Technology How a Long-Lost Indian Disco Record Won Over Crate Diggers and Cracked the YouTube Algorithm

tom_mai78101

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In 2014, Debayan Sen found a mysterious album inside of a trunk in his mother’s attic, in Kolkata, India. The red-orange record sleeve featured a picture of his mom as a young woman along with her name—Rupa—in big, bold lettering. That was the day Debayan learned about his mother’s past life as a singer.

Suddenly reminded of this discovery last year, Debayan decided to Google the record. The results surprised his family: Rupa’s first and only album, 1982’s Disco Jazz, was selling for hundreds of dollars via sites like Discogs. “The day I found the record my mom said, ‘Throw it away. It is just pointless,’” Debayan remembers. “I said, ‘What the hell, you made this, why would you throw this away?’”

Since then, Disco Jazz has been reissued by Numero Group, the well-established archival label. “Aaj Shanibar,” one of its four tracks, has also started to spread through the strange rabbithole that is YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. The most popular upload of the song now boasts more than 1.5 million views, likely thanks to factors including its eight-minute runtime and its high-energy, ever-shifting instrumentals. It’s another example of what happens when, with the benefit of time and technology, “lost” songs reach a new generation of listeners halfway around the world.

How exactly did this overlooked album surface, nearly 40 years after its original Indian pressing? It helps that the songs could turn up in Balearic disco sets, Indian weddings, or even vibey “studying” playlists. But tracing Disco Jazz’s path to re-emergence shows how roundabout and happenstance the modern rediscovery process for old music can be.


Read more here. (Pitchfork)
 
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