While the world never seems to be in short supply of great guitarists, it's a rare artist whose approach to the instrument is so strikingly original as to make us step back and reexamine just what the guitar can do indeed, just what the guitar is. Indian slide guitarist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt has had such an impact, acknowledged by his 1993 World Music Grammy for his collaboration with Ry Cooder on A Meeting By The River. Since then, Bhatt has recorded several more cross-cultural albums blending Indian music with bluegrass and blues in the company of Taj Mahal, Jerry Douglas and Bela Fleck. But for concert goers around the globe, Bhatt performs unadulterated Indian classical music on a modified archtop lap style slide guitar, an instrument so uniquely personal in design that he has christened it the Mohan Vina (vina is a rather generic term for several plucked stringed instruments of India). If the Hawaiian guitar were crossbred with the sitar, their offspring would resemble Bhatt's Mohan Vina, replete with resonant sympathetic strings and vocally fluid slides. Bhatt's guru, Pandit Ravi Shankar has written: "The effect of his playing is unique... merging the sound and style of guitar and sarod."
This DVD presents Bhatt, accompanied by tabla master Sukhvinder Singh Namadhari, performing four ragas and a folk tune, among them the majestic Yaman, a cornerstone of Hindustani (North Indian) classical music. Bhatt introduces each performance with detailed commentary about his music and musical life, as well as fascinating remarks about the Mohan Vina, including specifics of tunings and technique. Guitarists and Indian music aficionados alike will find much to admire, enjoy and study in this combined concert video and self portrait of an artist who alerted the West to the guitar's radical new possibilities within India's classical music tradition.
Running time: 90 minutes