Scratched Into Our Souls

Charanjit Singh – ‘Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat’ (1982) | August 8, 2010

Well, here’s an interesting find. One reissue that happens to be causing quite a stir in the history books is Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat, an album by wedding band leader Charanjit Singh. Upon first hearing this record, you’ll find 10 smoothly psychedelic and danceable acid-house tracks that sound as if Aphex Twin or some other IDM producer had created them. And in fact, many people were initially calling foul on this record upon its reissue in April of this year, claiming it all to be an elaborate hoax. Why did it ruffle so many feathers? Because the record regarded to be the first acid-house recordings are Phuture’s Acid Trax, released in 1987. Yes, if Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat is the real deal, then it predates the first acid-house recordings by nearly five years. 

Thanks to the internet and plenty of fact-checking historians andjournalists, we can know the truth. In fact, this record is not a hoax – unfortunately, following poor commercial sales upon its initial release, the album likely had little actual effect on the coarse of music history and the lineage of acid-house. The record was Singh’s only original composition, inspired by the sounds of disco that he heard coming from America at the time. Setting traditional indian ragas to these disco beats (as the title of the album makes plain), Singh managed to stumble upon an aesthetic sound that was years ahead of its time. As with most prescient recordings and compositions in the history of music, their full relevance cannot be appreciated until years later. Like Bach’s incredible baroque compositions, the music was forgotten until it was dug up at the right time. 

What can we learn from this album? Perhaps there is a lesson in here about forgotten and ignored histories. Perhaps, thanks to the age of the internet, the presupposition of Western cultural ascendancy can be challenged and the walls built of arrogance can be torn down to reveal a truly global understanding of musical and cultural language. The rediscovery of this album reveals a startling truth: the deeper you dig and the harder you look, the more you can learn. Sometimes the true musical gems and truly marvelous discoveries are hiding where you would have never thought to look, and historical ‘certainties’ should always be questioned and verified, but pliable enough to accept change.

Listen: Charanjit Singh – “Raga Bhairav”


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    About Me: Chris Robinson

    A budding writer and avid music fan from Los Angeles, California, I am a recent graduate of Music History from UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music. I've written for the UCLA Daily Bruin, graduated valedictorian from high school, and enjoy many different types of music, from The Beatles to Beethoven, and everything in between. I wrote my senior thesis on lyrical misinterpretations in popular music, focusing on Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

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    All music posted on this blog is for sampling purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists. Go out and buy their music, attend their shows, and buy merchandise.

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