Ashwin Batish breathes sitar. He wakes up every morning, puts on his shirt, then grabs his eastern axe. Bringing his self-coined musical fusion, Sitar Power, to Don Quixote’s this Sunday, Batish says he is excited to connect with the audience: “I think it’s the sharing of an experience. And there’s a lot of people, I believe, that live for that. Sharing an experience is seriously like bonding.” The Batish family is big on bonding. When he started playing music at 14, he would break from his sitar studies to sing along to Beatles records with his sister. Meanwhile, his father, S.D. Batish, was actually hanging out with the Fab Four in London, giving them sitar lessons. His father was later offered a teaching job in Santa Cruz, and the family quickly made it their home. In the ’70s, Batish and his father would play at their family’s restaurant every night, in the same way that he and his son, tabla player Keshav, perform together today.
Surrounded by popular western music and his father’s influence, young Batish began “putting classical Indian music on top of western grooves.” He bought a pickup—a device that captures mechanical vibrations and converts them to an electrical signal—slapped it on his sitar, and the electronic evolution of classical Indian music began. “You could call it sambas, or Afro-Cuban, but it’s beat music—with exotic, more cultural melodies on top,” says Batish, who describes the blend as “World Beat.” “You gotta get up and dance,” he says. “I think we don’t, as a society, make it convenient enough for people to relax. With music we find an opportunity to escape … I can take my music and relax somebody, or put a smile on their face; they actually break out of their shell and share. They take a journey with me.” | TREVOR STONEHOUSE
INFO: 7 p.m. Sunday, July 31. Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. $15. 603-2294.