From Nucleya's Tota Myna to Thaikkudam Bridge's Namah: The highly anticipated records of 2018 that didn't come out
In the music press, December is filled initially with best albums of the year lists, which are followed in a couple of weeks with features on records to look forward to over the next year. For this fortnight’s column, I decided to look back too but to an article I wrote about the major Indian independent music albums scheduled to release in 2018. To my surprise, only three out of eight highly anticipated records actually came out during the last 12 months.
Delays in the releases of albums are common in the music industry (’90s kids might remember Guns N’ Roses’ infamous Chinese Democracy) but are even more frequent in the Indian independent scene where acts typically have other jobs and the recording process often takes place in parts because they need to take a break and play more gigs to afford to pay for studio time. However, the artists whose records did not meet the promised 2018 cut-off dates include high-profile acts with enough money in the bank.
In three of the cases, their releases got pushed ahead because of the collaborations involved. Both electronic music producer Nucleya and rock band Thaikkudam Bridge’s next efforts are comprised entirely of duets and getting both the main act and the special guest in the same city at the same time can expectedly be difficult. Nucleya, who has been drip feeding his fans with new singles for the past couple of months, is looking at the end of January as the time to unleash Tota Myna.
If it releases as rescheduled, the delay will be relatively small considering that it was originally supposed to be in (digital) stores by the last quarter of 2018. It’s also understandable given that the guest artists are such big-ticket names as Shruti Haasan, Raftaar, Anirudh Ravichander, and Arijit Singh. Thaikkudam Bridge’s long-in-the-works Namah, in contrast, features not contemporaries but acts that inspired them.
While the tracks with drummer Marco Minnemann and keyboardist Jordan Rudess were released in October 2017 and February 2018 respectively, guitarist Guthrie Govan, drummer Chris Adler, sarangi player Ram Narayan, Mohan veena player Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, and mridangam player Umayalpuram Sivaraman were also announced as collaborators a while back. The addition of two new, yet-to-revealed international icons to this list caused the album to be moved from January to “early next year”, said their management.
“Hindustani dance music” producer Ritviz’s eagerly-awaited debut was also supposed to be out in January and while it missed that month because he hadn’t finished working on all the tracks, it would have been out this quarter were it not for circumstances beyond his control. After the massive success of the single ‘Udd Gaye’, which was made in collaboration with Bacardi and distributed through AIB’s YouTube channel, the comedy group decided to help release his entire album.
However, after AIB dissolved last month as a fallout of the involvement of two of its members in separate #MeToo incidents, that plan fell through. The record, which is now being backed by Bacardi independently, is expected to be out by the end of January, after Ritviz, like his predecessor Nucleya, has finished dropping all the tracks as singles, two of which are already available to stream.
Rock band Parvaaz’s album, on the other hand, got postponed because they couldn’t find the right mixing engineer, even though they finished recording it in July. They finally found what they were looking for in Zorran Mendonsa but because he’s based in Auckland, finalising each track – some of which they subsequently decided to add orchestral samples to – is taking longer than expected. The LP is now set for March, a delay of about nine months from the original “third quarter” of 2018 plan.
For electro-pop duo Parekh + Singh, locking the music was not the issue. Their second album has been completely ready since 2016 but has been rescheduled from the second quarter of this year to April next year, because their UK-based label Peacefrog Records felt they needed to strategically plan a release date that will give them their best shot at scoring press interviews, radio slots and tours in Europe.
What were the three records that did come out this year? Vaaqif by Hindi rock band The Local Train, cold/mess by singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad and Raah-e-Fakira by folk-fusion group Swarathma and each of them, I’m pleased to say, lived up to expectations and rank among the best albums and EPs of 2018. Equally interesting are the ways they were put out.
The Local Train, as I wrote a few months ago, decided to tie up with Apple Music for an exclusive release and reaped the benefits in the form of a No 1 album. Swarathma entered into a similar association with Saavn in which the streaming service was the only place you could listen to Raah-e-Fakira for a week and in return, the record was promoted on the app through banners and track placements in playlists as well as in its social media feeds.
Kuhad’s EP, notably, was released through Saavn’s Artist Originals platform, which one industry insider told me functions as a “new age record label” wherein depending on the terms and conditions of the deal, which vary from case to case, the streaming service funds all or a mix of the project’s recording expenses, a music video or a promotional tour. Their payback? They own the rights to the masters for a number of years.
The other major Indian indie album released through AO in the last year was Sabar by fusion-pop duo Shadow and Light, which was also among 2018’s most acclaimed outputs. Most Indian indie acts have all but given up on major labels so I’m keeping my eyes peeled to see who else signs up with the likes of Saavn or perhaps Spotify when they finally launch here.
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
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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2018 12:58:21 IST