Stringing Together

Stringing Together

Salil Bhatt teases the beginning of a raga on his Sattvik Veena.

Salil Bhatt speaks about his first album with his father and guru — Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt

Salil Bhatt teases the beginning of a raga on his Sattvik Veena. Deep,sombre notes flow from the strings and slowly turn into an intense melody that begins with gravity but expands and swells with strings of romance. “Kauns is that kind of raga; it has an intense concentration,just like yoga in music. It will take you into the depths of music,” says Bhatt.

But the composition he is playing is not standard Kauns. It it is an intricate mesh of two ragas — Jog and Kauns — played in a combination of Hindustani and Carnatic scales,an entirely new raga in itself. For Bhatt,the raga seems to have brought his life full circle,tying three generations of musicians in the family. “I have named it Vishwa Kauns,after my guru and father,Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. Today,I play it on the Sattvik Veena,the instrument I invented and named after my son,” he says.

Vishwa Kauns,says Bhatt,is a celebration of Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and his career stretching across half a century. But more than that,it also marks a milestone in his life,for the raga has been recorded on an album that features Bhatt and his father for the first time — Strings of Freedom.


“This is a dream I have had for a long time. Fifteen years ago,I told Panditji that I wished to record with him some day. Perhaps I was too young then and he took no notice. Then all these years later,suddenly he sent me a message asking me about it. Today,the dream is fulfilled,” says Bhatt.

He speaks of his father with great awe and reverence,solely referring to him as guruji or panditji. “I have never called him papa or dad; he was my teacher and I was one of his disciples and that was the dominant relationship between us. He belongs to the old-school of musicians and I was always brought up with that awe for him,” he says.

In contrast,his relationship with his son,Sattvik,is more relaxed,he says. “We are more friends than anything else. We share a lot of common interests. In fact,we even share shoes sometimes because we both wear a size 12,” he says.

Bhatt hopes Sattvik,now 15,will continue the tradition of music that has stayed on in the family for 14 generations. “He was only three when he earned a Limca record for identifying and playing 45 ragas on his mini Mohan Veena,” says Bhatt. “Sattvik and my father are quite close. Grandfathers always dote on their grandchildren,” he adds.

Bhatt’s anecdotes also reveal the lighter side to his father.“We had only three hours to record. As soon as he came,he said he was hungry. So we ate vada-pav,which we both love. As soon as he was done eating,he asked me,‘Don’t you want to record? We’re running out of time’,” he says.

Bhatt recalls having started off with raga Aheer Bhairav at that time. “Within five minutes,he understood what I wanted and we began to play together,with him on the Mohan Veena and me on the Sattvik Veena. That is the magic of this album — you can hear both the instruments combine their magic,” he says.