The Rough Guide To Psychedelic India

The first musical whispers of India’s burgeoning influence on Western popular music were heard in 1965 when The Beatles’ George Harrison added the sounds of a sitar to the Rubber Soul album track ‘Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)’. Soon everybody from The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones to Sergio Mendes and The Byrds was reflecting an Indian influence. During these years in India, drug culture wasn’t flooding its shores, but the country was undergoing its own transformation – the 1960s saw the advent of a DIY garage band scene.

When compiling this Rough Guide, DJ Ritu cast her psychedelic net wide into the diaspora and the modern day. This album pays homage to the swinging 1960s history whilst forging the journey onwards into psychedelia’s present-day incarnations.

Beginning the mix was easy; Ritu knew instinctively Ananda Shankar’s ‘Dancing Drums’ was first on her list, the LP was a rare find, hotly desired on the Asian Underground scene. Other vintage finds on this album include R.D Burman’s Bollywood hit ‘Dum Maro Dum’ from the film Hare Rama Hare Krishna. In the film the protagonist, sung here by the inimitable Asha Bhosle, takes deep drags on a large chillum before dancing floppy limbed amidst a throng of her beatnik friends. ‘Dance Music’ is another throwback Bollywood number by brother composer duo Kalyanji & Anandji.

Other tracks on the album root the listener firmly back in the present day and launches into the music of India’s vast diaspora. Sunday Driver set out their Indian shades of influence against a backdrop of Sgt. Pepper-ish Victoriana. The Bombay Royale are an eleven-piece Australian band inspired by old school Bollywood soundtracks.

More introspective expressions come from Ray Spiegel Ensemble with their low tempo track ‘Moksha’. Paban Das Baul performs music of the Bauls, the wandering spiritual musicians of Bengal and is heard on ‘Kaliya’. 

Lose yourself in this collection of far out sounds – soaring sitars, tremulous tabla, distorted deep-set drones and unbound improvisations, all twisted through a rock and roll edge.