Monday, June 10, 2013


I'm not sure how many more times in my life I'll get to have any sort of pulse-quickening record store experience, but when I wandered into London's Sound of The Universe last October while out there on a work trip, I was overloaded and totally jazzed by their selection & curation of weird, rare and one-of-a-kind pieces of musical exotica. It's a store closely affiliated with the Soul Jazz record label, which is precisely why I went there. While I spend most of my music-consumption time on rocknroll, to be in a place that totally eschewed underground and mainstream rock in favor of African, dub, 78rpm collections, Tropicalia, instrumentals, 60s electronic experiments and the like was pretty, uh, "far out". I got into the spirit of the moment and dropped some American coin on a few CDs I'd never heard, seen nor heard of before.

One of those, "PSYCH FUNK SA-RE-GA!", I'm just getting around to gabbing about here on the blog now. It purports to be a "master's level seminar" in Indian psychedelic funk music of the 60s and 70s. Silly as the liner notes can be, they're incredibly detailed and packed with amazing pictures of Indian fellas with bad-ass 70s clothing and mutton chops, and with femme fatales from Bollywood films batting their eyelashes. It's no "Bombay The Hard Way", though (man, was I bummed when I found out that that collection wasn't original Bollywood music but a 1990s "reinterpretation"). It's the real thing, and it's not all wackiness and retro irony, either, with a lot of complex and wonderful psychedelic music of many stripes. This is authentic Indian film music from the era in which fuzzboxes and beats ruled, when the main signifiers of out-there music in India were the (psych) Beatles and the Velvet Underground, combined with indigenous funk and sitar beats passed down over the decades and centuries of Indian music.

The chief composers, like the brotherly duo called Kalyanji Anandji, were borrowing from Western rock, sure, but this collection is so well-curated that it truly feels like a truly  Indian comp of undeservedly buried classics, which are exciting and totally eye-opening. Bollywood movies of the 60s typically needed a lot more music than a Western film, since there was not only the incidental music for the background of a scene, but multiple song-and-dance numbers that went on for up to ten minutes band often constituted the core of the film. A lot of this is wah-wah heavy and quite ripplingly loud, and it makes for a transfixing sound when combined with a fluttering female Indian songbird voice and traditional sitar and the like. I'm posting an instrumental selection from "Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga!", which, unimaginatively is the very first track on the compilation - "The Mod Trade" by The Black Beats. Hopefully you'll be crying out "Sweet Vishnu!" by the time the fuzz pedal really kicks in.