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).Â Joshi brings a quiet fortitude in her silky acoustic/jazzÂ compositions about ambition, love and other subjects of quarter lifeÂ musings. Although the Mumbai musician grew up playing the guitar and Â writing poetry, music really happened to her only around three yearsÂ ago. There’s an unmistakable Norah Jones influence in her songs evenÂ as they carry a lyrical grittiness that is reminiscent of Carole King. JoshiÂ released a five-track EP in 2014 and is currently working on her full length.Â Life as a full-time musician might have its struggles but Joshi isÂ not complaining, “Things are looking up and I am exploring myself as aÂ musician more and more as I perform and compose,” says the 27-yearÂ oldÂ musician who also fronts her band,Â Shubhangi Joshi Collective.
Aditi Veena/Ditty (New Delhi).Â After releasing her debut EPÂ Mumblings in 2014, New Delhi-basedÂ Aditi Veena has been a wandering soul for the last year, playing onÂ the streets of Nepal and shuttling between Sri Lanka and home. SheÂ says, “I’m actually going to be traveling to Munich for a month andÂ working on a musical with [poet-guitarist] Jeet Thayil.” Her frequentÂ voyages haven’t put a stop to her plan of releasing a solo album inÂ November, tentatively titled Poetry Ceylon. Once a singer for theÂ New Delhi jazz/psychedelic band The Jass B’stards, Veena taughtÂ herself to play guitar two years ago and began working on a poetry influencedÂ album earlier this year. She says, “It has stories aroundÂ the island and my stay there.”
Bianca Love (Mumbai).Â Twenty-one-year-old Bianca Love grew up in a city thatÂ any singer-songwriter would kill to live in. And even as sheÂ moved from New Orleans to Mumbai in 2011, she kept upÂ with the composing work that she started a long time agoÂ for her debut EP, Shady Sunrise, released in India last year.Â Love’s music is mostly bluesy angst and funk swag and herÂ billowy voice manages to hold her while she jumps genres.Â Her latest EP, an untitled live recording from Kappa TV’sÂ Music Mojo music series, plays to her strengths””ductileÂ falsettos, folksy nonchalance and memorable hooks. “I placeÂ a high importance in foundational knowledge in harmonyÂ and melody, and gospel choirs have really helped to instillÂ some of that in me,” she says.
Shreya Bhattacharya (Kolkata).Â How many jazz noobs would dare attempt Al Jarreau’s formidableÂ version “Spain” by Chick Corea? In the first year of theÂ formation of her jazz/neo soul band Beer Puppets, 23-year-oldÂ vocalist Shreya Bhattacharya has interpreted tunes by artists likeÂ Robert Glasper and Gretchen Parlato. She grew up in aÂ family that relished everything from The Beatles to Bon Jovi andÂ her brush with singing happened courtesy the school choir.Â Bhattacharya went on to study music at Chennai’s SwarnabhoomiÂ Academy of Music (SAM) and her trio, formed in 2014, featuresÂ fellow SAM alumni Avishek Dey (bass) and Srinjay BanerjeeÂ (guitar). As an actively gigging young band in their space, BeerÂ Puppets are breathing new life into the otherwise in unexcitingÂ jazz scene in India.
Sharvi Yadav (New Delhi/Mumbai). The 21-year-old gushes and laughs likeÂ a teenage school girlÂ but sings like a soulÂ powerhouse, and sheÂ already has props fromÂ the likes of composerÂ Vishal Dadlani, guitaristÂ Ehsaan Noorani, UniversalÂ Music head DevrajÂ Sanyal and singer-actorÂ Monica Dogra, courtesyÂ of her stint on singingÂ competition The StageÂ 2. “It’s been insane. I’veÂ never performed to peopleÂ like this. I’ve learnt soÂ much about myself as aÂ musician and a person,”Â says the New Delhi/Mumbai-based singer.Â Originally a part of NewÂ Delhi jazz/acoustic bandÂ Sylvia, Yadav’s vocalÂ charms were cast withÂ a few covers earlier thisÂ year. Now, with NooraniÂ et al as mentors and aÂ few ad jingles comingÂ her way, there’ll be aÂ solo EP out once she’sÂ finished shooting forÂ The Stage. She says,Â “I’m trying some a cappellaÂ stuff and trying toÂ collaborate with someÂ musicians, and it’ll be inÂ the jazz space as well.”
