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New compilation unarchives early days of Indian electronic music from 1969-1972

An accompanying book with a collection of critical essays & contributions from journalists will follow in November

  • Amira Waworuntu
  • 8 May 2023
New compilation unarchives early days of Indian electronic music from 1969-1972

The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, India, is known for housing the country’s first electronic music studio which was established post-independence. In it, Indian composers Gita Sarabhai, I.S. Mathur, Atul Desai, S.C. Shama and Jinraj Joshipura unleashed their sonic creativity during a time considered to be India’s radical period of visionary experimentation.

The studio’s Moog modular system and tape machine were installed and set up in 1969 by New York-based composer David Tudor, who also supported the foundation of the space. The compilation also includes an excerpt from Tudor’s work titled ‘Tape Feedback with Moog’.

‘The NID Tapes: Electronic Music from India 1969-1972’ is based on a long-term research project by British electronic musician Paul Purgas of Emptyset who frequently travelled to Ahmedabad and dove into the emergence of electronic music in India. This then led to the discovery of the archive and its eventual restoration and digitising.

As a result of his deep dive, the release presents excerpts from 27 reels of archive tape showcasing the various methods and aural stylings of India’s pioneering electronic music composers plus NID teachers and technicians. See the tracklist below.

1. S.C. Sharma 'After the War'
2. Atul Desai 'Compositions'
3. S.C. Sharma 'Dance Music I'
4. Gita Sarabhai 'Gitaben's Composition I'
5. David Tudor 'Tape Feedback with Moog'
6. Jinraj Joshipura 'Space Liner 2001 I'
7. S.C. Sharma 'Electronic Sounds Created on Moog I'
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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The music offers a unique insight into the soundscape of post-colonial South Asia, teeming with tape collages, voice experiments field recordings and more. Overall, it gives listeners a glance into how Western and Indian avant-garde traditions came together to create revolutionary sounds over half a century ago.

Available in both digital and vinyl format, the release comes as a collaboration between London’s The state51 Conspiracy and Strange Attractor Press who will launch an accompanying book titled ‘Subcontinental Synthesis: Electronic Music at the National Institute of Design, India 1969–1972’ in November.

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Edited by Purgas himself, the book is a collection of critical essays which include contributions from journalists, professors and researchers alongside an entry by the compilation’s last surviving composer, Jinraj Joshipura.

‘The NID Tapes: Electronic Music from India 1969-1972’ will be available for digital download on July 29, while the double vinyl will be shipped out in late September. Pre-order here.

Amira Waworuntu is Mixmag Asia’s Managing Editor, follow her on Instagram.

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