Two nights ago, I had the chance to see the wild man of the sitar, Ashwin Batish, in Grand Rapids--and he was great. Armed with more gizmos than Robert Fripp, he started out with a classical Indian alap, then segued into a dance song accompanied by drum machine programmed with tabla rhythm patterns.
His excursions into West Coast Indipop were outrageously fun. Using a signal processed sitar and some pre-recorded tapes of himself as back-up, he demonstrated his own take on jazz, samba, incidental Star Trek music, and who knows what all. While I missed the wonderful overtones of the unaccompanied sitar, I must say that the self-accompaniment was relatively unobtrusive, since his signal processed sitar and fast and furious playing took the forefront. It was all very imaginative--and his rapport with the audience was especially generous. One rather misguided soul appeared toward the close of the show from the audience and asked to "sit in on the bongoes" (as he referred to the tabla). Ashwin treated the interruption with aplomb, thanking the interloper for his enthusiasm and actually allowing him to bash away for a brief period--turning a potentially embarassing moment for everyone into a good-natured plug for his tabla-instruction video.
If Ashwin's tour hits anywhere in your neighborhood, do make the effort to catch him.