Hemendra Chandra Sen (1922-2010)

12. 1. 2010 | Rubriky: Articles,Lives

The “greatest sarod maker” – sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan

[by Ken Hunt, London] The Indian instrument maker and repairer Hemendra Chandra Sen died at his south Kolkata (Calcutta) home on 2 January 2009 at the age of 87. From apprentice to master craftsman, over the course of more than sixty years he made tanpuras, sitars and sarods for many of the most illustrious Hindustani instrumentalists of the age. He also bridged the generations. Although a sitar player himself, he became especially associated with the sarod, the short-necked, fretted lute.

His customers included the sitar and surbahar player Annapurna Devi, her brother, the sarodist Ali Akbar Khan and their cousin, the sarodist Bahadur Khan, the sitarist Ravi Shankar, the sarodist player Rajeev Taranath, the sarodist Amjad Ali Khan and Amjad Ali Khan’s sarod-playing sons Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash. He was working at his trade until hours before his death, working into the night on an instrument before suffering a fatal cardiac arrest the next morning.

Hemendra Chandra Sen had been based in Calcutta since the 1940s and it was natural that the customers for his instruments included the cream of the generation of fiery young Bengali instrumentalists then making names for themselves. In time, his shop cum workshop, Hemen & Co in the Deshapriya Park area of south Kolkata became a place of nigh-pilgrimage for musicians bringing in instruments for repair and servicing or arriving to commission new beauties that Sen made to measure to suit the client’s build and tastes.

The family connection with Amjad Ali Khan was especially important. Just as the US blues musician BB King named his guitar Lucille, the sarodist has long had the habit for naming his instruments. He named his favourite, completed by Sen in 1976, Ganga (Ganges). Others included Saaz and Brahmaputra. All three are pictured in Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash’s biography of their father Amjad Ali Khan (Roli Books, 2002). In honour of his father, the sarod pioneer Hafiz Ali Khan, Amjad Ali Khan inaugurated the Hafiz Ali Khan Award in 1985. The Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee presented the award to Sen in Gwalior in 2003.

Hemendra Chandra Sen is survived by two sons and two daughters. His sons Tapan and Ratan are following the family trade.

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