Magic Carpet (band)

Magic Carpet (band)

Magic Carpet was a pioneering Anglo-Indian United Kingdom (UK) band of musicians that first appeared in the early 1970s.

The band members were Clem Alford, sitar; Alisha Sufit, voice and guitar; Jim Moyes, guitar; and Keshav Sathe, Indian tabla percussion. In 1972 the band released an eponymous album, Magic Carpet, on the Mushroom (UK) label that has since become a sought-after item in the international collectors' vinyl market.


In the 1960s and 1970s, both in the UK and in America, there was a burgeoning interest in Indian culture and music, most famously spear-headed by virtuoso sitar player Ravi Shankar and sarod player Ali Akbar Khan, amongst others. Numerous UK bands of the era began to use sitar and Indian musical sounds generally to add a flavor of the east to their recordings. By contrast, Magic Carpet was a more cohesive Anglo-Indian fusion, the Indian instrumentation generating and being integral to the music, not simply an addition. Based around the classically trained sitar virtuoso, Alford, and the ethereal voice of Sufit, Magic Carpet created a distinctive sound described (perhaps misleadingly) as "psychedelic progressive folk" music - psych prog folk.


The Magic Carpet album has been described as "a psych folk gem - a unique and extraordinary fusion of east and west, Magic Carpet being one of the very first bands to truly combine Indian and western instrumentation". After a launch at the 100 Club, London, UK, the Magic Carpet band performed at Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth's Wavendon, enjoyed airplay on Pete Drummond's Sounds of the Seventies on BBC Radio, plus made several club and festival appearances. However, this novel collective split up shortly after the first album was released. It was only after a lapse of some fifteen years that recognition followed. Widely and more positively reviewed, the original Magic Carpet album has now been reissued on CD and vinyl by the UK Magic Carpet Records label.

Seven of the vocal tracks written by Sufit employ modal tunings in the guitar accompaniment. These 'open' guitar tunings, first introduced and popularized by musicians such as Davey Graham and Joni Mitchell, are supremely compatible with the modal tuning of the sitar, allowing a true integration of sounds. Sufit's vocals feature on nine of the twelve tracks, the remaining three being purely instrumental.

In 1996, Alford and Sufit got together again and collaborated to record the album Once Moor, subtitled 'Magic Carpet II'. It is a true follow on from the original Magic Carpet album, with its simple acoustic instrumentation - guitar, sitar, tabla, tamboura, and Appalachian dulcimer. The album was issued on CD and heavy-weight vinyl. Around the same time, the album by Clem Alford entitled Mirror Image was reissued, a record first released on vinyl in 1974.

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