Saturday, 31 March 2018

Sagram (Magic Carpet) “Pop Explosion Sitar Style” 1972 UK Psych Folk Raga Rock



Sagram (Magic Carpet) “Pop Explosion Sitar Style” 1972 UK Psych Folk Raga Rock
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Pre-Magic Carpet. Way back in the early seventies in London, three friends came together to play some unusual music: Sitarist Clem Alford, guitarist Jim Moyes and tabla player Keshav Sathe formed a unique Anglo/ Indian fusion, calling themselves ‘Sargam’ (the name of a note in an Indian scale). 
They made one album under name ‘Sargam’ which was misspelt as Sagram, inappropriately entitled ‘Pop Explosion Sitar Style’ (the cover photograph bearing no relation to any band members or anything about them) and released by the Windmill recording company without the band’s permission in 1972. 
‘Pop Explosion Sitar Style’ is a beautifully played and distinctive acoustic album that reflects many musical currents of the time - from Alexis Korner to the Bauls of Bengal to Ravi Shankar. The complex rhythmic, sensitive tabla playing of virtuoso Keshav Sathe underpins all six instrumental tracks. 
In 1972, soon after the release of ‘Pop Explosion Sitar Style’, the ‘Sargam’ trio were offered another LP recording contract by Mushroom Records, with the proviso that they find a singer. Having met her when they were both at Chelsea School of Art, Jim Moyes contacted the singer Alisha Sufit. At the time Alisha was living in Islington, London, singing and writing songs for acoustic guitar and Appalachian dulcimer. She busked in street markets and in the London Underground by day, and did gigs round the clubs and colleges at night. Jim Moyes invited her to play and the four musicians soon renamed themselves Magic Carpet, forming a unique Anglo-Indian musical collaboration, greatly facilitated by the fact that Alisha was writing songs mostly set in open modal tunings on the guitar making them instantly compatible with the tuning of the sitar…..~


Here we have so British boys coming together to play with the sounds of India. Sagram consisted of a sitar, guitar, and tabla combo, and sitarist Clem Alford apparently spent time in India receiving some proper training. The cover art suggests straight up psychedelic exploitation, but the music is something entirely different. There’s not many pop or rock sounds on this LP, if any. I love psychedelic exploitation art, so I consider this a nice surprise even if the art and music don’t match. And no, the well-mustached harem king on the cover is not a member of Sagram, although it would be kind of awesome if he was. 
While the music here is very well performed and pleasant, the sounds are pretty uniform. You certainly won’t hear the variety you might expect from someone like Ali Akbar Khan or Ravi Shankar. It sounds kind of like the house band at a groovy Inidan restaurant in London, with the music floating on well-played, but non-confrontational table grooves - the better to digest your curry, y'know. “The Universal Form” does manage to take a different direction, propelling itself on a much airier, ethereal sound….by…bargainvinyl1 ….~


The real name of this artist is Sargam, mispelled by the label on the cover, and was actually the band Magic Carpet, without Alicia Suffit on vocals. The rights to the music were sold by their manager to this budget label, without the band’s permission, and they recieved no remuneration for it whatsoever. It’s all instrumental eastern ethnic raga and folk/prog, featuring the fine sitar playing of Clem Alford. Though it looks like an exploitation album, this is quite a giant step up from that. Magic Carpet fans should delight in this as well…..by..tymeshifter …~


As a member of Magic Carpet and Magic Carpet II, and on his solo recordings, British sitarist Alford has explored the fusion of Indian music with folk, jazz, and rock. Although he initially studied bagpipes, Alford began playing the sitar in the mid-‘60s, inspired by Ali Akbar Khan and Ravi Shankar. He went to India in 1968 to study classical sitar with Pandit Sachindranath Saha, and in 1969 recorded an album with guitarist Jim Moyes and tabla player Keshav Sathe for Windmill. Unfortunately, this was issued under the name Sagram, although the actual name of the band was Sargam. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi…~


Clem Alford was a classically-trained sitar player who spent time in India to enhance his knowledge of Indian classical music prior to joining the interesting but short-lived Magic Carpet in the early seventies. Upon their demise he recorded two solo albums of sitar music which are not easy to track down. The first is now a collector’s item, and has been reissued on CD with additional material. The second, which is even harder to find, was recorded exclusively for use in music libraries. Prior to this in 1972 he’d recorded an album under the name Sagram. (“Tapestry of Delights”, by Vemon Joynson) …~


In 1970 he formed a group named Sargam with two other musicians - Jim Moyes (guitar) and Keshav Sathe (tabla) - and this innovative trio (see picture above) recorded an album inappropriately released as Pop Explosion Sitar Style! under the band name Sagram, misspelt by the Windmill recording company, which issued the recording without the band’s consent or knowledge. This LP has since become highly collectable and is offered for sale here today…~.




Musicians: 
Clem Alford (sitar) 
Jim Moyes (guitar) 
Keshav Sathe (tabla)


Tracklist 
A1 Heavenly Feeling
A2 Floating Haze
A3 The Universe Form
B1 Becky’s Dance
B2 Morning Glory
B3 Night King 

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