Independent Record Labels In South Asia
Image courtesy: Consolidate
Independent record labels and DIY culture have made it possible for many artists across the globe to get their music to a wide section of listeners. While it may not necessarily be a profit making venture at first, there is something hugely rewarding and futuristic about the ability to nurture fresh talent without jeopordising creative freedom; a huge contrast to the former model where big record labels called the shots. There are a number of small and active record labels all over South Asia who are supporting artists and consistently releasing good music. We compiled a list of labels based in South Asia that reflect the beauty of a DIY approach.
Founded by Haamid Rahim aka Dynoman and Bilal Nasir Khan aka Rudoh in 2012, Foreversouth Music is a label based out of Pakistan that supports talent and releases electronic music from the country. One of the highlights of the label has been their collaboration with the German based production duo Teichmann Brothers that resulted in a compilation called Karachi Files. The collective is home to DJs and producers including: Alien Panda Jury, Toll Crane, Rudoh, Dynoman, Friedi (Mole) and TMPST, among others who have releases on the label.
This is Pakistan’s first independent DIY electronic music record label. Founded by music producer Sheryar Hyatt, who goes by the moniker Dalt Wisney, the label came into existence in 2007. Hyatt was born into music. His dad was a successful record producer and Hyatt grew up listening to Radiohead and Aphex Twin. When Mooshy Moo started, there was hardly anything like it around in Pakistan. Hyatt and artist Reem Khurshid came together to build Mooshy Moo as a space to look for free music and artwork. It was a simple idea, something that they still truly believe in.
A record label, artist promotions agency and music blog. Started by Lahore based Haider Uppal, it’s an enterprise that supports electronic music (especially deep house and techno) from emerging music producers all over the world. Haider, who is a DJ himself, began this startup to represent electronic music in Pakistan. The group now consists of 16 members including: graphic designers, writers and developers.
Hear Now Records
A Worcester based label run by two Pakistani artists: Smax and Noah’s Heark. The label was founded in 2014 and is all in favour of distributing music the DIY way. They are one of the very few labels that make cassettes available for purchase along with digital downloads.
A Tehran based independent label founded by DJ Ferry in 2012 which focuses on Iranian artists around the world. The name Shibiza comes from the places Shemshak in Iran and Ibiza, both being spots that have a strong sense of house music. The label is inspired by Persian artists including Dubfore, Pleasurekraft, Sharam, Omid 16B and Namito, among others.
This is one of the older record labels based out of Tehran and it supports experimental music of all kinds. While the general musical landscape of Iran leans towards either traditional or popular music, Hermes focuses on artists who are interested in more contemporary forms. Artists such as Shaahin Saba Dipole who produces glitch techno and deep groovy dub-tech found a home in Hermes.
Founded in 2014 by local DJ and producer Asvajit, Jambutek has played a key role in propagating electronic music in Colombo and around, giving its artists a legitimate platform to showcase their work and its audiences a space to learn about and enjoy contemporary sounds through regular workshops, seminars and some of the best parties this side of the world.
Image credit: Zacharie Rabehi
Boxout.fm started in April this year to help push the boundaries of the alternative music community in India. The online radio has diversified into a record label which launched in October. Electronic music producers Lacuna and Profound are the first two artists slated to release their work via the imprint.
A Mumbai based independent record label, Knowmad, launched in September 2016. It has showcased work by electronic music producers including Kumail, Oceantied, Smileswithteeth and Profound.
A small crew based out of Delhi, artists featured on the label include Prateek Kuhad, Rounak Maiti, Shantanu Pandit, Kunal Datta, and Ditty. The team working at Pagal Haina are professionals in the audio-visual medium. The man behind the label, Dhruv Singh, handpicks artists he truly believes in and the music he picks doesn’t necessarily stick to any particular genre. The label not only releases music, but also manages their artists.
The label based out of Mumbai aims to bridge the gap between the people making music and the people listening to it. They believe that the amount of people listening to homegrown music is low. They have released music from artists including: Aditi Ramesh, Jay Pei, Donn Bhat, Mohit Mukhi and Ape Echoes, among others.
Launched in May this year, the label started with the aim to release progressive conscious music. Their artist roster includes Prabh Deep, Sun J and Sez (who produces artists such as Divine and Naezy). Founders Mo Joshi and Uday Kapur started this label with the aim to release and promote music with a socially conscious intent. As a label they provide the artist with management duties, packaging the product and marketing. Based out of New Delhi, the label wants to be focused on artists and work that is alternative.
