2017 was an incredibly bad year for Bollywood. Not only were movies able to shake up the Box Office, numbers like The Humma Song, Tamma Tamma Again, Trippy Trippy and Laila O Laila just went on to show the dearth of creativity in the music coming out from the world’s second-largest film industry.
On the contrary, the indie music scene has grown larger than ever. Though the industry isn’t as structured as it is in the West, the releases are now well spread out with fusions and experiments giving birth to hypnotic rhythms. With India’s soundscape being as vast and untapped as the country itself, Indie music scene’s potential to take centre stage as have Pakistan’s indigenous music in the last couple of decades.
Listen to 10 Indian indie tracks released in 2017 that ought to have had your ear:
1. Shaad by Parvaaz
A beautifully shot and equally beautifully composed track by this Bengaluru-based rock group captures how failing crops and farmer suicides force farmers to migrate from villages to cities. The element that binds the whole composition together is water — be its scarcity in villages or its abundant supply in the form of bottled and aerated drinks in cities. Parvaaz is a contemporary Indian band who sing mostly in Kashmiri and Urdu and derive their influence from international progressive/psychedelic rock as well as the greats like Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Led Zeppelin.
2. Aaftaab by The Local Train
Formed in 2008, the Delhi-based outfit was ranked as the Number 1 rock band by Sennheiser in 2015. Their second single—Aaftaab—from their second album Vaaqif has over 3 Lakh views on YouTube and within three minutes, it uplifts you from your gloom and for a while, makes you forget that your shoulders are burdened with innumerable responsibilities. It’s a great track to start your day with.
3. Beta Sweater Pehno by Swarathma
For those who haven’t listened to Swarathma before, it will be confounding to know it is the same band which has composed hauntingly beautiful tracks like Pyaasi and Duur Kinara. They completely go upside down in Beta Sweater Pehno. As one can guess from its title, the whole song is about parents constantly pumping a sense of fear in their children, telling them what to wear, how to behave, what to study and if they don’t listen to them, nothing will become of them.
4. Bawra by Naalayak
Since the start of the new millennium, rock bands out of engineering colleges have sprung up as quickly as they have faded away. But what makes Chandigarh-based Naalayak different from the rest? They have been able to sustain solely on the basis of their drive to innovate within the parameters of indie rock, producing interesting compositions through their experiments.
5. Raah Piya by Pakshee
Raah Piya is one of those rare gems you randomly come across on YouTube that take you by surprise. The band fuses Hindustani semi-classical with Carnatic-oriented Malayalam vocals in a jazz ensemble to create beautiful harmonies.
6. You Could Use Me As A Weapon by The F16s
The Chennai-based electro-rockers formed in 2012 and landed right on to Rolling Stone with their first EP Kaleidoscope. Electronica may be deemed overused but The F16s have their fingers dipped in every branch of the genre, whether it is the trip-hop Moonchild or the party-starter Light Bulbs.
7. Mist of Capricorn by Agam
Based on Manavyalakinchara composed by Saint Thyagaraja, Mist of Capricorn hinges on a fusion of strings and tavil (a South Indian percussion instrument) buffered with a 50 piece choir performed by the Bengaluru-based Carnatic progressive rock band, Agam.
8. Fourever by Enkore
The Mumbai-based rap artist Enkore (aka Ankur Johar) addresses failed relationships through hip-hop in Fourever mixed to a hypnotic raga and shot beautifully.
9. Ghost by Parekh & Singh
Ghost will remind you of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and induce a sense of catharsis, nostalgia and regret that your childhood is now long gone. Though one verse from the song is bound to stay with you long after you’re the song is over — ‘Change my life just upon a whim, jump into the ocean and learn to swim’. The pop duo from Kolkata is quite well known on the indie scene with their music having a kind of whimsical and magic beauty to their compositions.
10. Does Bombay Dream of Nola by Sandunes
Sandunes is Sanaya Ardeshir’s one-woman-band whose sonic identity largely lies within the realm of electronica and jazz. Her work has gathered her international recognition and she even got featured on Rolling Stone and VH1. Does Bombay Dream of Nola is the lead single from Sandunes’ upcoming EP, Nola Daydream.