Sandhya Visvanathan (Bengaluru).Â Once she enrolled at Bengaluru’s Srishti Institute of ArtÂ Design and Technology (aka the art school all the coolÂ kids go to) for a course in animation, SandhyaÂ Visvanathan noticed her music choices shifted from popÂ to the “a lot of left-field stuff.” That led to the creation ofÂ electro-acoustic act Machli, led by Visvanathan’s dreamyÂ yet somewhat jaded vocal lines over neat beats, heardÂ on their 2015 EP Obtuse + Divine. Although the band isÂ now spread apart in different cities””Visvanathan worksÂ as a graphic designer in Delhi””she launched PardafashÂ with a nod from Bengaluru record label Consolidate, andÂ collaborated with Brooklyn-based electronic producerÂ Reckoner. She’s now on to lending her touch toÂ Bengaluru electronica act The Burning Deck and MachliÂ co-founder Aniruddh Menon on future material. SheÂ loves auto-tune, too. She says, “What I’ve realized is, thatÂ your voice can be anything you want. I don’t even playÂ any instrument, so making electronic music is like havingÂ infinite instruments available.”
Mali (Mumbai).Â Mumbai-based, Chennai bredÂ Maalavika Manoj mayÂ act like a few other songwritersÂ we know””slightlyÂ awkward and nervous onÂ stage ”“ but the 22-year-oldÂ is honest about everythingÂ from being a dreamer toÂ past love. Apart fromÂ working with the likes ofÂ electronica/fusion artistÂ Sapta and Tamil filmÂ industry composer AnirudhÂ Ravichander, Mali’s ownÂ voice as a musician is aÂ comfortable, emotional jazz,Â blues and pop space, asÂ shown by her debut albumÂ Deceptive  and nowÂ again, with her upcoming EPÂ Rush. It features collaboratorsÂ with singer-songwriterÂ Tejas Menon, guitarist JishnuÂ Guha and drummer JehangirÂ Jehangir (from erstwhile jamÂ band Something RelevantÂ and Hindi rap act MaujÂ Maharaja).
Kamakshi Khanna (New Delhi).Â An EP and a lot of gigs old, New Delhi-based Kamakshi Khanna wentÂ on the first season of The Stage and picked up even more fans. ButÂ now, the real test for her followers””her upcoming full-length albumÂ Cakewalk is set to release in November and has more of her pop-meets-Â R&B chops. She says, “Two of the songs are just solo strippedÂ down vocal-led ones; three of them are more like a jam band andÂ there’s two electronic tracks.” Up next, though, is getting on stageÂ for what she calls “the biggest gig of my life” with her folk/pop groupÂ RIVER, at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Shillong. “We’ve all known eachÂ other a long time ago, but we just started and now we’re working onÂ our original repertoire,” she says.
Archy J (New Delhi).Â There’s more to bagpipes than a kilt and lung power. New Delhi basedÂ Archy J aka the Snake Charmer proves that everything fromÂ AC/DC and Bollywood to dubstep and Lamb Of God can be herÂ playtoys in the sandbox. She said in an earlier interview, “ThisÂ instrument actually has such a huge potential as a forefrontÂ instrument. I really wanted to show different dimensions of what itÂ can do, play it, go on to different genres.” Self-taught and winningÂ favor with everyone from Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler to blogsÂ around the world, let’s hope there’s more original bagpipe metalÂ coming from Archy soon.
Teenasai Balamu (Bengaluru) “Things changed in March whenÂ I put up stuff on YouTube andÂ people saw it. That led to gigs,”Â says 21-year-old Teenasai BalamuÂ aka Grape Guitarbox who till thenÂ had only a brief stint atÂ performing once when she was 16.Â Balamu might be one of the manyÂ young singer-songwriters on theÂ circuit, but her unhurried acousticÂ style and general badass stageÂ presence makes her someone toÂ watch out for. She’s had oneÂ original song out and is currentlyÂ writing her debut EP. “My dreamÂ project is to collaborate with manyÂ different people and produce solidÂ content, and explore some differentÂ sounds,” she says.
Check out Part Two of this listÂ here.