The label has been around since 2011 serving as a platform for Indian and international electronic music producers. Founded by New-Delhi based Madhav Shorey aka Kohra and Gaurav Malaker aka BLOT, the label’s roster boasts over 30 global releases. While focusing mostly on minimal techno and house, Qilla confess to not strictly stick to any particular genre or category and are open to all kinds of cutting-edge music styles. The label is also very passionate about homegrown producers who are working in the underground dance music realms.
Set up by Rahul Giri aka _RHL and Anirudh Menon in 2016, their releases stray from the typical weekend party/dance music style. Rahul started Consolidate on Facebook simply adding producers from his city in Bangalore. This slowly evolved into a label. Rahul also refers to it a collective and a blog. His main idea was to bring together producers who wanted to release electronic music that was not necessarily dance-centric. The music is mainly influenced by hip-hop, trip-hop and beat culture.
The label brings together music from the realms of techno and house and the sub-genres that fall under these categories. Soupherb was formed in 2013, Ash Roy and Ashvin Mani Sharma, as a platform for dance music producers. Other than releasing music, they also organize tours in Asia and Europe for their artists.
Run by Vishnu PS aka Soulspace and Nikhil Kaul aka Frame/Frame, the New Delhi based label releases genre defying electronic music. Their goal is to find and curate music that will reach the international market. The label was founded in 2015 and they have been curating some of the most cutting edge electronic music from the Indian diaspora.
Wind Horse Records
One of the first labels in India to focus on house, started by DJ and producer Hamza in 2009. Hamza had already earned a reputation for his releases that were a combination of house music rhythms, Indian and world music instrumentation. Wind Horse has released work by Indian artists such as Audio Units, Vinayaka, Soulspace and Asvajit Boyle from Sri Lanka, among others from the subcontinent and Ross Couch, Steve Mill, Matt Prehn, Spirit Catcher and Juan Mejia from the international circuit.
Based out of Mumbai, the label was founded in 2014 and focuses on genres such as house, dubstep and progressive. It was created to release and promote music by producers who were looking to move forward in their careers and looking for the right audience for their music. Their aim has been to make full use of the digital music revolution and partner with over 20 plus digital release platforms to give their artists complete exposure.
Based out of Dhaka and founded by Mohammad Faisal in 2013, Akaliko releases electronic music within and outside of Bangladesh. Before the label launched, Faisal along with his friends from Bangladesh had a group called Dhaka Electronic Scene, which started out mainly as a blog. The initial crew was predominantly from Dhaka but with the launch of the label, the group has widened to incorporate a 100 DJs and producers from all over the world. It’s a network of DIY artists with Akaliko being an informal label representing electronic music. Their latest release is a compilation called ‘Translations‘, an album that features works from 12 electronic musicians from all over the world.
High Tech Music records (a relatively larger label than the others featured in this list) is part of Bangladesh’s Film, Music and Entertainment company based out of the US. Owned by Tahsin N Rakib aka Tahsee Nation, the label is more widespread and not solely focused on electronic music – promoting genres including house, dubstep and progressive, among others. HTM is signed under UMG and licensed under the legislation of United States government. While HTM holds the copyright over the music material, the US government protects the distribution rights.
Established in 2013, the label focuses on bringing underground music to a wider audience in Bangladesh. It’s a sub label of Incursion Music and takes pride in having featured names such as Fuad Almuqtadir, Sapient Ape, Apeiruss, Bedheadz, Dionysus and more.
A Dhaka based label that supports local visual artists, and music producers by publishing and promoting their work. Also an offshoot of the Dhaka Electronic Music Scene collective, Polychrome Kollektiv have released music from artists such as Nuzhat Tabassum aka Tin Whiskers.
This is one of the only thriving labels in Nepal that has international swing. Formed in 2011 by Aryan Ashoori via Facebook with the aim to bring together people who were interested in art and science, with the idea to fuse these principals together in the long run. While Outta is an international/digital label, Nepal is certainly one of its main strongholds.
Beyond sustainability projects, music-wise, they focus on four genres; ethnofusion, avant-garde (neuro/idm/glitch), dream and bass (textural field-recording based downtempo) and eyewise (conscious reggae/hip-hop). They are set to release over 100 new tracks from 60+ artists in these styles in the next few months. The label also ties music with the humanitarian work they initiate in Nepal. Aryan recently raised funds to build a science lab for a school in Dhawa via a fundraiser album.
written by Sri K