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Okko Bekker - Sitar & Electronics CD (album) cover


Okko Bekker


Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

3.27 | 12 ratings

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4 stars Who spiked the curry?

A little while back I saw a couple of reviews for this album, and I immediately knew I had seen it before somewhere. The day after I started looking through my old moving box of psychedelic music from the 60s, and what do you know: right beneath my Love Forever Changes record - hidden away for more than 10 years I suspect, was Okko Bekker in his freaky fro with bright purple colors permeating everything. Back when I bought this I practically jumped at anything showcasing some kind of psychedelic tendencies, and some of these albums were unfortunately quickly overlooked for the instant enjoyable, and to be perfectly frank with you: I didnīt have any kind of patience for music back then. It was either great or crap - pure and simple...

Well, Iīve grown older and slightly more mad, and what was once black is now white - and everything is everything. This album certainly floats my boat, and to think that Iīve had this lying in my collection, unheard, for such a long time is almost unbearable - and somehow very cruel to the music. It only lives when we play it right?

Sitar and Electronics is featured here at PA under what might be our most obscure and unvisited genre: Indo-Prog/Raga Rock. Itīs a real shame, because what that really means, is just that somewhere within the album, there might lurk a sitar, flute or some tablas. What you get here is more like psychedelic Krautrock nī Roll which just so happens to feature sitar, flute and tablas...

The Krautrock feel is there, much credited to A. R. & Machines (without the A. R. mind you...), but rather than improvising and jamming like many German acts of the time, - the music here seems more controlled and orchestrated, apart from the small Indian breaks that are sprinkled throughout the album. Funny thing is that the only weak moments there are on this album, is when the music almost entirely is focused on Indian music. Case in point, second track Himalaya Highway, which sounds so confused and meandering, that you begin to question the whole idea of this album. East meets west.

I think itīs down to the way Okko Bekker plays the sitar. Now Iīve grown up listening to a lot of Ravi Shankar during my early teen years, and without knowing too much about traditional Indian music, Iīll stake my former salamander Botox, that his playing is colored by his heritage. He plays like heīs received training from the insides of his momīs belly by Indian gurus and frantic snakecharmers. Okko Bekker on the other hand plays like a guy whoīs been playing an acoustic country western guitar for years trying to emulate Eastern phrasings and such. Suddenly he starts playing the real deal, and there you go. He starts playing western like rock nī roll guitar licks on the sitar - and thereby creating his own sound. You could actually state, that Okko Bekker plays lead guitar on this record, itīs just not a guitar...

The surroundings here are wonderfully muddy drums, -and not like: I canīt hear the bloody things, but more like that wobbly, warm and slightly messy style youīd find towards the end of the 60s. Yeah wonderful mud, thatīs the stuff. Youīll also pick up a modest and at times bluesy guitar that sticks its head out of the bushes once in a while, but every time it does so it sounds so brilliantly. -Mostly functioning like a continuation of the melody laid down by the sitar, but when the sitar runs out of grunt - in need of more lingering and persuasive notes - thatīs when the guitar shows itself like a gentle blues wail from the shadows.

In the shadows lies another thing, that like the guitar, also works very sparsely, and thatīs the moog. That thing clings on to the sitar playing here like a magnet to a fridge. You īll first hear the simple and plucking melody of the sitar, and then like a magical echo, the moog gently reverberates and mimics the notes - like an a capella group without the voices - doing a doo wop.

This record is first and foremost a charming bugger! Itīs not the most groundbreaking album, I mean both The Beatles and The Stones were doing stuff with Indian instrumentation way before this came out, and bands like Quintessence had also been around since 69, - BUT like I said, there is a certain charm to Okko Bekker and his bandits as well. One which supersedes that of any of the formerly mentioned. Reminds me of a little girl with ponytails . Take the cover version of A Day in the Life fx. What some might believe is utterly blasphemic and barf inducing, is actually a fantastic and vibrant rendition - with the sitar and moog alternately taking turns to "sing" the actual lyrics. So " Woke up. Fell out of bed - dragged a comb across my head - suddenly becomes: BIDIUW BIDIUDIW - BIBIDIUOIBIDIIOUW BIDOUW. I love it - the same way I love chili in nougat icecream. It works for unknown reasons... Along with Shivas Lullaby these two are my favorites off the album. The lullaby being a beautiful tranquil track - sounding like a childrenīs music box with yearning soulful voices, softly opening up as tulips in spring.

If you dig psychedelic music, or if youīre interested in Indian instruments used in a non traditional way - then this obscure gem just might be your next best friend. For some reason, I keep picturing this record as the soundtrack of an Eastern version of Jack Kerouacīs On the Road. Sailing down the mighty Ganges exploring this beautiful country in all of its yellow nuances.

Guldbamsen | 4/5 |


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