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Ashwin Batish Sitar Power CD 1 Cover picture

Batish Brings Feverish Sitar to BSU

by Marianne Flagg
Idaho Statesman

No one appreciates more than Ashwin Batish the common perception- - and misconception - about what constitutes Indian music.

A tendril of incense curls in the air as a cross-legged man sits plucking a sitar, twanging blissfully toward Nirvana.

Classical Indian sitar music can be mellow and spiritual. But in the hands of Batish, a master player, the sitar is an instrument of versatility and great charm.

"It's not just squatting on the floor and burning incense," Batish jokes, "It's fun. you can dance to it."

Batish will be in Boise on Saturday to pay his danceable mix of Indian dance-pop. His show starts at 8:30 p.m. in the ballroom of the Boise State University Student Union Ballroom.

Tickets cost $8.50 for general admission at the Record Exchange, Spike's Tapes, CD's and Records and Five Mile Records.

Student tickets cost $6.50 and are available at Union Station in the SUB.

Batish's music is an inviting hybrid of ragas (traditional Indian melodies) and the happy thump of Western dance music. It's part of a burgeoning style of music known as world beat/ ethno-pop. In a crushing of barriers, East meets West in dance music that retains the special flavor of a culture.

Batish celebrates classical and modern Indian music by combining the sitar with drum machines. Other performers mine world beat from reggae, salsa, and Caribbean, African, Celtic and Arabic rhythms.

"Maybe it's time for this music to come forward," Batish says of world beat. "In my mind the musicians are the ones tht are creating the excitement. They are visualizing music ahead of its time. The globe is shrinking."

Batish, who was born in Bombay, India, and now lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., is fluent in classical sitar and has great respect for it. As a boy, he realized the potential of the sitar in a pop music setting.

"I have been in the West since I was 13 or so. I always thought, "Why isn't this music being played for college kids?"

He has leashed the ears of many college listeners with his album "Sitar Power" (`Batish Records).

With song titles such as "New Delhi Vice," "Bombay Boogie" and "Casbah Shuffle,"the album offers party music that is both flip and feverish.

Although this fusion sound is new to many Westerners, it has flourished for years in India.

"It is used in pop music in Indian movie scores,"Batish says. "You hear this kind of fusion, Western instruments have always been in India. Indian artists are very familiar with the saxophone, flute, clarinet and violin."

The sitar, which can take a lifetime to master, owes its eeries, layered sound to 18 strings.

The most-played string in the first, which is made of steel. The next 11 strings - underneath the first - are called sympathetic strings. "When you hear that resonance at the end (of a line), those are the sympathetic strings to the first string."

The others are two brass strings for melody in the lower octaves and four strings for strumming and creating a rhythmic pattern.

Although Batish enjoys teaching and talking about the sitar with missionary zeal, he prefers to do his converting in concert.

"I seriously believe in one to one contact with an audience," he says, "You can't really carry a type of music aound in your pocket and do it justice. You never will believe what a sitar can do unless you see it."

©Idaho Statesman. Printed by permission.
For additional information about Batish recordings and publications, contact: Batish Records, 1310 Mission street, Santa Cruz, Ca 95060 Tel: (831) 423-1699 / Fax: (831) 423-5172


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