10 landmark moments of 2018 in Indian music

The past 12 months have been busy for music fans. Rappers such as Drake and Divine turned hip-hop into the new pop, independent acts like Prateek Kuhad and Swarathma released long-awaited EPs or albums, and both Bollywood and international stars, including Arijit Singh and Incubus, toured India with a greater frequency than ever before. In many ways, it was a game-changing year. Here are 10 events, songs, and albums that excited fans the most in 2018.

 

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Arijit Singh’s 10-city tour
They’re arguably the nation’s biggest music stars but, surprisingly, Hindi film playback singers rarely stage concert tours. The exception was Arijit Singh who completed a massive 10-city nationwide tour this year, which began in his home city of Kolkata, followed by Guwahati in December 2017, and included dates in Pune, Indore, and Chandigarh in January; Jaipur, Gurgaon, and Ahmedabad in February; and Mumbai and Hyderabad in March. Of course, he had more than enough hits to enthrall audiences with at each of these venues, and finished 2018 as JioSaavn’s most streamed artist for the fifth year in a row (!).

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Incubus’ India debut
For alternative rock aficionados in India who grew up in the aughties, American band Incubus counts among their favourite flag-bearers of the broad musical style. So when the organisers of Vh1 Supersonic announced they were widening the scope of the Pune-based festival from an electronic music-focused affair to a multi-genre event with Incubus as one of the headliners, it was something of a coup. The group performed a career spanning set, fulfilling a long-held dream of scores of fans who wished to see them live.

 

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Anderson .Paak’s action-packed performances
You know a genre has penetrated a country’s musical culture when a gig by a fast-rising talent, as opposed to a global chart topper, draws thousands of followers. That’s exactly what happened when American rapper and drummer Anderson .Paak – who isn’t yet a household name like Snoop Dogg, Sean Paul, and Jay-Z who preceded him – headlined Backdoors, a day-long event staged in Mumbai and Bengaluru during February, with his band, The Free Radicals. Fans danced, jumped, and rhymed along to the California MC’s fiery mix of funk, rap, and soul, a marker of hip-hop’s steady status as India’s fastest-growing genre.

 

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Bom Diggy”’s Bollywood success
First released as an Artist Original track in August 2017, “Bom Diggy” by UK-based South Asian singers Zack Knight and Jasmin Walia was rejigged and reintroduced to the world in February as part of the soundtrack of surprise Bollywood box-office smash Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety. Consequently, the infectious ditty turned into one of 2018’s most popular songs. At last count, the combined total number of streams for both versions of “Bom Diggy” was over a 100 million on JioSaavn.

 

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Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s return to form
In a year when many of the top Bollywood tunes were remixes of 1990s hits (“Aankh Marey” from Simmba, “Dilbar” from Satyameva Jayate), the most complete soundtrack was an album of just three original tracks. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s OST for Meghna Gulzar’s spy thriller Raazi comprised songs that walked the right side of the thin line that separates patriotic from jingoistic, and sentimental from saccharine. Raazi was their finest and most successful work since Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do in 2015 and we expect it to win big at all the film awards’ ceremonies held next year.

 

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Sacred GamesDivine intervention
Web series Sacred Games, directed by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, was a game changer for OOT content in our country. It also gave rapper Divine his biggest hit of the year. “Kaam 25”, which he recorded for the series, was a blistering breakdown of gangster life in Mumbai that perfectly represented the dark grittiness of the show.

 

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Prateek Kuhad’s surprise EP
Singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad dislikes talking on stage, but he loves communicating with fans online. When it was time to release his long-awaited EP cold/mess in July, he broke the news through his email newsletter. It asked recipients to share the streaming links of the six-song collection of heart-on-the-sleeve ballads, which he put out through Artist Originals. An evocative video for the title track, starring Hindi film actors Jim Sarbh and Zoya Hussain, followed in December.

 

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Badshah’s magnum opus
It was four years in the making, but when Bollywood’s favourite rapper Badshah finally released his debut independent album, Original Never Ends, in August, in keeping with international trends, he gave fans two records’ worth of tunes. The 17 songs ranged from party-starting bangers such as “She Move It Like” to ballads like “Heartless” on which listeners heard, for the first time, Badshah’s softer side.

 

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Emiway and Raftaar’s diss tracks
Diss tracks were largely absent from Indian hip-hop until October, when Emiway uploaded “Samajh Mein Aaya Kya?”, which he was provoked to write about Raftaar and Divine, after seeing the former state in an interview that Emiway’s music wasn’t as lucrative as he had hoped. Raftaar responded with “Sheikh Chilli”, which claimed he had mentored Emiway, who fired back by questioning Raftaar’s cred in “Giraftaar”. Next, Raftaar countered Emiway’s accusations in “Awein Hai” and Emiway attempted to have the final word in “Khatam”. Many fans felt the tracks inspired the rappers’ sharpest rhymes in years, but they eventually grew tired of the continuous back and forth even as they waited, in vain, for Divine’s reply.

 

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BTS’s box-office triumph
K-Pop kings BTS’s concert film Burn The Stage: The Movie was screened in over 45 cities across India, another testimony of both the genre and the boy band’s ever-growing desi following. Demand from fans across the country prompted multiplex chain INOX to increase the shows of the one-day-only screening in November. The kind of response the show got was nothing like any other had received in the last 20 years.