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Taj Mahal Travellers

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The Taj Mahal Travellers were a legendary improvisational group out of Tokyo, who combined Eastern and Western instruments, electronics and vocal chants, and used heavy post-production processing to create unique long flowing jams, with deep organic droning and pulsing, similar to some of the cosmic electronic stuff out of Germany at the same time, though filtered through a Japanese sensibility. Their music is considered at the pinnacle of Asian psychedelic music of the late 1960s and early 1970s. At the same time they were far closer to avant-garde minimalism, with some of the group even disavowing the psychedelic connection. Their few recordings feature long untitled freeform tracks, often taking up an entire side of the record. Formed in 1969 by Takehise Kosugi, a violinist who had already been associated with the Fluxus movement, along with Ryo Koike, Michihiro Kimura, Yukio Tsuchiya, Seiji Nagai, Tokio Hadegawa, and Kinji Hayashi, the Taj Mahal Travellers soon began to perform inter-media concerts in Japan. Between 1971 and 1972 they toured much of Europe and Asia, mostly traveling around in a Volkswagen mini-bus, and even performing at the Taj Mahal in India. For a concert at the Moderna Museet (Modern Museum) in Stockholm, released thirty years later on the double CD Live Stockholm July 1971 by Drone Syndicate, the group was down to the trio of Koike, Kimura, and Tsuchiya. Soon after the tour abroad live material was recorded at the Sohgetsu Hall in Tokyo and released as the LP July 15, 1972 on the Sony label. In 1973 another live performance was featured on one side of the double LP compilation Oz Days Live (also known as Live at Oz), from the underground Oz label. The next year the group went into the studio to record more material, and this was released as the double LP August 1974 on Sony in 1975. The group disbanded that year, and Kosugi continued a prolific solo career, as well as to help some of his music students to start the Taj Mahal Travellers-like group East Bionic Symphonia, who released a self-titled album in 1976. Seiji Nagai went on to study Indian music and electronic music, and finally released a CD Electronic Noise Improvisation 1999, which attempts to recreate the Taj Mahal Travellers spirit with the use of dense electronic drones. ~ Rolf Semprebon

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