The Trained Ear

The Raga is most ancient, and spiritual of practices. Passed down from master to pupil over many centuries, it takes several years to master its enlightened intricacies. According to the liner notes of 10 Ragas to a Disco Beat, ‘a typical Raga ensemble consists of a vocal or instrumental soloist, a percussionist on the tabla or pakhawaj, and tanpura players who produce the typical drone sound with floating overtones. From the 16th century onwards, performances of the Raga would often take place in the courts of maharajas and Mughal emperors, lasting through the night until dawn, when the mind is at its most perceptive to the sublime shadings of the music. Developed by the saints, sages and bards of India, it remains a spiritual form of music today, its essence being the worship of sound as the all-pervasive core of existence’.

Electronic House music is a slightly less ancient, but equally spiritual of practices. Passed back and forth between the US and Europe over the last 30 years, it takes slightly less time to master its subtleties. A typical House ensemble consists of a TR-808 drum machine, Juno-6 synthesiser and TR-303 Bassline Generator which produces the typical bass sound with modulating frequencies. From the late 20th century onwards, extended mixes of individual recordings would be played in the nightclubs of the people, lasting through the night until dawn. Developed by the saints, sages and bards of Chicago, it remains a spiritual form of music today, its essence being the worship of rhythm as the all-pervasive core of existence.

Charanjit Singh – Raga Megh Malhar

We greatly thank Bombay Connection for dropping this amazing gem of an LP into our laps and letting us heavily plagiarise their beautifully written liner notes. This simple idea to set Indian Classical music to the beat or European Electronic disco creates many subtle sonic complexities. 10 Ragas to a Disco Beat was recorded 1982, during the spare time of Bollywood session musician Charanjit Singh, who managed to smuggle some of Roland’s magic boxes into India. Hard to believe because these mind colouring acid trax are comin’ straight out of the future.

We cannot pretend to be well versed in the sacred art of the Raga so this review requires a certain degree of duality.

To the Trained Ear

‘Despite the fact that it is played on unconventional equipment, this performance of Raga Megh Malhar by Charanjit Singh is very proficient and respectable. Even though Charanjit plays a progression of the notes ‘Ga-Ma-Pa’, which traditionally do not belong in this raga, it can be considered experimental music, which allows for Mishra ragas, variations on ragas. Megh means ‘cloud’ in Sanskrit: legends say that this raga has the power to bring down rains. It has a somber atmosphere, reflecting the awe that the heavy July-August monsoon rains inspire, and therefore it begins with synthesized thunder sounds.’

To the Untrained Ear

Because is is played on the conventional equipment of Acid House, this performance of Raga Megh Malhar by Charanjit Singh is a  proficient and mesmerising piece of psychedelic dance music. We hear the thunder claps from Acid Crash, the high NRG basslines of Robotnic, and the floating analogue pensives of the Crystal Ark, who graced our pages only last week. It has a somber atmosphere, reflecting the awe that is inspired when we listen to it.

10 Ragas to a Disco Beat has been lovingly rescued, restored and reissued by Dutch label Bombay Connection. Out this week, you can pick it up in all good record shops.

And while we are on the subject of lost dance anthems, many of you old enough to remember may recall the dance mega-hits of Snap!.

To the Trained Ear

1986 erschien unter dem ein Jahr zuvor gewählten Pseudonym OFF/Organisation For Fun die von Michael Münzing und Luca Anzilotti gemeinsam mit den Frankfurter DJ Sven Väth in Frankfurt am Main produzierte Single “Electrica Salsa”, die ein Club-Hit wurde. Münzing, Anzilotti und Väth kannten sich da bereits aus ihrer Arbeit als DJs bei der legendären Diskothek Dorian Gray am Frankfurter Flughafen. Münzing hatte vor OFF bereits unter dem Pseudonym CUARE Schallplatten beim Discomusik-Plattenlabel Westside veröffentlicht. Fast zeitgleich mit dem Erfolg von OFF etablierten Münzing und Anzilotti 1986 ihr eigenes Musiksikrojekt 16 BIT in den deutschen Charts. Die 16 BIT Single “Where Are You?” erreichte in Deutschland und Frankreich die Top 20 und ihr Nachfolger “Changing Minds” stieß ebenfalls in der Bundesrepublik in die Top 20 vor, so dass beide ein 16 BIT-Album unter dem seltsamen Namen “Inaxycvgtgb” nachschoben.

To the Untrained Ear

‘Rhythm is a Dancer’ was all over the hit parade when 20jfg was a lad, we thunked at the time that this was a product of America due to the convincing use of rapper Turbo B and creative pseudonyms like ‘John “Virgo” Garrett III’. Snap! was however the brainchild of German Techno producers Michael Münzing and Luca Anzilotti and before Snap! they had many hits which seemingly never made it more than a a few miles outside of the Bundesrepublik. Where are You? was a top 20 smasher in both Germany and France, and its existence was unbeknownst to this quasi-lingual Anglophone up until a couple of weeks ago. Really we could do nothing else than share this amazing video. Thanks to my new flatmate for discovering.

16 BIT – Where are You (Instrumental)

Stripping away the theatrical irono-preacher telling-off to look under the hood, we find a most hypnotic of pulses. A proto minimal euro-dance opus, which once again reminds us of our old friends Sleezy D, and perhaps even a little Kwaito in there too. It’s a shame you don’t get the strings on the instrumental version because these really make it a rather beautiful of compositions. A difficult trade off I’m sure you’ll agree. Respect going out to 16 Bit, and if you’ve come here from the Hype Machine looking for 16 Bit, we sincerely apologise. Mr. Tastemaker, please can we have a revival of this stuff?