So, the original Optigan owner’s manual names many instruments on its cover that are allegedly playable on the Optigan. Included in this list is SITAR, though no Optigan disc ever actually featured sitar, and indeed there are no recordings of sitar on the Optigan master tapes. Well, we intend to make good on that promise made by Mattel so long ago.
The only question is, how to go about putting sitar sounds on an Optigan disc? It’s a bit of a tricky question, for a number of reasons. First, Indian classical music most definitely does NOT follow the same sort of musical “rules” as Western music. Specifically, there’s no concept of chord progressions, only melody over drone, with rhythmic counterpoint. This obviously doesn’t fit readily with the Optigan’s paradigm of chord buttons accompanying a lead keyboard sound. Also, the distinctive timbre of the sitar has alot to do with the complexity of its upper harmonics, and since the Optigan tops out at about 5kHz, most of those harmonics will be absent on an Optigan disc.
So, we’ve come up with a basic list of stylistic possibilities for the sitar disc, which we’ve described below. If you could take a moment and respond with a comment to vote for your favorite idea (ie, vote for the type of disc you’d actually BUY a copy of), and/or suggest other possibilities, we’d appreciate it!
1. Raga Rock: cheesy 60s pseudo-psychedelia with sitar riffs thrown in. The keyboard sound would likely be an organ of some sort, since straight sitar notes wouldn’t really work on the keyboard. (If we were to attempt to put sitar notes on the keyboard, we’d likely have to rhythmically articulate them somewhat like the tremolo guitar sound on our Surf Rock disc.) Here’s an example of this style:
2. Lounge Sitar: a more downbeat “exotica” type treatment along the lines of Les Baxter or Martin Denny. Something like the Optigan’s “Polynesian Village” disc, only with sitar and a more “eastern” vibe. Again, the sitar would likely be incorporated into the chord buttons, with some other sustained sound on the keyboard.
3. Raga Composer: this option would get us closest to Indian classical music, and is Pea’s personal choice. Basically, each key on the keyboard would have a different sitar riff, the chord buttons would all have different tabla loops, and the SFX tabs would have tamboura drones and other effects. The idea is that by playing different sequences of notes on the keyboard, you can generate an infinitely variable combination of sitar riffs that make up a sitar solo. Likewise with the tabla loops. Basically we’d record a solo sitar and tabla player, improvising to a click track, then we’d edit out the best loops (57 sitar loops, 15 tabla loops, 5 tamboura/etc loops).
4. Raga Composer + Harmonium: A variation on #3, except half the keyboard would feature sitar riffs, and the other half would have chromatic harmonium notes.
5. (Oops, there is no number 5!)
6. Hindi-pop / Bollywood: This would probably work similarly to option #1. Here’s a brief example of this wide-ranging style:
OK! That about covers it for now. Be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts on this project!!