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Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, H.N. Bhaskar perform mesmerizing jugalbandi

Embassy of India hosted the duo under its “Performing India Series.”

H.N. Bhaska (left) and Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt performing jugalbandi at the Embassy of India on April 6.
H.N. Bhaskar (left) and Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt performing jugalbandi at the Embassy of India on April 6.

By Sonali Ved

WASHINGTON, DC: Grammy-winning veena maestro Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and violinist H.N. Bhaskar, who are currently touring the United States, mesmerized the audience with a masterful jugalbandi performance at the Embassy of India in Washington, DC, on April 6. The two prominent Indian musicians were accompanied by local classically trained musicians.

“Raag, Rhythm and Repartee: A Musical Evening of ‘Jugalbandi,’” was hosted by the embassy, under its “Performing India Series,” which showcases various Indian performing arts.

Jugalbandi, in which there is no rehearsal, sheet of music, or script, is freeform playing of music based on the raag selected by the musicians and conversation is carried between them. This is a very difficult form of playing music and requires highly trained musicians to make the final product successful.  At the event, the musicians selected Raag Yaman Kalyan as the raag for the evening.

Bhatt, a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar and an accomplished musician and composer, played an instrument he created called the Mohan Veena.  The Mohan Veena is a modified guitar with influences of a sitar, sarod, and veena in both physical resemblance, as well as in technique of playing the instrument.

The evening started out with soft, slow tones; however the music quickly took on an exciting pitch.  The chemistry between the musicians was electrifying and as the evening progressed, it was clear that the musicians were enjoying playing together, just as much as the audience was enjoying hearing this soulful music.

There was a flawless interaction between the musicians all playing their own unscripted music, yet creating one energizing sound, that can only come from highly evolved artists.  The intimate setting at the Embassy allowed the audience and the musicians to interact in symbolic manner, only enhancing the experience for all present.  It was as much a treat to watch, as it was to hear such great music being performed.  The evening ended with a few well know bhajans by the artist and by the playing of the Indian national anthem.

The musicians were honored with a roar of applause and a standing ovation, with which they flowed up with a small encore presentation. This was a world class event with world class artists that carry the torch of Indian classical music to this century.

Bhaskar, a prominent Violinist and composer , who first performed at the age of 8, has played at many famous venues including Carnegie Hall and Sydney Oprea House.  He is the receipt of many awards and has composed music for movies.

The three local artists, Krishna Ramdas on the tabla, Vijay Ganesh on the mridangam, and Sowmiya Narayanan on the ghatam, are all highly trained musicians playing very traditional Indian instruments.