Esraj Story part 4
Finally we reached the point where we had to put on the skin on the esraj.
The skin is very important to the sound. It is like the membrane of a loudspeaker. It transfers all the sound from the strings to the air. It is usually from a goat and it is very hard to get one for an esraj.
The only skin we had, we bought from a small shop in Manhattan; thanks to Kodanda for the hint.
The shop was really outstanding: we had to pay a dollar in order to get in. It looked more like a Museum than a shop: everywhere old and dusty instruments hanging from the ceiling and walls. We had the feeling we were paving our way through the jungle.
Kodanda told us that the owner has a lot of knowledge about Indian instrument repair, but he might not be in the mood to share his "wisdom." To us he was very nice and helpful. He told us that you have to soak the skin in milk then in water, then you have to scrape it with a razor blade until it becomes very thin.
While telling us how to do this, he showed us one of his treasures: a very nice skin from India. Now our secret goal was somehow to obtain this well-praised piece. He wanted to save it for a future repair, and it seemed that there was a subtle bound between the skin and its owner. While talking about the skin, the price went higher and higher. But what could we do? - we had no other choice.
Place of event: Harkara's kitchen. Now came the time to exercise what we had learned from him. We soaked the skin in milk and started scraping the skin for about two hours. Then we stretched the skin with a special handmade apparatus over the instrument body until a certain tension was reached. This technique was the only thing about esraj building we could find on the Internet. We did our best to follow the description, but it was not clear to us how much tension we should create.
It was around 3 o'clock in the morning, when all of a sudden we saw a small crack in the skin. We immediately stopped increasing the tension. Now we were helpless. Was the tension high enough? Could we still use the skin? Would the small crack influence the sound? It was our only skin, so we were quite desperate not to lose our chance. Finally an idea from nowhere came down. "Just phone the author of the web page." Fortunately he lives in California, where it was now daytime. Thank God he immediately answered the phone.
He was quite surprised to get a response from his web page, since it went online just recently. He was very concerned, and nicely talked away all our worries.
By the way: one year later Sri Chinmoy honored him in San Francisco with his "Lifting up the World with a Oneness-Heart" program. There he also had the opportunity to hear the final result, because before the lifting Sri Chinmoy gave a small concert on this esraj.