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Pandit S.D. Batish - Life Sketch

In the month of December l9l4, within the then ruling monarchy Patiala state in Patiala city Pandit Shiv Dayal Batish known to his fans all over world as S.D. Batish was born of Brahman parents. From his very childhood he was fond of music. It is said that while barely seven years old, master Batish, with his sweet melodious voice entertained a marriage party in the presence of some professional musicians hired to perform for the occasion, and gained praise and blessings from his listeners.

In this period, his father Pandit Ramgopal, got transfered to Bhatinda a town about 100 miles from Patiala, where Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir came to visit and stayed in the same Bungalow where the parents of Batish were living. Young Batish sang a song before the Maharaja who bestowed his blessings.

In 1931, after joining college, he was invited to participate in the dramatic club of the Maharaja of Patiala where he acted and sang in the famous Parivartan drama. Here, his melodious voice, used to have 17 encores from the audience in every show. The director of this club Mr Vijay Kumar invited him to Bombay in 1934 to join the film company as an actor.

Reaching Bombay, Batish wasted no time in becoming popular among the trade circle and was soon affectionately called as young Sehgal after the famous singer actor of that time. During this period Batish started acting small roles in the movies only to quickly get bored with acting because of the tedium of bright lights, painting of his face and application of spirit gum and articificial hair. After hardly six months of this whirlwind introduction to the film world, he decided to leave for home.

Reaching back in Patiala he started attending music gatherings in town. People got attracted by his voice and suggested to his father to introduce him to the local Guru Shri Chaandanraam "Charan" an authority on North Indian music, a poet, and composer of classical music compositions in many languages. He had innumerabale disciples who used to visit him from different parts of India and were often presented to the public during his regular bi-weekly gatherings in two famous temples of Patiala. Guru Charan, after listening to the sweet voice of Batish was glad and accepted him as his pupil.

During his learning period Guruji presented young Batish along with his other disciples before Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, at a gathering in his honor. Batish sang Panditji's favorite Raga Sohoni which he liked very much and bestowed his sincere blessings on him.

In 1936, Batish broadcast his first radio program from the old studios of All India Radio, Delhi, after which he became popular in the regions of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi.

In this same period His Master's Voice, EMI invited him in their studio to join as a vocal artist. Here he met the eminent music directorPandit Amarnath who also turned out to be a very good friend of Guruji. As luck would have it, Batish later found out he and Amarnath were distant cousins. Soon Batish started getting assignments to sing and perform in major motion pictures. Many songs hit the top of the charts resulting in national airplay and distribution and Batish's name was soon a household word.

In 1939, Z.A. Bukhari, station director of All India Radio, Delhi, got transfered to Bombay where he invited S.D.Batish to perform on that radio station. This performance was widely appreciated and gained for him reputation and respect all over the state of Maharashtra. After this Batish started regular live broadcasts from All India Radio stations across various parts of India including Hyderabad, Dharvar, Poona, Nagpur, Bhopal, Delhi, Jammu & Kashmir, Kohlapur, Baroda and Bombay. These in turn prompted numerous concerts in these regions.

In 1942, Batish teamed up with Pandit Amarnath in Lahore (now Pakistan) and participated in their first Punjabi film Govandi. Here he sang the song Pagadi Sambhal Jatta. This became a hit and even to this day is shown on the Delhi Television. In the same year Pancholi Art pictures, Lahore, offered Batish the job of assistant music director, where under the direction of Pandit Amarnath, he sang the song Khamosh Nigahen of film Daasi. This made him famous as a playback singer in the whole of the country.

In July 1947, he joined the film industry in Bombay in the capacity of music director, composer, playback singer. Some of his outstanding pictures are Betaab, Bahu Beti, Toofan, Harjeet, Tipusultan and Filmistan's Hambhi Kuch Kam Nahin, and Amar Keertan. There is hardly any playback singer of repute who has not sung under the music direction of Batish. Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Talat Mahmood, Mohamad Rafi, Sudha Malhotra, Mannadey, Geeta Dutt and others have all participated and performed on the melodies composed and directed by him.

Being the senior artist of His Master's Voice, the company's Bombay studio also released some outstanding songs of Batish from that zone. The two ghazals of Ghalib Daayam Para Hua Tere Dar Par and Lazim Tha Ke Dekho Mera Rasta are still remembered by his fans and admirers and regularly broadcast from All India Radio stations and Radio Cylone. All India Radio also accredited him as a grade A outstanding artist.

But behind this activity of fame and accomplishment Batish never lost sight of his favorite vocation, the field of Indian classical music. Here he visibly made a mark when he sang two songs under the music direction of S.D.Burman. Poocho Na Kaise Maine Raina Bitaai in raga Aheer Bhairava and Mana Mohana Mana Men Ho Tumhin' in raga Adana, from the movies Meri Surat Teri Aankhen and Kaise Kahoon. His inimitable rendering style in these songs earned him the Tansen Award of outstanding vocalist from the leading organisation of Bombay devoted to the causes of Indian classical music named Sur Singaar Samsad.

Batish also sang in various films where music was composed by virtuosos like O.P. Nayyar, Anil Biswas, Pandit Gobind Ram, Madan Mohan, Pandit Khemraj Prakash, Gulam Mohamad, Shankar Jaikishen, Badri Prasad, and Roshan. It was for Roshan that he sang the all time famous "Ishk Ishk" Qawali, Na To Kaarvan Ki Talaash Hai from the movie Barsaat Ki Raat. This song not only became a huge hit, but today its style of rendition has become a standard in the music industry. This qawali has also become a pet request at Batish's live performances.

