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Smokey The Ghost has been a pioneer in the Indian hip-hop scene for the past 15 years. A socially conscious artist from Bangalore, Smokey has been involved in all aspects of the culture, from participating in rap battles to rendering his voice for commercial movies and giving due importance to collaborations. His raps emerge out of his observation and tackle various social issues; ‘Her Name Is?’ is a concept mixtape to be heard in sequential order, hailing from a personal experience that led to the realisation of the dishonourable oppression faced in various subtle forms by women on a regular basis. While the tracks form a coherent theme, the production is an amalgamation of the work of different producers based on different ideas emerging from the same concept of abuse of female identity.
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Fopchu are a three piece electronic band from New Delhi who create alternative music unlike any other band in India. Their effervescent sound evokes a loopy ride through time with synthesisers, samples, and a rhythmic guitar-driven groove, in an intoxicating brew of charismatic vocals drawn from soulful blues, jazz and gufunktry chants. The band explores the ominous world outside with their debut EP ‘Milk Bred’; an amalgamation of funk and rock, lead single ‘The Undulating Brood Swing’ sounds exactly like the title suggests, riddled with a contagious bounce that’s guaranteed to get you moving.
Seedhe Maut represent the next stage in the evolution of Delhi’s hip-hop sound. Comprising of rappers Encore ABJ and Calm, the duo dole out verses packed with social and political commentary, mastering the art of sharp, antagonistic and inventive rhymes through their rapid-fire delivery in both English and Hindi. The first single from their upcoming debut album ‘Shaktiman’ is produced by Sez On The Beat, and constitutes a fiery declaration of working class struggles; riffing off the metaphor expressed in the cult Indian TV series of the same name, the track imparts an underlying emancipatory message of self-belief, encouraging listeners to break free from the shackles of everyday life and empower themselves.
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New Delhi singer-songwriter Kavya’s roots in music go back a long way, to memories of growing up with her mother and sister and their version of lullabies being songs by ABBA, George Michael and Boney M. A multi-instrumentalist, she encapsulates a diverse range of styles within her music, with her band Mosko dealing in upbeat party starters while her solo work features more understated sombre soulful vocals, ‘Underscore’, her latest solo release, expresses the gut need to not take things too seriously and the rewards of misdirection, as the best lessons in life are learnt when you dust yourself off after a fall. The shimmering lo-fi electronic pop number features Rohan Rajadhyakha laying down the mean piano snippets and Rohan Ramanna on production duties.
Sidharth Ezhilan writes genre-defying electronic music as Ezzyland. Starting off as a committed fan of hip-hop before discovering electronic music through Soundcloud, his music reflects his broad range of influences; though fluid in form, the core precise note selection drives the narrative with an emphasis on melody and a full sound run through experimental downtempo motifs. With his latest release ‘Kryptonite’, the Chennai-based musician creates a compact but satisfying piece, with hedonistic, melancholic lyricism marking his first attempt on vocals. His experimental approach, fusing hip-hop and electronic music with an organic groove, leads to the creation of an evolutionary sound and makes Ezzyland a definite artist to watch.
Mumbai-based live electronic act Madboy/Mink are known for their trademark electro-funk sound and high-energy theatrical performances. Delivering a cosmic disco sound with a sonic palette inspired by vivid synthesizers, their third EP ‘Persons. Elastic. Superior. Fantastic’ is a post-punk-infused psychedelic journey that is warm, lush and vibrant, and introduces the audience to a new side of the duo’s personalities. Both members hail from film backgrounds and share a keen interest in retro-futurism (a fictionality of how people in the past envisaged the future); as such, the EP’s standout track ‘Laika’ is a direct reference to the first dog to be launched into space, orbiting the earth in 1957. Contrasting with their previous louder, more club-oriented work, this latest project has an introspective and funky approach reminiscent of Daft Punk, making for a smooth listen whilst also carrying a strong political message about global issues, driven by the theme of space exploration and a perspective on the insignificance of life in the larger scheme of things.
Indie-pop duo Parekh & Singh are bringing a refreshing, dynamic energy to India’s buzzing music scene. With dreamer Nischay Parekh driving the melodies, singing and playing guitar, keyboards and synths and the more grounded, logical Jivraj Singh handling percussion and FX, they combine to conjure glowing tracks of cosmic pop that shimmer like an Indian sunset. With vibrant synth lines, stripped-down drum grooves and pop hooks, the duo establishes the addition of soul to their music to create their effortlessly crisp, neo-psychedelic sound. This year they re-released their breakthrough 2016 debut album Oceans as a deluxe version with three new ‘Dream Levels’ versions of standout tracks from the record. From the infectious, melodic opener ‘I love you Baby, I love you Doll’, the music charts the agony and ecstasy of uncertain young love, portrayed in Wes Anderson-inspired visuals that depict them working in a hotel dressed up in vivid tailored suits. Together, they represent India’s cosmopolitan youth, incoporating western influences into their rich cultural heritage; the dreamlike quality of their music and videos is firmly rooted in their hometown of Kolkata, a city frozen in time after decades of communist rule.
