QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS (or FAQ)
Can I get Srishti sitars in India or elsewhere? They aren't available in India although the person that does our fitting has his own label as well but a different setup for producing the bodies and carving. Despite any advertisement to the contrary, Srishti sitars are only available through Rain City Music.
What's with the tabla page? We initially stocked all tablas and sets and occasionally will add a dayan or two to instrument shipments. The problem with stocking tabla sets is that there are many varieties and when a dayan sits for months they go flat and need to be pulled. We decided along with the maker that it was better to have them custom made to order given the amount of time is really negligible @ around 3 weeks and they can be air shipped directly. This gives the customer/musician the flexibility of ordering exactly what they want and saves us the headache of having Tor rush over to pull straps! We encourage tabla enthusiasts to try their next set this way, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!! Also Gopal Das (who makes Parampara tablas) is trying to get to the US yearly to service his tablas which is good news......
Usually we have a few dayans in stock but best to email to see as it will vary.....
The sitar I want is out of stock? Usually in the summer sitars here are in short supply. I'll get a few in but have to time it right with the weather as the instruments get sticky in India. By Fall inventory will pick back up!
I thought you were back at Sitars Etc, what happened? I've heard this one a number of times! When our friend Bharat passed away I offered to purchase Sitarsetc.com back from his heirs and things almost worked out. Actually it was certain enough to the point that on my recent trip to India I purchased the entire line of Srishti instruments, along with Parampara, etc. in order to prepare. As some of you remember I was operating the sales, etc. and had spent a lot of time revamping the website. Unfortunately sometimes details can't ause the instruments had already been made and obtained. Srishti Musical and Parampara will now be exclusive here in the future and the labels have been redesigned to reflect this. The Parampara tabla models will be the same as before with the exception of "student" models, Srishti sitars have been limited to 30 instruments per year so the quality can be at the highest standard and only the most popular models will remain. If you're looking for a discontinued model then a visit Sitars Etc. might be worthwhile to you while its still in stock. Also, student models of both Srishti and Parampara have been eliminated. (It's a GOOD thing!). Look for design changes periodically to keep things interesting and to prevent copying.
Do you have any cheap instruments? Generally, no. With air shipping it makes no sense to pay $300 to ship an ordinary sitar. We are currently working on getting a dozen or so inexpensive sitars by sea shipment so we can offer a decent sitar for those on a lower budget. I've seen a number of sitars in this price range from US stores and am absolutely convinced we can do 200% better. The only limitations are we can only do this in the Winter as the heat really destroys the finishes and usually touch up is needed even with the winter shipments which we do. In the rare case that one of our regular instruments gets damaged then we generally repair them and offer them below cost so that's another option for those looking for a bargain but a rare occurence.
You repair instruments? Repairs are done through Scott Hackleman who lives nearby. Scott is a master luthier, fully trained by Kartar Chand in India. He's the only person we know of in North America who can make a sitar or tanpura from scratch, carvings, penwork, everything! His information/site is within the Rain City site and feel free to contact him directly or through us. We recommend and advertise him solely for your benefit and convenience and have no financial interest in the repair services offered by him. We will occasionally do repairs for customers here who have bought an instrument from us if needed but that's it.
What about your new training DVD's? A big part of Rain City is the production of training materials and our own label for quality music. Our first video in the "Performance Sitar" series was filmed last year in India, we hope to work up to several dozen of them. It all depends on our customers liking them, we've set a reasonable price and hope that musicians would purchase them rather than copy from someone. Your support will enable us to produce more of them and in turn promote Indian Classical music.
The music label is to get good artists some exposure and also allow them to have a part of sales. Our artists get 50% of the profit, CD's recorded in the West give a much lower percentage, in India they usually get nothing!! I believe an important part of keeping this music alive is to help artists present their music in a way that benefits them. If it's all about money only then what's the use?
Can I learn Indian Classical music from a DVD? Highly unlikely! However, the DVD's will help you once you have established the basics. I'd recommend a few lessons from a good teacher so you know how to properly approach learning the music, holding the instruments, etc. If you're fortunate enough to live near a good and respected teacher then by all means please support him/them and use the DVD's to supplement your learning.
Why do you mainly air ship your instruments? Several reasons. First is that container (ocean shipping) is very damaging to instruments. Read more here.... With air shipping we basically eliminate long term problems caused by moisture and heat. Occasionally when shipping in the summer you still may get impressions left in the shellac finish depending on where you live. Shellac is very sensitive to heat unfortunately but is the only way the makers finish string instruments. Other methods have been tried but with poor results. I've recently noticed a competitors website that prominently features 'air shipping' on all sitars from Miraj. Ask to see the airbill as I've personally seen the ocean crates with sitars ready to ship in India, we'll show your our airbill anytime you place your order.
Do you ship internationally? . Yes! In many cases, shipping costs are close to the same to you as local US shipping. Tabla shipments are the same price to Western Europe as the US. Please contact us for details.
