S.D. Batish

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Punjabi master S.D. Batish was a pivotal figure behind the western world's embrace of Indian music, most notably via his memorable contributions to the Beatles' film Help! Born December 14, 1914, in Patiala,…
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Punjabi master S.D. Batish was a pivotal figure behind the western world's embrace of Indian music, most notably via his memorable contributions to the Beatles' film Help! Born December 14, 1914, in Patiala, India, Shiv Dayal Batish abandoned a career in the nascent telephone industry to study devotional song, folk drama, and Indian classical music under his guru Hakim Chandan Ram Charan. In 1934, he relocated to Bombay to try his hand at acting, but roles proved scarce and he returned to Patiala two years later, renewing his focus on music. By 1936 Batish was regularly appearing on All India Radio and recording his first sessions for His Master's Voice. The film industry nevertheless retained its allure for him, and in 1939 he returned to Bombay, working for a spell under broadcasting legend Z.A. Bokhari. After earning his first film work as an assistant musical director in 1942, Batish later graduated to full-fledged Bollywood musical director, in the years to follow working with playback singer greats including Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar, and Mohammed Rafi as well as writing now-classic songs like the smash "Manmohan Mana Men," from the 1945 film Kaise Kahoon.

Batish also moonlighted as a playback singer on more than 40 films, among them 1944's Daasi and 1948's Barsaat ki Raat, before relocating to Britain in 1964. After accepting a position with the BBC Immigration Unit, Batish became a regular in British radio and television, most notably composing "Nai Zindagi Naya Jivan," the theme song to the Beeb's classic South Asian series Apna Hi Ghar Samajhiye ("Make Yourself at Home"). He also returned to his roots as a live musician, performing Indian folk and classical music on the vichitra veena, a long-necked fret-less flute. In 1965 Batish was summoned by percussionist Keshav Sathe to record the Indian-inspired incidental music for the Beatles' second feature film, Help! -- the experience also proved the beginning of his lifelong friendship with Beatle George Harrison, who later hired Batish to teach his then-wife Patti Boyd the stringed dilruba. In 1969 Batish assembled wife Shanta Devi, daughter Vijay Laxmi and sons Ashwin Kumar and Ravi Kumar to record North Indian Folk and Classical Music, which for decades remained the lone Indian release to appear on the seminal folk label Topic Records. A year later, the family emigrated to the U.S., settling in northern California and founding a restaurant, the Santa Cruz-based Krishna Café. Although the restaurant business remained Batish's primary focus for the remainder of his life, he continued playing live and also cut the occasional LP, most notably 1980s Raga Todi, 1985's Om Shanti Meditation on Dilruba and 1997's The 72 Carnatic Melakhartas. He died at age 91 on July 29, 2006.