The MX Player series Times of Music, in which composers across generations and genres rearrange and perform each other’s songs, got Sneha Khanwalkar to experience her first ever live set. In her excitement, she revealed on stage, she “went all in” and threw in a table fan as one of the instruments.

The July 11 episode paired Khanwalkar with Indian Ocean. The five-piece fusion rockers expanded Khanwalkar’s electronic Punjabi song Tung Tung (MTV Sound Trippin) into lush folk-rock, bringing in Kashmiri influences, among others.

Khanwalkar turned the band’s apocalyptic Bandeh (Black Friday, 2007) into what she cheekily described to as a “Boiler Room track”. Khanwalkar’s take was a gloomy eight-minute electronic affair, with several layers of synths, guttural vocals from lyricist Piyush Mishra, and a dreamy distorted trumpet.

“I wanted to take the song out of the film’s context of communalism and terrorism and take it to a higher plane, commenting on man and nature,” Khanwalkar said. On the show, Mishra described the new version, with his fresh lyrics describing the aftermath of violence, as a response, while he called the original song a warning.

Sneha Khanwalkar's version of Indian Ocean's Bandeh (2020), feat. Piyush Mishra and Rajan Batra.

The 37-year-old composer of Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008) and Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) hasn’t had a soundtrack release since the 2018 film Manto. She flew to Netherlands shortly after the film’s release to “research on a new genre of music I can’t reveal for an Anurag Kashyap film”, she said. This was followed by her marriage to filmmaker Kanu Behl in 2019, and the birth of her son Dunya in January 2020.

Her upcoming releases include the soundtrack of casting director Honey Trehan’s first film Raat Akeli Hai, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte.

In between, the geeky and reclusive Khanwalkar had been tinkering in her home studio, putting out some of her experimental scratches on her YouTube channel. Inspired by Abhinay Khoparzim, and Akash Sharma of Sound.Codes, she also made some breakthrough in producing music via coding, in which she had expressed interest in an earlier interview with A sample of her algorithmic music, Sur Ki Nadiya, features her singing in Raag Bhairavi.

Sur Ki Nadiya (2020) by Sneha Khanwalkar.

We asked Khanwalkar to share some of the eclectic music she’s tuned into. Here is her list: Tangerine Dream, Jun Miyake, Klaus Schulze, Moody Good, Lorn, Mark Guilliana, The Flying Lizards, Pierre Schaeffer, Rob Clouth, Lamb, and Jan Jelinek.

Moving beyond what’s new on her playlist, here are three all-time favourite records that Khanwalkar frequently turns to for inspiration.

Selmasongs: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack ‘Dancer in the Dark’, Bjork (2000).
My favourite song in Selmasongs is I’ve Seen It All. Bjork has been my forever go-to artist. She really means her music. But I do feel that she used to experiment from album to album initially, but once she found a sound, she committed to it, but I guess that happens with most artists.

I've Seen It All, Bjork feat. Thom Yorke.

Piano Works compilation, John Cage.
I still try to understand his music. I remember I was with a friend in a hotel in Lachen, Sikkim, right around the time when the Nepal earthquake happened in 2015. We had landslides here, so the locals were worried, and I was looking out the window, listening to John Cage, feeling very calm and relieved. His music is very interesting. Between one ting of the piano and the next, there’s a lot of space, it’s very sparse and minimalist.

Piano Works, John Cage.

Moondog’s self-titled album (1969).
Moondog was this wizard-like blind avant-garde musician hanging around on Sixth Avenue in New York City. Although he used typical orchestral elements, like horns, strings, woodwinds, his music was very surreal. My favourite track from the album is Bird’s Lament, and it’s also Dunya’s favourite. He goes to sleep every time I play it. I’m not sure if he is musical yet, time will tell.

Bird's Lament, Moondog.

Also read:

Everything is musical for composer Sneha Khanwalkar (as long as it’s ‘interesting’)

Playlist picks: ‘Leila’ and ‘Sacred Games’ composer Alokananda Dasgupta lists her influences