Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Kushal Das | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Kushal Das 

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Vishwa Mohan Bhatt plays the Mohan Veena, an acoustic slide guitar he adapted to play Hindustani classical music by adding more than a dozen drone and sympathetic strings. Like his former teacher, Ravi Shankar, the 52-year-old musician from Jaipur has elevated his visibility in the West by playing in cross-cultural settings; he won a Grammy for A Meeting by the River (Water Lily Acoustics, 1993), a collaboration with Ry Cooder. But his voluptuously contoured notes and his phenomenal command of dynamics are best appreciated on more traditional material.

Kushal Das, who hails from Calcutta and is seven years Bhatt's junior, actively cultivated eclecticism by studying with several different voice and sitar teachers. Until recently he performed only on sitar; his version of "Raga Malkauns," from his new album on the local label Sumani Music, Shringaar, reveals a light touch and a flair for patient, clearheaded thematic development. But five years ago he began playing the surbahar, which looks like an oversize sitar and projects a deeper, more resonant sound. His first recording with the instrument is Raga Marwa (Ocora), which plumbs the surbahar's low end to create slow, deliciously woozy phrases, then builds to a fleet and graceful climax. Das will bring both instruments to this concert, which is his North American debut on surbahar.

Bhatt and Das will be accompanied respectively by Subhen Chatterjee and Abhijit Bannerjee on tabla. Sat 4/23, 6 PM, International House, University of Chicago, 1414 E. 59th, 708-798-2025, 847-942-2620, or www.ashanet.org/notesofhope, $20-$50, $12 for students.

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