Some of My Favorite Indian Indie Artists: Past and Present
Viraj Mahajan · September 06, 2018 · 3 Minute Read
Music in India is most typically associated with Bollywood and film music, but that’s far from the whole picture. For decades, the Indian independent music community has been growing quietly in the background. Today, it’s bigger, more vibrant, and more exciting than ever.
Some of the most popular jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, and electronic music from anywhere in the world is now coming from India. The bands, musicians, and independent artists of this country have defined the beats, chords, and sounds — sounds that are even making their way into Bollywood music.
The Indian indie community has continuously produced exceptional artists — and in recent times, it has picked up pace and is finding representation all over the country. For this, we all can be grateful to music and college festivals, social media platforms and digital marketing, and of course shows like Coke Studio and MTV’s Sound Trippin, which have become fruitful platforms to help original independent music reach new heights in India.
But then again, I also fondly remember a long-gone era for Indian indie music that still brings back plenty of nostalgia — the Channel V years, when we used to hum melodies like “Dooba Dooba” and “Piya Basanti.”
Here, I’ve listed some of my favorite Indian independent bands and musicians, past and present.
The 27-year-old keyboard player earlier made her name by working as a corporate lawyer. However, her take on different aspects of life in her songs like “Marriageable Age,” and “Stuff on our Minds,” showed everyone that she can easily blend pop, jazz with Carnatic classical music to forge a distinct sound.
With her recently debuted album, Alisha Pais gained popularity after she participated on a musical contest, The Stage. Her powerful, husky voice and hypnotizing personality has charmed many viewers. When it comes to music and that too, indie music, Pais has great dreams. While she’s a little avant-garde in many ways, she is one of those singers who will undoubtedly be around for a long run.
Chinai became queen of the music scene with her Made In India album in 2013. With tunes that even conquered international markets, the album even her an International Billboard Award, and the Freddie Mercury Award for Artistic Excellence.
The fusion of folk with contemporary music is best represented by Indian Ocean. Their experimental harmonies and compositions have always resonated with Indian listeners. The band started their journey with heart-touching songs like “Ma Rewa” and “Kandisa,” and then slowly entered the mainstream through Bollywood. With compositions like “Bandeh” and most recently, “Tu Kisi Rail Si” for the film Masaan, Indian Ocean have conquered our hearts, and have a permanent place there!
Almost everyone who came of age in the 90s grew up listening to Lucky Ali’s music. With songs like “O Sanam,” Lucky Ali defined the 90s romantic sound. But alongside his studio achievement, the singer-composer also amazed audiences with his live performances and special features in Coke Studio.
Nirali Kartik and Kartik Shah’s melodies are inspired by Indian classical music. Their independent songs and their collaboration with different artists from around the world have created a freshness which is truly unique.
Mohini Dey is yet another talented artist who has proven herself in the independent music industry. The 21-year-old bassist has amazed her thousands of fans by performing with none other than Academy Award-winner A.R. Rahman. Along with Rahman, Dey has also performed with Zakir Hussain and Steve Vai.
This band ruled with their song “Dooba Dooba” from the album Boondein. However, they’re known for more than that — Bollywood is forever thankful to the band for introducing us to none other than Mohit Chauhan. The acoustic guitars, harmonica and drum beats added a distinct touch to their music.
This world-class singer can thrive on any song, in any setting. His 1999 album Deewana opened the doors for indie songs and songwriters in India. Although he was also a prolific Bollywood presence from the very early stages of his career, his work as an independent artist has stood the test of time, and continue to be played across the country.
For more on India’s independent music scene, listen to Maed in India — India’s first indie music show!