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Charanjit Singh - Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat (1982; The Gramophone Company of India)

from Wikipedia:

In the 21st century, Charanjit Singh gained attention for his 1982 release Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat, an album originally intended as a fusion of electronic disco music with Indian classical ragas. Singh’s use of both the TR-808 drum machine and TB-303 bass synthesizer has led some music journalists to suggest that it is perhaps the earliest example of acid house music; predating Phuture’s seminal Chicago acid house record “Acid Tracks” (1987) by five years. Comparisons have also been made with the work of other electronic dance musicians who were inspired by acid house such as Ceephax, Phuture 303, and Aphex Twin. According to The Guardian writer Stuart Aitken, Singh’s record was “far ahead” of its time. Aitken also discussed the importance of the record on US radio station PRI’s The World.

Singh produced Ten Ragas using three electronic musical instruments made by the Roland Corporation: the Jupiter-8 synthesizer, Roland TR-808, and Roland TB-303. It was one of the first records to use the TB-303, a machine that has become synonymous with acid house. Singh had bought his TB-303 in Singapore soon after its introduction in late 1981. He didn’t know much about the three machines at first, so he spent much time in figuring out how to use them, and eventually discovered that it was possible to synchronise the TR-808 and TB-303 with the Jupiter-8 keyboard. According to Singh: “At home I practised with the combination and I thought ‘It sounds good – why not record it’.” While the TB-303 was originally designed to fill in for a bass guitar, it was awkward when it came to reproducing conventional basslines, so he found a different way to employ the machine, particularly its glissando function which made it suitable for reproducing the Indian raga melodies.

Besides Indian raga music, he also took inspiration from contemporary Bollywood music, or filmi music, specifically the Indian electronic disco scene that had only just become popular in the early 1980s (sparked by the success of Pakistani pop singer Nazia Hassan and Indian producer Biddu), at a time when disco’s popularity had declined in the United States by that time. In parallel to the Euro disco scene at the time, the continued relevance of disco in India and the increasing reliance on synthesizers led to experiments in minimalist, high-tempo, electronic disco, such as R.D. Burman’s “Dil Lena Khel Hai Dildar Ka” (Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai, 1981) which had a “futuristic electro feel” and Bappi Lahari’s “Yaad Aa Raha Hai” (Disco Dancer, 1982). Such developments eventually culminated in the work of Singh, who increased the tempo up to a “techno wavelength” and made the sounds more minimalistic, while pairing them with “mystical, repetitive, instrumental Indian ragas” using his new equipment setup to produce a sound resembling acid house.

According to Singh: “There was lots of disco music in films back in 1982. So I thought why not do something different using disco music only. I got an idea to play all the Indian ragas and give the beat a disco beat – and turn off the tabla. And I did it. And it turned out good.” The first track “Raga Bhairavi” also features a synthesised voice that says “Om Namah Shivaya” through a vocoder.

The album was released under the label Gramophone Company of India (now Sa Re Ga Ma), having been recorded at their HMV Studio in Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1982. Following the LP record’s release in 1982, it garnered some interest in India, finding its way onto Indian national radio, but it became a commercial failure and was largely forgotten until recent years. However, Singh may have played a role in popularising electronic music in Bollywood at the time, and a somewhat similar “techno-sounding interlude” had later appeared in Lahiri’s song “Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki” from the film of the same name in 1984.

From 2012 until his death in 2015, Singh performed the material from Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat live.

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