How Hindi Cinema’s ‘Go-To-Man’ Unintentionally Invented A International Music Style


What number of of you will have heard of Charanjit Singh, the multi-instrumentalist session musician coveted by legendary Hindi movie music composers like RD Burman, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Naushad? 

Do you know he additionally unwittingly pioneered a style of music — acid home — which is accountable for lots of the favored modern music you hear all over the world as we speak? 

Regardless of some latest scholarship round his contributions, only a few Indians know of Charanjit Singh’s work and the unbelievable affect he had on trendy music. 

There’s little doubt that he ranks among the many most influential figures within the historical past of latest music that you simply haven’t heard about but. From enjoying the distinctive drone of the transicord (an electrical accordion) on the opening to ‘Dum Maro Dum’ (1971 movie ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’) to the the keyboard solo initially of ‘Meri Umar Ke Naujawano’ (1980 movie ‘Karz’), his signature is obvious on a few of Hindi movie music’s most memorable data. 

Going additional, Charanjit enlightened RD Burman on the significance of the bass guitar, which might not solely have an indelible affect on his music, but in addition the way forward for trendy Hindi movie music. Burman reportedly as soon as mentioned of Charanjit, “You take away the bass observe from my songs, they may fall flat. He has taught me that the bass can be utilized as a solo instrument.”

What’s much more extraordinary, nonetheless, is how his once-obscure 1982 album ‘Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat’, which was rediscovered by a Dutch DJ and file collector in 2010 in a Delhi retailer, has been earmarked by music historians as the beginning of acid home. 

Earlier, historians thought of Chicago to be the birthplace of acid home — a subgenre of home music whose “affect may be heard in later kinds of dance music” like trance, jungle, techno and journey hop. 

Many years later, nonetheless, they found that it was Mumbai all alongside. 

Charanjit performed in Bollywood orchestras, toured with the likes of Kishore Kumar, and carried out at weddings by way of the Sixties to the Eighties. 

The rediscovery of his music, nonetheless, noticed him tour Europe and the United States with fashionable DJs and play to younger, vibrant and infrequently tattooed digital music followers lower than half his age at festivals just like the inaugural 2013 version of Magnetic Fields in Rajasthan in his 70s.       

Tragically, he handed away barely two years in a while 4 July 2015 at his house in Bandra, Mumbai, on the age of 75, however not earlier than leaving his imprint on the earth of music like few have. 

Charanjit Singh, who invented a new genre of music called Acid House
Charanjit Singh (Picture courtesy Fb/Pepsi MTV Indies)

Genius multi-instrumentalist 

Born in 1940, Charanjit grew up amidst modest circumstances in Mumbai’s Matunga space. 

What’s notably attention-grabbing about his background is that he got here from a household of instrument makers. His household ran the well-known Singh Musical Devices based in 1920, whose harmoniums have discovered a spot on the Philharmonie de Paris’ museum of music. 

An introverted man by nature, his life was marked by a deep devotion to music. He learnt and mastered quite a lot of devices beginning with the mandolin and Hawaiian metal guitar, and shifting on to others just like the bass guitar, clavioline (digital keyboard accountable for the well-known ‘Nagin’ tune), the transicord, and at last, the synthesiser itself. 

From the Sixties by way of to the next 20 years, he was an everyday fixture within the orchestras of Hindi movie music composers like RD Burman and Laxmikant-Pyraelal, amongst others.    

Based on the Mumbai Mirror, Charanjit was “the Hindi movie business’s ‘go-to-guy’ when one wanted to obtain musical devices.” The report goes on so as to add, “When RD Burman required a transicord, an electrical accordion, for the recording of ‘Dum Maaro Dum’, it was Charanjit who sourced one.” 

In truth, his household’s background in sourcing and manufacturing musical devices performed a key position in his profession. At nice expense, he would purchase the most recent devices overseas that nobody in India might entry.  

Even his seminal 1982 album ‘Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat’ got here because of a visit to Singapore, the place he purchased a set of newly-launched Roland keyboard, drum machine and a bass synthesiser. It was in all probability his need to experiment with the most recent music know-how and international musical developments that differentiated him from most of his friends. 

However it’s additionally vital to notice that he was classically educated, and spent huge quantities of time with supremely gifted artists like Manna Dey, Kishore and Mukesh Kumar. 

In truth, Charanjit was launched to his spouse Suparna, a classical dancer finding out at Shantiniketan, by Kishore Kumar. They’d later marry in 1978. Whereas he was not within the studio, he was touring with Kishore Kumar’s troupe or his personal Charanjit Singh Orchestra, which carried out at weddings, enacting a number of the largest Hindi movie music hits of the day. 

Such was his calibre that his son and famend music composer Raju Singh famous in a 2015 HuffPost article that “…the likes of Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal had been identified to cancel or push periods to accommodate Charanjit’s availability.” 

Additionally, the identical article notes that he was “apparently the one musician who had the privilege of being allowed a glass of whiskey earlier than recording a take — such was the arrogance in his capability.”

