String theory: Taking Indian music to the world

  • Deekshita Baruah, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 03, 2014 19:49 IST

Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, one of the only four Indians in the Grammy winner's list, says being credited with creating a 'new sound' means much more than being called a musical genius. Still, for his fans, he'd forever be a pioneer who introduced the Mohan Veena to the world, and perhaps changed the way the world looked at Indian music. The success of his two albums -- A Meeting By The River and Isa Lei -- stand testimony to his incredible fan-following.

We caught up with Bhatt for an exclusive chat where he opens up on why Mohan Veena remains his first love, even 48 years after he first introduced it to the world, his new-found respect for Bollywood music and more.

The Mohan Veena is considered a very complicated instrument. Forty eight years after its creation, do you see the younger generation getting used to it or is it still at a niche stage?
It's been a slow journey for me, but very satisfactory. I have performed in 81 countries till date and people are intrigued by the Mohan Veena. In fact, fifteen days ago I had a performance at Oxford University and there was a lot of enthusiasm among the students. Yes, in India, it's still at an elementary level.

How long has it taken you to develop the modes of Mohan Veena? Do you use music enhancing hardware to alter the quality of music?
I first started playing the Mohan Veena in 1970 and its been a constant process since then. There is no end to learning and innovation, and with every passing year it's just as exciting as the first time. Right now, I am using the octane-generator. It works well for the music I create; one octane note gives me amplified 3 octane notes.

You are considered as one of the greatest slides players in the world. Besides the Mohan Veena, are you working on any other instrument?
I invented the Vishwa Veena (it has 35 strings) a few years back, but it's not that popular. Mohan Veena is my first love and I devote most of my time to it.

How did it feel to collaborate with Indian Ocean at the NH7 Weekender?
I love their work. It is an honour to play with such talented musicians. Rahul Ram has an in-depth knowledge of music and the folk tunes that the band has churned out so far are great.

What's your take on popular mainstream music?
Some young musicians in Bollywood are doing great work. I love A.R. Rahman and Salim Sulaiman. Their approach to music is different and very interesting. Moreover, the musicians in Bollywood are now experimenting with different genres and styles of music. That's a good sign.

What kind of music other than Indian classical gets your attention?
I am a musician, I simply love music. There is no particular genre. I have experimented with my music and have teamed up with reggae, jazz and carnatic music players. I even collaborated with rajasthani folk musicians.

Your future projects.
I have lots of things in the pipeline. There's a fusion concert in Kolkata this month, and then I am teaming up with violinst Deepak Pandit on Dec 6. I am also excited about performing with raga-guitarist Matthias Müller from Germany.

In Jan 2015, I will be sharing the stage with Pandit Jasraj and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. The concert will be held in five cities- Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad.

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