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:
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 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
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.”
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.”
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.”