De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) graduate Kaviraj Singh’s expertise in Indian classical instrument repair has landed him an appearance on hit BBC show The Repair Shop.
The Music Technology alumnus appeared on the programme, which follows specialist craftsmen restoring heirlooms and treasured antiques, to mend a badly damaged sitar.
Kaviraj, from Leeds, helped brother and sister Kesar and Parveen bring an important piece of their heritage back to life by mending the instrument which had belonged to their late father.
He said: “It was a really great opportunity. Someone got in touch from The Repair Shop last year through my website. They sent me some pictures to analyse the instrument, and then I went down to film in September and October last year.”
Kaviraj, who has refined his skills in the care and maintenance of instruments like the sitar and harmonium, said he was concerned when he first saw the extent of the damage because the instrument is made out of a gourd – making it difficult to find a material to match.
“There was a very large chunk missing. So, a big worry was how I was going to patch that in. Luckily, I had some material from a donor instrument that I couldn’t repair, and I managed to graft that on,” he said.
Credit: The Repair Shop, BBC
Kaviraj said it was special to mend an instrument with so much history attached.
He said: “You can see how much the music meant to them. The sitar had been damaged a long time, so I think there was a lot of pent up emotion, not knowing if it could be repaired.
“Ultimately it was like repairing one of their memories of their dad, and maintaining it so that they can pass it on to their children as well.”
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Growing up in a musical household, Kaviraj said that learning to repair instruments was ‘really just out of necessity’.
“My dad was a sitar player himself, which spurred me on to be a musician too. With my dad and his students needing repairs and adjustments, I just made a start on it, and kind of learnt on the job,” he said.
“I’m quite a hands-on person. There’s some history of it in the family too, my great-grandfather was an engineer and a craftsman. He used to work on harmoniums, making the wooden cases. Maybe I got his repairing gene!”
Credit: The Repair Shop, BBC
As a musician, Kaviraj has performed at venues across the UK, Europe and India. In 2008 he became the youngest artist to play at Darbar Festival, which showcases Indian classical music and dance.
When it came to deciding what to study at university, Kaviraj said ‘music was always on the cards’, and that DMU’s Music Technology course enabled him to combine that passion with his other two favourite subjects – physics and engineering.
He said: “Music Technology just seemed like the best fit, connecting two different things I enjoyed. I really liked the hands-on experience, especially as there was a lot of electronics involved. Putting circuits together, understanding how all the equipment works, that was really great.
“The lecturers had such a wealth of knowledge as well, and the studios and equipment we had access to were really high-end.
“If someone wants to go into audio recording or live sound, it’s a great course and it was very inspiring. I think it really sets you up in a good way to step out in the industry.”
Watch the full episode of the Repair Shop here.
Posted on Friday 14th May 2021