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Specialist musical instrument shops

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07 CONMUS 569.jpgThe Indian specialists
Jas Musicals
For more than 15 years, this humble store on Southall Broadway has attracted anyone interested in Indian instruments; the website shows Jimmy Page, Talvin Singh, Asha Bhosle and David Gray all shaking hands with owner Harjit Singh Shah. Now they won’t have to schlep nine miles down Uxbridge Road, because Jas has acquired premises on Chiltern Street, W1.

Shah came to Southall from Delhi in 1984, started importing Indian instruments a year later and opened a shop in 1990. He soon discovered that the quality of craftsmanship in traditional Indian instruments was very poor. Article continues

07 CONMUS 585.jpg‘It’s left to the low castes,’ he says. ‘For a country that is booming in so many ways, India’s music technology is still stuck in the dark ages.’ Shah studies musical instrument technology (he’s got a masters and is studying for his PhD) and has started to apply Western technology to traditional Indian instruments. Manufacturing his company’s own instruments in a factory in Delhi, he now uses high-quality hand tools and machines. Wood is treated; animal skins are properly processed; fittings are carefully machine-tooled. And he’s started using well-crafted reeds on the harmoniums so they won’t go out of tune.

‘Harmoniums are actually a European invention,’ he says, ‘taken to India by British missionaries 200 years ago and largely forgotten in Europe. I found there was a wealth of expertise here about making reeds.’ He now exports a million reeds a year back to India, and his hand-crafted harmoniums will set you back a grand.

07 COP 586.jpgStill, prices are inexpensive compared to Western instruments. A student sitar is only £130, rising to £1,000 for a model with a hand-crafted peacock face and a kaddu, or resonating chamber, made of a real gourd (hollowed out, hardened in the sun for up to two years and varnished).

Shah has also started putting on concerts and running classes from his stores, setting up the Academy of Indian Music and Dance (AIMD). ‘In India, the musician is often seen as a beggar, an irritating busker. Here they get a bit more respect.’

Jas Musicals Ltd, 124 The Broadway, Southall, Middlesex (020 8574 2686/ http://www.timeout.com/external_link/?http://www.jas-musicals.com) Southall rail or Ealing Broadway tube then 207, 607 bus. Daily 11am-7pm.