All you independent music lovers, let us assure you there is no doomsday coming for non-film music or underground music in India, all thanks to a few good people. In the last few years, there has been a boom in the labels that have emerged in the independent music community, each with a strong base of listeners. These labels support art, promote talents and give artists a solid base. We looked at 10 independent labels that have helped to shape the alternative music landscape expand in India.
A Delhi based socially conscious label, Azadi Records was started by Mo Joshi and Uday Kapur in 2017. Azadi aims to build a support system for artists who are ignored by the mainstream, to reach their full potential exploring new sounds. They not only release music but also offer managerial services, promotion and marketing of talents. The label promotes hip-hop artists, Prabh Deep, Sun J and Sez (who produces Divine and Naezy’s tracks). Sun J comes from Mohammadpur Azad Basti and writes and raps about life. Azadi has a tie-up with Cobalt Music, which is a US-based publishing house. The label plans to expand their base from Delhi to other cities in the future.
Consolidate, the Bengaluru-based label was an online community when it was launched by Rahul Giri aka _RHL in 2013. He used to gather music producers from Bengaluru, share music by upcoming music producers, also organised monthly gig at a venue in Bangalore for a short while. End of 2015, Rahul launched Consolidate as a record label along with an eclectic group of musicians and it is one of the best things to happen to the electronic music scene in India! According to Rahul, though the Independent music industry is prospering, it has a very small radius. “It is challenging and it depends on what kind of music you are making. If you are contracted to a booking agency and making club-friendly electronic music then you are sorted. Otherwise, it’s tough.”
In its turn of phrase, the label has been successful in releasing work by Aerate Sound, Worm’s Cottage, Disco Puppet, Aniruddh Menon and more. Consolidate collaborated with the Pakistan based record label Foreversouth at the Magnetic Fields Festival, 2015 edition that created quite a stir.
Started by Rishu Singh in 2004, ennui.BOMB is an independent music label based in Mumbai. Rishu started out this with his love for compilations, different mixtapes, and since then ennui.BOMB, has been growing from strength to strength aiming to release materials from young Indian bands, also manage artists, and music consulting. The label has released EPs by two Indian artists like Blek – Hexes + Drama & Other Reasons for Evacuation and The Riot Peddlers – Sarkarsm in 2012. Also, 12 compilations of original and independent Indian music such as Stupiditties 10: Once A D*ck … (2016), Stupidtties: 9 Lives, 1 Death, Big F*ck (2015), Stupiditties 8 My Mind (2014), Stupiditties 666: Satan Lives! (2012), Stupiditties 4: Awesome Foursome (2010), We Are the Scene (2005) among others.
In addition, ennui.BOMB created a perspective on the subculture of modern music with the New Wave Asia that has accomplished its fourth edition in 2017.
Started in 2012 by Producer/DJ Praveen Achary, the intention of starting the label was to be an Indian-based representation of the ‘melodic and deeper side of the house, progressive and techno’ sound that Praveen also enjoys pushing and playing out as a DJ. “It is a platform that similar artists/producers from India could release on a label based in their own country with the same global reach as another international label would, and also present international artists that may be overlooked to our Indian audience as well. The expectation of a label comes in for their expertise, direction as well as ‘reach’ that the artist themselves may not have already,” Praveen stated.
As per him Juicebox’s best releases so far has to be SEQU3l’s “Timelapse” EP, Li-Polymer’s “Mellifluous” and Monojoke’s “Arterials” EP.
Ever since the label started, Juicebox Music had 26 individual releases with 12 Indian artists and 48 international artists spread across those releases. After two last kickass releases Arterials and Elements – Volume 2, Juicebox Music kicked off 2018 with a single called ‘Ozaki 8’ from a legendary Greek producer Dousk who collaborated with countryman Jorgio Kioris. Next is an EP from another Greek artist – Tash (Movement Recordings), then somewhere down the year an EP from India’s SHFT as well as a 5-track EP from another Indian artist making his return to the label – Weird Sounding Dude.
Kadak Apple Records
Started by singer-songwriter Tejas Menon and his friend Krish Makhija in January 2014, Kadak Apple Records is an indie music label and home to a songwriter collective in Mumbai. The label has some Kadak (कड़क) artists to their artist roaster including Mali, Tejas, Awkward Bong, Ramya Pothuri, Fat Yellow Moon, Short Round, Bone Broke and Aarifah Rebello. Intending to release quality original music for a growing independent music industry, there was no looking back for Kadak Apple since its debut release Tejas’ 5-song EP called Small Victories. Kadak Apple’s latest release was Tejas’ hotly anticipated debut LP, Make It Happen (2017) featuring 10 tracks ranging from almost every single influence Tejas has ever had including Funk, RnB, Electronica, Rock and Folk, all rolled into one epic pop-rock experience. Also, another release by Mumbai-based musician Jishnu Guha AKA Short Round’s With Friends Like These EP (2017), Rush EP by Mali (2017) among others.
