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 catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers 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 internalised 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.