It was just a year or two ago that I first heard of the instrument called the Mohan Veena that had been invented by the great Indian Classical Musician Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. I heard it being played by a Canadian Blues musician named Harry Manx and I was astounded by the depth of feeling that it was able to bring to traditional Mississippi Delta Blues music.
Prior to that the only times I'd heard Indian instruments being used in Western popular music were occasions when they were being used for effect, or wow that sounds cool, by people who hadn't taken the time that Mr. Manx had to learn properly. Most Western pop musicians just aren't interested in taking the ten years required to study with a master to learn the intricacies involved with playing any of the Indian stringed instruments.
Which is a pity considering the wonderful way in which Mr. Manx was able to incorporate it into his music. So I was very excited when I saw that the Northern Blues label had released an album of Blues music featuring Doug Cox and Salil Bhatt, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt's son.
The new album, Slide To Freedom not only features Mr.Cox on various Resonator guitars, wooden and aluminum, Mr. Bhatt on the Satvik Veena, and percussion by Ramkumar Mishra on Tabla, but Vishwa Mohan Bhatt sits in on two songs with his Mohan Veena. The result is pure magic.
The Veena, which is the basis for both the father's and son's instruments is, to put it very simply, like a long skinny lap guitar that the player sits behind and plucks the strings with the fingers of one hand and depresses them with the other hand. Usually they have two hollow gourds that they rest on which also serve as resonators I would guess.