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21-year-old Azamaan Hoyvoy is carving a niche by applying modern electronic production techniques to influences from RnB, funk, folk & jazz, creating a unique balance of these diverse musical attributes while still maintaining core soulful elements within his material. Currently working on his first EP with the use of vocal harmonies and funk-infused bass lines over minimalistic percussion, Hoyvoy is a member of a burgeoning new generation of Indian artists to watch out for. His single ‘Taking Off’ taps into the wanderlust desires of an individual who travels all over the world in pursuit of spiritual experiences, capturing the emotion with searing vocal intensity supported by a rhythm section focused on boiling funk.
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Gifted with a unique voice that contains traces of traditional Punjabi folk singers, Prabh Deep is widely acknowledged as one of the best underground MCs in the country. With a flair for lyrical dexterity and a ear for big anthem hooks, his music paints a vivid picture of growing up in a locality that’s reeling from high unemployment rates and the recent influx of drugs into the community. His debut album ‘Class-Sikh’, produced in collaboration with Sez, was released in 2017 to widespread critical acclaim, with the album declared by Rolling Stone India to be one of the best releases of the year and Deep chosen as the Spotlight Artist for the month by Apple Music India. Pithy, crowd-pleasing single ‘Suno’ led fans to classify him through various lenses; the outspoken “underground” rapper poised to take over the burgeoning Indian hip-hop scene, the classically humble artist with no airs, and the good Sikh boy spinning rap flows out of traditional Punjabi folk rhythms.
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While some musicians are born with an instrument in hand, Prateek Kuhad was a relatively late bloomer. Growing up in the small city of Jaipur, he went to the USA to pursue a university degree at New York University, where musical discoveries such as Elliott Smith, Bob Dylan & Woody Guthrie inspired him to get serious about the guitar and write his own songs. A pair of early EPs – one in English, one in Hindi – put him on the map with a sound that blurred the lines between organic folk intimacy and lush pop appeal, and his full-length debut was an instant hit. ‘did you/fall apart’ showcases Kuhad’s poignant and introspective approach through his rich, vivid lyricism, transcending genres and borders in order to speak to the deeper truths of shared human experience in all it’s messy splendour. His mesmerising vocals tap into deep wells of emotion, floating over gently fingerpicked guitars and ethereal synthesizers. Having garnered a slew of international accolades and honors through a recent publishing deal with LA-based Cutcraft Music (alongside the likes of Chet Faker, Izzy Bizu, and CP Dubb) Kuhad has cemented his status as a breakout star not just in his native India, but across the world.
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Aditi Ramesh quit her job as a corporate lawyer and set forth on pursuing a career as a full-time musician. An exemplary vocalist with a herculean voice complemented by a range of techniques and tonal modulations; her inspiration stems from blues, jazz and traditional Carnatic music in which she trained in her childhood. A remarkable rise in her career was instigated with the launch of this year’s EP ‘Autocorrect’, demonstrating her true calibre as a composer, showcasing her classical training and strong musical sensibilities. The EP’s strongest track ‘Efflux of Time’ is a masterful exercise in building looping melodies, and contains one of the most deliciously unexpected vocal transitions; conveying a message of time being the healer of all wounds.
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Mumbai-born singer-songwriter Nikhil has travelled far, wide and within, the better to write his songs and give voice to his innermost feelings. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Jeff Buckley and Ray LaMontagne, he also incorporates a range of Indian instrumental influences to create heartfelt, irresistibly melodic compositions, some excavated during his adventures and honed over time, some with the paint still wet. His romantic lyricism and the crisp folk-soul versatility of his voice has taken him all over the world, from Singapore to the United States to London, England, where he is currently based. His album ‘Silver & Gold’, which includes the single ‘Love is a Liar’, focuses on the difficulty of sustaining modern day relationships; a hopeful ode to falling and staying in love, and a tribute to the ones who have made it last over the years.
Born in Mussoorie India, with roots in New Zealand and South Africa, multi-cultural acoustic singer Jordan Johnson moved to New Delhi at the age of 8. He began experimenting with open chords, tunings and eventually started writing his own songs; fast forward to 2018, and the 23 year old has recently been voted one of the top five acoustic acts in the city. A year of self and musical exploration resulted in a 4 track EP titled ‘Afterglow’ which was released in March this year; single ‘Superman’ was written in the months before he got married, when he found himself at the crossroad of family and self expectations, with the soul-bearing sound of his haunting melodies creating a somber, melancholic vibe. The artist also performs live as the ‘Jordan Johnson Trio’ alongside Akshay Deokuliar (drums) and Harshit Misra (bass) who add different elements and explore more of what the music has to offer.