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A compilation of India’s early electronic music from the ‘60s and ‘70s has been released

The tapes were discovered decades on in a cupboard at India’s National Institute of Design

  • 10 October 2023
A compilation of India’s early electronic music from the ‘60s and ‘70s has been released

A compilation of tapes highlighting India’s early roots in electronic music through the ‘60s and ‘70s has been recovered and released by the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

NID Tapes: Electronic Music from India 1969-1972’ was released on September 29 showcasing a collection of future-thinking sounds from producers working together more than 50 years ago, only recently rediscovered in a cupboard at the design institution.

The tapes were found in 2017, and highlight the important foundations of electronic music being made in India through the early 1970s.

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In 1969, more than 20,000 people came together at the National Institute of Design to witness the pioneering sound of the Moog synthesiser, shipped from the US to India along with a Dual Ring Modulator, a Bode Frequency Shifter, and tape machines. Composer David Tudor led workshops on the instruments, allowing students to experiment with new sounds.

Paul Purgas, a musician and one-half of Emptyset who discovered the lost tapes in 2017, was at those seminal workshops in 1969. After finding the tapes, Purgas worked to reassemble and digitise its 19 tracks from 27 different tape reels.

Calling it a “victory for good record keeping” (per The New York Times), Purgas collated details from a number of handwritten notes and compiled music made using the Moog and homemade modular devices to make some of India’s earliest electronic music.

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The compilation includes field recordings, tape collages, soundtracks, and experimental recordings taken following India’s independence in the late ‘40s. The tracks are said to have a “dreamlike” quality, according to Purgas, “a perfect, utopian moment of India post-independence”.

It collates work from previously unknown composers including I.S. Mathur, Atul Desai, Gita Sarabhai, Jinraj Joshipura, and S.C. Shama, and explores the foundations of future electronic music across the country.

A book also penned by Purgas, titled Subcontentinental Synthesis: Electronic Music at the National Institute of Design, India 1969–1972, is due for release on November 7. It collects essays and handwritten texts from the period, exploring the history of India's first electronic music studio.

Purchase the compilation here, and check out the tracklist below.

[Via The New York Times]

Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter


1. S.C. Sharma - After the War
2. Atul Desai - Compositions
3. S.C. Sharma - Dance Music I
4. Gita Sarabhai - Gitaben's Composition
5. David Tudor - Tape Feedback with Moog
6. Jinraj Joshipura - Space Liner 2001 I
7. S.C. Sharma - Electronic Sounds Created on Moog
8. S.C. Sharma - Dance Music II
9. I.S. Mathur - My Birds
10. I.S. Mathur - Moogsical Forms
11. Gita Sarabhai - Gitaben's Composition II
12. I.S. Mathur - Once I Played a Tanpura
13. S.C. Sharma - Electronic Sounds Created on Moog II
14. Atul Desai - Recordings for Osaka Expo 70
15. S.C. Sharma - Wind & Bubbles
16. S.C. Sharma - Dance Music III
17. Jinraj Joshipura - Space Liner 2001 II
18. I.S. Mathur - Shadows of the Show
19. I.S. Mathur - Soundtrack of Shadow Play

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