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Psychedelic Rock by Mahendra Kapoor and Soviet Jazz

Bad rock ballads by the late Bollywood singer and some great jazz from the former Soviet Union are among the author’s discoveries this fortnight on Archive.org

Kuzhali Manickavel Mar 12, 2022

Mahendra Kapoor sings "Yogi Please Help Me" and "Sally"

Greeting’s fam! We are gathered here today to listen to me share all my feelings about some music I found on archive.org. Before we get into that, though, I would like to say that in my last column, when I wrote about a band called Anal Safyra, I was like, how many poo/bum bands can there be out there anyway? Fam, there can be a lot. There seems to be an abundance of shock music that revolves around sexual violence (against women mostly), killing things, eating dead bodies, making sweet, sweet love to aforementioned dead bodies, and of course, poo and bums. Which is kind of what one expects from shock music, no? In which case, is it still shocking? Like, I haven’t heard shock music about legumes or how to make polyurethane moulds. Then again, I am a middle-aged woman who is shocked by the recent technological developments in wet mops and vegetable cutters, so what do I know. Anyway, enough feminism! Let’s begin this column with something called Yogi Please Help Me Sally by Mahendra Kapoor and Chorus.

Why this?

Because it is categorised as ‘psychedelic rock, beat, garage rock’ and also ‘rock, pop, folk, world, and country’, all at the same time, I want to know what that sounds like. I also want to know what Yogi Please Help Me Sally means.

What is it?

This is a seven inch vinyl of English music released by HMV in 1968. Lyrics and music by Ashok Khanna. I have no idea who Mahendra Kapoor or Ashok Khanna are; I’m guessing they are connected with Bollywood in some way? I don’t really know because I am a Tamil fellow, which is a good reason for not knowing Hindi things. So, since I lack a proper context and understanding of this, I am excited to hear it because to me, it could be ANYTHING, you guys.

Assorted Notes Made While Listening

  • This is surprisingly groovy
  • So far, the song seems to be about a dude who is down on his luck, so he is asking Yogi to help him
  • It is unclear if Yogi is a swami person or just his friend Yogi
  • Either way, Yogi does not seem to be very helpful wtf Yogi
  • I now see that this isn’t a 7-minute song called ‘Yogi please help me Sally’. It is in fact, two songs, ‘Yogi Please Help Me’ and ‘Sally’. Which I probably should have realised then itself.
  • Oh! wow, that sounded like a ghost. Is that a ghost? It sounded like a ghost!
  • Ok, now there are dramatic wind sounds. WHAT IS HAPPENING
  • It is a roller-coaster of emotion, you guys
  • Seriously though, Tarantino should have used ‘Sally’ in one of his movies. IT’S NOT TOO LATE QUENTIN

In Conclusion

I really liked this fam. It has that mix of spaghetti western, rolling drums and “Indian” elements, which I often hear in some Tamil movie songs from the seventies, and which I enjoy like anything. And you guys, the chorus was pretty great. I remember in my youth days, one music teacher would say, a chorus should sound like one, single voice! And we would say cool! and proceed to sing in 100 different voices even though there were only about 12 of us. Anyway, this chorus was not like that. They were that one, single voice. All these years later, I finally get what that music teacher was trying to say.

          Mahendra Kapoor’s voice was also pretty great. I realise that a number of people already know this, but I didn’t know it, and anyway, you don’t know my life. Wikipedia says Mahendra Kapoor was the first Indian playback singer to record a song in English. Boney M asked him to record a Hindi version of their album with Musarat Nazir from Pakistan, which is called M3. I enjoyed it very much during my first listen, but during my second listen, a friend said it was ruining his life, so I had to turn it off. But fam, there is something very sweet, bubbly and almost naive about Indi-Disco from back in the day, and I am here for it always.

Filed Under

‘Bop’, ‘Ghosts in Music’, ‘Songs to Play to People Unexpectedly’ and ‘Why You Gotta Be Like That Sally’

Next, we have something called The Victor Feldman All-Stars Play the World’s First Album of Soviet Jazz Themes.