I want an instrument from a maker you don't carry. We have access to nearly every maker in India through a network of partners and would be happy to find you want you'd like in many cases as long as the quality is reasonable enough that we can guarantee it. Air shipping is mandatory as is a fiberglass case except for RA sitarmaker instruments and tablas. Our regular offerings are from the best makers in India, if there is a famous maker you don't see then there's usually a good reason for it, seriously. You'll notice that over the past decade or so a few makers have gained notoriety for good instruments and justifiably so. The problem is that once you promote them for some reason quality and service go down while quantity available goes up. That's when it's time to say goodbye unfortunately. We don't want to risk our reputation or keep an inventory of substandard instruments just because of a label. Do your homework before deciding to part with your hard earned money on a famous brand.
Is the instrument I see on the site the one you have? Some of the time, yes. It was decided that due to variations in carvings (no two instruments are ever the same exactly!) and penwork that we will list each instrument in stock specifically so that what you see is what you get. It's a lot of work but the best approach. Sound samples hopefully to follow, for serious inquiries we will video the instrument being played for you as time allows.
The layout looks different in my Firefox browser? The program used to make some of the website is from Microsoft and so certain elements won't show up as intended in Firefox. Please view the site using Internet Explorer if this is an issue for you and you'll see everything laid out exactly as intended.
Do you ship sitars tuned? Usually we detune them, just a matter of habit. It doesn't matter either way but one thing that is for sure is that it won't be in tune when it arrives. When I was helping Bharat of Sitarsetc.com out during his hospital stay, there was actually a customer who wanted to return his sitar because it didn't arrive tuned! How could we say no? It was worth the laughter I assure you....I'm assuming that kind of person is one in a million but thought it worth mentioning for your entertainment.
Should I buy a sitar in India? That depends, it you're going to India and want to try your luck of course you should go for it!! You won't find a Srishti though but there are shops in different cities where you should be able to find a sitar. For premium makers like Hiren Roy it may be difficult as they are usually made to order but in cities like Delhi there are a number of shops. Try the not so famous ones so you don't get ripped off and it's very easy to get a bad deal if you don't have any experience. In Delhi a good start is DMS (in Old Delhi by Jama Masjid) or you can try Raj Musicals, etc. or any shop over in Daryaganj if you know your stuff. In Calcutta try Manoj Kumar Sardar in Lal Bazaar, mostly market type sitars but some can be OK. In Varanasi try Radhey Shyam Sharma or Mohan Lal Sharma. Have mixed reports from Nitai in Benares, try your luck and see? In Miraj, Bashir is a good choice. If you're a real gambler you can try and order online but be aware that the odds are high you won't be happy and could end up with a piece of firewood with strings or a damaged instrument from shipping or both. And ordering via mail/internet from India leaves you no recourse if there are problems, yes they'll tell you "You can send it back, no problem" but the sad fact is that you'll pay up to $700 or more to do so with no guarantee that it'll even arrive. If you have no luck, we're always here as are a few others....yes it's a little more of course but you know what you're getting at least!! Maybe I've been a little to frank here but it's an honest assessment based on years of experience.
When thinking of ordering online or (God forbid) buying one of the many ebay sitars ask yourself one question: If the quality and service is OK then why are there dealers in the US and Europe? It's simple, things don't always go right, we take the risk and make sure you get a good instrument that's ready to play so you can focus on the music!
Can I do a custom order? Of course you can however the policy now is that all custom orders be paid in full at the time of ordering. No returns. We've had to have this policy due to cancellations, please be sure what you want and we're happy to get it for you. Existing orders prior to this policy change are exempt.
I like the RA sitars are they OK? RA sitarmaker gained recent attention in that they were making instruments for Tony Karasek while he was living in India. From various accounts it didn't work out as intended. We were getting some good ones initially but the quality has gone down so we've stopped importing from RA until they start using their own bodies again.
I noticed an extra bridge on the Srishti Calcutta special sitar? We offer this sitar and others from Srishti (except the standard) in an optional Nikhil Banerjee style. He had one made from Hiren Roy with an extra bridge close to the meru (nut) that he felt improved the intonation of the kharaj SA string. This sitar also had an extra gandhar string, combining the stringing styles of kharaj pancham and gandhar pancham (Vilayat Khan style) sitars. The story I have is that he gave up the extra string shortly after it was made but kept the top bridge. So of course I was asked to have one made and it has been fairly popular. Barun Ray of Hiren Roy graciously gave us the measurements of Pandit Banerjee's sitar resulting in an instrument with a 1 1/2 inch longer neck. This in itself improves the intonation of the kharaj sa string and so while we include a fitted extra bridge, we don't install it unless requested. Barun and his father both never felt it to be necessary and while we agree with them still it's there for those who would like it.
More to come!!
Just remember: "The money you use to buy musical instruments is not like REAL money. It's not the same kind of money you use to pay bills."
Dr. James Stewart ~ Ethnomusicologist