Starting from Scratch

How Mukunda Biswas pioneered Indian-made guitar brands

Besides his craft skills, what makes Biswas a master luthier is his versatile musical knowledge. He can play the guitar, banjo and dotara. His experiments have resulted in custom string instruments—such as the gobindam and swapno veena.
Ranita Roy for the Caravan
Besides his craft skills, what makes Biswas a master luthier is his versatile musical knowledge. He can play the guitar, banjo and dotara. His experiments have resulted in custom string instruments—such as the gobindam and swapno veena.
Ranita Roy for the Caravan

About three years ago, as I walked past a musical instrument store in Maharashtra’s Amravati town, I was astonished to find “Signature” guitars, a brand from my hometown of Kolkata, hanging at the shop. I later learnt that these low-priced guitars—usually bought by beginners—had travelled far and had a long history.

The shopkeeper told me that nearly all Indian-made guitars came from Kolkata and were distributed across the country. Back home, Gautam Das, the proprietor of a music store at Bagbazar, confirmed this and suggested that I meet “the man who started it all: Mukunda Biswas.”

Crossing the Ganga, an overcrowded bus took me to Belur in the neighbouring town of Howrah. A short e-rickshaw ride and a walk down a narrow, water-logged lane later, I reached Guitar Research Enterprise, a small factory with a guitar hanging from its blue-white doors. The smell of sawdust, polish and bidi smoke greeted me as I entered the three-room factory with an open courtyard. In one room, brand new guitars hung from racks, while the other two served as workstations.

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    Shaswata Kundu Chaudhuri is an independent journalist from Kolkata who writes on music and culture.

    Keywords: Indian Music Industry Indian-made guitar
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