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Imaad on the origin of Bollywood’s beats

The man was none other than Charanjit Singh, who soon became a regular in Pancham’s music, playing on tunes like Dum Maro Dum and performing favourites at weddings with his own orchestra.

entertainment Updated: Nov 28, 2010 13:59 IST

The first examples of synthesiser use in Hindi films are a little hard to pinpoint now, but it is widely believed that during the height of Pancham’s career, he began to get intrigued by these strange new sonic possibilities and recruited a young man who seemed to be something of a maverick with the keyboard playing technique and steel guitar. The man was none other than Charanjit Singh, who soon became a regular in Pancham’s music, playing on tunes like Dum Maro Dum and performing favourites at weddings with his own orchestra.

Charanjit Singh, who had managed with great effort to get a couple of the basic synthesisers of the time in to the country, had been experimenting in his bedroom studio in the after-hours of his studio sessions, which culminated in a strange album that took years and an entire remaster to be discovered by the Indian public.

All faddishness aside, Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat (1982) is a genuine album from the point of view of the raga form of using notes as well as the textures of acid house. When Edo Bouman of the Bombay Connection label did a remaster and the LP began to be sold in Amsterdam and London for huge prices, as a rare disc predating Phuture’s Acid Trax, thus making it the first bit of acid house ever recorded.

Whether or not this is genuinely relevant, the album stands out as a distinctly interesting way to play these ragas, abetted by the 303’s Glissando function allowing for those slippery scale runs. Though the synths that he used, the 303 and 808 can dole out Acid house grooves, somewhat independent of the person operating, the 303 squelch is a trademark sound on the album.

It seems that the dance-funk aesthetic of Kraftwerk, Gary Numan and to some extent the Miami bass genre, had unknowingly and strangely found its way to India.

(An excerpt from Imaad Shah’s piece titled Star Boom Boom)