17 fretted Sitar
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Senia Gharana and the 17 fretted Sitar

The word "Senia" is related to Tansen, the father of Indian Classical Music. The word "Gharana" implies a style of music. The followers of Tansen’s school of music are widely known as the followers of "Senia gharana" (i.e. "Seniya" style/school of music). The followers of this "gharana" may either be related with the family of Tansen or by the age old tradition of "Guru–Shishya parampara" (teacher to student relation). Tansen was a vocalist but this tradition has also produced great Sitar Maestros. The "Senia" style of Sitar playing started with the legendary great master of Sitar, Ustad Maseet Sen from the family of Tansen, the originator of "Maseetkhani" style, On the basis of scanti records available, Maseet Sen, emerges as a direct descendent in the sixth generation from Mian Tansen Even today, after many hundred years, the famous "Maseetkhani Baaj" is still played by the traditional Sitar players of India. The Sitar players of "Senia Gharana" were, at a later stage known as the sitarists of "Jaipur-Senia Gharana". One of the greatest Maestro’s of this "Gharana" was Ustad Barkat Ullah Khan of Jaipur, known as "Aftab–e-Sitar", who made this instrument more popular and had no parallel to him.

This style had it’s speciality of having 17 frets on Sitar, which has been followed only by us till date, whereas other players play with the standard 19 or 20 frets on their Sitar. The difference between the 17 fretted Sitar from the standard 19 fretted Sitar is of two notes, viz, the third and seventh. In the 19 fretted Sitar, the third and seventh notes are available in both sharp ("Tivra") and flattened ("Komal") forms. In the 17 fretted Sitar, these two notes are available in only one form, viz, sharp ("Tivra") or flattened ("Komal") form and therefore only one form of the note can be adjusted on the Sitar, viz, sharp or flattened, In those ragas where both the forms of notes are used, the second form of he same note has to be played by pulling the string ("Meend"). Dr. Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan, the son of illustrious father Ustad Ashiq Ali Khan of Varanasi, had the privilege of learning from Ustad Barkat Ullah Khan, also known as "Aftab-e-Sitar". This particular school of music had the advantage of playing Sitar in "Been" (Veena) style and maintaining the purest form of Ragas and technique. Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan was not only a great "Senia" Sitar Maestro but also a great Surbahar player who played in "Been Ang" (Veena style) and always maintained the purity of the "Senia" style, which basically emphasizes on the maintenance of the purity of Raga . There are many Ragas which are presented in a purely "Senia" style and a discerning lover of music will immediately identify the difference in delineation of the Raga. Prateek, son of Pandit Debu Chaudhuri, Padmabhushan Awardee , is fortunate in having had such a stalwart like Ustad Mushtaq Ali Khan Sahab as a "Dadaguru" (teacher’s teacher) and is upholding the tradition in its truest spirit. This Gharana ( style) of Sitar playing has another rare distinction of having an uninterrupted line of Sitar players from father to son or teacher to student, for 9 generations ( starting with Maseet Sen) till date, all playing the Sitar with 17 frets.

Maseet Sen

Bahadur Sen (Son)

Rahim Sen (Son)

Amrit Sen (Son)

Barkat-Ullah Khan (Shishya)

Ashiq Ali Khan (Shishya)

Mushtaq Ali Khan (Son)

Debu Chaudhuri (Shishya)

Prateek Chaudhuri (Son)


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