Karachi Community Radio have designed Pakistan’s first self-playing Chitrali sitar, the Saaz | ساز . The instrument aims to highlight the creative capabilities of AI and music. Its mechanical arms, which are designed to stimulate the movement of human hands, are manoeuvred by live-coded instructions.
A new prototype under development will produce and play AI-generated compositions using hardware and software, pushing Saaz | ساز to the forefront of emerging AI technologies.
The Chitrali sitar is primarily used in traditional and religious music across many cultures. It is a stringed instrument originally introduced in India in the 18th century. Its form and identity have evolved over time, but the creation of the Saaz | ساز arguably symbolises its most significant leap forward.
Through this innovative approach, Karachi Community Radio showcases a modern method of preservation, promoting and protecting Chitral’s rich folk history through music. A marriage of man and machine, the Saaz | ساز has not been built to replace the classical musician but rather support them to harmonise with the modern world.
The in-development prototype will allow the Saaz | ساز to not only play itself but to create original compositions in real time using AI.
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Hardware components of the device include a microphone to capture the music played by the artist and an Arduino-based IoT device that controls the sitar's actuators to play the generated music. As for the software, a machine learning model that analyses the music to identify its key features such as notes, rhythm, tempo and melody. Audiences will be able to hear the output music generated in real-time through the sitar.
The Saaz | ساز project has the potential to extend to other musical instruments, allowing for new and innovative music in various styles and genres while helping preserve traditional cultures and their music.
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Karachi Community Radio’s extensive work has also seen them design audio-visual shows, broadcast live streams and generate virtual productions for over 100 local artists.
The Saaz | ساز is currently being exhibited in Spain, The Netherlands and Switzerland and the community-driven project has a GoFundMe page to support this European tour.
Follow updates on the Saaz | ساز project here.
Henry Cooper is an Editorial Intern at Mixmag Asia. Follow him on Instagram.