How Singer Asha Puthli Intersected Free Jazz, Disco, & Afro-Cosmic Artistry

Asha's career spans five decades and multiple continents.
Asha's career spans five decades and multiple continents.L: Naya Beat Records, R:

Reverberating in everlasting ripples, Asha Puthli's disco-jazz fusion snapped ties with gravity in 2009 when the Goonhilly British Satellite Earth Station beamed her voluptuous voice into deep space to mark the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. The record they chose was her 1976 Afro-cosmic club anthem Space Talk that has been sampled by the likes of 50 Cent, P. Diddy and Notorious BIG among others. Reimagined by Turbotito and Ragz’s genre-blurring Naya Beat label, Disco Mystic: Select Remixes Volume 1 is a loopy, synthed out interpretation of half a dozen such originals from the 70s and 80s when Puthli was sculpting the sound of the future. Mixed by eccentric house producer Maurice Fulton, this new age version of Space Talk simmers like a jungle day dream with live drum loops reminiscent of psychedelic rock accompanied by funky synth lines.

Avant-garde jazz vocalist Asha Puthli in New York, 1972.
Avant-garde jazz vocalist Asha Puthli in New York, 1972.Reddit (r/OldSchoolCool)

Her back to the audience at Mumbai nightclubs, erring on the side of caution in case her parents found out, Puthli made a mercurial impression on The New Yorker writer Ved Mehta. Reading about her during the early days of electronica and funk, talent scout John Hammond championed her cause when she showed up in New York after having resigned from British Airways as a flight attendant. Before she knew it, Puthli was floating in the ether of free jazz, accompanying Ornette Coleman on his experimental foray, Science Fiction. Her contribution to two tracks on the album earned her a nomination in the jazz vocalist category, alongside the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, a moment that left her in disbelief. But it was signing with CBS that honed her mid-tempo, light headed and almost velvety sound.

Asha recorded two songs with American saxophonist Ornette Coleman.
Asha recorded two songs with American saxophonist Ornette Coleman.L:, R: Mr Bongo

Sharing the stage with the likes of Alice Coltrane, Andy Warhol and Grace Jones, Puthli was one of the very few Indian artists who had swum in the cross currents alongside Freddie Mercury of Queen. What sets Asha apart is her steadfast refusal to change her name (to Anne Powers) or disguise her origins, a choice that resonates with authenticity and courage. Despite her undeniable talent and immense potential, Asha faced significant challenges in her career. CBS London suspended her contract when she became pregnant, taking advantage of the lack of maternity rights for working women during the 1970s. This decision not only hindered her career but also paved the way for other artists like Donna Summer to emulate her style and receive recognition for it.

Disco Mystic: Select Remixes Volume 1 is a testament to Puthli's lasting influence and her potential to conquer dance floors across the globe, uniting old and new fans alike. The LP kicks off with a high-octane rendition of I Am Song (Sing Me) plush with uplifting synths and resounding claps plugged in by Yuksek that perfectly complement Puthli's soaring vocals. Lies undergoes a transformation with Kraak & Smaak's dub swagger riddled soundscape while Right Down Here is embellished with intense atmospherics by Psychemagik to immerse you into a turbulent euphoria.

Puthli's extraterrestrial, late night melodies have always been a subterranean treasure among inquisitive groovers and shakers but Disco Mystic: Select Remixes Volume 1 could be the gateway for her siren song to reach contemporary voyagers wading through the serendipities of reissue releases. Destined to be ahead of her time, an unexpectedly prolific artist of Indian heritage who carved her niche among the legends, Puthli believes she is not just royal but divine. She might as well be.

Listen to the full LP on YouTube Music.

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