Throughout the times, stories with certain names have returned over and over. Today, I spent far too much time staring at the screen with my headphones on trying to pen down the names of a few musicians, who came to the fore in the independent music ‘scene’ in 2017. The homegrown music approach in India may be nascent, but definitely has a promising future, thanks to some amazing musicians who chose to break out of the norm and create music that they believe in. According to Meetal Shah of Saavn, “In 2014, Bollywood contributed to 80% of music consumption in and now with international, independent and regional music being consumed more than before, Bollywood consumption contributes to 55% of Saavn’s streams. With diverse listening habits, we’ve seen the genre and language pie change each year”. With a surge in music festivals and platforms for non-Bollywood musicians, independent artists across the country have broadened the field with their fresh sounds, contemporary concepts, unique collaborations, innovative visuals, wide-ranging music videos and a spirit that might well prove to be game-changing for the Indian music scene.
Amidst of all the names, here is a curated roster of musicians (in alphabetical order) who have created quite a buzz in 2017 with their fresh sounds, new releases, along with several tours across India and more. We can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for these players. Have a look.
Aditi Ramesh: Corporate Lawyer turned musician, 27-year old Aditi Ramesh owns a phenomenal voice flattered by a range of skills and tonal variations, Aditi is definitely not just another girl singer. After quitting her job in 2016, she recorded her first single Efflux of Time. Aditi released her second single Stuff On Our Minds (from her debut EP Autocorrect) under Nrtya in August 2017. She has been inspired by blues, jazz and trained in Carnatic music, Aditi’s musical development portrays her roots, her thoughts, what she believes in, symphonic harmonies, elaborate melodies and her versatile voice in a poetic mode. Aditi is now gearing up for her Autocorrect EP Tour, also another tour with her band the Ladies Compartment (A 5-piece all-female band comprised of Aditi Ramesh, Kirsten Marea, Ramya Pothuri, Aarifah Rebello and Nandita V) in January and February 2018.
Past works: Autocorrect (Debut EP, released on 14 September 2017)
Burudu: Burudu, the duo of Nakul Sharma and Sahil Bhatia has been making music since 2013, however, they saw a rise of fame last year with their single release in June 2017, Zardin Zetwal featuring Mauritian rapper Myckee, followed by their debut album release, Ditties on 24 November 2017. Ditties is one eccentric album and topping the electronica charts all over since its release on Apple Music. The groovy organic electronica album was on number two on Apple charts (27 November). The combination of Nakul and Sahil along with other artists’ musical variations allowed them to grasp a deeper idea of fusion to create something innovative, yet concealed. Apart from touring at some of the biggest festivals in the country, the duo recently released a music video from the album Still Laying Here ft. Daniella Bastien that portrays imagination being the only sanctuary.
Past works: Sun Theory, Zardin Zetwal, Ditties
Upcoming: Ditties will hit the road soon as the band members are preparing for a massive India tour from January-April 2018.
Dhruv Visvanath: Dhruv Visvanath, known as the ‘Guitar Spanker’ is the only Indian to get a mention in 30 great guitarists under 30 by the prominent Acoustic Guitar Magazine in 2014. Dhruv’s newest crowd-funded single Jungle from his upcoming album The Lost Cause was released on 24 November 2017. Based on human nature, filled with mysteries that make us fearful, the song Jungle is one of the most powerful tracks you’ll ever hear. Typically, the single portrays Dhruv’s love for creating immense, emphatic pieces of melody, which tell us a story. Adding to this list of accomplishments, Dhruv has been associated with Vishal Dadlani’s record label VLT Records, (Orion was released on VLT Records), also he has been touring in India throughout the year. Last but not the least, Dhruv will be performing at the Canadian Music Week in Canada in May 2018. Next year is already looking good for him.
Past works: Orion, Chaos, Four, Jungle
Upcoming: The Lost Cause
Komorebi: I saw/heard Tarana performing live at NH7 Pune in 2016 and became a fangirl since then. New Delhi-based vocalist, instrumentalist and producer Tarana Marwah’s electronica act Komorebi (formed in 2015) has mesmerized listeners over the past two years with its idyllic sounds. After an exceptional debut with the self-titled EP in February 2015, Tarana collaborated Grain (Gaurav Raina) for Dream, Mohini Dey (bassist for two of the album Soliloquy), Sohrab Nicholson and Warren Mendonsa among others, for her long-awaited debut album Soliloquy (released on 1 October 2017. Komorebi, which means ‘sunlight seen shining through leaves’ in Japanese, musically, it is best defined as dreamy, organic and surreal electronica that has subtle beats, wide-ranging melodies and delicate analogue synth work. Komorebi has definitely found footing in the budding underground world of ambient electronica last year.
Past works: Komorebi: Volume I, Dream, Soliloquy
MojoJojo: Delhi-based DJ/Producer Akshay Johar produces ‘Bass Heavy’ music under the alias MojoJojo and noticeable immediately because of his edgy music. Oh yes! His fine moustache too. In just a year’s time, having ruled almost 100 gigs, a four-track EP release and five bootlegs/remixes, a banging music video, Shankar in a motion, Akshay’s latest, a remix of Humma Humma featuring the pop legend Neeraj Shridhar (released on Times Music, July 2017) was a smashing one. Having been into music since age 10, Akshay recently got into OML’s artist roaster last year and made one of his dream come true by turning his bedroom studio into a fully equipped music production studio in his hometown Delhi.
