The Groovebox Jukebox: From Soulmate's Give Love to SlowCheeta'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’ll be highlighting four of the most interesting Indian independent releases of the last few weeks — one album, one EP, one single and one music video each. To go along with it, I’ve created a ‘Best of 2020’ playlist on Spotify that includes all the tracks I’ve written about in the ‘Recently Played’ section of my column as well as other cool tunes that I recommend checking out.
Album: Give Love, Soulmate
Soulmate take a long time between albums. But when they release them, they’re all killer, no filler. In anticipation of their new release — their fourth in a span of 16 years — I listened to their previous three efforts again, and found that almost every song on each of them could have been a single. Give Love keeps their record intact. The tracks are shorter than on 2014 predecessor Ten Stories Up, some of the extended jams on which were devised to recreate the vibe of their roof-raising live shows. Album number four boasts plenty of festival-friendly floor fillers such as the title cut and a funky remake of “Voodoo Woman” but the slower tunes, political ballads “Hole In Your Soul” and “Troubled Times” and pensive instrumental “Still Loving You”, are equally impactful. It’s another testament to my belief that Soulmate aren’t just India’s finest blues duo but one of our best indie acts overall.
SlowCheeta aka Chaitnya Sharma is the chap who told Ranveer Singh’s character Murad to “go back” to his gully during a rap battle scene in Gully Boy. In reality, Sharma and Singh live only a few gullies from each other, as they share the same Mumbai pin code, 50, that of the tony suburb of Bandra. Sharma, who is signed to Singh’s hip-hop label IncInk, rightfully checks his privilege on this debut EP, which comprises three autobiographical anthems. While there’s little radical about Rok Nahi Paayega lyrically, there’s something refreshing about a set of songs that tells us there’s more to Mumbai hip-hop than gully rap. Sharma has the ability to seamlessly switch between Hindi and English and his smooth wordplay is backed by slick beats courtesy of producers Mr Doss and Ink Heart. Rok Nahi Paayega is a commendable re-introduction to an artist who’s been somewhat under the radar as compared to his labelmate Kaam Bhaari. The real test will be where Sharma goes from here, and how far he tackles topics beyond the personal.
Karan Kanchan is best known as an electronic music producer who also makes beats for rappers (he’s helmed a number of hits for hip-hop heavyweight Naezy). This single has him stepping out of his comfort zone with the partnership of vocalist-songwriter Ramya Pothuri, and makes us wish he’d venture out of it a lot more. “Wonder” is an irresistible piece of funky disco-soul that could loosely fall under the Dua Lipa-created genre of “dance crying”. It’s not just an artistic milestone for Kanchan but for Pothuri too. The warm brandy-voiced singer, who eloquently examines the shards of a broken relationship on the track, is slowly but surely evolving into one of India’s most versatile R&B exponents.
US-based Indian singer-songwriter Natania Lalwani made the video for her current single by herself, at home during quarantine. You can tell. And that’s exactly why it works so well. Using cutouts of childhood photographs and the generous use of neon colours that were so beloved during the 1990s, the video is pretty much a scrapbook of the 28-year-old’s youth, figuratively and literally marking her growth. As such, it perfectly fits the theme of the song, which is about her learning to stop being self-critical and providing herself with the same kindness with which she treats her friends.
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
Billie Eilish apologises for mouthing racist slur in old video: 'Being labelled something that I am not'
Billie Eilish is speaking out after videos of her using a racist slur as a young teen resurfaced last week.
CiNEmatters Ep 5 | How Anmol Gurung's Appa, about a father-son duo, reveals social structures hidden in plain sight
Firstpost presents CiNEmatters, a podcast examining cinema about and from the North East of India. In episode 5, we discuss 'Appa' (2019), a Nepali film by Anmol Gurung, set in Kalimpong.
Celebrate World Music Day and Pride Month with a carefully curated list of 10 international queer songs
From Queen's 'I Want To Break Free' to Shamir Bailey's 'On My Own,' here are 10 queer songs that have been powerful allies and source of catharsis for the LGBTQ+ community.