The emotion provided by Raga (classical India music) is not only affective, it’s a real message, an aesthetic of the nature, of the divine, a virtue able to guide the listener to a state of emotional trance. In the 60’s, with the launch of international success of raga, masters such as Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, leaded European and American artists to become more and more captivated by the dynamical relation between mystical emotion, spirituality and music. The emergence of Raga schools from everywhere (still perpetuating the ancestral musical traditions), and initiatic travels of Western minimalist-modern jazz composers (Terry Riley, Don Cherry) to India, founded a growing interest for this (transcendental) musical universe.
The emphasis on circular rhythms, ornamentation (gamaka), the use of acoustic stringed patterns, the sense of beatific endurance and lengthy improvisation are the central characteristics of this music in term of practice and sound aestheticism. Emotionally, the function on the listener is hypnotic, voluntary trying to reach him into a higher state of consciousness, modulating his perception of time and space. (!)
The basic conception of drone (continuous sound form) will be taken back in popular music and turned into kosmische electronica (70’s Berlin underground). After Seventh Sons’s first original but rather discreet effort simply called Raga (1964) and Malachi’s Holy Music (1967), famous bands such as The Beatles in Revolver (1966) and Traffic in their album Mr. Fantasy (1967) were seduced by the sonorities of Indian raga music, they also occasionally incorporate sitar elements to their music.
Let’s go to our artist:
Way back in the early 70’s 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 the name Sagram, misspelt by the Windmill recording company and inappropriately entitled Pop Explosion Sitar Style. This album was released without the band’s permission, with a ludicrous cover photograph bearing no relation to any band members or anything about them. (!)
In 1971, soon after the release of Sagram, 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 Alisha Sufit. She busked in street markets, singing and playing at 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 an unique Anglo-Indian musical collaboration, facilitated by the fact that Alisha was writing songs set in open modal tunings on the guitar making them instantly compatible with the tuning of the sitar. The band recorded the Magic Carpet album in the winter of 1971/1972 on Mushroom Records label.
The four stayed together for nearly a year, doing a few prestigious gigs, at the 100 Club in London, Wavendon (Cleo Laine, John Dankworth’s venue), several festivals, Sounds of the Seventies on BBC Radio, but they finally parted company in 1972.
After a considerable gap, the four met up again. Jim was no longer performing and Keshav had retired, but Clem and Alisha were still playing professionally and it was a natural step to do another album, in 1996 they recorded the album Once Moor (subtitle Magic Carpet II) released on the Magic Carpet Records label. It consists of songs written/sung by Alisha, plus some instrumental tracks, with Clem Alford on sitar/tamboura, Alisha on guitar, and Pandit Dinesh and Esmail Sheikh on tabla.
Let’s go to our album:
Originally published in 1972 for Magic Carpet records, the Lp shows a dynamic mixture of original folk inventions, psych-Hindu sitar gems and gorgeous, omnipresent, accentuated female vocals by Alisha. Lyrically all the album is about east mysticism, love, spirituality, time of Creation and such. The music itself is poetic, combining simplistic folk guitar motifs to raga scales, in a spiritual Hindu-folk experience, with soft psychedelic flavor floating all along the album!
There’s a fantastic interview with Alisha Sufit with long details about them made by our friends from It’s Psychedelic Baby, with track by track comments, and more!
The ‘IM’ highlights are: Father Time and Take Away Kesh.
A1 The Magic Carpet (Alisha, Alford, Moyes, Sathe)
A2 The Phoenix (Alisha)
A3 Black Cat (Alisha)
A4 Alan’s Christmas Card (Alford, Moyes, Sathe)
A5 Harvest Song (Alisha)
A6 Do You Hear The Words (Alford, Moyes, Sathe)
B1 Father Time (Alisha, Alford, Moyes, Sathe)
B2 La La (Alford, Moyes, Sathe)
B3 Peace Song (Alisha)
B4 Take Away Kesh (Alisha, Alford, Moyes, Sathe)
B5 High Street (Alisha)
B6 The Dream (Alisha)
- Electric Guitar: Jim Moyes
- Sitar, Esraj, Tambura: Clem Alford
- Tabla, Percussion: Keshav Sathe
- Vocals, Acoustic Guitar: Alisha
- Design (Cover Design) – Alisha
- Photography: Gabriel Weissman
- Producer, Engineer: Vic Keary
Magic Carpet Records – MC 1001 LP