Saturday, December 18, 2004

The remix revolution

Gen-Xers swear by and sway to sizzling remix numbers. Hardeep Singh Chandpuri tracks the current mania

The octapads start their beats, the bass guitar craves for even more, the synthesizers size up the mood, the crescendo is building up, the feet start to move, suddenly you hear the unmistakable sound of the Punjabi dhol and voila it has vocals by Bryan Adams as he whips up the Summer of 69. You wonder…. Bryan and that too with a bhangra beat. Yes, welcome to the world of remixing.

Remixing which has touched gargantuan proportions in India has its roots in the dance hall culture of the late 1960s and the early 1970s in Jamaica. In particular, producers and DJs like Ruddy Redwood, King Tubby and Scientist, and Lee "Scratch" Perry popularised stripped-down instrumental mixes which they called "versions" and were created using simple four-track mixing machines. At first they simply dropped the vocal tracks, but soon more sophisticated effects were created, dropping separate instrumental tracks into and out of the mix, isolating and repeating hooks, and adding echo effects.

Early pop remixes were fairly simple in the 1980s. "Extended mixes" of songs were released to clubs and commercial outlets on 12-inch vinyl singles. Soon acts like DJ Sammy, DJ Alligator and DJ Scribble took remixing to heights never ever achieved before.

To create something different for the cassette-buying Indian public, digital drumbeats known as "Jhankaar Beats" were added to the original soundtracks of Hindi films. The major artisite to accomplish this in those times was music composer/director Babla. These experiments met with a good response especially in the smaller cities and towns. This was the birth of the remix industry in India.

Later, the Indian public got its second dose of remix culture when in the mid 1980s the "Xtra Hot Mix" series of tapes from Britain hit the Indian shores. The main USP of these mixes was the mix 'n' match of Hindi songs along with popular one-liners of film stars like Amitabh, Shatrughan and Amjad.

The early 1990s saw the rise of Bally Sagoo, Asian mixmaster from Birmingham, England, who single handedly brought some of the most popular retro songs back on to the popularity charts with his exceptional remixing skills. His remixes of Chura liya hai tumne and a couple of songs by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan added a brand new dimension of sound to the listeners' ears. Soon top-notch remix stars from the UK like DJ Sanj, Sukhshinder Shinda, Rishi Rich and Punjabi MC became houshold names.

The Indian remix industry got a shot in the arm with the super success of Kaliyon ka chaman which was also featured in the song Addictive. DJ Aqueel, DJ Amit, DJ Bijan and others had the whole nation swaying to their beats.

Today remixing has woven itself into mainstream music seamlessly and is a parallel industry and also spinning off video production as a side unit. However we also have a school of thought that goes by the belief that this trend is not going to last for a very long time and is unhealthy especially with the kind of videos being churned out. But if this attempt has met with a tumultuous response from the buying public then, who's complaining.