Ashwin Batish...electro-raga Jive

Upstarts Column
by Zerro Kierkegaard

Certain musical collisions seem like such strange bedfellows; they'll stop you dead in your tracks the first time you hear them; Bob Wills (country/jazz), Los Lobos (Mexican/rock). Add dance pop/indian fusion to your list, the invention of a Santa Cruz, Calif, based sitar player named Ashwin Batish.

"Fusion is where it's at, in terms of application of Indian music into the Western field," Batish asserts. This fusion , as evidenced on Sitar Power, recently released by Shanachie Records as part of the label's World Beat/Ethno-pop series, is a heady blend of rigid dance rhythms and the kind of music they played in the background on "Dragnet" when Jack webb was making a drug bust. Imagine Ravi Shankar backed by a weird cross between The Ventures and Depeche Mode, and you've got a pretty good idea where Sitar Power is coming from.

Batish rips on the sitar, he's equally at home with Shankar and Chuck Berry. "Initially I had a rude awakening. "he recalls of the first time he played with rock musicians. "There was the shock of volume coming at me. And I said, 'Whoaah.' Like my sitar wouldn't produce any volume and these other guys would be blasting away. As soon as I got over the initial shock, I thought, "Wow, this thing possesses some possibilities." So I visited the music store and picked up a bunch of instruments, including an amplifier for myself, so that I could blast my music as loud as those guys (laughs)."

When Batish - up until that point a traditional indian musician - bought a drum machine and began jamming on sitar over a programmed rhythm track, a new musical genre was born. Drop the needle on "New Delhi Vice" and Bombay Boogie" on Sitar Power and check it out. And if you think those titles are corny, Batish has "Sitar Trek" and Om Sweet Om" slated for Sitar Power 2.


©1989 Pulse 1981. Printed by permission.
1. Sitar Power is longer being distributed by Shanachie Records. Its distribution is now being handled by Batish Records, 1310 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA. (408) 423-1699

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