Billed as a remembrance of George Harrison and his love of Indian music, the Music Circle presented two of his favorite artists: Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, who set a fast pace on a modified guitar, and Lakshmi Shankar, who emphasized slow, sweet and soulful singing.
Playing the “Mohan veena,” a guitar Bhatt has modified so that it sounds like a mix between guitar, sitar, sarod and veena, the musician enraptured the audience from his first twang. The Mohan veena has a clear, dulcet sound and he played magic on it, with tablaist Subhanker Banerjee providing accompaniment. They blended perfectly together, with neither stepping on the other’s toes.
Shankar’s singing paled in comparison. Accompanied by Banerjee, Sarika Ravindran on tambura, Gopal Marathe on harmonium and Jagan Ramamurthy on violin, she brought out the beauty of the South Indian Shivaranjani raga adapted to the North Indian Mishr — mixed-motif by her famous brother-in-law and teacher, Ravi Shankar. It was the plaintive cry of the beloved for her lover (“Your memory is haunting me”).
The second number, a romantic thumri, was slightly more cheerful (“My beloved visited me”). Indian devotional songs (bhajans) are Shankar’s forte and she sang one devoted to Krishna in tribute to Harrison, who felt a special connection to the Hindu god. But she added her own interpretation to the Meera bhajan “Mere to Giridhar Gopal” and even changed the raga.