INSTRUMENTS

I am lucky to have access to many wonderful instruments.  For percussion, I mainly play tabla (more information below), though I also occasionally play dumbek, pakhawaj, and ghatam.   For melody, I mainly play the mohan veena, lap steel guitar, and a "banjabab" a tenor banjo I modified (more information below).   I have modified the tenor banjo and lap steel to make it easier to play Hindustani (North Indian classical) music on them.

Tabla

Tabla is a North Indian classical drum.  There are two pieces, a larger drum made of brass or aluminum, and a smaller drum made of wood.  The leather heads are held in place and given tension by adjustable leather straps down the sides.  Listen to a sample.

Playing the tabla

Playing the tabla

Mohan Veena

This is an Indian slide guitar invented by Pandit Vishwamohan Bhatt.  It has 3 main playing strings, 5 chikari (open drone) strings, and 12 taraf (sympathetic) strings.  I use a brass bottleneck slide on my first finger, finger picks and a thumb pick to play it.  Listen to a sample.

Tuning the mohan veena

Tuning the mohan veena

Modified Lap Steel Guitar

I modified a solid body 8 string lap steel in order to more easily play mohan veena style on it.  One of the characteristics of Hindustani classical melody I like is playing jhalla, fast passages that rely on the strumming  of chikari (open drone) strings, functionally similar to a banjo's 5th string. I added a banjo tuning peg and post half way up the neck to create a high-octave chikari (drone) string, and use a regular string slot to have a second chikari string an octave lower.  I play them with a thumb pick.  There are three main playing strings.  I play with a glass bottleneck slide.  Listen to a sample.

Playing the modified lap steel guitar

Playing the modified lap steel guitar

A closeup of the additional tuner and post I added to a lap steel guitar

A closeup of the additional tuner and post I added to a lap steel guitar

Banajbab

I play a tenor banjo in the style of the sarod as taught to me by my guruji, the maestro Soumya Chakraverty.  The instrument ha a similar sound to the rabab, so I call it the banjabab (a portmanteau of banjo and rabab).  I use a traditional jabba (a coconut shell plectrum) and fret the strings with my finger nails.  The smooth fingerboard and flatwound strings facilitate playing meend (portamento), an important means of emotional expression in Hindustani music.  To create the banjabab, I removed the frets from a tenor banjo.  Shivali Shah filled and finished the fretboard smooth (the remaining fret marks are dark colored wood filler).  I ground down part of the metal tension hoop to accommodate the lower action.  Listen to a sample.

Playing the fretless tenor banjo

Playing the fretless tenor banjo