Various Artists: Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga!

Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga! offers the screeching guitar tones and blurting organs you'd expect, with spirited and blissful head trips peppering its 20 thoroughly researched selections.

Various Artists

Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga!

Subtitle: Seminar: Aesthetic Expressions of Psychedelic Funk Music 1970-1983
Label: World Psychedelic Funk Classics
US Release Date: 2010-12-07
UK Release Date: 2010-12-07

For the title track on 2003's universally anticipated Jaylib album, J Dilla tears into a dusty, Eastern- and Jamaican-sourced joint from friend and collaborator Madlib. All of Champion Sound is like this -- two kings of sample excavation in their prime, swapping emcee and producer roles for about 50 minutes. Outside of the threat-driven debut appearance by Detroit rapper Guilty Simpson, this is the best of the lot, for my money. A devilishly psychedelic beat from 'Lib built on a freely rolling bass line and dusty drum breaks, with a soaring vocal melody cutting the deep tumble beneath Dilla's biting verses -- and nearly all of the crackling groove owes to the soundtrack of a 1975 Bollywood film called Dharmatma.

While "Dharmatma: Theme Music" is known to folks who've had the patience to dig for Bollywood scores online, or who've crossed fingers hoping they'd exit neighborhood record shops with used copies of Simla Beat 70, it appears on 2010's Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga!: Seminar: Aesthetic Expressions of Psychedelic Funk Music 1970-1983 from World Psychedelic Funk Classics, where the piece's backstory gets its due in the collection's bulky liner notes.

Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga! mines decades-old venturesome, clamorous Indian psychedelic funk music named after the proponents' "primary interest in the funk rhythm," as opposed to a comparatively "tertiary interest in psychedelic flourishes" in the productions. Pressed to vinyl between 1970 and 1983, much of this work was utilized for Bollywood soundtracking purposes during those years. Just as local psychedelic acts took cues from the nearby flourishing Hindi film industry, the region's film composers were drawn to the sound filtering out of clubs stationed in Mumbai and Poona (now Pune). The comp offers a wealth of the screeching guitar tones and blurting organs you'd expect, with spirited and blissful head trips peppering its 20 thoroughly researched selections.

The Western influences on display during Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga! are more overt in some places than in others, with a Deep Purple cover surfacing late in the tracklist from Atomic Forest, dubbed here "the best known of India's '70s psychedelic bands." This is hardly as exciting as "Lekar Ham Diwana Dil", a surf-inspired hodgepodge of crafty instrumentation and acid overtones that garnered a Best Score nomination in 1973 from Filmfare, the awards ceremony for India's Hindi cinema. A more minimal "Sitar Beat" sizzles, with buzzing sitars and shaker percussion atop deep, wall-rattling drums, composed by German musician Klaus Doldinger, eager to apply Indian psychedelic funk music to a spy film he'd been scoring in his native country. Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga! suffers infrequently from the poor sound quality that's sometimes a part of archival collections, but this isn't noticeably detrimental to those of us who treasure lo-fi garage comps, or to the cast of diggers behind the scenes.

Lots of folks could sift through a country's archives of recorded music for the handful of gems in the pile, but the task is managed with finesse and stamina at World Psychedelic Funk Classics, or in the hands of Joel "Stones" Oliveira at Tropicalia in Furs Records. Oliveira dug into his own ultra-rare seven-inches in order to string together his Brazilian Guitar Fuzz Bananas: Tropicalia Psychedelic Masterpieces 1967-1976. Now-Again chieftain/Stones Throw manager Eothen "Egon" Alapatt assisted on both Brazilian Guitar Fuzz and with production matters for Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga!.

Akin to the agenda of a bored composer who ambles in and out of clubs on India's west coast, Egon has sought-out and broken down pieces of buried musical brilliance from all over the place -- little-known Nigerian psych, Zambian acid rock, and rare California funk for Now-Again. In 2010 alone, he contextualized each work with carefully prepared, novel-length discussions and vivid photography. Speaking to Remix in 2007, producer/MC/Madlib's brother Michael "Oh No" Jackson discussed the making of the bold and riveting beat du jour he dubbed Dr. No's Oxperiment, an instrumental hip-hop album built of strung-together Turkish, Italian, and Lebanese psych samples. Jackson called his friend Egon the "mastermind" behind the record -- Dr. No's textures were borrowed from the Now-Again founder's prized collection, and the beats wouldn't have come to fruition had the artist not heard Egon looping vintage Turkish garage during a DJ set.

In its original shape, Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga!'s "Dharmatma..." is intoxicating alongside the collection's other finds -- flutes and brass lay the foundation for a serene melody delivered toward its end by famed Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar, one of the thousands of recordings to which she's reportedly contributed over her long career. Kalyanji Anadji, a pseudonym that sibling composers Kalyanji Virji Shah and Anandji Virji Shah used when they began scoring films in the late 1950s, is the force behind this pioneering release. In Egon's Psych Funk Sa-Re-Ga! liner notes and mirroring NPR column, he explains that psychedelic music in India was at first part of an underground scene that offered an experimental interpretation of rock and of the Western pop broadcast on All India Radio. How could film score writers of the period not incorporate this breakbeat-ridden, wildly rambunctious stuff into their work?





Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.


'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.


2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.


'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.


Apparat's 'Soundtrack: Capri-Revolution' Stands Alone As a Great Ambient Experience

Apparat's (aka Sascha Ring) re-imagined score from Mario Martone's 2018 Capri-Revolution works as a fine accompaniment to a meditational flight of fancy.


Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers Merge Haitian Folk and Electronic Music on 'Vodou Alé'

Haitian roots music meets innovative electronics on Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers' Vodou Alé.

My Favorite Thing

Weird and Sweet, Riotous and Hushed: The Beatles' 'The White Album'

The Beatles' 'The White Album' is a piece of art that demonstrates how much you can stretch, how far you can bend, how big you really are. The album is deeply weird. It has mass. It has its own weather.


Sarah Jarosz Finds Inspiration in Her Texas Roots on 'World on the Ground'

By turning to her roots in central Texas for inspiration on World on the Ground, Sarah Jarosz has crafted some of her strongest songs yet.


Hinds' 'The Prettiest Curse' Is One of Victory

On The Prettiest Curse, Hinds create messy pop music that captures the vibrancy of youth without being childish.


12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.