In 1968, when the Grammy-winning Hindustani classical music instrumentalist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (b.1950), also known as V. M. Bhatt, was learning to play the sitar at Manmohan Bhatt’s music school, the former stumbled upon a Spanish guitar. He then sought to modify the instrument’s structure to suit the sensibilities and demands of Indian music, thus giving us an Indian version of Hawaiian slide guitar: the Mohan Veena.
The Mohan Veena is an archtop guitar consisting of twenty strings: three melody strings, five drone strings coming out of the peg heads, and twelve sympathetic strings. It is played like a Hawaiian slide guitar: the first two fingers of the righthand used to strike the string with a metal or plastic wrap for the thumb, and the lefthand for sliding using a steel rod.
The instrument is a hybrid of several instruments: guitar’s body, sitar’s strings, and slider of the old instrument Veena. It is usually used in Indian classical music, particualrly while performing ragas where the tonal range and depth gives way to its unique emotive character.
One of the notable players of Mohan Veena, who actively experiments and promotes it in the West, is Pakistan-born guitarist and composer Abbas Premjee. After studying classical guitar and music composition at the conservatory of the Meadows School of the Arts, Premji went on to study traditional Indian classical music with the famous sitar maestro Ustad Raees Khan.
As of today he has released three albums: “Elements” (2008), “Crescent Moon” (2011), and “Symbiosis” (2014); these works have notably blended Indian ragas and sounds with jazz and classical guitar.
Here’s a video of him introducing Mohan Veena:
Premjee’s Official Website