KARACHI: Tansen’s descendent and a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt is the creator of Mohan Veena, an instrument in classical music. Bhatt received the Grammy Award in 1994 with US guitarist Ry Cooder for their album A Meeting by the River and has also received the Padma Shri award in 2002 and the Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1999.
The Express Tribune spoke to the veteran musician who is currently in Pakistan to perform at the Tehzeeb Festival.
How have you kept Tansen’s legacy alive?
A lot has developed in music over time. The gharana system develops sangeet. We explore the virtuosity of pure sangeet which is about the aesthetics and imagination. It is more like an abstract painting. There are not many lovers of Indian classical music because today people look out for entertainment of a short duration. Only those who are deeply involved in it and are mature enough to understand it relax while listening to it. There is a deep feeling in their hearts and they transcend as if they are talking to God. It all depends on how the audience takes it.
How do you feel about performing in Pakistan?
It was a wish to perform in Pakistan. I have performed in 41 countries of the world. This is the 42nd country I am going to perform in, but it should have been the second country to see my performance. I feel so much at home in Karachi – it is as if I am in India right now.
What is the mohan veena?
Mohan Veena is my own creation. It is a body of a guitar converted into a veena. Twenty strings have been attached to it and 12 of them are resonators. Once the frequency strikes the chord, they start playing. It is natural resonance.
How many musicians will continue using this instrument?
I am happy with the present scenario if it goes from generation to generation. Heredity plays an important role but music has its own importance. With online services such as YouTube, the number of my students is growing. In terms of students who are giving quality performances, there are 25 to 30 of them spread all over the world.
Having worked with western artists, do you think fusion music will keep classical music alive?
Not exactly. Fusion music reaches a bigger audience but classical music is not being diluted by fusion. These are two different genres altogether. I have contributed music to four Hollywood films as well.
What are your expectations from the Tehzeeb Festival?
Expectations are good. I am looking forward to it. There are great artistes here and I believe that this will definitely be a great experience.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2010.