There has been much talk about 10 Ragas to a Disco Beat! People have been debating whether Charanjit Singh’s 1982 release predated Acid House or was influenced by it. There was also talk that perhaps it was a modern group posing as “obscure” Indian artist. (Aphex Twin was rumored to be behind this.) The worst thing I read was from a guy who couldn’t possibly understand how someone from India could possibly could get all those synthesizers and drum machines that he used to create this album. I can answer that: It was simple, he was a successful musician and he bought them…and yes, India has electricity, too!
These are the same arguments the imperialist mindset tends to have about indigenous people -- for instance, the argument that intelligent beings from another planet must have created the pyramids because indigenous people couldn’t possibly done it on their own. The truth is that Indian musicians have always been some of the best musicians and most complex composers. They deal with time signatures, scales and overall talent that the Western world cannot comprehend, so the fact that 10 Ragas To A Disco Beat predates some important firsts in the electronic music world does not surprise me one bit.
Much of what appears on this album are Indian Ragas set to Giorgio Moroder inspired arpeggiated synth lines with the same primitive drum programming that was the norm at the time. Again, one can argue that India’s pop world was behind the West, but perhaps because the Western world is so quick to abandon any musical movement for the next big thing. The disco sounds of Moroder might have exploded on a baseball field in Detroit back in 1979, but to the rest of the world his importance was still being felt. Even Brits such as Duran Duran and The Human League, who in 1981 were considered cutting edge, were still worshiping at the altar of Moroder.
"Raga Bairagi" is one of my favorite tracks on 10 Ragas. It is a cluster of different Indian influences with Singh’s ear for soundtrack music. It's as he imagined Moroder working with Herbie Hancock to create the soundtrack to the Indian version of The Warriors. "Raga Malkauns," complete with the Raga drone in the beginning, quickly breaks into the 130 BPM house beat that begs for a lethal concoction of MDMA and LSD on a sweaty dance floor.
I can't help but imagine how much fun we would be having now if the Western world had embraced Charanjit Singh in the eighties like they did Ravi Shankar in the sixties?
Charanjit Singh-"Raga Bairagi"
Charanjit Singh-"Raga Malkauns"