Why This?

Because right now, this sounds like something that can’t possibly exist. It’s like saying ‘Soviet Music for Breakdancing’ and then feeling terribly witty for thinking up something “random” like that. In my present state of ignorance, I cannot fathom how something can be Soviet and jazz at the same time. So, this should be fun.

What Is It?

This album was released in 1963 and is described as ‘Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Hard Bop, Soul-Jazz’. It appears to be the first album of Soviet Jazz compositions that has ever been recorded anywhere in the world. I already feel like I am going to feel stupid about this later on. So, let’s do this, shall we?

Assorted Notes Made While Listening

  • Holy fuck, this trumpet. THIS TRUMPET YOU GUYS
  • Now the drummer is tearing everything into a million pieces. YOU ARE VERY GOOD, SIR
  • Sax and piano are amazing too
  • Makes you wonder why everyone doesn’t know about them already
  • It is also obscene that musicians with far less talent have probably become richer and more famous than these dudes. That’s fucking depressing, fam.

In Conclusion

          I mean, what was I expecting? Soviet propaganda with some vibraphone thrown it? Why do I expect things like that? Because I’m a prejudiced bastard, that’s why. Fam, let’s call this what it was; a jazz album. And in my humble and limited opinion, it was a very good jazz album.

          As you may have probably guessed, people (aka mostly Americans) didn’t even know the Soviets played jazz until some other Americans “discovered” them. But jazz was actually a pretty steady part of Soviet life, even though it was banned a number of times. It was a tumultuous relationship, fam. On the one hand, there were live jazz shows and jazz festivals. On the other hand, people like Maksim Gor’kij were describing jazz as

          “…a wild whistling and squeaking as if a ball of mud was falling into clear water; then follows a rattling, howling and screaming like the clamour of a metal pig, the cry of a donkey or the amorous croaking of a monstrous frog. The offensive chaos of this insanity combines into a pulsing rhythm. Listen to this screaming for only a few minutes, and one involuntarily pictures an orchestra of sexually wound-up madmen, conducted by a Stallion-like creature who is swinging his giant genitals.”

          How did a description of jazz become an alarming treatise on metal pigs, monstrous frogs, and a stallion-like creature swinging its giant genitals hither and thither? We may never know. And it seems unfair that this dude listened to jazz and got to see all that while I, in 2022, can’t see any of that at all. Like, not even the metal pigs, you guys wtf.

          Anyway, during Benny Goodman’s Soviet tour in 1962, Goodman promised to sit with some of the local musicians to hear their work. This never happened, so one of the musicians on that tour, Victor Feldman, decided to make an album with the local talent instead. That wicked trumpet player was Andre Towmosian, age 19, a self-taught jazz musician. SELF TAUGHT YOU GUYS. Two other musicians, Gennadi ‘Charlie’ Golstain, and Givi Gachechiladze, who were both music arrangers, were also under 20 at the time.

          Where are these fine dudes today? Golstain eventually lost interest in jazz and turned his attention to classical music. Givi Gachechiladze is now the leader of the Tbilisi Municipal Orchestra, winner of the Monte-Carlo International Jazz Award in 2006. I have no idea what happened to Andre Towmosian; the only information I could find about him online is linked to this album. I keep thinking about that fam; how this young dude played so amazing on an album of Soviet jazz in 1963, that a middle-aged Indian woman in 2022 enjoyed like anything, wondered what happened to him, and hoped he was ok.

Filed Under

‘Jazz’, ‘Why do You Think Soviet Jazz is ‘random and hilarious’ you racist fuck’, ‘Great American Discoveries’

That’s all for now, please come back in the return so I can tell you all about the other music I find on archive.org. Bai dears.


Kuzhali Manickavel’s chapbooks and collections are available from Blaft Publications, Chennai. Her work has also appeared in Granta, Strange Horizons, The White Review, Agni, Subtropics, Michigan Quarterly Review and DIAGRAM. More information can be found at www.kuzhalimanickavel.com.


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