Vishwa Mohan Bhatt: Live Last Night


Live Last Night

Most virtuosos are closely identified with their instruments, but Vishwa Mohan Bhatt is an unusual case: His instrument is actually named for him. The Indian master, who performed Thursday evening at George Washington University's Jack Morton Auditorium, plays the 20-string Mohan veena, a guitar he modified to resemble a sitar. A disciple of Ravi Shankar, Bhatt rivals his teacher in nuance, and can exceed just about any Indian player in speed.

Bhatt's alacrity was well showcased in the concert's centerpiece, an hour-long improvisation on the structure and melody of "Champa Kali,'' a South Indian raga. The veena player began producing speedy runs and lightning filigrees even before tabla player Samir Chatterjee joined Bhatt for the jhala, the exuberant climactic section.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Bhatt plays the fretboard with a slide, which might seem to limit his dexterity. But he struck, and sometimes bent, notes with as much precision as any sitar or sarod player. His authority was complemented by Chatterjee's tabla, which kept pace without ever crowding the veena.

The concert, co-sponsored by the Asia Society, GWU's Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Embassy of India, concluded with a series of short pieces. Two of those, a Rajasthani folk song and a lullaby dedicated to Bhatt's late mother, required the veena player to sing, which he did with quiet warmth. Bhatt concluded with "A Meeting by the River,'' the title piece from his Grammy-winning 1993 collaboration with slide guitarist Ry Cooder. As the veena danced through the jauntily eclectic yet essentially Indian music, Cooder's absence was not an issue.


By David Malitz |  May 8, 2009; 1:10 PM ET Live Last Night
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