24 June, 2012 – Sunrise in Nizamuddin
Rabab in Nizamuddin
Photo by Manpreet Singh Khalsa

I finally managed to get on the train from Formia enroute to Vicenza, one of the places  where I get gut-strings custom made for my instruments. It is a long ride – three trains in all – changing at Rome and then at Padova. The train is expected to arrive at about 2:30p later today and I am only reaching back at Formia well past midnight which means I will be missing the Portugal-Spain match 😦 I hope Portugal get thrashed at least 3-1. I am for a Spain-Italy final with Italy winning 2-1.

24 June 2012 – Sunset in Formia
Luigi Hari Tehel Singh tests Rabab ‘Hari-bhajan’…

The Rabab’s sound is amazing – the two models of Ustad Basat Khan that I made years ago are nowhere near sound and resonance of this Rabab that I modeled on the Rabab of Guru Arjan Dev albeit with just a few alterations and evolutions. The gut-strings are fabulous but I did not have ready stock for strings 5 & 6, an issue which will remedied later this afternoon. I am also looking forward to meeting with classical guitarist, Maestro Andrea Ferigo who also is a renowned sitarist! I am told he has invented a modified guitar to play Indian classical music and I am eager to find out out if he would be willing to take up the pre-medieval/medieval Indian ‘guitar’.

I am not so glad with the polishing job done by Parminder Singh Bhamra – seems to have been hurriedly done – I guess he will have to finish it anew under the hot New Mexican sun…

There is one site, which attempts to compile various links and speaks of various postures and tuning modes, is as follows:
http://chandrakantha.com/articles/indian_music/seni.html

Rababs in the Market

There are a few Rabab models that have been sold around the world and are misleading the hands of innocent Gurbani Kirtan enthusiasts – one called Firandia Rabab, as claimed by the Punjabi University’s Gurmat Sangeet Department and its proponents, while the other, the Sikh Rabab (link below) as claimed by the Raj Musical Store and Raj Music Academy of London.

http://www.rajmusicals.com/product_info.php?cPath=93&products_id=1195

The following link, from the Punjabi University website, talks of the Firandia Rabab. If you see under the title “Pioneer efforts in the movement to Revive String Instruments of Gurmat Sangeet”, the statement reads “Under the leadership of Dr. Gurnam Singh, Founder Professor & Head, Gurmat Sangeet Chair, a team of scholars and musicians explored the original version of Rabab prevalent in Sikh Music…” My question is if the study was so pioneering, why are the so-called team of “scholars and musicians” not named? Where is the exploration? Was it documented? Where are the images of all the Rababs that were studied, etc. The sad fact is that this is all fiction writing – calling the model attributed to Guru Gobind Singh that is an exhibit at the Gurudwara at Mandi, (now) Himachal Pradesh is a cheap stunt. One can read the account of the department’s so called research (poor) appropriated in the monograph Rababi Mardana by Dr. Mohinder Kaur Gill.
http://www.gurmatsangeetpup.com/pages/gscactivities.html

In an interview with Aparna Banerji published in The Tribune, http://www.tribuneindia.com/2011/20110424/edit.htm#3, Dr. Gurnam Singh had the following to say:
“Q. What are your department’s future plans?
A. We are conducting research on stringed instruments. Particularly the Rabab. The Firandia rabab that was handed down to Bhai Mardana at Firanda is the original one. People often confuse it for the Kabuli, Afghani or the Kashmiri Rabab. We plan to bring out a dictionary of terminologies on Gurmat Sangeet and plan to launch online courses for students.”

The question again is how does he know that the Rabab what was handed down to Bhai Mardana was already called “Firandia rabab”? In her monograph, Gill quotes the brochure that the Gurmat Sangeet Department released on the day of the department’s inauguration. She quotes that Guru Gobind Singh had a Rabab made on the model of Firandia Rabab hence the model exhibit at the Gurudwara, Mandi is the Firandia Rabab. Where is the reference for all this (crap)? Lies and fiction-writings do not serve a community or a musical tradition, howsoever grandiose, in any way..!

Another baffling post of the Rabab is at the link of Raj Musical Academy:
http://www.sikhsaaj.com/rabab.html

Read the titles – it is as if it is being played by Bhai Mardana himself – speaking of semantics and precision! For more inaccuracies (rabab as the “shadow of Guru Nanak” taus and dilruba related), read the following page:
http://sikhpunjabimusic.blogspot.it/

{I posted this post on June 27 and added these links on June 28. Today, one of my students was trying to access the above link but it has since been removed..! Why don’t people who post these links without references and merely based on fiction have the scholarship to accept an error. Even if they have to remove it, they should specify the reason and if they are being forced to remove, which is not my actual intent, they should acknowledge the reason and the people because of whom they are now correcting a mistake – that will show some integrity. Fortunately, I have saved the now removed page and will find a way to post it shortly.
I have also noted that the captions on the videos on http://www.sikhsaaj.com have been removed for I had questioned these videos. Again, I have saved the original postings and will post them shortly. Academic integrity does not seem to be doing rounds these days or so it seems..!}
Furthermore, the saranda, rabab, taus and jori illustrations are flawed – the making of these instruments are very new with no history all that can happen – when the makers do not know how to make these instruments, the players do not know how to play them – is happening 😦

(Added on July 3, at 07:13 hrs, NM time)
There is one, which I chanced upon moments ago and find more closer to the original, at the following link:
http://www.tablasitaruk.com/professional-quality-punjabi-rabab-p-80.html
There are certain issues though, which distance it from its original luthiery techniques,  tradition and history.

Debating Stringing

With Mimmo Peruffo in his office.

Sadiq Ali Khan, in his book called Laws of Music (Qanoon-e-mousiqui, 1874), says that the ancient Rabab had 4 metal (faulaad) strings while the Rabab of Guru Nanak had 6 silken-strings. When I had called upon musical instrument maker, Gurdial Singh of Jalandhar in 2008, when I was doing a documentary series – Luthiers of Punjab, in which I exposed some of the frivolous claims made by some of these instrument sellers. I had showed him the rabab that I had handcrafted for Luigi Hari Tehel Singh (15), he had asked “why six strings – aren’t four enough?” Of course, I told him that “that’s the count of strings on Ustad Basat Khan’s 300+ years-old Rabab”. Yesterday, with Mimmo Peruffo, I debated this idea of 6 strings – even if made of guts. So far, I had tried many formulas and combinations but in the end it was more or less 4+2 rather than six-in-line. One is short of ideas while imagining the kind of guts or silk strings that were then used. Whose guts were they – cat, horse, donkey, monkey, cow, buffalo, zebra, lion or tiger? How were they made (processing, etc.)? What was the tuning method, in case the playable strings were only four and the other two played more like a veena chikari (the one also copied on the sitar)? Mimmo came with an extraordinary solution for the sixth string – but we parted in awe – for how was Bhai Mardana rabab strung – was tuned – was played…?