1930s Anonyme Surbahar
Updated: Sep 17
This instrument was in many pieces when we received it. The tabli was separated from the gullu, and both the gullu and tabli were separated from the gourd, which itself was in dozens of pieces.
All of the nubs had sheared off the langot. You can see the pins that were added over time as the nubs sheared off.
The peg box end of the instrument had been butchered, and the scale length shortened from 40 inches to 37.5 inches.
The second meru was broken. We decided to eliminate it.
The stand/foot was an add-on, roughly cut with a jigsaw and glued to the gourd. There is no wood backing on the gourd in the area where this one was glued, so it's likely that this instrument originally had no foot. The screws were to re-attach a portion that had broken off. They did not extend into the gourd.
Even pieced together, more than one third of the gourd was missing.
The dandi was cleaved down the middle, extending perhaps 10 inches down the neck.
But the neck joint was perfect.
The restoration required, among other things, a complete rebuild of the main tumba and extending the scale length to its original 40 inches. The second meru was eliminated as unnecessary. The ivory bridge was preserved and replaced with a replica made of resin fortified with various polymers. Resin nubs have been added to the original langot to replace the ones that had sheared off. Backing for the langot and the foot/stand was reinforced with 1/2 inch of resin. The resin binds tightly to both wood and gourd.
Equipped with a wound brass kharaj, the final instrument is thunderous. The filthiest instrument we've ever restored, the finish underneath the decades of soot was immaculate.
It would have taken only a few more hours to skim-coat the gourd with plaster to make it appear new -- like any commonplace sitar made today. But the original gourd had literally no plaster or other filler, skim-coating would have hidden the original imperfections in the pumpkin, and we never hide repairs in any event. Because gourds break at their weakest points and modern adhesive are so strong, this repaired tumba will be far more resilient than when the instrument was first made.
With the reinforcements, this instrument is now stronger than it was when new. Destined for the trash bin only a few weeks ago, it is now good for another century of playing. And no modern instrument can compare. A priceless treasure in our book.