmm.

Also, that's rather dumb to say that pathak is the only one to use chords. A chord conists of 2 or more notes (an interval), so every sitar player uses chords. If you ignore the emphasis of the drone as the tonic (root note) then many times you start to hear all sorts of complex tonalities, jazz chords, diminished chords, fragmented chords, etc. I never used to notice but now I see things so much differently, sometimes I can strip down the chords responsible for various emotions I feel while listening. Honestly I think playing fingered chords on more than two strings isn't worth it, why not play a guitar instead and use 4 fingers? Playing large chords is tough to get away with anyway since it makes the sound too crowded and it was not meant to be like that anyway...

Amitava
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 14, 2003 08:44 a.m.


Thanks Billy pic helped. Perhaps Ira took some close shots of the top of NB's instrument. It may help confirm the explanations....and drool over one more pic. Lar's any chance of bugging Ira?

A

Billy
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 14, 2003 11:24 a.m.



Amitava (Oct 14, 2003 08:44 a.m.):
Thanks Billy pic helped. Perhaps Ira took some close shots of the top of NB's instrument. It may help confirm the explanations....and drool over one more pic. Lar's any chance of bugging Ira?
A

Yeah, I have a CD that clearly shows in color the sitar and eight main pegs, but you still can't see the strings. I got the B&W photo off of a website somewhere, for a photoshop project I'm thinking about doing.

I'll look around so more later for a closeup.


Namaste',
Billy Godfrey
Remco
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 14, 2003 11:52 a.m.


Hi,
I've scanned the cover of the Live CD and will try to post a zoomed in pic of the headstock.
The sitars from the Pathak garana really have a softer, rounder sound than other sitarplayers. I can really advise people to check out their CD's (from Ashok and Balaram Pathak) One of my faves is the surbahar CD from Ashok: he really has captured my favourite Surbahar sound. None of the sharpness you hear for instance with Imrat Khan (a stunning player as well, but soundwise not my cup of tea).

Peace,

Remco

Billy
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 17, 2003 03:10 p.m.



swansong (Oct 14, 2003 05:55 a.m.):
regarding the article it sounds kinda fishy. For one thing I'm not a physicist but I would think that having the bridge at the nut couldn't possibly increase sustain while making a softer sound (??)...

Here's what little I could find on Banerjee and the extra bridge:

Interviewer: I notice that your sitar has a small, secondary bridge up at the top of the finger board. Is this your own innovation? What is its purpose?

Nikhil: Actually, I wanted to do something for the continuity of sound. Previously, continuity of the sitar sound was missing. In my playing, you'll see a touch of vocal is there - when I'm playing alap or slow compositions, I like some sort of very bold, deep sound. Whereas for speedy playing, I need a little sharper sound. Both are not possible for sitar, so to be very frank, in my whole life I didn�t get a good instrument to my choice! But I tried many, many instruments and lastly, what I've got now, I'm happy with, it's OK. But not very happy - I didn't get an instrument according to my own choice.

I think all he's saying is he wants a good tone no matter if he's playing soft alap or fast gats. I'm guessing that its the soft alaps that the bridge really makes a difference, as when striking the strings lightly gives the nut more a chance to muffle the sound, especially playing open strings (non-fretted.) I have looked high-and-low and could not find anything else about the third bridge.

Later Nikhil explains that he never was satisfied with his sitar, but couldn't get any of the makers to study and improve on it.


Namaste',
Billy Godfrey
Jan
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 18, 2003 04:10 a.m.


Yes, we have been down this road before, but its just as interesting. What he is saying is that the sitar is not perfect.
The lack of sustain is a serious issue, he managed to get i ok on the deeper strings. But the overall feel of the Sitar never got developed into perfect.
Some people always want to make things better, others dont see the need. Some will be happy with their Bina others will never be happy with any instrument. I guess it depends on your level of detail and if you are willing to accept things as they are, or if you are of the more innovaiting and inventing kind whom will try to make things better and try to overcome general construction weakness.

I will have to agree, the sitar is part of evolution just as anything else. Things will come ut sooner or later that will make the sitar sing with a greater vioce.

Not that i dont like the voice it has today...

Jan

Lars
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 19, 2003 07:35 p.m.


I talked to Ira about the extra string and here's what he had to say.

"At one point Nikhil experimented with that extra string but since I knew him, I never saw it actually strung...I seem to recall it was a bass [kharaj] string, tho, not a chikari."

There you go....!


Lars
Amitava
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Oct 20, 2003 08:50 a.m.



Lars (Oct 19, 2003 07:35 p.m.):
I talked to Ira about the extra string and here's what he had to say.

"At one point Nikhil experimented with that extra string but since I knew him, I never saw it actually strung...I seem to recall it was a bass [kharaj] string, tho, not a chikari."

There you go....!


Am glad I poked you Lars. Always something new to learn. Personally on the recordings, I could never hear the extra 'chikari'. So I was a bit suspicious of the chikari theory for NB. Extra kharaj. There is barely space on the bridge for an extra string...also the tension would have caused some problens on the neck I would think..no?

A

Billy
Re:Nikhil Banerjee sitar Nov 10, 2003 02:02 p.m.


Continuing on the discussion of NB's eight string sitar.... I often buy cheap CD's off eBay even of artists I never heard of; if its less than five bucks, I figure I haven't lost much. Anyway, I got a CD in the mail a couple of days ago, and am listening to it for the first time. Its "The Art of the Indian Sitar" by Rash Behari Datta. Its ok.

What strikes me though is the photo on the cover of the CD; he is definitely playing an eight string sitar. Its hard to be sure, but it does look like it has the standard four main strings. So whether the extra peg is used for chikari, or, like NB, isn't used at all, its hard to say.

His bio says he studied in the Patiala gharana then at a music academy in Chandigarh, and completed training under Pt Uma Shander Mishra.

I couldn't find a better photo of the sitar on the Internet. I do have another CD by him called "Concerto for 20 Sitars", the sitar he's holding on the cover looks similar, but I can't tell how many main pegs it has. But the album notes inside state specifically that the modern sitar has seven strings. Hmmmm. Perhaps there's a disease of unused eighth peg going around.

OK, here's another wrinkle: the b&w of NH I posted above (and other photos I've seen on CD's) looks like on his sitar there are four pegs above the nut and two below; but the photo of Rash Datta looks like three pegs above and three below. The plot thickens.....


Namaste',
Billy Godfrey
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