Sitar Power
Ashwin Batish's Musical Adventures
 More of this Feature
• Part One: Sitar Power
• Part Two: About the Sitar
• Part Three: Challenges and Influences
• Part Four: Advice and Flair
• Part Five: More Sitar Power
  Related Resources
• India
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Batish Institute of Indian Music and Fine Arts
• Ashwin Batish

Paula: Tell me about your Sitar Power projects -- how did you decide to fuse Indian music with rock? How was the project received by audiences?

Ashwin: Sitar Power was born when I was first dragged into a music store by some friends to buy a recording machine. The year was 1985. I had recently finished a few concerts with John Kaizan Neptue (Shakuhachi), David Harnish (Guitar) and Zakir Hussain (Tabla). John wanted to record some songs on tape. So we went to this store and bought a new 8 track tape machine. I of course didn't stop just there. I managed to pick up a bunch more stuff. Before I knew it, I had bought a computer (one of the first IBM PCs), some synths, and software. After the shows, I sat down with this mess and almost kicked myself for having spent so much money. I literally had no knowledge of mixers, recorders, synths etc. The computer was a total headache.

It took me a few months of trying reading the manuals to run this whole setup. After I felt a bit comfortable I literally turned the tape recorder on and started recording all the new compositions. The first was the "Bombay Boogie" which was a straight ahead jam with a drum machine. The next was India Beat. The final track on India Beat was where myself and my brother Ravi got so excited with the sound recording that we cracked open a couple of beers and danced to it. Our open mics recorded all our shouting and that also become a part of the music. This went out as a 45 to over 4000 radio stations. We were so thrilled with the sound that we would give these away to anyone and everyone that showed interest. At the height of this, Apple Computers was dumping their old software cassettes for the floppy disks. I received a call from the product manager there. He wanted to sell the cassette boxes to me (I was running a tape duplication business on the side). So I got the boxes for a penny each and the cassettes were free. Well, with so many free cassettes, guess what I did :) Yep, I made them into sitar power singles and literally gave them away to audiences everywhere I performed. We received an unbelievable response from radio. The single got airplay in over 1000 radio stations all across US and Canada. It was truly amazing. At the same time everyone was crying out for more songs. So, I got busy and release the full album by the end of 1987. The first album was mostly rock. I think that's why it got so much attention. Canada was especially receptive I did many of the festivals there including the Winnipeg Folk Festival. The Vancouver Folk Festival, Ottawa World Music Fest, W.O.M.A.D., Quebec World Music Festival, and the Montreal Jazz Festival.

In all this, I truly had a tremendous amount of fun. It started out as a non-serious project and I am happy to say the fun never went out of it. Even today, when I'm invited to do the Sitar Power stuff, I am as wild as I can be! I think it made me express my happier side. It is a very optimistic and a very hi-energy musical hybrid. Paula: What are your goals as an artist?

Ashwin: There are many. I list a few, in no specific order:

To go where no man has gone before (err, this one's already taken I think:);
To bring greater awareness to my father's works;
To bring new listeners to Indian music;
Creating a great school for teaching Indian music with special guests from various traditions;
To put forward some really good and original melodies;
To demonstrate what the sitar is capable of;
Play a lot of live music for my son and daughter so they remember their tradition;
Have fun;
Make money;
Create great recordings;
Learn some more and be able to practice a lot!

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