Ashwin Batish in Concert - year 2009
|Born||1951 (age 62–63)
|Genres||Indian classical music, Folk music, indie music, indie rock, indie folk, Worldbeat|
|Years active||1970 – present|
|Associated acts||Keshav Batish, S D Batish, Meena Batish|
|Website||Personal web pages for Ashwin Batish|
Childhood and training
A child prodigy, Ashwin would often sing with his sister Meena Batish at performances organized by his father, the composer, author, Bollywood playback singer and music director, Pandit Shiv Dayal Batish (Hindi: पन्डित षिव दयाल बातिश). His mother, Shrimati Shanta Devi Batish (Hindi: श्रिमति शान्ता देवी बातिश), was an All India Radio artist and is credited for starting young Ashwin on the dholak drum around the age of seven and on the sitar around the age of 12.
When Ashwin's father took him to see his friend Ashok, the son of the great music director and harmonium wizard Pandit Bhagatram (Hindi: पन्डित भगतराम), Ashwin fell in love with the sitar. Ashok was only 2 years older than Ashwin and seeing his friend perform made Ashwin think that he could too.
In 1964, Ashwin's father left India to visit one of his daughters in England. Ashwin turned to his mother and shared with her his secret wish to play the sitar. She bought him a student model sitar and started teaching him herself, as she had played the sitar when young. His mother had also presented him with some sitar albums by Ravi Shankar (Hindi: पन्डित रवि शन्कर). Ashwin would listen and copy all the songs to the best of his abilities. At the same time, he was also a great fan of the Beatles, Cliff Richards, Pat Boone and other pop singers of the 50's era. Ashwin wasted no time in whipping out the songs he heard from these Western artists.
It was when Ashwin joined his father in England at around age 14 that he started receiving training from him on the intricacies of North Indian classical music. Ashwin also started learning compositions in various ragas. His father would often sing and have Ashwin copy the musical phrases. He also taught Ashwin many songs based in various ragas he had studied with his Guruji Shri Chandan Ram Charan (Hindi: श्रि चन्दन राम चरन). By age 16, Ashwin had started to accompany his father on various programs. He also started getting calls to play for college nights for which a local tabla player would accompany him. One such memorable event was when he performed for an OXFAM benefit in England.
Soloing in front of a live audience, without his father by his side, made Ashwin realize how much more he needed to learn, and he became an earnest disciple of his father. Ashwin was put on a rigorous practice schedule. The cold English weather meant that there was only one warm room in the house where all his family would gather. To Ashwin's advantage and delight, his father would always give his playing the preference to the dismay of Ashwin's brothers and sisters. While his siblings strained to enjoy the British movies and serials on the TV, Ashwin started to show improvement in his playing. On one such day, Ashwin was practicing. When he stopped playing, there was silence in the room. All his family members were looking at him and he saw his siblings nodding and showing appreciation at what he had just played. Ashwin learnt from this experience and started to tune into this new sense of expressive musical attraction. He fine-tuned this ability in his live performances.
At 20, Ashwin found himself working full-time for a group of Chartered Accountants as an apprentice popularly known as an "articled clerk". When he turned up at the job in long hair and jeans, he was promptly pulled aside by his employers and given a lecture on attire. While Ashwin ignored these admonishments from his bosses and fellow clerks, despite threats of being given menial tasks if he did not comply, Ashwin was finding that being part of the workforce was in complete contrast to his lifestyle as a performer.
Ashwin is presently teaching Indian music at his music school in Santa Cruz, California. Ashwin was one of the pioneers on the World Wide Web credited with some of the very first Indian music-related websites which he ran on the Gopher platform via the early University of California, Santa Cruz system . He also publishes an online magazine that is mostly educational in nature called RagaNet. It provides regular lessons on sitar, tabla, Dilruba, History of India music, etc. Articles on musical instruments of India are also a regular feature.
Although his training has been in North Indian classical music, Ashwin Batish has been equally at home with Western music often performing with jazz and rock musicians. His 80s fling with fusion music he self-titled Sitar Power was instrumental in garnering him serious airplay including a recording contract with Shanachie Records of New Jersey. He did not last long at Shanachie due to disappointing sales reports and lack of support. Ashwin soon formed his own record label, Batish Records  to publish all his family's works.
Ashwin continues to be active in the field of Indian music and is currently teaching at the Batish Institute of Indian Music and Fine Arts in Santa Cruz, California, USA. His father's death in the year 2006 dealt a severe blow to Ashwin's energies and after a long period of inactivity Ashwin has found a new direction. In remembrance and as a dedication to his father's memory and contribution to the music world, Ashwin has embarked upon a very special venture into broadcasting. This has given a voice to over 50 years of archived audio and video content. Radio Ragmala Radio and Television streams Batish related audio and video content 24/7 providing a glimpse into the rich musical heritage of the Batish family. It is also intended to be highly educational in nature thus fulfilling the intent of Ashwin's father to help spread this wealth of musical knowledge to the rest of the world.
Ashwin has been actively spreading his brand of classical and fusion music by creating portals on social networks such as Myspace and Facebook. (as of date: 10/21/2010).
- Steve Morse, Batish Brings Back the Sitar, Boston Globe, October 25, 1988
- A Sitar Star - An Interview with Ashwin Batish by Adrienne Gruben, City on a Hill Press
- RagaNet Magazine: http://www.raganet.com/
- Batish Records is based in Santa Cruz, California and is instrumental in releasing all the Books, CDs, and DVDs of music and educational works produced by Ashwin, his father Pandit Shiv Dayal Batish, his sister Meena Batish and his son Keshav Batish along with friends of the Batish Institute