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It was in India, in the 18th century, still during the ruling of the Mongol Empire, that the sitar took its modern shape as a solo instrument in classic Indian music, and the use of the five strings sitar was already frequent. The name sitar established itself in the beginning of this period, although there are records that still mention “tamburas with or without frets”, up until about 1800. The changes include the increase in the length, the decrease in the width of the neck - which became straight and no longer sharp like before - the use of the bulky shape for the resonance box, no longer a flat back, the adoption of a heavy metal for the frets, as well as for the nut, more rigid string guides, made of bone, and the use of strings made of heavier metals. At present, there are many types of sitars, however the most common type in concert music in India is the concert sitar, with seven strings, more or less twelve sympathetic strings, with twenty mobile frets that allow for various modal tunings. The Museum’s specimen has features that indicate that it is a sitar with some tambura characteristics - only five strings (no sympathetic strings), tuning pegs with edges sculpted in the shape of two cloverleaves (the modern sitars have thick round tuning pegs, with a bulky upper part sculpted without ornaments or in a spiral shape, roses, etc., for a better adherence) - but also with sitar features, that is, steel strings played with a mizrab.
General data (classification and additional names)
321.321 Necked bowl lutes
Cytara (Source: 1890-1895 Inventory book)
Specimen’s data (this item specifically)
L=79cm W=11cm H=8cm
Later inscription: label with identification from the 1905 catalogue on the neck’s upper part "N. 53 – SITAR".
Donated by João Baptista da Motta and Rodolfo Bernadelli
MIDC/EM/UFRJ 321.3 I19 Prat. 14
BETHENCOURT; BORDAS; CANO; CARVAJAL; SOUZA; DIAS; LUENGO; PALACIUS; PIQUER, ROCHA, RODRIGUEZ; RUBIALES; RUIZ, 2012.
GROVE MUSIC ONLINE, 2014.