A master list of India's female indie and pop songwriters and composers: A guide for fans and festival programmers

Amit Gurbaxani

Apr 03, 2020 11:35:14 IST

This is less a column than a list. But it’s an important one.

A couple of days before Women’s Day, I read about UK music rights collection society PRS For Music’s 100 Women Changing Music chart, which listed that country’s most popular female songwriters and composers of 2019 based on the number of times their tunes had been streamed, downloaded, broadcast and performed over the last year.

It prompted me to think about whether I could come up with the names of 100 women songwriters and composers working in India’s independent and pop music industries. After including Indian-origin acts, my list comprised 110 names. (Note that unlike PRS For Music, I did not count the members of duos and groups separately.)

I knew of course that this tally was far from comprehensive. It left out, for instance, several artists from the country’s many regional-language music scenes. So I shared the list on Facebook, tagged a number of industry folk, made the post public and asked viewers to comment with the names of female performers who write their own lyrics and music. In just a few hours, I got almost 100 suggestions, which I added to an updated list, which is currently double the size of the original.

 A master list of Indias female indie and pop songwriters and composers: A guide for fans and festival programmers

Sandunes. Image via Facebook/@sandunesmusic

I’m not sure if some people misunderstood how it was put together but I couldn’t find writing or composing credits for more than 30 out of the vocalists whose names were proposed. In some cases, however, the singers simply hadn’t been given their due. For example, Suzanne D’Mello of a cappella ensemble RaagaTrippin’ mentioned that she’s written the English lyrics for many of the Bollywood tracks she’s sung.

There’s also a lack of adequate metadata for Indian music releases. Lyricists’ and producers’ names are missing from most audio streaming services. This information is usually provided to them by the labels or in the case of independent acts, the artists themselves so it’s a pan-industry issue.

There have been countless articles written about the reasons why there’s such a huge gender imbalance in our music industry – I’ve dedicated two previous columns to it, one each in 2018 and 2019 – so I won’t go over them again. My list was written to show the nation’s festival programmers – who frequently cite the scarcity of talent as the main reason for the paltry percentages of women in their line-ups – that there are far more female artists than perceived. Maybe they aren’t looking hard enough.

Sadly, we find ourselves at a time when we can’t say for sure if any Indian music festivals will take place this year, but that doesn’t make this list, which now has nearly 230 names, any less relevant. Given that we’ve all been left with more time on our hands during these weeks of social distancing, I recommend taking the opportunity to randomly pick an artist whose music you have never heard before and explore their repertoire.

Unsurprisingly, there are a disproportionate number of singer-songwriters but you might also discover electronic music producers, rappers, instrumentalists and even a couple of classical musicians. While a few of them have populated their YouTube channels with covers and mash-ups of other people’s tunes and just a stray original or two, the majority have at least an EP’s worth of tracks uploaded on streaming services.

The list, by its very nature, is one that will keep growing but because I had multiple requests to publish it somewhere apart from Facebook, I decided to make it the subject of my column. Here it is, with 225 names as of the end of March 2020. (For those who chance upon it in the months and years to come, know that you can see an updated version here.)

