Charanjit Singh, 75, passed away last night at his Bombay apartment. A quiet death caused by a heart failure, largely went unnoticed as Singh found attention only from some of the most discerning music audiences in India. But world over, the musician made news in 2010, eight years after a record collector named Edo Bouman came across his music in a junkshop in Delhi and re-released it. The album titled Synthesising- Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat became a rage, and Singh a popular name. Soon he was being referred to as the pioneer of acid house, a genre he created almost five years before the term existed.
In 1982, Singh’s music could be called similar to the holy grail of electronica, a sound which is now considered imperative in current electronic dance music. “His music was a sort of lost link that had just been forgotten. The moment it was unearthed is when it caused an interesting explosion,” says Ashutosh Sharma, founder of Amarras Records, who brought Singh to Delhi for a gig in 2013. Sharma had also arranged for Singh’s gig at the Distortion Festival in Copenhagen last year. But it could not happen because of Singh’s failing health.
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…, an HMV album that tanked. “No one really bothered about the album in India. But this was an artistic experiment, which was much ahead of its times. I came across his music almost 10 years ago while mixing some tunes and was really impressed,” said Dutch DJ, Johanz Westerman, who goes by the name DJ Johanz and performed with Singh in Delhi. Those who attended the gig haven’t forgotten the squelches that were belted out through Singh’s Roland TB 303. What followed was the standard acid house groove from a man in gold-rimmed glasses and a bandhgala.
Munbir Chawla, founder of Magnetic Fields, a festival where Singh performed in 2013, first met Charanjit Singh at his house in Mumbai when German electronic duo Modeselektor was touring India. “They (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) were both keen on meeting him and he was more than accommodating of not only the duo, but also a sizeable camera crew in his small Mumbai home. Exactly a week later he was closing the final day of the inaugural edition of Magnetic Fields. I don’t think anyone had come prepared for the aural onslaught that ensued through the hour of his performance. Enough however, to keep the audience in awe and on their feet. We couldn’t have asked for a better closing act. Such a humble, talented and brilliant man,” says Chawla.
The original vinyl, limited copies of which are available, can cost well over Rs 30,000. It is also regarded as perhaps the very first uses of the Roland Jupiter-8 keyboard and a Roland TB-303, instruments Singh sourced from Singapore to create acid music.
With inputs by Somya Lakhani