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A History of Hemen Sitars

The small, iconic badge of a vintage Hemen sitar

Hemen Chandra Sen, founder and head of Hemen & Co., was born circa-1923, within a year or two of the births of Hiren Roy, Kishori Mohan Naskar, and Kartar Chand.

He moved to Calcutta from East-Bengal, today's Bangladesh, at age 13, in about 1936. He become a student of sitarist Ali Ahmed Khan, an uncle of Ali Akbar Khan. Ali Ahmed advised him to make instruments for a living.

An early alternative Hemen badge

Hemen Sen established his own shop, Hemen & Co., in 1946. His sitar structures were made by a craftsman called Lankeshwar, who also did work for Hiren Roy and Radha Krishna Sharma.

In 2003, he received the Hafiz Ali Khan award for his lifetime achievements from Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Hemen Sen died of a heart attack on January 2, 2010, at the age of 87. He had remained very active until just before his death. He used to sit and work every day in his little open shop at crowded Rashbehari Avenue, just a few hundred meters away from the previous shop of Hiren Roy.


Hemen Sen's obituary from IANS:

Kolkata, Jan 2 : Famed sarod and sitar maker Hemen Sen died after a massive cardiac arrest at his south Kolkata residence Saturday morning, his family said. He was 87. Sen received the Hafiz Ali Khan Award from then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003. He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters. Legendary sarod players like Amjad Ali Khan and Ali Akbar Khan and world renowned sitarist Ravi Shankar were among those who preferred playing instruments made by Sen. Expressing his condolences over Sen's death, Amjad Ali Khan described him as the "greatest sarod maker". "Hemen and Co.'s musical instruments were a favourite among musicians in various countries including the US, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Egypt," Sen's daughter Rina Banerjee told IANS. Sen, who learnt to play the sitar and the sarod from a teacher in Bangladesh, received the blessings of Ustad Alauddin Khan at a young age.


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