The Mumbai-based label was founded (September 2016) by Aazin Printer and Kumail Hamid with the intent to facilitate international collaborations for artists in India, thus pushing the boundaries further for the independent music scene. Knowmad Records features artists from across the globe. Some of the names on the label include Sweatson Klank (Los Angeles, USA), Daisuke Tanabe (Chiba, Japan), Dynoman from Forever South (Karachi, Pakistan) and Smileswithteeth (Montreal, Canada). The Indian counterparts on the producers’ roster include Kumail Hamid and Profound. Knowmad recently organised its second edition of Knowmad Sounds, a brand new live audio-visual set at The Humming Tree, Bengaluru on 2 February featuring Malfnktion, Consolidate bossman _RHL and Shantnu Arya.
Established in 2015 by Vishnu PS aka Soulspace and Nikhil Kaul aka Frame/Frame, Lowlit’s main aim is to be the platform that can provide artists with a space to express music with no genre related boundaries. They organised two editions of Lowlit BeatDesk as a part of a collaborative workshop that took place in Mumbai and, subsequently, Bengaluru, where producers were challenged to a make a beat using random samples selected by them within 45 minutes. After the challenge was finished, the most promising creations were chosen and finished over the next few weeks. Last year Lowlit’s musical special showcase featuring the sounds and textures of Soulspace, Schlick, Monophonik, Kaleekarma / कलीकर्मा and Frame/Frame at Razzberry Rhinoceros (24 September 2017) was off the hook.
Pagal Haina Records
Founded in 2010 by Dhruv Singh, Delhi-based label Pagal Haina is a genre-defying label. They don’t stick to signing artists based on the genres of music they make. The label is home to Prateek Kuhad, Rounak Maiti, and Ditty. With roots firmly grounded in artist development, community building and fan engagement, Pagal Haina invests in albums, their artists are making and more. They are also involved in the live gigging space where the actual profits are and the real thrill is. Apple Music picked Prateek Kuhad’s ‘In Tokens & Charms’ as the ‘Best Indian Indie Album of 2015’.
When Madhav Shorey and Gaurav started Qilla Records in 2012, the idea was to represent their own sound in a forward-thinking style of dance music, also several producers’ work who are based out of India and across the world. Primarily an underground dance music imprint, Qilla releases music that works for their sound and vision and put out timely releases in the format of EP’s, compilations and remixes. Home for underground electronic dance music producers, Qilla also manages a few artists from their own roster including Kohra, Jitter, SHFT, Audio Units, Midnight Traffic and 8-Bit Culprit, also hosts production workshops, program for clubs and music festivals. They have had over 50 releases so far which is over 200 tracks since their first release.
When Music Plus asked Madhav whether it’s naive to say that major labels are corrupt while Indies are good, he stated, “The two models are completely different and the reasons for running these two types of labels are also worlds apart so I honestly can’t compare. We’re not concerned with an artists’ previous releases, social media following or any of those things. If the music sounds good and we like it, we’ll put it out.”
After two last kickass releases Folic State’s Night Flight and Sequ3l’s Dark Waters, in next few months the label will release two releases from Hyderabad based 8 Bit Culpit and San Francisco based Filtergeist.
Since Cartel’s disbanding in 2012, Ash Roy and Ashvin Mani Sharma set up Soupherb Records in February 2013, as they wanted to explore musical limitations altogether. The idea behind Soupherb – India’s fastest growing underground independent label was to start their own platform where they can push the experimental music they like to play for like-minded people. “Once done with Jalebee Cartel, we wanted to push the avant-garde sound we choose to perform, hence we started our own label” Roy adds. After three years of the label’s inception, as Bit of Both (a collaborative project of Ash Roy and Ashvin Mani Sharma formed in 2014), they released their debut album ‘Prequels & Sequels’ on 22 January 2016 on Soupherb.
Bringing together genres like Techno, Minimal, House and their sub-genres has led to Soupherb’s collaborations taking artists across the globe and hosting tours both within Asia and Europe. Soupherb’s recent releases include Metha’s Budapest EP, remixes by Calm Chor, Folic State, and Rocko Garoni (29 January 2018), Metaheadz by Maksim Dark and remixes by Rosper, Breger (25 December 2017) among others. Recently Soupherb hosted Konzeptions bossman Markus Klee, Cosmik Konnection aka Dhruv Cosmik Khanna at Phoenix in Kolkata on 19 January 2018.
Soupherb’s releases included global and homegrown artists such as Acid Pauli, Ash Roy, Bit of Both, Maksim Dark, Calm Chor, Doktor Daniel, 8 Bit Culprit, Folic State, Midnight Traffic, Pascal Roeder, Peter Groskreutz, The Pavlov, Timboletti among others.