New Music

Five independent Indian bands that deserve a place on your playlist

The indie music scene is flourishing.

The independent music scene in India may have finally found its groove. There has been an outpouring of fresh talent over the past decade, a new festival is launched every year, bedroom and basement studios have created a thriving electronic music scene, and live music is performed at the most unlikely venues.

New bands know this is the time to create original content, to experiment. They may not get major deals, but the internet will still afford them listeners, some of them of the dedicated variety who can sing their lyrics back to them at concerts.

Here are five Indian bands which have released interesting music that deserves a place on your playlist:

Begum

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The Delhi-based experimental trio Begum describe themselves as “dreamy, lo-fi, experimental perverteres”. It is an apt description, given their jam band aesthetic, songwriting, nostalgia-inducing sound, and the overall eccentricity of the men: Kartik Pillai (guitar and vocals), Karan Singh (drums and keys) and Tushar Mohan (bass and sample man).

While there’s an obvious overlap in sound – two of the trio’s members are from the gypsy/indie act Peter Cat Recording Company – there is a noisy elegance to Begum, especially in their latest album, We Are Excited. A rawness characterises their songs.

The Ritornellos

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The Ritornellos came together after Kolkata’s beloved The Supersonics split: the former’s vocalist-guitarist Ananda Sen and drummer Avinash Chordia paired up with musicians from the local scene – Nicholas Rixon (guitars, vocals), Roheet Mukherjee (bass) and Ritaprabha Ray (guitars) – to create a refreshing sound reminiscent of The Rolling Stones and The Band.

Nearly two years of jamming and rehearsing have resulted in a setlist of eight immersive tunes characterised by vocal harmonies, fluid guitar licks and an infectious energy. These new old kids on the block are definitely a band to watch out for.

Run! It’s the Kid

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A band which churns out one amazing track after another is the young Delhi-based waltz/rock quartet, Run! It’s the Kid. Led by the soft voice of singer-songwriter Shantanu Pandit, alongside guitarist-keyboardist Dhruv Bhola, drummer Bhairav Gupta and bassist Danik Ghosh, the band released their beautiful eponymous debut album in early 2016.

Moody and soulful, there is a sense of home and hope in these ballad-like compositions. Their repertoire shows promising songwriting. The vividness of imagery in songs like Haste, where Pandit writes, “so flap your wings/and fly away/into the foreign skies/pay no mind towards/the clinging grip/of fallen ties”, will ring true for many.

Speaking of his favorite song from the record, Pandit said, “June is the one song on the album that we all feel didn’t turn out as well as we’d hoped. It kind of came out as an offshoot to another song called A Great Big Scare. One night, when I was struggling with the lyrics for A Great Big Scare and just strumming around, I ended up with this new idea for a song and pretty much wrote June in 20 minutes or so. I like it most because lyrically, it’s really concise and came together all at once. I didn’t really have to think about it.”

Lawntuba

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Last May, Lawntuba released their debut EP, On Silver Clouds, offering a unique blend of late 1960s American acoustic folk, Hindi film music, 1990s alternative rock, dream-pop and Intelligent Dance Music. It was the genius of two musicians Siddhant Vernekar and Krishna Purohit coming together and the result was beautiful – catchy, serene and experimental.

Ever since the release, the band – which has now grown by two members, Shalom Benjamin and Aarifah Rebello – has been playing shows regularly in Mumbai to a dedicated fan base.

“We hope and plan to release an album later this year and get better performing live,” Vernekar said. “Another thing on the cards is spreading our music as much as possible throughout the Indian popular sonic landscape and hopefully, outside of it too.”

Yesterdrive

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Indie-rock quartet Yesterdrive is easily among the the most energetic bands from the North East, and among the most underrated in the country. Originally from Arunachal Pradesh and based in Delhi since 2013, the band’s Vampire Weekend-esque bounciness, catchy melodies, entertaining music videos and dynamic stage presence make them hard to ignore.

While they took time off to write new music recently, their music is totally worth the wait. “We belong to different parts of North East India,” the band said. “It all began in Delhi as the brainchild of Molee lollen for an EP. We make music for the love of it and we believe in simplicity in the music that we make.”

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From Indian pizzas in San Francisco to bhangra competitions in Boston

A guide to the Indian heart of these American cities.

