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Having recently announced that he’s signed to Mass Appeal India (the New York based label co-founded by Nas), Indian rapper DIVINE (aka Vivian Fernandes) has shared the explosive lead single from his forthcoming debut album ‘Kohinoor’. The single, of the same name, features production from iLL Wayno who serves the perfect backdrop for DIVINE to lay down his fiery verses as he raps about his past experiences shaping his present life – a diamond (‘Kohinoor’ is the name of the largest cut diamond in the world) in the making.
Twenty year old rapper Spitfire from Madhya Pradesh first encountered hip-hop when he was in the 11th grade. His debut EP ‘Paathshala’, released on IncInk Records, talks about his own life story and how he found the strength to break through stereotypes and find his own identity. An interesting spoken-word poetry approach layered with an offbeat and ambient atmosphere suits Nitin’s poetic chops the best. The underlying theme of the EP revolves around how hip-hop and rap as an art form has added a lot of value in his life making him the person that he is today and how he would like to exercise this medium to continue to teach and inform his audiences. With vigour and boldness in his voice and word play ‘Paathshala’ can be quite accessible to tune into at a club or at home.
‘Jaago’ is one of the most critically acclaimed albums to have been released by an Indian independent artist this year. Lifafa is the solo project of Suryakant Sawhney who is also the frontman at Peter Cat Recording Co. that came to life as a part of a quest to find his identity. Adopting a more organic approach, the album builds up as a live set to an audience would, the tracks start off slow with prolonged harmonium and gradually build up to more danceable disco worthy grooves. A perfect combination of vintage soulful Bollywood in a modern electronic setting bridges or eliminates the gap between the highly commercial movie industry and the independent music scene.
Mumbai based producer and vocalist Your Chin has recently dropped new single ‘Horticulturist’ his first release in three years. One of India’s most seasoned artists, he has never failed to impress listeners with his whimsical take on electro-pop. His music often comes across as effortless mood music, but there is a solid groundwork of talent and aesthetic sense that supports it all. Rich layered beats with catchy choruses giving out a sombre message disguised in feel good metaphors, resulted in a multifaceted sound totally unique to him. Highlighting a contrast when listening to music, that of being a joyous experience to thought provoking the artist returns to his sonic roots making this the first of many releases lined up for the year.
Influenced by Flume, Mura Masa, Odesza and Mr. Carmack; young electronic producer Chrms (pronounced Charms) has been experimenting with design, film and music since he was nine. Not subjected to any genre, his productions mainly vary from indie dream pop to lush, ethereal, bass heavy electronic music. Garnering a secure hold within the independent music scene in India, his debut EP ‘Lover Boy’ takes one through the diverse genres that have been explored by this young producer. Bone Soda ft Rae is a smooth composition infused with distinctive synth elements making for a tune one can groove to on the dance floor. The contrast of the rap and the subtlety of the production makes for the perfect balance merging two different worlds together.
Urban ecologist, Aditi Veena aka Ditty gracefully transitions between spoken word and singing in her debut album ‘Poetry Ceylon’. Inspired by the natural world and people on the island of Sri Lanka, the album is an earthy, diverse and experimental journey of music that offers listeners an invitation to feel all that is beautiful and heart wrenching about being a human. There is a natural ease in her delivery of lyrics mainly written around her knowledge of the earth, of cities, of her own self and the ruin of nature coupled with melancholic vocals. The album is recorded by Shantanu Pandit and arranged by Dhruv Bhola who have added a touch of finesse to her captivating voice rendering an irresistible charm.
Nineteen year old singer-songwriter, Karshni finds comfort in playing the guitar, experimenting with production and incorporating electronic elements in her songs. Her music is a reflection of how she feels in the moment and is usually the result of impulsive lyricism at a very emotional time. Her single ‘Fomo’ is characterised by a haunting melody, that is slightly muted to signify the fear of missing out which is faced by a large part of the youth today. From popular vices to parties the whole paraphernalia of what it means to be a teenager, the popular youth slang is a depiction of the actual fear that suffocates the artist.
‘Floated By’ is the latest release by New Delhi based band Peter Cat Recording Co. from their forthcoming album ‘Bismillah’. Coupled with a brilliant music video capturing the lead vocalist’s wedding, there is a realness and lack of pretence as opposed to the grandeur observed in Indian matrimony. Doing what they do best, greeting the listeners with a groovy horn aided piece accompanied by uplifting guitar riffs and basslines, the intent of the album is taking the audience through a culmination of their journey over the past 8 years. One can’t help the light hearted fuzzy feeling on hearing the spirited vocal performance filled with exuberance yet holding a strong emotion of melancholy.
Three Oscillators consists of Brij Dalvi and Avit Rane who strive to give their songs an identity and character of their own while narrating stories through this wonderful, limitless medium we call electronic music. Their sound leans toward, but doesn’t limit itself to genres like post-dubstep and glitch hop, sometimes with a slight deviation towards bass music. Having released two EPs, the duo aim to make a lasting impact and have more ears listening to their music in the coming years. ‘Drowning’ is a collaboration with singer song writer Karshni who often makes all her music via an app called Bandlab where the early version of this track was found was built upon adding the finishing touches to the production.
‘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.
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.
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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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.
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.