Timeline of Rikhiram Innovative Instruments
1) Rikhi Veena
In the year 1964 Bishan ji experimented by putting a skin head top in the centre of the Tabli, like an American bango, but with a saddle bridge to create the sound of Sarod but played like a sitar.
The structure of the Rikhi Veena is like a sitar and has the same string combination of 6 main strings & 11 sympathetic strings. Instead of flat bridge he used a saddle bridge, which helped to produce the sarod sound.
2) Transistor sitar
In the year 1964, the musicians who had to perform in the smaller cities, faced the problem of non-availability of Amplifiers, so Bishan ji created a new sitar which had an inbuilt amplifier. The sound box of the sitar had an in-built amplifier & battery container, while the dand end had an in-built amplifier.Pt. Ravi Shankar ji appreciated this sitar a lot & even gave a few performances with it. As the technology grew & amplifiers became available, this sitar became obsolete.
3) Mohan Veena or Indian Slide Guitar
An Arch-Top western guitar was modified and the Mohan veena took birth. In the late 1960’s Ustad Ali Akbar Khan suggested to Pt. Brij Bhushan Khabra to visit Pt. Bishan Dassji to add Tarab or sympathetic strings to his guitar therefore a guitar veena took birth. Later Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt ji further did changes of main string arrangement and Mohan Veena was presented to the music world. After years of development, Mohan Veena has a regular Arch-top guitar body shape but with much wider & thicker neck to withstand the tension of the 8 main strings & 12 sympathetic strings. The top is enforced with added bracing and a gourd is fitted to make it easier for playing.
4) Rikhi Tamboori
Bishanji innovated this instrument in the year 1967. Gradually as the Indian classical music spread,the musicians also started travelling more frequently . The traditional tanpura, which is an important accompaniment for all the musicians, is quite big & has a fragile tumba. The tanpura losses its sound if the tumba gets damaged. The musicians were facing a lot of problem while travelling with the tanpuras. Bishan ji after a lot of experimentation designed the small tamboori, which is traditionally designed& is all wooden. The sound box is all wooden, which makes it very strong & gives good tonal sound.
5) RikhiSwar Sangam
This instrument was developed by Pt. Bishan Dass ji in the year 1991. Swarsangam is somewhat a rectangular shaped acoustic box instrument, an amalgamation of two instruments namely Tanpura &Swarmandal. On the left hand side of the acoustic box 4 strings are fitted on a flat platform bridge making it a Tanpura part and on the right side 15 strings are fitted on a saddle bridge making it the Swarmandal.Machine head tuners are fitted for accurate & easy tuning. Swarsangam is a very handy size for travelling musicians, as there are two instruments on one body structure, thereby making life easier. There is no compromise in the sound quality of tanpura &surmandal. Lately, Ajay has further developed this instrument by changing the shape of the acoustic box for enhancement of sound & tone.
6) Rikhi Box Tanpura
Bishan ji wanted to make the tanpura more versatile& handy, so he designed a much more compact version in the year 1994. The Box tanpura was designed in the shape of a rectangular box, where the measurement from Neck nut to bridge was maintained, which has created its deep sound. It has machine head screws on one side for easier & precise tunning. Lately Ajay Rikhi Ram has changed the shape of Box tanpura. Hehas given it an arrow shape on one end, which has led to an aerodynamic effect & has increased the base sound of the tanpura. A person will be surprised at the tonal & sound quality of this small tanpura.
7) Hansa Veena
This instrument was designed by Pt. Bishan Dass& Ajay in the year 1998. While designing this instrument Vichitra veena was kept in mind, as the traditional instrument was losing its popularity due to its large size. Hansa veena is a merely 42” long body structure made from one piece of teak wood. The acoustic box is pear shaped with no neck joint & a swan shaped head stock. The whole body including the neck is kept hollow to provide the similar sound of a Vichitra Veena and a small gourd is also fitted to the end of the neck. There are 8 main strings fitted on saddle main bridge and 11 sympathetic strings fitted on flat platform bridge.
The fret board has marking for hitting the right notes with a slide.
8) RikhiNav Chitra Veena
Bishan ji got the inspiration in 2001 to make Nav Chitra Veena from Gottuvadyam. It was very difficult for musicians travelling abroad to carry Gottuvadyam with them, so Bishan ji carved out Nav Chitra Veena from a Single piece of wood. There are 9 main strings, out of which 6 strings are fretted & remaining 3 are resonating strings. The main strings bridge was higher & a bone bridge was used for sympathetic strings. Machine head screws were used instead of the traditional wooden pegs. A heavy stone or Bata is used to play the instrument.
9) Rikhi Surnikhar
Surnikhar is shaped like a sarod but with a difference and was designed in the year 2001 to remove the skin head problems for Sarod players. The sound box is made from a pumpkin & the tabli/sound board is made from wood. The dand has a metal plate for playing. The strings pass through a saddle bridge & the musicians play the strings with a java. There are small holes on the tabli to enable the sound to revert back.
