Disco Raga Pioneer Charanjit Singh Has Died

synthesizing-10-ragas-to-a-disco-beatCharanjit Singh – a Indian musician and performer, best known for his pioneering electronic album Synthesizing: Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat – died yesterday. He was 74.

Singh performed extensively as a soundtrack session musician, on guitar, violin and synthesizer. He was also active as a solo artist and released several albums of covers of popular songs and film soundtracks.

He was best known in the West, though, for his 1982 album Synthesizing: Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat.

The album is one of the first recordings to make heavy use of the Roland TB-303 & Roland TR-808 combination. Singh’s early use of the 303 + 808 combination has led some to call him the ‘inventor of acid house’.

The only thing that Singh’s Synthesizing has in common with acid house, though, is instrumentation. The key element of acid house – a squelchy 303 bass sound that is tweaked constantly throughout the track – is completely absent on Synthesizing. And, where acid house explores a minimal, mechanical aesthetic, the focus of Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat is on Singh’s melodic keyboard solos.

What makes Synthesizing: Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat notable is that it’s not acid house. Singh took the now-classic 303/808 combination and came up with something completely different. He may have used the same instruments that were later used by the Chicago acid house pioneers, but he brought a different set of skills and a different musical culture, and came up with something unique, as a result.

Synthesizing, like the 303 and 808, had limited appeal when it was initially released. It was rediscovered 20 years after its release, though, and became a cult favorite among electronic music fans. It was reissued in 2010, and Singh toured, in the last few years of his life, performing his classic work.

18 thoughts on “Disco Raga Pioneer Charanjit Singh Has Died

    1. Good point but it predates acid house – and GoaTrance’s use of 303 would not exist without acid house. So it’s closer to acid house.

      1. I don’t hear ’10 Ragas’ as dance music – disco, acid house, goa, whatever – because it doesn’t use dance music forms at all. No song structures, builds, breakdowns, etc.

        It uses a drum machine and a synth and that’s where the similarity ends.

        People seem to hear the 303 and ignore the actual music. Whoever says this is acid house needs to be slapped!

        Appreciate it for what it is – ragas set to a disco beat. It’s almost like people are afraid to like anything that’s called ‘disco’.

        1. thats pretty odd considering the composer himself called them “disco beats”, which are used in disco music, which is dance music

          but i like to think the moon is made of cheese, because i prefer to think of it that way – so i understand where you are coming from

  1. Irregardless of the genre, this is well ahead of its time. Disco, acid, trance, whatever. Its very enjoyable to my ears. RIP.

  2. Charanjit Singh was a great pioneer along with the “Dada-esque” movement in the 70s and 80s from Rudolf Laban to Timothy Leary causing an LSD generation of hippie trailers from America to Europe to converge on the beaches of Goa in India through previously colorful Islamic lands by road. Goa music is all about breaking through the human spirit from all laws, as is Goa music. There are no structures, or rhythms or rules as in bourgouise “dance music” or “EDM”. Along with Biddu and Nazia Hassan from Pakistan they were able to bring European mindfulness fused with Japanese technology to India and Charajeet was able to pioneer electronic sound to an amazed india that had not seen any great cultural large formation as had the rest of the First World. Since then india was never the same and the Bollywood synth is an introduction by intrepid Germans with their synths and drum machines. The Goan police broke up many parties and the Germans’ synthesizers, but they would be back with repaired machines much to the Indians’ disgust who had not traveled through Nitzschean thinking to reach individual dance “eurythmics”. But Charajeet was an exception and we salute him for that. A recent track of mine is listed below for those interested to hear what Goa has evolved into now in the 21st century. Just my opinion!

    https://soundcloud.com/psysword-rizvi/the-lives

  3. “I have the limited release that doesn’t exist of his back when no one knew him at all”

    -Every hipster

  4. I bought the CD from the record label’s website only a few months ago. It’s an incredible piece of work. RIP.

Leave a Reply