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‘Mere Gully Mein’ represents the emergence of real Indian hip-hop. DIVINE and Naezy are the new age desi rappers who talk about all socio-political-economic issues governing the country which is quite a change from the superficial and aspirational hip hop that surrounds us today. With an intent to change the masses’s misconception and rewrite the history of Indian hip hop the duo’s authentic and original story is being identified by people all over the world. Hailing from the city’s chawls and gullies to now making waves not just in the country, but also internationally these two rappers and their rap-to-riches project has also been an inspiration for 2019 released Bollywood movie, Gully Boy.
Born and raised in Shillong, Meba Ofilia finds her roots as an artist in Hip-Hop and RnB. Her second feature ‘Done Talking’ with rapper BigRi bagged her the Best Indian Act Award at the 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards. Her love for Hip-Hop and RnB grew through the discovery of American-African gospel music eventually leading her to discover artists such as Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys and Tori Kelly who continue to be her main influences. ‘Lady Bizz’ talks about self-love laying importance on women issues that not many men understand and how one woman empowering another is a powerful feeling. The track is featured as a part of the first music release for She Said So (India) in collaboration with Azadi Records released as a Women’s Day Special on March 8th 2019.
Meet Elephant Gym, a Taiwanese band who create bass-driven, math-rock that’s packed with groove and grit. Following up from their slew of singles over the past year or so, the three piece band, comprised of Tif on bass, Tell on guitar and Chia-Chin on drums have shared ‘Moonset’, a collaboration with YeYe. Let yourself float away into the dreamy soundscapes of the track as those soothing, cotton candy-like vocals smother you from start to finish.
Raghav Meattle, a singer-songwriter from Mumbai released his debut album ‘Songs From a Matchbox’ through a crowd funded campaign in June 2018. Being influenced by artists such as Jack Johnson, John Mayer and George Ezra, the 26 year old describes his music as “vocal first”. Although his vocals and the acoustic guitar take centre stage, the artist has adapted an all round approach by also giving emphasis to the lyrics and melodies.
Bagging one of the semi-finalist positions at Season 2 of ‘The Stage’ – India’s first reality show dedicated to music, Raghav was also nominated for the Radio City Freedom Awards under Best Pop Artist category. With a folksy and country setting, his graceful vocal delivery and heart warming lyrics touch across different topics – from his frustration of the constant chatter at bars during a live performance to the Tinder culture and his take on relationships. The album has been co-produced by Zain Calcuttawala and mastered by Frank Arkwright from Abbey Road Studios, London.
Pardafash (Sandhya Visvanathan) is a graphic designer and illustrator who moonlights as a vocalist-producer and songwriter. Previously part of a band called Machli, meshing together electronic beats and samples from Indian films, her current solo live project is an interpretation of protest music through a combination of songs that are stories and spoken word monologues.‘Dark Chocolate’ is a love song that tells a story about the nuances of friendship between two people. The narrator of the song is besotted with and trying to be there for a friend through an abortion thereby marking a progression of their relationship and intimacy.
Acoustic singer-songwriter Ramya Pothuri made a departure from her signature folk and R&B blend to a long awaited foray into neo-soul with her latest single ‘Summer’. A self-taught Mumbai based musician, the finger style guitarist with an expansive repertoire released her first independent EP of original music titled ‘We Never Left’ and promoted it through a series of living room gigs around the city. With a fresh approach to her musical treatment she trades the acoustic guitar for a heavily treated telecaster, and despite the satisfying drum production, retains her hold over the listener by writing lyrics for the contemporary soul. The song deals with the feeling of longing; a bittersweet emotion that leaves us wanting for someone that may not be right, but even in heartache makes it always feel like summer.
Tokyo based singer/songwriter AAAMYYY brings more of her refreshing blend of soulful, electronic gems in ‘BODY’, her new released and follow up to last year’s ‘MABAROSI WEEKEND’. The 10-track project, which features contributions from the likes of Computer Magic, MATTON, JIL and CONYPLANKTON, further showcases the artist’s inviting and silky smooth vocals as they coarse through a concoction of emotive atmospheres spearheaded by lush electronics.
