Guide to Makers
Hiren Roy and Sons
Established in 1943 by Hiren Roy and continued to this day by his youngest son Barun Ray, this Calcutta shop is without equal for sitar craftsmanship. Many great musicians, such as Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Sm. Annapurna Devi, and Pandit Ravi Shankar have sworn by these instruments.
Born in Bangladesh in 1923, Hiren Roy came to Calcutta at the age of fourteen. His dream was not to be an instrument maker but to learn the art of sitar playing. He studied with the famous musicologist Bimalakanta RoyChoudhury of the Imdadkhani gharana and later from Smt. Annapura Devi in the Senia Maihar style. Unfortunately in these years he did not have the money to pay for continuing lessons or even buy a sitar. So he took a job in the shop of Yogesh Chandra Chakraborty and also did some odd jobs here and there to make some money and save some of it to buy wood, gourds and some tools. He started making his own sitars and found that local musicians praised his work.
So, Hiren Roy started his own business and spent his whole life researching the various aspects of sound, design and composition of a sitar. One can see how the assimilation of different styles of sitar playing enabled him to find newer avenues of improvement in terms of look and tonal quality. Here the artisan transcends his level and soars into the class of an artist. He wanted to make the sitar sound like the human voice. He made the tabli (wooden cover on top of the gourd) and the Dandi (the neck) strong enough to withstand heavier strokes and tapings on thicker strings thus making it more appropriate for meend(bending) which is an essential element of Indian music. This added to the clarity of tone and optimised the balance between the sound inside the gourd and the sound produced outside. For his lifetime achievement he was honoured in 1971 by the cultural forum called” Nikkon” in Calcutta. Sometime in the eighties he was selected by the Vishwabharati University as a member of their interview board. A documentary film on his life and work had also been made.
Hiren Roy died in December of 1992, and didn’t do much work in the last years of his life, although he came into the shop every day. But he had three sons that he groomed to carry on his tradition. Oldest son Himangshu ran the business until his own early demise in 1997. Middle son Amit has pursued a career as a sitarist, learning from Nikhil Banerjee and Smt. Annapurna Devi, and now living and teaching in Japan. The shop is now run by youngest son Barun. Like his father, a musician and an innovator, Barun has won praise from great musicians for maintaining the family quality and and also adapting to changing times. For example, with horn for bridges becoming scarce, he has lead the way in inventing synthetic bridges that are durable and need jawari less often.
In the last few years, Barun has closed the famous Hiren Roy shop on Rash Behari Ave. in Calcutta. He continues to work out of his house and will continue to provide us with his beautiful instruments. He has changed the name tag on his instruments from "Hiren Roy and Sons" to "Barun Ray, Hiren Roy's Son"
This family business was started 85 years ago by the late Pandit Rikhi Ram, and continued for many years by his son, the late Bishan Dass. Grandson Ajay Sharma carries on the tradition today and continues to innovate. Many great musicians, including Pandit Ravi Shankar, swear by these instruments. Ajay's brother Sanjay, has started his own shop, amd continues to produce high quality instruments.
Manoj Kumar Sardar and Bros.
This shop is run by four brothers, all musicians, all involved in crafting the instruments. The business was started by their grandfather, Mrityunjay Sardar, and continued by their father, the late Khagendranath Sardar. One of the brothers, Ashok Sardar, learned sitar from the late Aparesh Chattopadhyay and is able to apply his knowledge of the music and the instrument to crafting sitars. Another brother, Ashim Sardar, learned violin from Jatin Pandey. Ashis Sardar has concentrated on the art of harmonium making. Their shop makes most instruments found in Classical Music, and they specialize in Sitars, Tanpuras, Esrajs, Dilrubas, and Harmoniums.They have also been pioneers in innovating such new instruments as the Hansaveena and the popular Flatback Vocal Tanpuras.
P. and Brothers
This business was started by Sri Gopal Karmaka. He ran a shop making musical instruments in Dhaka, then in East Bengal. After Partition, his three sons, Panchkari Karmakar, Badal Karmakar and Biswanath Karmakar made their way to West Bengal. Times were tough but they managed to get work in various music shops working for other makers. In 1953 they jointly established a shop named “P and Brothers” in Northern Calcutta. They built their reputation in the musical society of Calcutta and came to be well respected in their field. Eventually Badal Karmakar became the sole proprietor. Many famous musicians patronized his shop, for instruments and repairs. Among them were Nikhil Banerjee, Kartik Kumar, Manilal Nag, and Ali Ahmed Khan.
Now the business is run by Badal Karmakar’s son Suman, who with his father’s colleagues is carrying on the family tradition.
Kanai Lal and Sons
Kanailal Bhowmic was born in the Kumilla district of Bangladesh, where he
started his life as a simple furniture-maker. Later on he came to Calcutta and
joined Mr.Yogesh Chakraborty in making Indian classical musical instruments.
After that he was very fortunate to get the chance to work with two stalwarts of
the business, Mr. Hiren Roy and Mr. Radha Krishna Sharma.
Radha Krishna Sharma
This company was founded by the late Sri Radha Krishna Sharma in Calcutta in 1948. Radha Krishna sitars made up until the mid-70s are much prized by connoisseurs. These days his sons have hired many workers and gone for quantity. Still the standard is maintained and they are many steps above generic sitars. We have been carrying these sitars for over 30 years, and feel they offer a very good entry level sitar. Their concert sitars can be very nice.