Image of Sunara playing at Pettah Interchange in Colombo. Image credit Malaka MP
Old-timey incarnations of record labels — glitz, glamour, big money and big exploitation — are great to watch in movies, but their relevance has diminished over the past two decades. The music industry, internationally, is in a perpetual state of rebuild. And so new ways forward emerge from time to time.
In South Asia, the young, independent, non-film music communities — the ones with roots in traditional western sounds — remain on the fringes of the mainstream, if at all. They’ve grown almost as countercultures, gradually finding some footing in the culture space of the region over the past decade or so, through dedicated ground work by artists and industry-persons. In such an environment, record labels no longer play traditional roles. Instead, there’s a coexistence of multiple bespoke approaches. What we get, really, are collectives — organisations that, depending on their scale and the interests of the people involved — work within loosely defined capacities within the industry. …
Image Credit – Siddharth Kumar
Aditi Veena and Lakshya Dhungana were travelling around Nepal a couple of years ago, setting up impromptu audio-video busking performances for strangers. One of those happened to be outside a small shop selling momos. Veena, aka singer-songwriter Ditty, was playing songs from her new album, ‘Poetry Ceylon’, using not much more than a mic, a guitar, and an amp. Dhungana, a filmmaker, would put up a bedsheet and use her projector to show movies about Sri Lanka that she had made. This was Streets For Us, a project the two started back in 2016 when they were both living in Sri Lanka. Dhungana originally wanted to make a film about catcalling, but further conversations between the two led to this instead. …
Image Credit – Peter Cat Recording Co.
I began my career as a music journalist with a gig review of Peter Cat Recording Co. something that is best left buried in the tumultuous sands of time. It is my dying wish that no one ever finds it. To say that it was flattering to the band would be an understatement. When I first caught PCRC in BlueFROG Mumbai I was taken by a contagious compulsion to let go. Anyone who has followed frontman Suryakant Sawhney’s work over the years, will tell you of the distinct flavour his visual aesthetic leaves on your tongue. You can’t really taste his music without imagining it.
Neal Sekhri’s energy bounces off the wall: he fidgets, moves at a fast-pace and talks in an endless stream of thought. You see how this translates behind the decks as one-half of MadStarBase when he isn’t DJing, he doubles as the hype-man. Sekhri knows how to get the crowd on his side, to get them ready to party. Anant Ahuja is the counterweight to this energy. Ahuja is soft-spoken, bordering on shy. He’s laid back and pragmatic. His words are measured and never reveals more than what he wants. He’s the other half of MadStarBase – the New Delhi-based hip-hop duo.
Image taken at The Shift by Shubham Gupta
If you listen to ‘alternative’ electronic music in New Delhi, only a few venues in the city indulge your taste. After the clubs shut (1am, mostly) the after-parties start. The same several dozen people frequent both these places. Eager to trade names alongside lighters, they stay awake until the soft focus of pre-dawn. While most of the city sleeps, this particular group of people will share cigarettes while taking ownership of a scuffed up nook, a hardened piece of pavement. This is where conversations around ways to better the industry happen. They’re mostly repetitive and trite with people glowing in the shared confidence of the music that pulsates from another room. The romantic inside us wants to believe that all great ideas happen here, in these moments that seem to last forever. In reality, the conversations are just seeds being planted. It takes laborious, tedious work for one of these seeds to be fruitful. One of those seeds was Coven Code.
Image credit – Polina Schapova
For years, Gaurav Malaker and Sahil Vasudeva had been trying to figure out a way to work together. It was easier said than done; Malaker is BLOT!, and has been DJing and producing dancy electronic music for centuries (at least in terms of Indian independent music’s still-young timeline). Vasudeva, on the other hand, is a classically trained pianist, albeit one who’s constantly looking to push the form into the modern era, messing around with styles and formats and bringing those sounds into unpredictable spaces. “Nothing concrete came about,” says Malaker. “We’re from two distinct schools of music. Actually, I wouldn’t even call mine a school of music! We didn’t want to make this a fusion farce sort of thing, so it didn’t materialise.”
Image credit: Arka Alam
One day in 2017, after working on his music for 12 hours straight without a break, (“not long after quitting his job”) Somdev Thakur came to a realisation. “Maybe this is something I should be doing,” he says. “I don’t seem to be bored, I’m not complaining about the long hours. It makes me happy.” And thus was born National Animal, under which name Thakur released his debut self-titled album earlier this month.
Image: Golden Diskó Ship by Sara Perovic
It’s an odd kind of dichotomy that drives Theresa Stroetges. She’s hyper-prolific, juggling multiple musical and creative identities, constantly writing and creating. “I feel almost like, the more I do, the more inspired I am. The less time I have, the more productive I become. It’s strange,” …
Guitarist, composer, and now bedroom producer, Samar Grewal, grew up being the kind of teenager that had a nervous energy about him. One that manifested itself as head-bobs and foot-taps – following rhythms and keeping time. …
In Germany, techno thrives amidst contradictions. It exists within the walls of a former church where audiences indulge in decidedly unholy activities. It’s where pot smoking sixty-year-old men – wearing Grateful Dead t-shirts – dance alongside young adults consuming speed that’s provided by boys sporting the latest looks in grime/fanny pack fashion. …