10) Geetanjali Sitar
The ‘Geetanjali’ model sitar was designed in the year 2002 by Pt. Bishan Dassji& Ajay. The body of the sitar has wood carvings on the sound board and on the back of the neck joint, extended leaf carvings on the main gourd. It was decided to not use white celluloid inlays instead natural ebony wood is used for inlay work only on the edges of fret board, where the frets are sitting and on the front of head stock. With the natural colour polish it looks elegant & beautiful. Inspired by the string combination of Pt. Nikhil Banerjee’s style, this model similarly has 8 main strings & 13 sympathetic strings.
11) Swar Jhankar
This instrument which is the equivalent of western Harp was designed in the year 2002. It is shaped like a harp but has a broader base made of wood. The strings pass above a saddle bridge which sits near the bottom. It is played by plucking the strings from both sides & sounds like a Surmandal. The strings can be tuned from C to C.
12) Rikhi Shankar Guitar
Shankar Veena is an amalgamation of sitar and guitar and was designed on the year 2004. The basic shape is like a guitar and the body including the neck is hollow and is made from well seasoned cedar/teak wood. The veena has a saddle bridge for the main strings and a small bone bridge is fitted to the saddle bridge for Chikari strings. The Shankar veena has fret markings on the neck and is played with a solid slide. The tone of the Shankar veena is very close to the sound of traditional veena. The Shankar veena has 9 main strings & 11 sympathetic strings. This veena was specially designed for Dr.Kamla Shankar.
Zitar or an electric sitar was designed by Ajay in the year 2007. The first prototype model was of travel size, all wooden sitar, which was designed by Pt. Bishan Dass and Ajay in the year 2002. Later Ajay changed the body structure to support the Humbucking pick-up for clear amplification without any feedback problem. It took 5 years to come to a satisfactory design.
Zitar is made from one single piece of well-seasoned teak wood and has a flat base. The body is semi-hollowed keeping in mind the amplification through magnetic pick-up. The 6 to 7 main strings are fitted with die casted machine head tuners for stable tuning & traditional pegs are used for 11 to 12 sympathetic strings, depending on the particular style.
The Humbucking double coined pick-up is specially designed & fitted between the main & Tarab strings, allowing it to pick up the clear signal of both set of strings when played.
Zitar is engineered to be played with high octave volume instruments, without any humming or feedback& not sacrificing the original tone of the sitar. Zitar is our most popular innovative design and is widely played around the world. Being a small size it is easy to travel & has flexibility of tuning from C# to C, making it a paradise for the musicians & music lovers. It has revolutionised the music sounds in world music genre
14) Sarod Travel Model
This is Ajay’s signature Innovative Sarod & was designed in the year 2009. This model is much shorter in length and lower in height than the regular Sarod, though the scale length is almost same. The head stock has been fitted with machine head screws, as they require lesser space and provide stable & easier tuning. The neck curve is altered to allow free left hand movement on the fret board. Making the scale length a little shorter than the usual allows the musicians to have range of tuning from B to D keys, therefore making it easier to jam with other instruments. The size of the Sarod is very handy for travel purpose.The Travel Sarod has 8 main strings & 11 sympathetic strings.
15) Ovation Surbahar
This is Ajay’s Signature series Surbahar & was designed in the year 2012. The Ovation surbahar was designed keeping in mind the voluminous size of the traditional surbahar. The idea was to make the acoustic box smaller and length shorter without reducing the scale length. This surbahar is carved and hollowed out from one piece of teakwood. The width of the sound board is almost of a sitar with a flat base. Being a smaller size surbahar, the acoustic box and sound is well engineered, so that the sound and tone of the traditional surbahar is not sacrificed.Machine head screws are used for easy & stable tuning. The Ovation surbahar has 8 main strings & 11 sympathetic strings.
16) Fretted Tumbi
Fretted Punjabi Tumbi was recently designed by Ajay in the year 2012. This innovative tumbi has a specially designed neck and fret board fitted with frets, allowing uniform action and ease in playing musical notes. The single string of this instrument is open tuned to G or A, depending upon the requirement of the musician. The 21 frets on the tumbi fretboard are fitted chromatically. The acoustic box is a gourd made from brass metal & goat skin head is glued on it.
17) Mohini Sitar
Mohini sitar is an Ajay Signature series. In the year 2014 Ajay thought of making an all wooden regular sitar with a swan head stock from one piece of teakwood. He used machine head screws for the 7 main strings and regular wooden pegs for the sympathetic strings. This model sitar has its own unique sound and tone and has a very stable tuning as there isn’t any neck joint. The sitar has a flat base instead of the regular tumba.
The advantage of this sitar over the regular sitar is that there is no danger of the tumba breaking during travel, as its all wooden. Secondly, the semi-solid body makes it easier for amplification through microphone, which helps to cut down the feedback problem faced by musicians.