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As the video described, a psychedelic experience is characterized by the striking perception of aspects of one’s mind previously unknown, or by the creative exuberance of the mind liberated from its ostensibly ordinary fetters. Psychedelic states are an array of experiences including changes of perception such as hallucinations, synesthesia, altered states of awareness or focused consciousness, variation in thought patterns, trance or hypnotic states, mystical states, and other mind alterations. These processes can lead some people to experience changes in mental operation defining their self-identity (whether in momentary acuity or chronic development) different enough from their previous normal state that it can excite feelings of newly formed understanding such as revelation, enlightenment, confusion, and psychosis.

Now, psychedelic states may be elicited by various techniques, such as meditation, sensory stimulation or deprivation, and most commonly by the use of psychedelic substances. Hence, Psychedelia is the subculture, originating in the 1960s, of people who often use psychedelic drugs such as LSD, mescaline (found in peyote) and psilocybin (found in some mushrooms). The term “psychedelic” is derived from the Ancient Greek translating to “soul-manifesting”.



The term is also used to describe a style of psychedelic artwork and psychedelic music. Psychedelic art and music typically try to recreate or reflect the experience of altered consciousness. Psychedelic art uses highly distorted and surreal visuals, bright colors and full spectrums and animation (including cartoons) to evoke and convey to a viewer or listener the artist’s experience while using such psychedelics, or to enhance the experience of a user. Psychedelic music uses distorted electric guitar, Indian music elements such as the sitar, electronic effects, sound effects and reverberation, and elaborate studio effects, such as playing tapes backwards or panning the music from one side to another.

In the mid-1960s the use of psychedelics became widespread in modern Western culture, particularly in the United States and Britain. The movement is credited to Michael Hollingshead who arrived in America from London in 1965. He was sent to the U.S. by other members of the psychedelic movement to get their ideas exposure. The Summer of Love of 1967 and the resultant popularization of the hippie culture to the mainstream popularized psychedelia in the minds of popular culture, where it remained dominant through the 1970s. Resurgences of the style are even common in the modern era. The counterculture of the 1960s had a strong influence on the popular culture of the early 1970s. It later became linked to a style of electronic dance music known as psychedelic trance.


The 1940s were the age of big-band swing, while the Fifties were about jiving and all that jazz. But the sound of the Sixties came from a stringed instrument that was not a guitar and was played by a man who was neither very young nor handsome. The instrument was the sitar and the musician Ravi Shankar. Together they produced the sound of psychedelia. The 60s psychedelic rock music is unimaginable without the mystical aura of the sitar. Pandit Ravi Shankar is often credited for this distinctive sound. He inspired many of rock’s most famous musicians to incorporate the traditional Indian stringed instrument into their songs. Ironically, Ravi, a classical musician, never sought fame among the titans of rock. They sought him. His sitar vibe was unique to Western ears, and once rock’s 1960s alchemists discovered that sound, it would make a major impact on Western culture.

Violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin introduced Shankar and his music to the West. And contrary to popular belief, the Beatles were not the first rock band to use a sitar in a recording. That honor goes to the Yardbirds, who hired a sitar player to produce the famous riff in “Heart Full of Soul.”  The band ultimately felt the sound was too soft, so Yardbird Jeff Beck replaced it with a sitar-sounding guitar effect. Roger McGuinn and David Crosby of the Byrds introduced George Harrison and his mates, the trippy wonders of the sitar. The Byrds and Ravi Shankar shared the same record label, and the American rock band had recently become familiar with the Indian virtuoso’s work. But it was undoubtedly his association with The Beatles and especially with George Harrison that turned him into a superstar, through them Shankar’s influence quickly spread. Rock singer Janis Joplin was “humbled” after ­ listening to Shankar play. Jimi ­Hendrix called him “a great man” while to guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who, Shankar was “one of my heroes”. The admiration was far from mutual, however. In his 1998 autobiography Shankar described his shock and disgust at the on-stage antics at the Monterey Festival in California in 1967.

  1. Dadra Ravi Shankar 10:27
  2. Mishra Ghara Dhun Ravi Shankar 9:21
  3. Raga: Patdeep Ravi Shankar 4:44
  4. Gat I (Tala: Jhap-tal) Ravi Shankar 17:10

Soon, the Beatles would strike the psychedelic sitar chord heard ’round the world when they recorded the groundbreaking “Norwegian Wood” for their December 1965 album “Rubber Soul.” George Harrison became a lifelong disciple of Ravi, incorporating sitar into many of the Beatles’ subsequent songs. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones –  a natural born musician and fast learner – followed suit, playing a spooky, reptilian sitar riff on “Paint it Black,” the first number one single to feature the Indian instrument. The cosmic 1960s had begun, and all things Indian – from yoga and transcendental meditation to Nehru jackets and Madras shirts – became the latest rage.

The sitar became the instrument du jour. It’s featured on the Monkees’ “This Just Doesn’t Seem To Be My Day,” Rick Nelson’s “Marshmallow Skies,” Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco,” The Cowsills’ “The Rain, the Park, and Other Things,” John Fred and His Playboy Band’s “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses),” The Box Tops’ “Cry Like A Baby” (electric sitar), The Lemon Pipers’ “Green Tambourine” (electric sitar), Traffic’s “Paper Sun” and The Kinks’ “Fancy.” The Mamas & The Papas, the Animals, the Moody Blues, Procol Harum and Jethro Tull all jumped on the trend, producing sitar-tinged songs. Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page talked about his love of Indian music, saying: “I went to India after I came back from a tour with the Yardbirds in the late sixties just so I could hear the music firsthand. Let’s put it this way: I had a sitar before George Harrison got his. I wouldn’t say I played it as well as he did, though …” The East Indian scales used on the track “Friends” (Led Zep III) “Kashmir” (Physical Graffiti) are considered fine examples of the influence of the sitar in rock music. The Doors extensively used Indian and near eastern scales in their psychedelic soundscapes. Robbie Krieger’s guitar part on “The End” was heavily influenced by Indian ragas and features melodic and rhythmic qualities that suggest a sitar or veena. Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman features the instrument, as well.

But like most good things, it eventually became overused and passé in the world of rock. But Ravi Shankar’s fame never waned. He is the most well-known and honored of all Indian musicians and continued to tour almost until the time of his death in 2012 at age 92. Ravi Shankar really was the man who brought East and West together.