Saturday, May 18, 2024

‘See-tar’: An instrument merging Jazz with Indian Classical music

Purbayan Chatterjee strikes a pose with his ‘see-tar’

Purbayan Chatterjee strikes a pose with his ‘see-tar’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee’s YouTube channel’s description reads ‘Sitar Explorer‘. In his latest single, Two-Thirds, released on March 26, Purbayan explores a curious instrument – a ‘see-tar‘. The instrument looks like a transparent sitar made out of plexi glass or methyl methacrylate. The main parts of it — the  taardan and  jawari — are made with buffalo horn and the steel strings are silver-plated. It is 1,070mm long and comes without the traditional sitar’s hemispherical shape at the bottom and the neck, which makes it possible to play while standing.

In the six minute music video Two-Thirds, Purbayan plays the ‘see-tar’ and dapples with the genres of jazz and Indian Classical alongside artist Taufiq Qureshi on the djembe, British-Austrian drummer Bernhard Schimpelsberger and Nakul Chugh on the keyboard.

To visually enhance his performance, the maestro wanted to introduce a new element other than the usual changes in light, multimedia and visuals. “I had thought of a plexi glass sitar  about 10-11 years ago. I took the design to my Belgian friend Klaas Janssens who learnt sitar-making in Varanasi. He agreed to design it for me, that’s how it came into existence .”

Purbayan adds that the novelty of the instrument is the tonality which gives great scope to the effects processor to produce ambient music. It generates, “Moody kind of tones as well as very racy and edgy overdrive tones. On the other hand, the acoustic sitar is a very resonant instrument which this doesn’t have. The see-tar doesn’t have much resonance. All the effects and ability of the processor to generate different sounds comes out at its best,” explains Purbayan.  

“If I were to perform with rock musicians, I could visually enhance the presentation with this instrument. But, I am very picky about using this instrument. I don’t use it for the heck of it. I use it only in songs where it will add something to it,” adds Purbayan. Over the years, he has played the see-tar for the soundtrack of the movie Pink for Shantanu Moitra , in  UnIndian for Salim-Sulaiman and most recently in the Amazon Prime Video series Bandish Bandits for its second season. 

Making of Two-Thirds

One day at Purbayan’s studio PAAMF (Purbayan Art and Artists Music Foundation) in Mumbai, the maestro was playing around the lines of Two-Thirds. “When Taufiq bhai and the others came, we had kept the cameras rolling and started playing around the hook lines and the song just happened. It was almost done in the stream of consciousness. We recorded and shot, it was ready for production.” 

The name of the single Two Thirds, might soundmathematical but the nomenclature comes from the two of the third note (minor and the major). “Like we have Sa Re Ga Ma Pa or Do Re Mi Fa. So, the minor is the third note,” elaborates Purbayan.

Purbayan will be performing in Chennai on April 16 at 6.30 pm at Krishna Gana Sabha with Vikku Vinayakram, Rajesh Chaurasia, V Selvaganesh, Vijay Ghate and Swaminathan Selvaganesh. 

For tickets contact [email protected] 91-44-28140806 or log into 

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