The Imrat Guitar
The missing link. A new branch on the evolutionary tree of guitar instruments is formed - Dean Minderman (Riverfront Times)
History & Development
The Imratguitar is a 20 stringed hybrid sitar guitar. It is the dream instrument of Ustadt Imrat Khan who is its designer. Luthier Kim Schwartz was the builder and the instrument was tweaked to the performance specifications of Todd Mosby. The instrument is the first of its kind bridging the cultures of eastern and western music. Unique features include:
- 12 sympathetic strings with jawari
- 3 chikara strings
- 5 main playing strings with jawari
- Tuning of an ancient Rudra Veena
- Moveable frets for the highest level of tuning.
The subtle melodic phrasing of the sitar along with the chordal harmony of guitar can be easily realized with this instrument. According to Ustadt Imrat Khan, “The imrat Guitar combines the finest aspects of sitar and guitar. It sounds better than a sitar and better than a guitar.” The Veena and Oud combined in Northern India to make Sitar c.1500AD, the Baritone Uke and Oud combined in Southern Spain to make Guitar c. 1700AD and now the sitar and guitar have combined in America to now make the Imratguitar. The first proto type was completed in 1996. According to Imrat Khan, “This is an instrument for the new century. It requires new music and a new technical approach.”
Taking instrumental vocal phrasing to new heights, the serious performer finally has the instrument to to combine the highest aspects of melody, overtones, chords and improvisation from both cultures. Ustadt Imrat Khan states if blues in America had been allowed to expand and develop, it would have most definitely taken on the higher phrasing and melodic aspects of Indian vocal music.
The Indian Sitar is descended from the line long-necked Ouds of Southern Persia and the Rudra Vina of Northern India. The Rudra Vina has a long, thin bamboo neck. The strings at the saddle break over a jawari producing a resonance sound similar to the human voice. The neck has fixed frets and is attached by two gourds at either end and is held in an angled up position. There are 4 playing strings, 2 chikari strings and a lower drone string. The Oud, unlike many other plucked stringed instruments, does not have a fretted neck. This allows the player to be more expressive by using slides and vibrato making it possible to play the microtones. Indian and Near-Eastern music abandoned harmony in favor of developing the melodic aspects of music to its highest level.
The Oud has 4-5 double strings and one single bass string attached to a pear shaped wooden body. Sitar combined the pear shaped body and neck of Oud with the gourds of the Veena, fretted neck and jawari and placed moveable frets that bowed out from the neck to allow for greater pulling control. Sympathetic strings and other modifications were introduced by descendants of Imrat Khan’s Gharana. This allowed pulling the strings across frets for inflection and melismatics which was a perfect combination of the two.
The Guitar is a descendant of the Oud brought to Spain by the Moors and the Baroque Guitar which resembled a double stringed baritone ukulele and was soft in sound. The Guitar neck was elongated, the sound box enlarged for more volume and frets were added to allow for easier trilling and musical techniques of the time. It eventually went from 4 double strings, to 5 strings to the now standard 6 single strings. Chords and scales were played vertically and horizontally along the neck and allowing for single string melody and harmony. The pick was dropped as the intricacy of the music developed. The guitar eventually replaced the Lute in Spain by around 1700 AD as the most popular instrument.
Imrat Guitar History
The Imratguitar is a combination of Sitar and Guitar making it the newest branch on the evolutionary tree of stringed instruments. Guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world and has had a direct influenced on the music of Brazil, Spanish Flamenco and American Blues, Jazz and Rock. Sitar is one of the most recognized instrument of North India and has had a major influence on the music from that region.
The Imrat Guitar incorporates the jawari, moveable frets bowed out over a routed out finger board, sympathetic strings, a set of 3 chikara strings of the sitar. Incorporated from the Guitar are the standard 5-6 strings, similar scale length, similar body shape, head stock, tuning system and saddle. It is played finger style for the Alap and Jhor sections. and with a pick for the composition sections. The sympathetic strings fire nicely and are within easy reach for melodic shadowing effects and harmonic playing. It is essentially a sitar neck on the body of a Guitar with modifications to allow for technical and musical aspects.
A combination Sitar, one of the most popular and researched instruments of India, and Guitar, one of the most popular and innovative instruments of the West, the Imratguitar is the first truly successful instrument to bridge these two musical mountains. With a deep knowledge and respect for the traditions of both cultures, for the first time the music is allowed to expand and reach new heights. The Imrat Guitar is the missing link. Ustadt Imrat Khan calls the Imrat Guitar the finest instrument in existence today. For the first time eastern musicians can access western harmony and western musicians can access eastern melodic phrasing.