The United States of America has for long been more than a tourist destination for Indians. With Indians making up the second largest immigrant group in the USA, North American cities have a lot to offer to the travel weary Indian tourist. There are umpteen reasons for an Indian to visit vibrant education and cultural hubs like Boston and San Francisco. But if you don’t have a well-adjusted cousin to guide you through the well-kept Indian secrets, this guide to the Indian heart of Boston and San Francisco should suffice for when you crave your fix.

Boston

If you aren’t easily spooked, Boston is the best place to be at in October due to its proximity to Salem. You can visit the Salem Witch Village to learn about present-day wiccans and authentic witchcraft, or attend séances and Halloween parades with ghosts, ghouls and other frightening creatures giving you a true glimpse of America during Halloween. But the macabre spirit soon gives way to a dazzling array of Christmas lighting for the next two months. The famed big Christmas trees are accompanied by festive celebrations and traditions. Don’t miss The Nutcracker, the sugar-laced Christmas adventure.

While it upholds its traditions, Boston is a highly inclusive and experimental university town. It welcomes scores of Indian students every year. Its inclusiveness can be gauged from the fact that Berklee College of Music released a well-received cover of AR Rahman’s Jiya Jale. The group, called the Berklee Indian Ensemble, creates compositions inspired by Indian musical styles like the Carnatic thillana and qawwali.

Boston’s Bollywood craze is quite widespread beyond the campuses too. Apple Cinemas in Cambridge and Regal Fenway Cinemas in Fenway can be your weekly fix as they screen all the major upcoming Bollywood movies. Boston tends to be the fighting ground for South Asian Showdowns in which teams from all over the North-Eastern coast gather for Bollywood-themed dance offs. The Bhangra competitions, especially, are held with the same energy and vigour as back home and are open to locals and tourists alike. If nothing else, there are always Bollywood flash mob projects you can take part in to feel proudly desi in a foreign land.

While travellers love to experiment with food, most Indian travellers will agree that they need their spice fix in the middle of any foreign trip. In that respect, Boston has enough to satisfy cravings for Indian food. North Indian cuisine is popular and widely available, but delicious South Indian fare can also be found at Udupi Bhavan. At Punjab Palace, you can dig into a typical North Indian meal while catching a Bollywood flick on one of their TVs. Head to Barbecue International for cross-continental fusion experiments, like fire-roasted Punjabi-style wings with mint and chilli sauce.

Boston is prominent on the radar of Indian parents scouting for universities abroad and the admission season especially sees a lot of prospective students and parents looking for campus tours and visits. To plan your visit, click here.

San Francisco

San Francisco is an art lover’s delight. The admission-free Trolley Dances, performed in October, focus on engaging with the communities via site-specific choreographies that reflect the city’s cultural diversity. Literature lovers can experience a Dickensian Christmas and a Victorian holiday party at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, a month-long gala affair starting in November.

As an Indian, you’ll be spoilt for choice in San Francisco, especially with regards to food. San Francisco’s sizeable Indian population, for example, has several aces hidden up its sleeve. Take this video by Eater, which claims that the ‘Indian’ pizza at Zante’s Restaurant is the city’s best kept secret that needs outing. Desi citizens of San Francisco are big on culinary innovation, as is evident from the popularity of the food truck Curry Up Now. With a vibrant menu featuring Itsy Bitsy Naan Bits and Bunty Burrito and more, it’s not hard to see why it is a favourite among locals. Sunnyvale, with its large concentration of Indians also has quirky food on offer. If you wish to sample Veer Zaara Pizza, Dabangg Pizza or Agneepath Pizza, head to Tasty Subs & Pizza.

There are several Indian temples in Sunnyvale, Fremont and San Jose that also act as effective community spaces for gatherings. Apart from cultural events, they even hold free-for-all feasts that you can attend. A little-known haven of peace is the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple. Their Anjaneya World Cafe serves delicious mango lassi; the beverage is a big hit among the local population.

If you’re looking for an Indian movie fix during your travels, the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival’s theme this year is Bollywood and Beyond. Indian film enthusiasts are in for a treat with indie projects, art-house classics, documentaries and other notable films from the subcontinent being screened.

San Francisco’s autumn has been described as ‘Indian summer’ by the locals and is another good season to consider while planning a trip. The weather lends more vigour to an already vibrant cultural scene. To plan your trip, click here.

An Indian traveller is indeed spoilt for choice in Boston and San Francisco as an Indian fix is usually available just around the corner. Offering connectivity to both these cities, Lufthansa too provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its India-bound flights and flights departing from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.