Now that we are (almost) fully recovered from the frenetic holiday season (In India, the winter yields countless festivals, including Navratri, Diwali, Eid, Christmas, marriage season, the Indian new year, and the Gregorian calendrical new year), let’s start digging into Mumbai’s music scene. We’ve gotten into a taxi and are heading down to Lower Parel, a popular Mumbai neighborhood known for a small, yet burgeoning night life. A few venues in the area host music concerts throughout the week. The event we are attending this evening is a promotional gig for Coke Studio @ MTV. Meet Alisha Batth, a young and extremely talented vocalist, and former “Mumbaikar,” originally from North India. Last year, she had the amazing fortune of being selected to appear on the international television production. Today, you have the honor of getting to know her personally. After the evening’s concert, I sat down to interview Alisha. This is what she had to say:
Coke Studio @ MTV is a television show produced in Mumbai that features talented and diverse musicians and music writers from all over South Asia. This is all part of the production’s aim to “reinvent the way music captures the soul of [India].” Furthermore, one of the show’s main appeals is that it couples classical musicians with upcoming pop/rock performers in exciting and beautiful fusion music productions. Alisha made her debut appearance on the television show alongside Vijay Prakash, an established Karnatak (South Indian classical) singer. The song, entitled “Do Gallan”, was written by Hitesh Sonik especially for Coke Studio’s Season 2. In addition to her having an incredibly powerful voice, Alisha was chosen to sing because the song was written in her native tongue, Punjabi. I was able to find a copy of the original episode in which Alisha appeared. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:
I have only known Alisha for a little over a year. But, what I have come to see is the incredible depth of her wisdom, bravery, and honesty in her presentation. Alisha came out to her family at the young age of sixteen, in a place that may not have been the most forgiving. Despite this, she insists that it wasn’t much of a big deal, and praises her parents for the support they gave her through the process. For her, coming out represented a period of time when she took off musically. A huge fan of Melissa Etheridge, Ani DiFranco, and Patty Smith, Alisha found strength in the voices of other women musicians, some of whom are lesbian or queer. “Melissa, Ani, and Patty basically taught me how to play and be the person I am today,” she says.
Alisha has lived all over India throughout her life, including Mumbai for over six years, and Delhi for five. Taking a brief respite from her normally active gigging schedule, Alisha currently resides in her parent’s home town in Arunachal Pradesh (AP), making short trips down to Mumbai or Delhi every now and then for gigs. As an independent artist, Alisha fully supports herself through her music. Lately, she has been happily taking advantage of the peace and quiet AP provides in order to write and compose a new album. “I tend to write about love, and angst, and sometimes a bit of anger” she says coyly. She performed a couple numbers for me during our interview. I was, to say the least, blown away. Watch out for Alisha Batth in the next year or so.