On the 10th anniversary of the Vasantotsav, the annual festival of classical music organized by Acharya Jialal Vasant Sangeet Niketan, Padma Shri and Grammy Award Winner, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt will be felicitated with the Uttam Vaggayekar Jialal Vasant Award tonight.
The award was constituted in 2000 by noted singer Suresh Wadkar and Prem Vasant, in memory of classical musician and teacher, Acharya Jialal Vasant.
Says Prem Vasant, who is the daughter of Acharya Vasant, “The award is conferred to maestros who have built a legacy of excellence in all three fields of music – vocals, instrumentals and dance.And on our 10th anniversary, we couldn’t think beyond the world renowned Pandit Bhatt for the award.”
Enchanting the world
Wadkar, who was a student of Acharya Vasant and now runs the Acharya Jialal Vasant Sangeet Niketan with Prem Vasant, where students are scientifically taught Indian classical music, says, “I’ve always known and admired Pt Bhatt’s music since many years now.
Last year, I had gone to Pune to watch him live in concert and was mesmerised as usual. It was then we decided to confer him the award, since he has enchanted not just India but the entire world with his Mohan Veena.”
The Rs 1 Lakh award, which will be presented by Deputy Chief Minister Chagan Bhujpal, has so far been awarded to Pandit Jasraj (2001). Pandit Shivkumar Sharma (2002), Dr Bala Murli Krishnan (2003), Pandit Bhimsen Joshi (2004), Pandit Ram Narayan (2005), Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (2006), Lata Mangeshkar (2007), Hema Malini (2008) and Ustad Zakir Hussain (2009).
Says Pandit Bhatt, “No musician ever works for awards. Our music is our prayer. But when the classical music community appreciates your work, it makes you happy.
I would rate this award higher than the Padma Shri, since it is decided by people who understand the technicalities of classical music. It is like the Indian Grammies.”
The man who altered the archtop guitar into a 20-string slide guitar called the Mohan Veena, which has the best features of a guitar, veena, sitar and sarod, believes that though awards are not a validation of your work, they do help in propagating the reach of your music.
“After the Grammy in 1994, the Mohan Veena got a lot of attention internationally as well as in India,” Bhatt says. “A lot of international artistes came forward to collaborate, and the Counting Crows’ bassist, Matt Maley, even gave up the bass guitar and took up to learning the Mohan Veena.”
Bhatt also proudly adds how most countries abroad are now aware of, and deeply respect Indian classical music. “Because of the various collaborations between classical Indian musicians and artistes of the west, Western countries now really admire our centuries-old classical music,” Bhatt reveals.
“I’ve especially noted the fascination of the West with the intricacies of our ragas,” he continues. “That’s purely because when you go to a film concert or a rock band concert, you’d know what’s coming next.
You find the music amazing for 50 times, but on the 51st time, you want to hear something new. But with classical music, there are so many variations of the ragas, that each time you go to such a concert, you hear something completely new.”
“In fact, we ourselves learn something new each time too,” laughs Wadkar. “That’s why classical music can never die out. Our gurus have taught us in such a manner that we’ve never given up on our quest for knowledge.
Every concert teaches us something new.” Bhatt adds with a smile, “He is right - even though I’ve been fortunate to get this award, I’m still learning.”
I would rate this award higher than the Padma Shri, because it is decided by people who understand the technicalities of classical music.
—Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt