Sunday, October 24, 2010

Poly Varghese - An innate artistic brilliance decant through strings of Mohana Veena

Poly Varghese - An innate artistic brilliance decant through strings of Mohana Veena

On a recent personal visit to UAE, Poly Varghese, one of the four exponents of Mohana Veena performed at different venues in UAE.

Although, I could not watch live any of them, I could hear the vibrations through audience comments and news reports.

With interest in music and the instrument, I went ahead and searched for his journey thus far. It was indeed a fruitful journey, to know the musician and the innate talent he has for his musical and artistic brilliance.

Poly Varghese had his initial training in music and other art forms from, the Kerala Kalamandalam, a renowned centre for art and music, an institute which Poly entered as a teenager and later emerged from as a leading Mridangam player . Thereafter, he pursued his quest for music at the Viswa Bharati University, Santiniketan. Here, he had the unique opportunity and access to learn various instruments both percussion and stringed out of which he specialised in playing Hindustani music on the Electric guitar.

A chance meeting with Pandit Viswa Mohan Bhatt gave him an opportunity for intimate access to the Mohan Veena which incidentally happened to be an instrument designed and developed by Pandit viswa Mohan Bhatt himself , who is India’ s first Grammy award winner and also the recipient of the Padma Bhushan.

Poly Varghese has played for the programme "sugamana ragangal" that was telecast on the Chennai Doordarshan channel.

Today, Poly Varghese under the guidance and tutelage of Pandit Bhatt has emerged as a noted Mohan Veena player and has a number of concerts to his credit both in India and now, in the Middle East.

His notable performances in UAE include the one at the Arab cultural centre Sharjah which is part of Arab India Cultural Exchange organized by the Government of Sharjah and at the Adishakthi Ashram (headed by Veenapani Chawla a renowned theatre exponent), in Pondicherry and also at the Centre for Experiencing Socio-Cultural Interaction at Madurai.

After this historic performance, which was held on 16th October, 2010, Dr Omar Abdul Aziz (Head of SharjaH Arab Cultural Center Dept. of Culture and Information U A E ) presented him with a certificate of appreciation from the Department.

His concerts in Dubai was appreciated by HE Sanjay Verma, Consular General of Indian Embassy in Dubai.

During his visit, he had two memorable performances at Indian Social and Cultural Centre Abu Dhabi.

and one at Kerala Social Centre Abu Dhabi.

It may not be out of place to mention that he is at ease while playing not only the Mohan Veena but also the electric Guitar.

Poly has also been creative enough to develop the 40 stringed three-neck guitar which he has named as the "Poly String Guitar" (bahu thantri veena).

This guitar is designed as a three neck guitar and it is unique because all the tones of indian classical music can be expressed at the same time in this instrument. morevover there has not been any indian string instrument having 12 octaves..these 12 octaves demonstrate the 3 characters of indian classical music. The three necks (finger board) are the bass neck, lead neck and the high neck.

Poly Strings Guitar can be called as the conglomeration of 4 musical instruments namely the tarab and the three finger boards. this guitar is equipped with four electric pick ups which are unique and distinct in its own way. the pick up used for the bass neck is designed to give an acoustic feel the tarab pick up is entirely different to the three pick ups because tarab expresses the natural tone of all acoustic instruments and for this purpose alone was the pick up created . when listening to the tones of the tarab one can listen to the tones of the sitar and the Mohana Veena. The connection of these four pick ups are embedded in an electronic mixer which is part of the guitar and this mixer helps in complementing and enhancing the tones.

It may be noted that guitars available in the market are mono guitars meaning it doesn’t have a stereo unlike the Poly Strings Guitar which uses the technology of an audio surround system and has a 4.1 surround.
As a continuous learner, he is always in the process of perfecting and pursuing deeper the nuances Mohana Veena. In this pursuit, he has developed his own inimitable style of playing and many times improvises and plays his own compositions too. He puts in about more than 10 hours to practise his music every day, which is a point to note for the new generation of musicians.

The musical background and base he has travelled thus far may also explains for his excellence. He has studied Mridangam for several years under eminent vidwans including late Korambu Subramanyam Nampoothiri. In addition, he was also a student of Kathakali under Kalamandalam Gopi and leading Kathakali artists. He is also an excellent Tabala player. Well versed in South, North and Eastern style and ragas of Indian music, he automatically enter himself into any musical stage with his awareness, creativity and on stage improvisation. The knowledge of accompanying instruments add extra dimension to his performance. This make him blend more with his accompanying artists and also take them at their own skill level as he transcend himself into a musical journey on stage.

Having travelled with the Baul singers of West Bengal, he is familiar with their music and can render high-pitched Baul songs with ease. He is also trained in Rabindra Sangeet.

To add more dimensions to his creativity, Poly Varghese, has proved his talent in acting and has been in experimental theatre for several years. He has worked with great theater personalities in India like Krishnammoorthy, Badal Sircar, Nasser etc and has acted in plays of different languages. He has also appeared on the silver screen as well.
Poly is also a music composer and has composed music for films and theatre. In 2005 he won the Jeevan Atlas Award for the Best Music Director of the year for the Malayalam film "Kootilekku". He had the privilege of having closely worked with the famous music director the late Devarajan master.

He conveys his emotions through his music. This is well explained when one gets to listen to him. It also may explain the reason why many conventional musicians do not really understand his brilliance. Like a bird flying through the sky, or like a river silently flowing with it’s designated course, or the same river, flooded and violently flowing through wherever it is taken during the momentary current, his music has no boundaries. No rules and regulations. No wonder, he is being recognized by more and more senior musicians within India and abroad.
Born in Kerala, Poly Varghese has sufficiently good working knowledge of 9 languages including English, Tamil, Hindi, Bengali and Oriya.

Poly Varghese and his wife Sabeena Varghese (a lecturer in Library Science at Union Christian College, Madras) and their infant daughter Mithra Poly Varghese live at Madras.

He can be contacted on:


Face Book:!/profile.php?id=1283735713

Phone: 00 91 99 40 27 39 31

This interview was done through interactions with him during his visit and knowledge shared by him through email exchanges
Ramesh Menon, Abu Dhabi


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