Recommendations on Buying an Esraj or Dilruba

If you ask me “Where can I buy a Quality Esraj or Dilruba?” (as seen on my blogspot blog)

Earlier , I would have told everyone : ” Err I don’t Know – Mine is from Raj Musicals in Delhi, so I suppose you can get one there ”

Their instruments are good, and I have nothing against them. I just wish they would pay more attention to details and give the ‘average’ customer better service. It’s best to have someone who knows how to inspect instruments properly pick it up. OR, if you are friends with a famous or semi-famous musician – ask them to place the order for you.

Note: Raj Musicals in Dehli is different from “Raj Academy” which is based in the UK. Their instruments will most likely be OK because they have been inspected thoroughly.

Anyways.. Now I have someone else I can recommend with confidence.
Check out Monoj Kumar Sardar & Bros – in Kolkata.

My good friend Angad bought an Esraj from him. I have seen photos, and heard it on Skype. She’s a beauty !
Best of all , it reached him with everything taken care of nicely. Nothing needs to be adjusted or messed with.

I hope they always give all their customers – newbies, amateur and professional – fantastic workmanship and great service.

*Update May 2008: My friend Sarab Singh also ordered one from MKS. He has just received it, and is very happy with it.

Call Mr. MONOJ KUMAR at the office number, tell him Angad from Singapore recommended him.
Don’t bother emailing – just CALL .

Office Telephone: +91-33-2237-5835
Showroom Telephone: +91-33-2248-4519

Their Basic Site: Monoj Kr. Sardar & Bros.

* RIKHI RAM is another big brand name used by several professional Hindustani Classical musicians. Seek them out and ask them too. I think they’re Delhi Based.

* If you’re ready to invest in a TOP NOTCH, traditional Sikh Instrument (Rabab, Taus , Dilruba, Saranda, Jori, etc.): Get in touch with Bhai Baldeep Singh

A few personal recommendations:

1) I suggest you buy an ESRAJ rather than a DILRUBA because the main playing string of the ESRAJ is further away from the edge, and it’s just more comfortable to play. (For me at least)
He’s got 3-4 different grades of Esraj – so you can order one that suits your budget.

If you felt like you NEEDED this information, I’d say you don’t really need an instrument made of teak, so go for the Toon Wood.

If you’re picky – A One-piece Toon Wood Esraj will do fine. If you want to watch your Budget , go for a two piece Toon Wood Esraj.
I’m sorry I don’t quite know the proper English name for Toon wood – if you do , post a comment.

Order machine head tuners for the main strings and sympathetic strings, because if you’re tall and get a small Esraj with big wooden tuning pegs, you wont be able to sit properly.
They’re just easier to tune.

*** I visited Singapore in Dec 2007 and got a chance to play Angad’s Esraj. See Videos from January 2008. His Esraj is smaller than mine, and the big wooden tuning pegs for the main strings go behind my neck when I play – so I can’t sit straight. Other than that It’s a brilliant Esraj though – I like it.
Except the tension on the main playing strings are not very high, which makes it a quiet instrument. You can instruct the manufacturer that you want the instrument to be a little louder than Angad’s – so he should increase the string tension a bit – maybe 20% . He will probably do this by putting a taller bridge or putting slightly thicker stings. I’m not sure – ASK him. ***

Under the bridge of your instrument – there MUST be a leather strip that goes across the sound-box, over the first layer of skin. For Reinforcement.
Because of the nature of animal skin and the way it is attached to the Soundbox of the instrument – it will stretch and “sink in” somewhat after a while. A layer of reinforcement is highly recommended.

My own Esraj/TarShehnai is a two piece model from Delhi’s Raj Musicals. I don’t know what wood it’s made of. I didn’t have much input when ordering it. It’s a little bit large – 70cm string length from the point where it is suspended until where the bridge starts. String tension on my instrument’s main string is about 30% higher than Angad’s. (personal estimate)

You can order a two piece or one piece from MKS. One piece is more expensive, but should sound slightly better and theoretically be more solid/longer lasting.
Like I said: Toon wood will work just fine. Go for Teak later when you don’t need my advice anymore.

Let MKS know that you want to be able to tune the main playing string to play a range of Sa = C to D#

If you are tall, tell the manufacturer how tall you are – so they can make an instrument that suits your size.

If you’re seriously planning to get one – Write all this stuff down ?

2) Secondly, Order the TarShehnai Horn/Soundbox. He charges only a tiny bit more, and it will be like you are buying 2 instruments in one.

3) Regarding the TarShehnai Horn – ask him for a horn that is SHORT and WIDE. It is my observation that they sound a bit deeper/sweeter than the Long/Narrow ones. But double check with the seller about this.
If possible, the Horn should be detachable from the Soundbox. If it is , order 2 horns – It WILL make a difference to the sound. Options I suggest you choose from:
* Light/Wide/Short
* Heavy/Wide/Short
* Light/Tall/Narrow
* Heavy/Tall/Narrow

But of course, in the end, the best thing is for you to get what YOU really want.
The above is just to just give you some guidelines based on what I know and like.