Charanjit Singh was not only a much sought after session musician for the likes of RD Burman, but also invented a genre of music called acid house
Charanjit Singh: Supremely proficient session Musician for a few of Bollywood’s biggest music administrators together with RD Burman, Naushad and Laxmikant-Pyarelal (picture courtesy Fb/Imprints and Photographs of Indian Movie Music)

‘Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat’

By the early Eighties, disco music had caught the eye of the world. Furthermore, throughout this time, there was a surge of Indian musicians who had already begun adopting ragas from conventional Hindustani classical music to western devices. Influenced by this observe in addition to mega hits like Bappi Lahiri’s ‘Disco Dancer’, he, too, wished to deliver collectively disco and Indian classical music.     

In 1982, throughout the span of simply two days, he recorded all of the tracks (in single takes) for his album ‘Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat’ on the HMV studio in Cuffe Parade, Mumbai. 

In an interview with Shreya Vaidya (revealed in 2018 by Homegrown), Charanjit mentioned, “That point I used to be primarily working in movies. And a number of instances, music administrators used to file songs in disco themes. Just like the ‘Disco Dancer’ by Bappi Lahiri. ?” 

He went on so as to add, “I wished to do one thing totally different from totally different songs; ragas, so to talk. I made a decision so as to add a disco beat to the ragas, which remained constant by way of all, however the ragas had been all totally different.”

In a 2011 interview with The Guardian, he additionally mentioned, “I acquired an thought to play all of the Indian ragas and provides the beat a disco beat — and switch off the tabla. And I did it. And it turned out good.”

Describing a number of the last intracices within the album, he advised Shreya, “The baseline is essential. [Sings] Na din din dha. I might improvise with the ragas in numerous methods, however not combine some other observe within the raga. Though, in a stay present I might give vocals with the raga. The principle factor is the disco beat is frequent however the songs maintain altering.”

Suffice to say, the file was a industrial failure. On the odd event, one would have heard it on the All India Radio station, however in line with Charanjit, “It didn’t click on”. A potential rationalization for this may very well be that it was an album so forward of its time. 

Within the following months, nonetheless, Charanjit and his spouse Suparna toured totally different components of the world, together with the US and Pakistan, the place they might carry out their ghazals. 

Issues took a flip in 2002, when Dutch DJ and file collector Edo Bouman encountered the album throughout a go to to a store in Delhi. 

Chatting with The Guardian, Bouman mentioned, “Again at my resort, I performed it on my moveable participant, and I used to be blown away. It gave the impression of acid home [music], or like an ultra-minimal Kraftwerk [a German band of innovators and pioneers of electronic music].” When Bouman appeared again on the date of its launch, nonetheless, he was in for a shock.   

Upon seeing that it got here out in 1982, he realised that this album was made 5 years earlier than what many Western music historians thought of on the time as the primary acid home file on the earth by the American group ‘Phuture’ known as Acid Trax launched in 1987.  

Unable to comprise his pleasure, Bouman would observe Charanjit down in Mumbai. 

“He was most pleasant and shocked I knew the album. I keep in mind asking him how he acquired to this acid-like sound, however he didn’t fairly get my level. He didn’t realise how stunningly trendy it was,” recalled Bouman.

He would go on so as to add, “[Charanjit] advised me, ‘Frankly, this was the very best factor I did. Different albums are all movie songs I simply performed. However this was my very own composition. Do one thing your whole personal, and you may make one thing really totally different.’” 

In 2010, Edo Bouman re-released the album beneath the Bombay Connection label and it took off. Funnily sufficient, Charanjit wasn’t mighty impressed by a number of the extra fashionable acid home tracks, noting its lack of “variations”.   

Given his eclectic musical journey, did Charanijit take into account himself ‘totally different’ or ‘standard’? Within the interview with Shreya Vaidya, he supplied a slightly attention-grabbing response.  

”How are you aware I’m unconventional? (laughs) Sure I did work with a number of totally different devices and all the most recent gear. Each time I went overseas I might deliver one thing new. Within the morning at rehearsals I used to be all the time the one testing. As for ‘totally different’, I all the time experimented with issues. I began enjoying the bass guitar, RD Burman was very keen on the bass guitar. We might play the keyboard collectively. Typically I might play the Hawaiian guitar…(trails off singing hai hai yeh majboori). Everybody had their very own edge, as we speak it’s tough being your personal particular person as a result of everybody copies one another,” he mentioned. 

(Edited by Divya Sethu)

(Characteristic Picture courtesy Fb/Converse)


‘RIP Charanjit Singh, The Most Influential Musician You Might Have By no means Heard Of’ by Suprateek Chatterjee; Printed on 8 July 2015 courtesy HuffPost
‘Charanjit Singh, acid home pioneer’ by Louis Pattison; Printed on 10 April 2010 by The Guardian
‘Charanjit Singh on how he invented acid home … by mistake’ by Stuart Aitken: Printed on 10 Might 2011 courtesy The Guardian
‘On Acid Home & Disco Beats, An Interview With Musical Legend Charanjit Singh’ by Shreya Vaidya; Printed on 3 January 2018 courtesy Homegrown
‘The story of two musical legacies’ by Arnab Ganguly and Reema Gehi; Printed on 16 August 2020 courtesy Mumbai Mirror


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