Ashwin Batish rocks the basti
If you think that fusion - music that combines the sounds of different traditions - is passe, you need to hear Ashwin Batish's latest. This compact disc contains eight new tracks which breathe new life into the fusion genre.
Not that sitarist Batish is trying to push the envelope in any self-conscious sort of way. Far from it. He just wants you to listen and enjoy. This is party music, dance music, music to surprise your guests with.
Batish uses all the technology that America has to offer - electric guitars, sequencers, multi-tracking - as well as the sounds of world music, and combines it with his own Indian sensibility.
Bombay-born, U.K. and U.S. raised, Ashwin is the son of Shiv Dayal Batish a composer and vocalist with a grounding in classical music. Ashwin has learned classical sitar and recorded with Zakir Hussain.
But what he did back in 1986 with Sitar Power, and now with this sequel, is completely different. Here he plays jaunty, juicy sitar riffs, backed by drums, bass, and rhythm guitars. Does it work? Give it a listen, and you be the judge.
"Sitar Mania," the opening track, is a frenzied, thumping mix of Samba rhythms with the seductive sounds of Keharwa, the simplest of rhythms on the tabla. The result is a rollicking number that can liven up any dance floor.
On "Hi5," Batish takes the four beat hip-hop rhythm and converts it to the five beat chakra tal of Indian music. "Cowboys and Indians" is set against a bluegrass backdrop, complete with strings. "Surfing with the Sitarman" is based on rhythm & blues with the sitar and the guitar trading licks. "Misty" is reminiscent of some of Ananda Shankar's fusion work.
Those of you into Indian music will recognize ragas like Pahadi, Bhairavi, Bilaval, and Jhinjoti. Classical ragas on the dance floor? Well, it's about time!
If you are looking for music that fits the Indian-American label, I'd say this is it.
A student of Batish once remarked that what she liked about studying with him was his cheerful, playful approach to Indian music. It is true. With Ashwin Batish, you don't feel constrained by the tradition of centuries. You learn how to open your ears and your mind to new sounds, new possibilities. And on the way you also learn a new way to boogie.