Charanjit Singh's early '80s acid house

February 12, 2018

Musical archeology typically means that construction workers stumbled upon an ancient flute or that archivers found another one of Mozart’s sonatas. However, in 2002 a record was (re-)discovered that accounts for one of the biggest anachronism in house-history: Charanjit Singh’s Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat.

 

Charanjit Singh - Raga Bhairav (1982)

 

This funny named album dates back to 1982, long before house's mainstream appeal. Singh was a session musician in Mumbai mainly doing Bollywood productions, and was not in the slightest affiliated with Western electronic dance music. His main inspirations were classical Hindustani and Western disco music, as shows from the album title. 

 

The music itself undoubtedly passes for acid house, given its forceful four-to-the-floor beat, iconic high-hat pattern, fluctuating timbres, and synthesizer-driven melodic content. Based in Hindustani-tonality (rāgas are melodic modes in classical Indian music) it is indulged with a sense of orientalism. Although it is not the most straightforward acid house, it rightfully is a variant avant la lettre.

 

Charanjit Singh performing live at OCCII (09/11/2012)

 

The (re-)discovery and re-issuing (2010) of his - by now - iconic record made Singh into an instant cult legend. Devoid of any traces of arrogance or star allures he enjoyed every bit of attention and appreciation. This came to a climax in 2012 when he started touring again together with his Roland TB-303, TR-808, and Jupiter-8 synthesizers to  performed his trippy tunes in front of a Western audience. His outfit and mimicry already show he is one of a kind.

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