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Quintessence was a rock band formed in April 1969, by Raja Ram in Notting Hillmarker, Londonmarker, Englandmarker. The style was a mixture of jazz and progressive rock with an influence of music from India. Quintessence was among the first true progressive rock outfits signed by Island Records.


The original line-up included the Australian born, Shiva Shankar Jones (voice, keyboards, percussion), Raja Ram (flute, percussion), Sambhu Baba (bass guitar, guitar), Maha Dev (guitar), Allan Mostert (lead guitar,bass guitar,sitar), and Jake Milton (drums, percussion). All of them, in addition to a common interest in Indian music, also shared the Hindu faith. Quintessence were tagged a 'spiritual' band, but were playing New Age rock before the term was born.

They rehearsed in All Saints Hall which was a converted church near Portobello Roadmarker, and recorded three albums for Island Records between 1969 and 1971, with two further albums recorded in 1972 for RCA. The first of the latter set, Self, featured studio material on side one, with the band recorded playing live at Exeter Universitymarker, on 11 December 1971, on side two.

Not unlike the Grateful Dead, they did a lot of collective jamming with an intention to trance out their audiences by a forceful combination of the chanting of mantras with the Krishna flute lines and the lyrical guitar soloing. Often the local Hare Krishna disciples would provide an extra percussion section. Quintessence had their household guru in Swami Ambikananda.

They built a reputation on solid club work and were deemed London's Underground Sensation in 1970. Besides appearing at the first two Glastonbury Festivalsmarker (then called 'Fayres'), in 1970/71, they also were invited to play the Montreux Jazz Festival. At their peak they sold out the Royal Albert Hallmarker twice.

On 18 September 1971 Quintessence played a benefit concert for Bangladeshmarker at The Ovalmarker, Kenningtonmarker. They appeared on a bill that included The Who, Mott the Hoople, Lindisfarne, Atomic Rooster, The Grease Band and America.

Although Quintessence played many hundred of concerts and festivals all over Europe, they turned down a U.S.marker record deal negotiated by Island Records' Chris Blackwell and did not play at a concert at New York'smarker Carnegie Hallmarker lined up in early 1972, or tour the U.S., because four of the band's members wanted a larger monetary advance. This disappointed Blackwell and he dropped the band from the record label. Quintessence then signed with RCA and recorded one album with Jones and Dev. Raja Ram then unexpectedly 'fired' the pair after that album was released.

Jones and Dev went on to form the short-lived outfit called Kala. According to Jones, Kala broke up because Bradley's Records (a subsidiary of ATV) changed their policy towards their artists. They no longer wanted bands to make albums, and insisted on them being singles pop artists.

Quintessence played on into the 1980s before breaking up.

Jake Milton went on to form Blurt with his brother Ted Milton.

Dev released his first solo album, and Jones' Quintessence continues to record spasmodically.

Raja Ram went on to help create the psytrance style of electronic music in the 1990s, and continues to produce electronic music to this day, being most well-known for his involvement in Shpongle.

Album discography

  • In Blissful Company (Island Records, 1969)
  • Quintessence (Island Records, 1970) - UK #22
  • Dive Deep (Island Records, 1971) - UK #43
  • Self (RCA, 1972) - UK #50
  • Indweller (RCA, 1972)

See also


  1. - accessed April 2009
  2. - Self - album review
  3. - Discography

External links

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