10 Budding Women Artists You Need To Hear (Part One)
They’re writing albums, debuting at festivals and are generally kicking ass across jazz,
funk, dubstep and metal. Meet some of India’s most exciting young voices in indie music
Shubhangi Joshi (Mumbai). Joshi brings a quiet fortitude in her silky acoustic/jazz compositions about ambition, love and other subjects of quarter life musings. Although the Mumbai musician grew up playing the guitar and writing poetry, music really happened to her only around three years ago. There’s an unmistakable Norah Jones influence in her songs even as they carry a lyrical grittiness that is reminiscent of Carole King. Joshi released a five-track EP in 2014 and is currently working on her full length. Life as a full-time musician might have its struggles but Joshi is not complaining, “Things are looking up and I am exploring myself as a musician more and more as I perform and compose,” says the 27-year old musician who also fronts her band, Shubhangi Joshi Collective.
Aditi Veena/Ditty (New Delhi). After releasing her debut EP Mumblings in 2014, New Delhi-based Aditi Veena has been a wandering soul for the last year, playing on the streets of Nepal and shuttling between Sri Lanka and home. She says, “I’m actually going to be traveling to Munich for a month and working on a musical with [poet-guitarist] Jeet Thayil.” Her frequent voyages haven’t put a stop to her plan of releasing a solo album in November, tentatively titled Poetry Ceylon. Once a singer for the New Delhi jazz/psychedelic band The Jass B’stards, Veena taught herself to play guitar two years ago and began working on a poetry influenced album earlier this year. She says, “It has stories around the island and my stay there.”
Bianca Love (Mumbai). Twenty-one-year-old Bianca Love grew up in a city that any singer-songwriter would kill to live in. And even as she moved from New Orleans to Mumbai in 2011, she kept up with the composing work that she started a long time ago for her debut EP, Shady Sunrise, released in India last year. Love’s music is mostly bluesy angst and funk swag and her billowy voice manages to hold her while she jumps genres. Her latest EP, an untitled live recording from Kappa TV’s Music Mojo music series, plays to her strengths—ductile falsettos, folksy nonchalance and memorable hooks. “I place a high importance in foundational knowledge in harmony and melody, and gospel choirs have really helped to instill some of that in me,” she says.
Shreya Bhattacharya (Kolkata). How many jazz noobs would dare attempt Al Jarreau’s formidable version “Spain” by Chick Corea? In the first year of the formation of her jazz/neo soul band Beer Puppets, 23-year-old vocalist Shreya Bhattacharya has interpreted tunes by artists like Robert Glasper and Gretchen Parlato. She grew up in a family that relished everything from The Beatles to Bon Jovi and her brush with singing happened courtesy the school choir. Bhattacharya went on to study music at Chennai’s Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM) and her trio, formed in 2014, features fellow SAM alumni Avishek Dey (bass) and Srinjay Banerjee (guitar). As an actively gigging young band in their space, Beer Puppets are breathing new life into the otherwise in unexciting jazz scene in India.
Sharvi Yadav (New Delhi/Mumbai). The 21-year-old gushes and laughs like a teenage school girl but sings like a soul powerhouse, and she already has props from the likes of composer Vishal Dadlani, guitarist Ehsaan Noorani, Universal Music head Devraj Sanyal and singer-actor Monica Dogra, courtesy of her stint on singing competition The Stage 2. “It’s been insane. I’ve never performed to people like this. I’ve learnt so much about myself as a musician and a person,” says the New Delhi/Mumbai-based singer. Originally a part of New Delhi jazz/acoustic band Sylvia, Yadav’s vocal charms were cast with a few covers earlier this year. Now, with Noorani et al as mentors and a few ad jingles coming her way, there’ll be a solo EP out once she’s finished shooting for The Stage. She says, “I’m trying some a cappella stuff and trying to collaborate with some musicians, and it’ll be in the jazz space as well.”
Sandhya Visvanathan (Bengaluru). Once she enrolled at Bengaluru’s Srishti Institute of Art Design and Technology (aka the art school all the cool kids go to) for a course in animation, Sandhya Visvanathan noticed her music choices shifted from pop to the “a lot of left-field stuff.” That led to the creation of electro-acoustic act Machli, led by Visvanathan’s dreamy yet somewhat jaded vocal lines over neat beats, heard on their 2015 EP Obtuse + Divine. Although the band is now spread apart in different cities—Visvanathan works as a graphic designer in Delhi—she launched Pardafash with a nod from Bengaluru record label Consolidate, and collaborated with Brooklyn-based electronic producer Reckoner. She’s now on to lending her touch to Bengaluru electronica act The Burning Deck and Machli co-founder Aniruddh Menon on future material. She loves auto-tune, too. She says, “What I’ve realized is, that your voice can be anything you want. I don’t even play any instrument, so making electronic music is like having infinite instruments available.”
Mali (Mumbai). Mumbai-based, Chennai bred Maalavika Manoj may act like a few other songwriters we know—slightly awkward and nervous on stage – but the 22-year-old is honest about everything from being a dreamer to past love. Apart from working with the likes of electronica/fusion artist Sapta and Tamil film industry composer Anirudh Ravichander, Mali’s own voice as a musician is a comfortable, emotional jazz, blues and pop space, as shown by her debut album Deceptive  and now again, with her upcoming EP Rush. It features collaborators with singer-songwriter Tejas Menon, guitarist Jishnu Guha and drummer Jehangir Jehangir (from erstwhile jam band Something Relevant and Hindi rap act Mauj Maharaja).
Kamakshi Khanna (New Delhi). An EP and a lot of gigs old, New Delhi-based Kamakshi Khanna went on the first season of The Stage and picked up even more fans. But now, the real test for her followers—her upcoming full-length album Cakewalk is set to release in November and has more of her pop-meets- R&B chops. She says, “Two of the songs are just solo stripped down vocal-led ones; three of them are more like a jam band and there’s two electronic tracks.” Up next, though, is getting on stage for what she calls “the biggest gig of my life” with her folk/pop group RIVER, at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Shillong. “We’ve all known each other a long time ago, but we just started and now we’re working on our original repertoire,” she says.
Archy J (New Delhi). There’s more to bagpipes than a kilt and lung power. New Delhi based Archy J aka the Snake Charmer proves that everything from AC/DC and Bollywood to dubstep and Lamb Of God can be her playtoys in the sandbox. She said in an earlier interview, “This instrument actually has such a huge potential as a forefront instrument. I really wanted to show different dimensions of what it can do, play it, go on to different genres.” Self-taught and winning favor with everyone from Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler to blogs around the world, let’s hope there’s more original bagpipe metal coming from Archy soon.
Teenasai Balamu (Bengaluru) “Things changed in March when I put up stuff on YouTube and people saw it. That led to gigs,” says 21-year-old Teenasai Balamu aka Grape Guitarbox who till then had only a brief stint at performing once when she was 16. Balamu might be one of the many young singer-songwriters on the circuit, but her unhurried acoustic style and general badass stage presence makes her someone to watch out for. She’s had one original song out and is currently writing her debut EP. “My dream project is to collaborate with many different people and produce solid content, and explore some different sounds,” she says.
Check out Part Two of this list here.