Aabha Hanjura
Aarifah Rebello
Aastha Atray
Aayushi Karnik*
Abilasha Sinha*
Aditi Ramesh
Aditi Singh Sharma
Alexis D’Souza
Alisha Batth
Alisha Pais
Amanda Sodhi
Amani Kerr
Ambika Nayak
Ambili Menon
Amrit Kaur*
Ananya Birla
Ananya Sharma (Queendom)
Andrea Jeremiah
Andrea Tariang
Anisha Lakshmanan
Anisha Uppal
Anjali Sankaran (Atlas and the Sky)
Anju Brahmasmi
Anmol Malik
Annette Philip*
Anokha S Kumar (Ink Of Bard)
Anoushka Shankar*
Anushka Jagtiani
Anushka Manchanda (NUKA)
Anusha Ramasubramoney (Second Sight)
Anushree Gupta (Sukanti and Anushree)
Arati Rao-Shetty
Aria Nanji
Aruna Jade
Banat Kaur
Barbie Rajput
Bawari Basanti
Bianca Gomes
Bianca Love*
Bindhu Malini
Brecilla Dsouza (My Kind Of Blue/Queendom)
Caralisa Monteiro
Chandana Bala Kalyan
Chhavi Sodhani
Chinmayi Tripathi
Deane Sequeira
Dee MC
Deveshi Sahgal
DJ Paroma
Fame Sangma
Gaya Tideman*
Geetu Hinduja
Gouri and Aksha
Gowry Lekshmi
GrapeGuitarBox (Teenasai Balamu)
Gwen Dias
Hanita Bhambri
Hard Kaur
Harshdeep Kaur
Hiral Viradia
Ila Arun
Ipshita Roy
Isheeta Chakravarty
Janvi Anand*
Jasleen Aulakh
Jasleen Royal
Jasmine Chandla
Jasmine Jethwa*
Jerusha Rai*
Kalpana Patowary
Kamakshi Khanna
Kanchan Daniel
Kanika Kapoor
Kavita Seth
Kavya Trehan (Mosko)
Kaysee aka Kabyashree Bora
Keertana Bhoopal/KetoNation
Kimberley Rodrigues
Lopa Mudra
L’nee Golay*
Madame Gandhi*
Madhuri Jagadeesh (Moon Arra)
Manasi Scott
Manta Sidhu
MC Manmeet Kaur
Meba Ofilia
Meera Desai
Mekkoh/The Vinyl Records
Merlin D’Souza
Mohini Dey
Monali Thakur
Monica Dogra
Mridula Varier
Naaz Sultana
Nandini Srikar
Naom Chhangte (Jenny and the Cinematics)
Natania Lalwani*
Neecia Majolly
Neha Bhasin
Nirali Kartik (Maati Baani)
Nirmika Singh
Nisa Shetty
Nitika Kurian
Noni Mouse
Nooran Sisters
Noush Like Sploosh*
Nupur Pant
Nush Lewis
Paloma Majumdar (Paloma and Adil)
Paroma Dasgupta
Pavitra Chari (Shadow and Light)
Plastic Parvati
Pooja Mazoomdar
Pragnya Wakhlu
Pranita NP
Prarthana Sen
Pratichee Mohapatra
Priya Darshini*
Priya Sairaya
Pulpy Shilpy
Rachita Arora
Radha Thomas
Raja Kumari*
Ramya Pothuri
Rasika Shekar
Rashmeet Kaur
Raveena Aurora*
Reema Gadani
Richa Sharma
Rinky Sharma
Ritu Agarwal
Saba Azad (Madboy/Mink)
Sanoli Chowdhury
Sanjeeta Bhattacharya
Shashaa Tirupati
Sayantika Ghosh
Sentirenla Lucia
Shakthisree Gopalan
Shalini Mohan (Ginny & the Bottle)
Shazneen Arethna
Shia O.G.
Shibani Kashyap
Shilpa Ananth*
Shireen Ghosh (Whale In The Pond)
Shirley Setia
Shivani Ahlowalia
Shraddha Pandit
Shrinidhi Ghatate
Shruti Pathak
Shubhangi Joshi
Shubha Mudgal
Shubhangi Tewari
Sithara Krishnakumar
Siya Arora
Sneha Khanwalkar
Sofia Ashraf
Sonam Kalra
Sona Mohapatra
Sonia Rao*
Sonia Saigal
Sreya Muthukumar (Shorthand)
Subhadra Kamath
Subholina Sen
Suchismita Das
Sukhmani Malik (Hari and Sukhmani)
Sukriti Kakar and Prakriti Kakar
Suman Sridhar
Suneeta Rao
Sunita Bhuyan
Susheela Raman*
Suzanne D’Mello
Swapnali Raaj Sachdeva (High)
Swati Bhatt
Taamara Krishna
Tanisha Serrao
Tanushree Dwivedi (Zehen)
Tanya Nambiar
Tapasi Bhattacharya (Rejected Cartoons)
Tracy De Sa*
The Snake Charmer
Tipriti Kharbangar (Soulmate)
Tritha Sinha
Tyesha Kohli
Vamsi Krishna
Vanishree Sahu
Varijashree Venugopal
Varshita Ramesh
Vasuda Sharma
Vasundhra Vee
Vibha Saraf
Vibhuti Ghosh
Vidya Vox*
Zila Khan
Zoe Siddharth

*Indian-origin artists based out of the country part or all of the time

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In case you missed my last column, know that I’m maintaining a log of all the Indian independent music albums and EPs of 2020. Since I published the piece, several artists and their management teams and fans have emailed me the details of their recent and upcoming releases. The list gets longer every day – as you can see, I’m all about lists – and as a result, this time around, I’m not highlighting just one or two sets but recommending four new albums: alternative rock veterans Thermal and a Quarter’s politically-charged A World Gone Mad (it’s their eighth full-length effort including triple-CD 3 Wheels 9 Lives, making them the most prolific Indian independent band of all time); electro-jazz quartet Ape Echoes’ groove-filled Charlie Dreams of Escape; Urdu singer-songwriter Sameer Rahat’s poetic Aamad; and hard rock duo Diarchy’s headbang-inducing Splitfire. Also worth checking out are electronic music EPs by producers Arjun Vagale, Corridors, Nate08, Oceantied, Stalvart John, Yung.Raj and Zilik, each of which were put out during the past fortnight and could potentially provide a suitable soundtrack for your next Zoom party.

Amit Gurbaxani is a Mumbai-based journalist who has been writing about music, specifically the country's independent scene, for nearly two decades. He tweets @TheGroovebox

Updated Date: Apr 04, 2020 10:53:01 IST

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