The Theory For Our Revenge is the artistic project of Japanese fashion stylists, producers and visual artists: COLD FAITH and JHas. Last month, the duo unleashed their breathtaking debut single ‘朧(OBORO)’, an electronic number that’ll have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. From its cryptic lyrics to the equally mesmerising and unsettling production, ‘朧(OBORO)’ is a sonic powerhouse that serves as a wonderful introduction to the pair’s musical output.
Sam Rui has established a name for herself in Singapore over the short span of two years through her incredible covers and spellbinding original material. The singer/songwriter has performed in numerous local music festivals, collaborated with international acts such as Alextbh, and has created a distinctive, sultry sound. In ‘Solid Gold’, Rui teams up with LXX & High4 20 and encapsulates the essence of R&B whilst igniting a perfect, late night mood. The track wonderfully sets the scene perfectly for her forthcoming sophomore album which is set to be released later this year.
India-born, California-raised singer-songwriter, Zoya is carving a home for herself in the Indie pop world. Graduating from the world renowned Berklee College of Music with a music business degree, one can notice the sincerity and truthfulness in her work as she unmasks her conscience in her confessional songwriting and orchestral arrangements. Her music encompasses a diverse variation inspired by her country of birth, connecting North Indian traditional music through her captivating vocal style merged with deep stirring harmonies, emphasising her wanderlust nature. With three albums to her name, she’s gained recognition from heavyweights such as A.R. Rahman, as well as touring worldwide alongside various international acts. ‘Closer to Closure’ hails from her Afterglow Single Series where she released a new track every ten days – the song encapsulates the idea of finding a sense of closure in life with the unspoken issues and unfinished relationships she formed whilst living a dual life between India and America.
Paraphoniks was formed when Shatrunjai Dewan and Sid Shirodkar began to explore their shared love for modular synthesizers. In 2016, the duo promoted their second release, ‘Yarns’, with a string of audacious surround-sound shows that featured their music in an 8.1-channel incarnation. Since then they’ve continued to evolve into an increasingly genre-agnostic project, embracing various forms of electronic music with a unique sense of sonic experimentation.
Their latest offering, ‘Silhouettes’, was conceived during a two-week writing stint in the Himalayan hills. It retains the synth-heavy sound the duo are known for, while elevating the production levels, treading more expansive musical territory and conceptual ground. Featuring collaborations with singer-songwriter Azamaan Hoyvoy and drummer Sahil Shah, the album’s non-linear narrative takes inspiration from various modern-day cults and quasi-religious movements.
Smokey The Ghost has been a pioneer in the Indian hip-hop scene for the past 15 years. A socially conscious artist from Bangalore, Smokey has been involved in all aspects of the culture, from participating in rap battles to rendering his voice for commercial movies and giving due importance to collaborations. His raps emerge out of his observation and tackle various social issues; ‘Her Name Is?’ is a concept mixtape to be heard in sequential order, hailing from a personal experience that led to the realisation of the dishonourable oppression faced in various subtle forms by women on a regular basis. While the tracks form a coherent theme, the production is an amalgamation of the work of different producers based on different ideas emerging from the same concept of abuse of female identity.
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Amongst a wave of Malaysian artists on their way to international prominence, Alex Bong is one to watch. Under the moniker Alextbh, the 22-year-old’s sound infuses R&B with a slick pop energy, especially evident in his latest single, ‘walls’; the track is a continuation of his previous single, ‘still mine’, reminiscing on love, loss, and longing. Using his platform to bring awareness to the LGBTQ community, the self-taught artist continues to capture the attention of many.