In 1961 he celebrated his silver jubilee, 25 years on the Indian music scene! It was a grand affair at the prestigious Ranga Bhavan Auditorium, Bombay. Almost the whole music industry turned up to honor him.

In 1962, Upon the invitation of the Government of India, Batish joined a group of top film personalities, including Dilip Kumar and Mohamad Rafi, for a trip to the Sikkim border to entertain the Indian troops. Before departure to Sikkim, he and the rest of the delegation had the honor of being invited to have tea with prime minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi.

Batish remained active on the Bombay music scene till the end of 1964. By this time he was searching for new challenges. He looked Westward to England.

End of 1964, Batish arrived in London where his daughter was studying. Here he set up base. The eastern and the western communities embraced his presence and during his stay that lasted about six years, he became a regular contributor of vocal and instrumental music programs on the BBC radio and T.V and the ITV network. The famous theme song Nai Zindagi Naya Jivan of the Immigrant program was composed and sung by him and is still remembered to this day.

In 1967, he performed at the International folk festival in Wales, England. He presented folk songs of India and gave a performance of North Indian Classical music on the rare and exquisite instrument, Vichitra Veena. This prompted an immediate record signing by a well known independant label, Topic Rercords. The Batish Family Album in which his wife, daughter and son also participated, was released. This interesting and historical album became popular all over the western world.

During the same period in London, Batish was recommended by BBC to the Beatles who were in search of Indian musicians for the purpose of creating the sound track for their film "Help". Batish contributed the sound of his Sitar and Vichitra veena. He also had the privilege of teaching Dilruba to George Harrison's wife Patty Harrison. Batish was invited to give music for a series of documentaries called India My India, Thirteen Faces Of India, and Letter FromThimpu. He was also hired to coach Michael York on the rudiments of sitar for York's upcomming role in the movie GURU.

As a direct result of all this activity and through support of well wisher and friends, Batish set out to form Sangeet Sangam an organization dedicated towards teaching Indian music and culture. Regular concerts, classes, attracted many to the fold. He also launched a very successful publication called Musicasia of which he was both publisher and editor. This magazine had the privilege of being patronized by notable figures like Lord Fenner Brockway including some top officials of the BBC Radio and Television.

In 1970, on recommendation of Dr. Ralph Abraham - professor of mathematics, University Of California, Santa Cruz invited him to give lectures on Indian music. "It is ironic", wrote his friend Qamar Jalalabadi from Bombay, "that you have moved from Santa Cruz in Bombay to Santa Cruz in California.

Here was born the Batish Institute Of Music And Fine Arts. A continuation on the idea he had originally started out with in England, it was soon to become his pet project. Along with his son Ashwin and his daughter Meena, classes in vocal, instrumental music, and dance became a regular feature at their home in Santa Cruz. As the student base grew a lack of adequate books on the subject was felt. This prompted a variety of books and cassette tapes that were authored by Panditji. A few of these works are:

Ragopedia, V. 1 - Exotic Scales of North India (Book). This introductory work is perhaps the largest collection in print of raga scales of the North Indian classsical music tradition. It has some priliminary Indian music theory and is designed for students and practitioners of music from India and elsewhere. It is notated in Staff notation and Indian Sargam.

CHALANS: This is an exaustive research and creation of expansions of the ragas contained in the Ragaopedia. These chalans offer an insight upon which a practicing musician might weave his alap or musical composition. Emphasis is placed in retaining the purity of the Raga. Over 650 raga scales given in the Ragopedia are rendered here. The whole work is over 1200 pages long and will soon be available in 7 volumes.

RASIK RAGA LAKSHAN MANJARI: This enourmous work deals with the theory & practice of North Indian music and was designed to especially teach the western student, Indian music. Here Panditji has written the words and composed the music and has himself sung the various songs. The notations are written in Staff and in Sargam. The works is divided into two volumes. Volume 1 deals with the history & Theory of North Indian music with introductory songs (Lakshan Geets) composed in the first 10 thaats. Volume 2 contains the Lakshan Geets with notations of 100 ragas 10 from each of the 10 thaats. All the technical details and rules for raga performance are also included. This entire work, including all the songs, are written in English.

RAGOPEDIA (volume 2): Exotic music scales of South India. This work has to be termed Panditjis' magnum opus. He literally quit doing everything else and immersed himself heart and soul into research of the South Indian Ragas. All the skills acquired through his years in the music field - his writing; acting; singing; composing; directing; producing; everything he ever stood for past and present, has flowered into expression that will be unequaled for centuries to come. Continuous research, both in theory and practice has today yielded his current work which is as a whole titled "Bharatiya Sangeet Veda". This huge and powerful work consists of over 2500 ragas presently known to the South Indian Music system. Based on these South Indian ragas, Panditji has composed, sung and recorded numerous Kritis, Geets, Bhajans, Thumaris, Khayals, Ghazals with lyrics penned by Tulsi Das, Meera Bai, Ghalib, Zauq, S. D. Batish and others. . Needless to say this work will go down in history as one of the most significant acheivements in the field of Indian music and World music for that matter. It is presently undergoing processing so that future generations may have access to it.

This work also has to be heralded as that bridge that closes the gap long formed between the Northern and the Southern Indian music systems which, while stemming from the same branch, took seperate directions due to factors such as the invasions of Northern India, isolation of communities, religion, language, distances, misunderstanding, and ignorance on both sides. Efforts are presently underway towards publishing this colossal work. It will be released in multiple volumes.

Today Shiv Dayal Batish, along with his son Ashwin, has started a recording and publishing company, Batish Records, to form the voice for the Batish Institute. The sole purpose of this activity - to introduce the rest of the world to this weatlh of hidden treasure!

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