The Ventura, California-based iPhone application company, MachCUBED struck an exciting new chord Tuesday with world music fans with the kick off of its Apple iTunes launch of the iPhone and iPod Touch application the Pocket Sitar. The creative developer of Pocket Sitar, Alonzo Machiraju, also the mastermind behind the iPhone application Pocket Tabla, along with collaborator, sitar master and music teacher Aloke Dasgupta, has captured the playing technique and history of the Indian sitar, putting the Hindustani stringed instrument at any eager learner’s fingertips in an easy-to-use phone application.
Downloaded from the Apple iTunes store and priced at $0.99 in the U.S, $0.99 in Canada, £0.59 in the UK, ¥115 in Japan, AU$0.99 in Australia, and €0.99 in the EU., the Pocket Sitar invites users to strum the sitar strings with its multi-touch interface, to meend, or glide from one note to another, and to explore the tutorial and the accompanying history of the instrument. Links to YouTube videos are also included for those wanting perfect their technique.
With Pocket Tabla already under his belt, Mr. Machiraju went a step further to stretch and flex his technical skills by indulging his fascination with the sitar. He explains, “Well, every time someone plays the sympathetic strings, it hits me in the gut. The sitar just sounds cool. It could be the reverb, but I really respond to the general sound of the instrument.”
Looking beyond just another fad application factor, Mr. Machiraju indicates, “It’s another way to experience sitar music. Not only that, but it can be used as a training program for a real sitar. And you can now play sitar on the subway! I’m pretty sure this will help turn people onto the music of the sitar.”
With years of musical training, a master’s degree in Ethnomusicology from San Diego State University, the recording artist and revered sitar master with countless concerts and musical collaborations to his credit Mr. Dasgupta stepped into a whole new medium with the Pocket Sitar collaboration.
“It was a kind of challenging for me because it was using technology as the means to reproduce the sound, which I can produce on my sitar. Also, it was interesting because I have never thought of using my musicality this way,” he explains.
Mr. Dasgupta sees the potential of such applications as a way to foster interest in learning music. “These kind of technological applications give the young generation an opportunity to explore the origin, history and other techniques of sitar playing in a less expensive way.”
Beyond popular accessibility, the Pocket Sitar will come as a relief to seasoned musicians just in its size. Lugging around a full-sized version of the thirteenth century, veena family instrument, complete with 21-23 strings and gourd body, is no mean feat. Mr. Machiraju hopes that sitar musicians will take up the phone application and with Mr. Dasgupta part and parcel to the instruction who could ask for a better music master?
With Pocket Sitar and Pocket Tabla, music lessons are now just a click away, so there is only one thing left to do while Mr. Machiraju brews up another batch of sounds and that is to practice, practice, practice.