Fopchu are a three piece electronic band from New Delhi who create alternative music unlike any other band in India. Their effervescent sound evokes a loopy ride through time with synthesisers, samples, and a rhythmic guitar-driven groove, in an intoxicating brew of charismatic vocals drawn from soulful blues, jazz and gufunktry chants. The band explores the ominous world outside with their debut EP ‘Milk Bred’; an amalgamation of funk and rock, lead single ‘The Undulating Brood Swing’ sounds exactly like the title suggests, riddled with a contagious bounce that’s guaranteed to get you moving.
Five-piece indie/nu-wave band Device have been shaking up the Filipino music scene since their formation in 2015. Formed by a group of friends studying together at university, the band emerged with their debut EP “The Element of Surprise” a name originally taken from one of their first demos. True to its title, the record catches listeners off-guard with a distinctive blend of traditional instruments and electric synths to create a textured, dynamic sound.
HAON celebrated the release of his debut project last month, encapsulating the development of a talented newcomer with huge potential. The winner of Korean hip-hop TV competition “High School Rapper Season 2”, the 18-year-old demonstrated ambitious determination and a youthful spirit to impress audiences across the nation, and has transitioned from amateur to professional rapper with ease. His first EP ‘TRAVEL: NOAH’ alludes to the biblical figure of Noah (also conveniently HAON’s name spelled backwards), as he describes his journey across seven songs. On the titular opening track, HAON delivers his mischievous vocals over a Latin-infused melody, holding his own as he ably exchanges verses with elite Korean stars Jay Park and Hoody.
Ape Echoes represent the creativity of the nascent Indian independent music scene. The brainchild of Mumbai based producers and multi-instrumentalists Nirmit Shah and Sid Shirodkar, the project sees the pair combining traditional acoustic and electronic instrumentation with experimental sampling, weaving together a complex immersive musical narrative. The duo formed in early 2016, with drummer Sahil Shah joining soon after, and their debut EP ‘Ape Machines’ was released in August 2017, moving through territories influenced by crossover jazz, electronica, noise, hip-hop, prog-rock, funk, and soul to create a distinctive original sound.
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Seedhe Maut represent the next stage in the evolution of Delhi’s hip-hop sound. Comprising of rappers Encore ABJ and Calm, the duo dole out verses packed with social and political commentary, mastering the art of sharp, antagonistic and inventive rhymes through their rapid-fire delivery in both English and Hindi. The first single from their upcoming debut album ‘Shaktiman’ is produced by Sez On The Beat, and constitutes a fiery declaration of working class struggles; riffing off the metaphor expressed in the cult Indian TV series of the same name, the track imparts an underlying emancipatory message of self-belief, encouraging listeners to break free from the shackles of everyday life and empower themselves.
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Mumbai-based MC and producer Tienas is a breath of fresh air in the city’s hip-hop community. Bringing to the forefront a Nujabes-inspired sound that hasn’t been seen before in a region dominated by ‘gully rap’, Tienas’ ability to craft together complex narratives on fluctuating, chaotic beats has earmarked him as one of the most interesting new artists to emerge on the Indian independent music scene this year. His debut mixtape ‘Unavailable’ is a brazen showcase of his mercurial talent, oscillating between old school, chaotic hip-hop beats and a future-soul sound that showcases his songwriting ability. The project was released to widespread critical acclaim, and a show-stopping performance at the Azadi Records Roster Showcase has ramped up anticipation for his debut full-length album, scheduled for release next year.
Amidst the growing popularity of the dark, late-night sound in the Philippines’ emergent scene, Alisson Shore’s blissful falsetto and sweet harmonies stand out amongst the crowd. A producer/singer songwriter in Manila, he identifies his style to be a mix of lo-fi R&B and futuristic pop, reflective of a blend of influences into which latest single ‘Watercolor’ fits perfectly. Shore uses his vivid songwriting ability to tell a tale of failed relationships and bad chemistry, using a painting motif to explore the “symbolism of two non-identical colors that when blended in, no matter how hard we mix or add/lessen, it just doesn’t seem to look or blend well.”