Charanjit Singh – Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat

Picked up a copy of Charanjit Singh’s 10 Ragas to a Disco Beat recently, and it is quite hypnotically fascinating. I’ve never been a big fan of House music, despite its origin just down the street from me, nor has electronica been a favorite, though I have a few favorites. No matter, this album is good, despite having similarities with both of those genres.

Charanjit Singh found himself in an interesting position back in the early 80s. Working as a session musician in the Bollywood films industry, he was exposed to a wide variety of electronic musical devices. Two of the instruments he used, which would not have been made so readily available otherwise, were the Roland TB-303 and TR-808 synthesizers — the very same synthesizers that later generated all of those drippy sounds you hear on your acid house records. During the time he spent away from his work, Singh sought to re-contextualize the ancient music of his nation — the Indian ragas — using the most technologically up-to-date methods. So no, Ten Ragas To a Disco Beat isn’t some abstractly titled avant-garde record (which is what I initially thought); it’s actually ten ragas played over a disco beat. And no, it’s not one of those corny gift-shop albums marketed to rich tourists — it’s 10 hissing artifacts that represent an aurally flexible ancient culture.

Now, ‘hissing’ isn’t usually the word one uses to describe what happens when folks attempt to re-record old cultural music. Usually you’d call it “world music,” and usually you wouldn’t listen to it. But don’t be averted. Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat was originally released in super-limited quantities in 1982, but it’s recently been re-released by the Bombay Connection label, and it couldn’t be better. The melodies mesmerize, the rhythms pulse relentlessly. And the synthesizer… Oh lord, Singh’s synth makes sound that modern electronic producers should envy. Ten Ragas doesn’t come off gimmicky like one would expect from reading over its history, rather, it’s minimal and potent beyond measure. So get

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