The Groovebox Jukebox: From Lou Majaw's April Shower to Owl Vibration's EP, new Indian indie music to check out
In a new column, Amit Gurbaxani highlights four of the most interesting Indian independent music releases of the last few weeks — one album, one EP, one single and one music video | #TheGrooveboxJukebox
In this monthly spin-off from my column about the Indian music industry, I highlight four of the most interesting Indian independent releases of the last few weeks — one album, one EP, one single and one music video. The series is accompanied by a Spotify playlist of the same name that includes tracks I wrote about in the ‘Recently Played’ section of my column as well as many other cool tunes that I recommend checking out.
Album: April Shower, Lou Majaw
There are few sights as arresting as watching blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Lou Majaw get into the zone on stage. The silver-haired septuagenarian from Shillong moves and grooves with an agility that puts musicians one-third his age to shame. That he does it all while dressed in his trademark attire of a fitting sleeveless T-shirt and denim cut-off shorts only adds to the theatre of the visual. Studio recordings will perhaps never be able to capture the experience of watching Majaw in his element, so maybe it’s appropriate that his new album, which arrived without any sort of pre-release hype warranted by a veteran of his stature, focuses more on showing us a softer, more subdued side of the showman. He might be one of Bob Dylan’s biggest fans but we detected a lot of Dire Straits in the compositions of April Shower, the seven songs of which alternate between soothing instrumental tracks (“April Shower”, “Tender Moments”) and ballads rendered with the genteelness of old-school country tunes (“Let Me Be”, “True, True Lovings”). Among the highlights is the 11-minute “Oh Most Beautiful”, on which Majaw plays evocative guitar solos of the kind he occasionally treats fans to at gigs.
As readers of this series would know, ambient electronic music is not a genre that’s often featured here. It’s not because I don’t like the genre but – and this might partly be because I’ve yet to develop a proper ear for it – to me, much of it veers towards the territory of music for relaxation. While you could say that about 17-year-old Jorhat-residing producer Owl Vibration aka Aditya Buragohain’s last EP See Colours In My Head, there’s enough going on in this month’s follow-up to qualify as electronic music with universal appeal, despite the fact that it’s called beats for other planets to relax/chill. The keys-laden “Space Kek” is more music for dancing than meditating, and by that I mean dancing of the sort where you lightly sway with your eyes closed. More typically suited for the club floor is the swirly synth work of its reprise of sorts, the idiosyncratically titled EP closer, “Existence is silly yet it still feels canvas on WIP”.
Single: “Satire”, The Lightyears Explode
The Lightyears Explode were among the most promising Indian indie bands to emerge during the first half of the last decade. The punk-pop trio impressed and amused with their energetic live sets and the humour infused in songs such as “I Am Disco Dancer”. Then, as so often happens, soon after the release of their debut album, 2013’s well-received The Revenge Of Kalicharan, each of the members got busy with different things, had a line-up change, and years went by without another release until a one-off single in 2018. “Satire”, the lead track from upcoming EP Mellow, marks their full-fledged return, and as so often happens with bands that come back after a break, it features a new sound. That arrives in the form of an on-trend but welcome inclusion of electronic elements. What’s remained the same is the spunk that characterised all their earlier material.
Video: “Kinu Mai Sunaava”, Burrah
I’m on the fence about whether Artist Originals or AO, the in-house label run by audio-streaming service JioSaavn, qualifies as an indie label considering its parent company is a giant conglomerate. AO has been set up to showcase independent artists but it works with some commercial-sounding acts as well. Hopefully, AO’s new “accelerator programme” Amplify will put the spotlight on more independent-as-we-know-it artists. Among the first batch of Amplify songs is a single by New Delhi-based Punjabi composer, singer and rapper Burrah aka Jasdeep Singh, and it’s a sort of reintroduction to the 25-year-old up-and-comer whose previous tunes have been hip-hop tracks. Blues-tinged break-up ballad “Kinu Mai Sunaava” is closer to Rabbi than Raftaar. Adding to its appeal is the music video by Adamya Pandey, the watercolour painting-like effects of which make it stand out from the surfeit of animated vids we’ve been seeing recently. The illustrations, which show Burrah performing at a jazz bar, perfectly complement the vintage flavour of the lovelorn lament.
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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