Every now and then, you find a melody that sticks in your head. Often, this is the effect of wily production tricks, which the music industry has invested a lot of research in. YouTube, and the radio, is full of them – the songs sound similar to each other, or follow a formula, because everyone wants a hit. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. In these lands of mercantile auto-tune, hedonistic lyrics and programmable instrumentation, the singer-songwriter is a rare bird.
One such songbird is a teenager who goes by the name Aditi Dot, whose composition Everybody Dances to Techno is being circulated among music enthusiasts with a predilection for the original and esoteric. The song, among a few uploaded by 18-year-old Dot on her YouTube channel, is instantly hummable and stays with one well past the first listen.
Although the title evokes images of laser-lit basements playing loud, repetitive music at 127 BPM, listeners will be enchanted by the playful lament which greets them instead. Held together by Dot’s delicate mezzo-soprano and giddy piano notes, it’s a curious amalgamation that is somewhere between the refrain of Etta James and the frolic of early Regina Spektor.
Dot offers insight on how the song came to be: “I think I wrote it mainly because I do this thing where I lock myself in my room and play Pink Martini on full blast and put on my salsa heels to dance. Only problem is I keep crashing into cupboards and stuff and I really want a partner so I can dance properly. I want a platonic relationship with this partner as well.”
Her comfort with the piano adds up, when you learn that she has been playing it since she was six. While Everybody Dances to Techno seems to tip its hat to the soul music of the ’60s, Dot maintains that she only started getting into classical music when she began studying it in high school and now at Bangor University, Wales (where she is pursuing a joint honours in creative writing and music). She claims to be swayed more by singers who have a way with words, like KT Tunstall and Fiona Apple, and lists artists such as Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Pink Martini, Kaleo, Jack Johnson, Glass Animals and Oh Wonder as influences.
Since Dot is the daughter of the late Amit Saigal, rock musician and founder of India’s first rock magazine Rock Street Journal (a contribution which earned him the title of “Papa Rock” in the indie music community), she has a treasure trove of musical memories. “I remember waking up to music a lot. Sometimes it would be Frou Frou (Imogen Heap) or Diogal Sakho playing his Samba Alla. Dad would be playing his djembe along as I tumbled out of my bedroom. I also remember singing to this one cassette that used to be in my nani’s car called Dances from Around the World. My favourite was Dean Martin’s Mambo Italiano.”
Dot’s YouTube channel features a number of her original compositions and a couple of covers. Asymmetrical is a quirky number addressed to her psychology teacher, who taught students that the biological criterion for being attractive was a symmetrical face (Dot’s lyrics: “she said that love and attraction are just chemical reactions in the brain/ we like our lovers to be with symmetry just perfectly written on the face”). Alaw appears to draw from the rainy Welsh countryside and the characteristics of the people who inhabit it. Also notable are Reassure Me and Unwanted Opinions.
“I don’t usually have a place in mind when I write, it’s usually a feeling,” Dot said. “If a place instils that feeling in me, then, yeah, that’s what Alaw was. I chose Bangor because it was the perfect size. It’s located in a beautiful area and, most importantly, it offered a course on songwriting. I haven’t really left Bangor since I came here and have just been going for local gigs and open mics. Seems to me though that Manchester is where it’s at [for live music]. You get a whole range of artists from the undiscovered to the world famous.”
While the music industry has been usurped by corporate interests, the way music affects people and resonates with them hasn’t changed. Online platforms like YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify help artists reach a wider audience and facilitate interactions between the creator and listener. Thanks to her uploads, Dot has been getting some gigs in India and Bangor.
While she is currently engrossed with her studies, she hints at a possible music career. “Do everything even if it doesn’t fall in a perfect frame of what you’re meant to do with your life – I guess that’s my plan,” she said. “I won’t ever stop myself from doing something just because it doesn’t conform to some musician’s ideal path.”
Many of Dot’s followers appear to be perplexed by her curious moniker. “Once my mum and I were colouring in a colouring book, I must have been 10, and she started making dots outside the lines,” she said, with the air of one accustomed to telling the story. “I asked her why and she said ‘Dot’s never hurt anyone and they make it look so interesting’. A dot is small but significant. It has the potential to be something but it doesn’t try to be something it’s not.”