Perfecting The Pitch: Sawai Festival’s Backstage Heroes

Mirajkar training his worker to tune a sitar

Be it the tanpura in the background or any other Indian classical instrument at the fore, it plays a huge role in adding to the melodious charm of every performance at Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Mahotsav. The festival, which has seen the likes of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Dr Prabha Atre perform, has always been accompanied by tanpuras in the background.

This year, four pairs of tanpuras were gifted to Arya Prasarak Sangeet Mandal (ASPM), the festival organisers, by Sajid Mirajkar of Yusuf Mirajkar Musicals on Laxmi Road.  Mirajkar is also in charge of tuning and maintaining all the instruments backstage. Before him, his grandfather, Ismail Mirajkar, and father, Yusuf Mirajkar, held the responsibility of this since the early years of the festival. They hail from Miraj, southern Maharashtra, which has a rich historical tradition of making classical Indian instruments since 1805.

One of the gifted tanpuras depicting Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Source: Facebook

“We have been maintaining all the instruments backstage since the start. We are the third generation doing this. Much before the festival started, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi sought help from my grandfather regarding the maintenance of his instrument. At the Sawai festival, our responsibility is to bring all the tanpuras here. Currently, there are 15 tanpuras and one tanpuri here. The Mandal also provides us a list of artists and their instrument requirements. We prepare accordingly. We also ensure that we fix any artist’s instrument if there is a problem related to tuning or attaching strings,” explains Sajid Mirajkar.

Shrinivas Joshi, son of late Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Executive President, ASPM, adds that his and Mirajkar’s musical acquaintance goes back five generations. “Their make of the tanpura is known to be the best in the world. All our tanpuras here are made in Miraj by them.”

Tanpura is an accompanist for instrumentals as well as vocals. The four pairs that were gifted to the festival were made in Miraj. It was designed by Mirajkar and artist, Omkar Inamdar. The intricate floral decoration is made from a thin foil of real gold and a green colour adorning the leaves is made from the natural dye of a flower. Interestingly, the design also includes a wooden carving that depicts Pandit Bhimsen Joshi playing the tanpura.

“We have used red cedar wood to make these. Everything used in there is natural. It can be used perfectly for the next 30 years. Each pair is of a different pitch and making them takes a lot of time. Only the Sawai festival is specific about their requirements regarding this. It is our duty to do this work as we have the skills and expertise to do it,” states Mirajkar, who also assures that his children will continue this work.

Vijayta Lalwani

Vijayta Lalwani

The young lady from Lagos has always been keen on a career in journalism. Pune365 was hence the right stop. We agree.
Vijayta Lalwani