In a conservative social order as India, experimenting on themes of something that is considered classic and infusing it with contemporary or western ideas, is a tough call with severe criticism and disparagement showing up at every step.
Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt came out as a frontrunner in this stone trodden path by mesmerising every critic and exponent with his genius creation. This is the story of the Mohan Veena.
It might be a peculiar looking hybrid guitar to someone who is not aware of this custom-made instrument. The Mohan Veena is a hybrid Indian classical instrument modified from the Hawaiian archtop guitar designed to play Indian classical music. In this modified instrument, twenty strings are added, where three melody strings and five drone strings coming out of the peg heads and twelve sympathetic strings wound around respective tuning pegs, set on a piece of wood by the side of the neck for improved reverberation. The drone strings are lower in height than the melody strings to allow for the unrestricted playing of the melody strings have been added to it, with a gourd (or the tumba) attached at the back for enhanced resonance. The addition of this has given the instrument a truly Indian touch.
Bhatt has been awarded the Padma Shree in 2002 after winning the esteemed Grammy award in 1994 along with Ry Cooder for their World Music Album, A Meeting By The River. He has been successful in establishing the Mohan Veena in the arena of the Indian classical music. He has been a prime disciple of the great sitar exponent Late Pt. Ravi Shankar.
The style of playing the Mohan Veena is similar to the fashion of a slide-guitar; however the technique for strumming the strings has been developed by Bhatt himself. It is played in with the first two fingers of the right hand used to strike the string with a metal or plastic wrap for the thumb, and the left hand for sliding with the help of a steel rod or slide.
Apart from Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the Mohan Veena is played and performed by his son Salil Bhatt who went forward in creating a derivative of the Mohan Veena – the Satvik Veena, and many others. Chaturangui (created by Debashish Bhattacharya), Hansa Veena (created by Barun Kumar Pal), and Shankar Veena (created by Kamala Shankar) are the other variants of the instrument.
Bhatt is undoubtedly an architect, innovator of Indian musical instruments and one of the most versatile musicians with an impeccable speed and proficiency on playing the Mohan Veena.
- The most outstanding feature of this instrument is that it can be played on both the ‘Tantrakari Ang’ and also in the ‘Gayaki Ang’ giving the greatest advantage over traditional instruments like Sitar, Sarod and Veena.
- The instrument is an incorporation of the sounds of Sitar, Veena and Sarod technique.
- Dibyoshnata Talukdar