Naba Kumar Kanji: An artisan behind the art of playing Sarod

Posted by Kaahon Desk On July 11, 2017

Indian Classical Music, with its rich repository of musical gems and a long heritage of practice, has also been a global phenomenon. Keeping in mind their immense contribution, this worldwide appeal of classical music has always been, in a way, a celebration of the musicians, artistes and performers. In other words, the history of Indian Classical Music has been a history of the Ustads and Pandits. The instruments and those who craft these have been completely side-lined and overlooked. The mighty achievements of the Ravi Shankars and Amjad Alis seemed to have completely overshadowed the artisans behind their Sitars and Sarods. Naba Kumar Kanji of Kolkata is one of the skilled and sought-after craftsmen who have earned a wide reputation as a Sarod manufacturer. Following into the footsteps of his father, he completed his graduation and worked a brief stint in Delhi before devoting his complete attention to the family business. His combination of skill, understanding, hard work and insight soon made him popular among the contemporary Sarod players across India.

Naba Kumar explains the process and nuances of making Sarods

As he talks in detail about almost every little detail of manufacturing a Sarod, he stresses upon the significance of selecting the perfect wood for the body as well as letting it season it for as long as it takes, something that might run into years before it is ready for the instruments. Among other important factors he mentions, are the skin and the strings, which together contribute in creating the tone of a Sarod. He further underlines the importance of listening to music and develops an understanding of the musical aspects in order to become a successful Sarod maker, or any instrument for that matter.

Respecting and subjectively understanding artistes’ requirements are the key factors in crafting good Sarods

Needless to say, his profession brings him into close contact with the artistes and musicians on a daily basis and Kanji finds himself in a position to negotiate with them at a close proximity which often result in long-term relationships. He must figure out creative ways to deal with the very specific kinds of demands placed by various artistes. He explains how he must continuously keep making delicate shifts in the designs to match the expectations of musicians. He mentions the electric Sarod, which seems to be gaining a steady popularity due to a more metallic tone. It is used by the likes of Pratyush Banerjee and Sarang Kulkarni. When asked about the continuation of the tradition after him, it becomes evident that the learning of this skill, in the context of Indian Classical Music, is never an institutional affair just like the instruments are never part of any assembly line production. While Kanji himself has no qualms about passing on his knowledge to the ones working with him or to his own daughter, it is also important that they should have the required bend of mind and perseverance necessary to become a successful craftsman.

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