Past works: Shots Fired, Shankar, Humma Humma ft. Bombay Vikings.
Naezy: Naezy is one of those rappers who brings out the distinctive sound of the rap circuit in India and explains a story in a diverse way. Being a part of the underground rap music ‘scene’ for a long time now, his latest release Aane De (composed by Naezy and Karan Kanchan) is about letting righteousness soak within and keeping away from negativity. If you read between the lines, you will get this note: Let it come, bring it on!
Past works: Aane De, Azaad Hu Mai (The first artist to collaborate with Saavn for its Artist Original Program).
Prabh Deep: These days, when there is so much discussion about India’s underground hip-hop music and community (that is not underground anymore), we can’t think of missing out Delhi-based MC/rapper Prabh Deep. Prabh Deep’s music that has traces of traditional Punjabi folk numbers, will give you a picture of the time where and how he grew up, the neighbourhood that’s struggling with high unemployment rates, poverty, and inflow of drugs. Born and brought up in Tilak Nagar, a high-school dropout, the 23-year old rapper Prabh Deep is gifted with a matchless voice and a self-made man in every possible way. Adding to that, his debut 12-track album Class-Sikh (collaborated with Sajeel Kapoor aka Sez ) that released on Azadi Records, was at No 2 on the iTunes India albums chart on 16 October 2017. Prabh is also pushing for and organising MC Battles in the city besides being a recording artist.
Past works: Class Sikh, Chi Chi, Ilaka (Ft. Mc Heam in both).
Sandunes: Mumbai-based producer Sanaya Ardeshir is one of those eminent musicians, who has been building a series of elusive soundscapes through soaring synth harmonies and eccentric clattered drums. Multiple collaborations, fusing different elements, treating the gears and the tools with ease,these have been Sanaya’s forte. Having played at the first ever edition of Boiler Room at antiSOCIAL Mumbai (December 2016) and remarkably at Manchester International Festival (July 2017) where she opened for Grammy-nominated Musician Simon Green (Bonobo), and recently at Magnetic Field’s fifth edition, Sanaya’s sundry mishmash of electronica with progressive electronic elements is literally off the hook.
Past works: Downstream, Unfinish, Slybounce & Moon Detector Remixes
Upcoming: NOLA Daydream
Sid Vashi: An eccentric, ground-breaking producer/composer and multi-instrumentalist would be the perfect choice of words for the blue-hair boy Sid Vashi. His debut album Azuma Kazuma (May 2017) emphasised his musical versatility and is a perfect blend of jazz, rock, ambient, and R&B. Vashi’s live acts are quite a cinematic experience as he exerts a saxophone, along with his infectious vocals, an ensemble of drums, keyboards, and guitars quite seamlessly. I can strongly say that Sid is one of the most imaginative musicians we came across in 2017. To the known and unknown, Sid recently composed for Bajaao’s short documentary Dharavi Hustle along with Rohan Ramanna, and Ankit Gandhi Lal. He is a neuroscience undergraduate too and planning for higher studies abroad.
Past works: Azuma Kazuma, Motherland Tourism
Zoya Mohan: Talk about Indian alternative pop acts, India born, California raised singer/songwriter Zoya Mohan continues to be a part of the global music industry with multiple collaborations and performances at festivals like Nariyal Paani, Sula Fest, Echoes of Earth, and lastly at Sunburn in 2017 among others. With three albums to her name and countless tours worldwide in the past, this Berklee College of Music Alumni has also been a part of songwriting master classes organised by Furtados School of Music, Colors Infinity and Global Music Institute (Delhi) last year. Among numerous releases, her notable works include, The Shaman and The Singer (July 2017), followed by another one Hollow (collaboration with ViceVersa, Mr.Doss and Diefferent, on 29 October), Heart Rates (collaboration with Chrms) among others. Besides, a New Year ‘Gift’ to her listeners, her recent release Leave Me Red was out on 26 December 2017 and that is the first of many singles she will be releasing every two weeks.
Past works: The Shaman & the Singer, I My Mind, Leave Me Red, Hollow
Upcoming: A new collaboration with Malfnktion.
Even with Bollywood being the dominant force in India’s music scene, these fierce bunch of independent artists have really made it huge in the last few years. No fancy words needed for folks like Ankur and Ghalat Family (released Side B on 22 February 2017), Blackstratblues aka Warren Mendonsa (released The Last Analog Generation on 28 August 2017), Prateek Kuhad (Tum Jab Pass and multiple tours all across India and abroad), and Sufi rock sensation Parvaaz’s contribution (Debut North America Tour and debut in Bollywood with the song Beparwah for Vodka Diaries) to the independent music space in India. Do check out these homegrown musicians for some truly unique tunes, soulful vibes, and lastly pure eargasm.