2013 “Ravi Shankar” Style Sitar

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In April 1965, George Harrison held his first sitar during the filming of an Indian restaurant scene for the Beatles movie “Help!” It would spark his strong interest in the instrument and add a unique sound to several Beatles recordings.
The sitar is an eastern-Indian plucked stringed instrument. It is a descendent of long-necked lutes from Central Asia. The Hindi word sitar originally derives from the Persian seh + tar, literally meaning "three strings." The sitar flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries and arrived at its present form in the 18th century Mughal period. The instrument derives its distinctive timbre and resonance due to sympathetic strings, bridge design, long hollow neck and a gourd resonating chamber. There are two main modern styles (“Ravi Shankar” and “Vilayat Khan” named after sitar pioneers) with a number of sub-styles and ornamentation. Used widely throughout the Indian subcontinent, the sitar became known in the western world in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s through the classical Indian music playing of “Pandit” Ravi Shankar.
Harrison bought his first sitar from Indiacraft, a shop located on Oxford Street in London, U.K. The model he purchased was very basic and inexpensive. He spent a little bit of time becoming familiar with the instrument and teaching himself to play it. Soon, the Beatles had completed the backing track for “Norwegian Wood” and Harrison spontaneously picked up his sitar to add a new sound. Over the next few years, Harrison would feature the sitar’s sonic drone on other compositions. This contributed to further use of the instrument in popular music.
Harrison first met Shankar in London in June of 1966 and was impressed with his humility and knowledge of the sitar. Harrison decided that, on his way home at the conclusion of the Beatles upcoming Asian tour, he would stop in India to acquire a properly handcrafted sitar. As fate would have it, the tour ended up a traumatic experience and the other members decided to join Harrison in his India stop over. 
On July 7th, in the sweltering New Delhi heat, the Beatles meet with Pandit Bishan Dass Sharma, noted sitar maker Rikhi Ram & Sons, in their room at the Oberoi hotel. Rikhi Ram made the sitars used by Shankar. The group buys a Sitar, Tanpura, Sarod and Tabla. Sharma teaches the Beatles the basics of sitar, the position & the manner in which to sit and hold the instrument and gives Harrison his first lessons.
The next month, at the end of their U.S. tour, the Beatles would decide to stop live touring. In September, Harrison would travel to India for six weeks to learn properly from Shankar himself, in the process cementing a life-long friendship.
The sitar presented in our collection is similar to the “Ravi Shankar” style used by George Harrison. It has Standard decorations, double toomba, 5 main, 2 chikari and 11 sympathetic strings.
The Beatles in India receiving a sitar lesson from Pandit Bishan Dass Sharma of Rikhi Ram & Sons.
George Harrison trying out his very first sitar.
Harrison with renowned sitar pioneer Pandit Ravi Shankar.
An illustration showing the various parts that make up a sitar.
Paul McCartney with a sitar on the set of “HELP!”

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