Unfair to compare me to Vishwa Mohan Bhatt: Salil Bhatt

The moment we start talking about his creation, the ‘Satvik Veena’, he makes it clear, “It is the one that plays me, never vice-versa.”

Stressing that it is paramount for every artist to have a peculiar style, signature and identity, musician Salil Bhatt, whose latest album ‘Slide to Freedom 2- Make a Better World’ was nominated for a Canadian Juno Award adds, “The Satvik Veena has been instrumental in achieving that for me. By the way, my son’s name is Satvik.”

The musician who was recently invited by Pracheen Kala Kendra in Chandigarh to present his new work ‘Desert Symphony’, boasting of a diversified ensemble including him on the Satvik Veena, Abhishek Mishra on the tabla, singer and musician Kutle Khan and Parth Koser on drums; says that it is a unique concept that stretches the horizons of Indian classical with a progressive approach. “It starts with pure Indian Classical, then comes in the blend of Rajasthani folk music followed by the groove of drums. This three-layered presentation’s aim is to capture the imagination of the audience members who prefer different genres under one umbrella.”

Even as the second wave of the pandemic hits and there is talk of a limited lockdown in various states, the musician feels that the previous one proved to be one of the greatest follies. “It broke the backs and feet of millions. When it comes to artists, the government anyway does little for art and culture. Closing down auditoriums for theatre, music and performance arts will further make our lives miserable. Sadly, even during the phased opening of lockdown, the priority was to give an all-clear to malls and not performance spaces. I wonder why politicians across party lines are not having a problem when thousands of people are coming together for election rallies nowadays.”

Talk to him about the ‘pressure’ of being Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt’s son, and he laughs, “That is there every minute of my existence. Now, it’s not my ‘fault’ that I am his son, right? Music has been in our family for 20 generations now. The parameters set by my father are very high. Also would it not be unfair to compare a shishya with his guru? The secret of my survival and success is that I have never tried to be Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. He is a legend. He is the only one.”

Even as he collaborates with artists across genres from different continents, Bhatt maintains that in order to grow it is paramount to do that. “How else will you stretch your limits. It would not happen by staying comfortably in your cocoon. And as far as the criticism of purists go, I always ask — is that variety not extinct now? Many people cannot even gauge when an Indian classical performance is interjected with light classical.”