Acid Trip

Charanjeet Singh’s gig in Delhi on Friday night was a psychedelic journey

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: December 15, 2013 3:38 am

The setting at the Capital’s Garden Restaurant,Lodhi Road,was unlike Ron Hardy’s Muzic Box,the famous Chicago nightclub where acid house found its most discerning audience. It was also the place where screechy squelches made sense for years and where the atmosphere was more than just,well,buzzy. As for the central Delhi restaurant,we saw no smoke machines,frosty neon lights or the smell of a rave. But the homebodies present knew that their man for the day,Charanjeet Singh,and his Roland TB 303,were already in the house. Those who arrived,were ready to sink deeper into the hallucinations of his music and more — the standard acid house grooves and the illegitimate-ness of it all (acid house was once banned in the UK due to its association with party drugs).

For someone who worked as a Bollywood session musician for years,it was “the idea of creating something new” that led him to create Synthesising: Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat in 1982,an HMV album that tanked. Until record collector Edo Bouman came across the album in a chor bazaar and re-released it in 2010. It became a rage,and Singh a household name abroad,apart from being referred to as the pioneer of the genre.

Singh,74,does not look like a usual suspect when it comes to being an acid house musician behind the console,thanks to a well-cut bandhgala and silver-rimmed spectacles. He gingerly steps behind his Roland and begins with a tune in the haunting Bhairav paired with a host of gritty post-punk beats. Then began the gravity-defying gyrations from a few amid 100-odd bopping heads,to the chants of Om Namah Shivaye. The evening featured five tracks from the album and it was the juxtaposition of standard notes from ragas paired with some peppy disco beats and his favourite squelches. He followed this with the haunting Bairagi,a sad morning raga and an unlikely choice for the happy high his first track had created. It was surprising to see Bairagi’s sad notes turn into trance. Soon,Bhopali from the Bhakti ras made appearance and Singh’s assistant and Dutch sound engineer and producer,Johanz Westerman,was solayering this one with beats from TR-808 drum machine. Singh’s awkward “Let’s go guys” and “You want more?” in a Punjabi accent was odd but nothing short of adorable. Soon enough,the propulsive arrangements became repetitive and those present were yearning for something different. Singh obliged. He played the shaadi ki shehnai with some throbbing beats. We left comfortably numb.

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