Indiegaga’s Producers, Rappers and Singer-Songwriters To Watch in 2021
By Anurag Tagat
Rohan Shetty aka SHOR has carved out an inimitable visual and sonic aesthetic over the last year, through arresting and intriguing music videos as well as songwriting that lands somewhere in between Hindi pop, electronic and R&B. In his steely croon, Shetty recently delivered “Khoye Se” via Big Indie Bang, an imprint of Big Bang Records that’s being run by singer-songwriter Raghav Meattle.
On her debut EP Mood, Mumbai singer-songwriter Sanjana Devarajan channels the playful pop of Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift with the sonic approach of radio-friendly pop-rockers like Imagine Dragons. Walking the line between tender and matured lyricism, Mood opens up a sonic palette that leaves plenty of room for more and we hope we’ll more sonic experiments in 2021.
k o k u m
Mumbai-based k o k u m may have turned up on several radars for her collaboration with producer and multi-instrumentalist Joshua Singh (Understudy released in 2019), but with her own work, there’s a markedly different stance. The enveloping electronic/dreampop debut “Floating” was a slow exploration, but “Yellow Brick Road” raised a fist up for South Asians in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was sharp-tongued and resolute “art-hop”, the start of much more from the artist.
The Mumbai/New York based hip-hop artist markedly leveled up with his EP PIGEONHOLED in 2020, with the smoky, noir-hop song “.22” being released by Azadi Records. The rest of the EP also included “Cop Car”, a collaboration with Srinagar rapper Ahmer. Adi’s bars packs it all in, making the most of every second he’s got a mic in front of him. Hopping on a new trap banger called “Bad Girl” with artist Jayhaan at the end of December, we’re hoping this young rapper turns up even louder in 2021.
Pune-based singer-songwriter Nida recently accrued over 80,000 streams on Spotify for “Butterflies” and the playful track was just her second official release. Writing and performing for the last three years, there’s a formidable growth in Nida’s songwriting just between her debut single “And I’ll Love” and “Butterflies” and we’re likely to hear much more from the young artist this year.
From Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi-based Shubham Bharti represents everything wonderful about the widespread growth of independent music making in India right now. The singer and producer released his debut single “Dekho Sakhi” in September last year. The groovy electronic-fusion track instinctively showcased his classically-trained vocal style as well as his intelligent ear as a producer.
Indore-based producer Pranay Sharma aka MÜNE was using a seemingly ancient desktop PC to create his tracks but all that’s recently changed, following his signing to heavyweight electronic music label Ultra Music. Releasing “Better With You” in November with a vocal assist from British band Tors, there’s more in store this year in terms of international recognition for MÜNE’s emotive yet often easygoing tunes.
With a name that’s got a rupee symbol in it, New Delhi rapper Dhruv Rajpal certainly fits like a glove in India’s new and forthcoming generation of hip-hop stars. Sharing space with everyone from producer Sez On The Beat to firebrand duo Full Power and more, songs like “Dhun” have taken off, as did his debut album Dhruv Rajpal. His own predictions for 2021? He’s got an entire song for it called “2021”, in which he promises big strides.
Bangalore-based Chlipher Chris aka Clifr has been visible in the independent music space only haltingly, while also juggling being part of fusion band Kelvikkuri. But he’s always made it count, whether it’s his debut single “State O’ Mind” with singer-producer/guitarist Lojal last year or “Changez,” a shapeshifting electronic track vocalist-saxophonist Ranjani Ramadoss that won the Gold Track of the Year in the electronic music category of the 50 Hour Music Challenge at India Film Project. We’re looking forward to hearing more instances of his beat ID (“Oh my god, Clifr!” uttered in monotone by what is likely an AI-generated voice) in 2021.
Hailing from the town of Dindigul in Tamil Nadu, Balaaji Sri aka Thecandidcrood explores modern pop and electronic music with a distinct Tamil flavor in his already-prolific ventures. There’s four singles and his mixtape Abstract Beats released in 2020 and he’s now working towards a second collection of songs for release in 2021. Thecandidcrood brings together a chill yet emotive mix of electronic/pop that’s soulful in its use of Tamil lyricism.