Best Indian Singles of 2019 So Far
Voices of protest reigned over the first half of the year, but there’s also fun, laidback tunes
Naezy – “Aafat Wapas”
After more than a year away from the scene, India’s A-list hip-hop artist Naezy returned with the mesmerizing “Aafat Waapas,” his first release since 2017. The song – which is a sequel to his hit track “Aafat” – features the Mumbai rapper spitting lively and quick-fire rhymes to beats by producer Phenom. The music video, directed by Naezy himself, is set to the background of his hometown as he raps in bylanes, main roads and even outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. – David Britto
Sarathy Korwar – “Mumbay” ft MC Mawali
Jazz meets hip-hop in London-based jazz musician and percussionist Sarathy Korwar’s “Mumbay.” The track features Mumbai hip-hop crew Swadesi’s MC Mawali whose raw voice and passionate bars meld with Korwar’s lush percussion and multi-wind specialist Tamar Osborn’s horn riff, harkening to Mumbai’s diverse and fleet-footed spirit. “Mumbay” would seem to be an odd ode of instrumentals to anyone who hasn’t lived in the city, but a Mumbaikar would, at once, pick up on the notes of the bustling city that welcomes everybody. – Jessica Xalxo
Zygnema – “I Am Nothing”
Perhaps Indian metalheads weren’t ready for new material from Mumbai thrash/groove metallers Zygnema just yet, but their single “I Am Nothing” nearly flew under the radar considering it released right around the time they kicked off their European tour. Set to powerful, unsparing visuals of the reality of physical abuse that women in India undergo – loosely referencing real life cases which made headlines – the band take a sledgehammer of riffs and even a surprisingly well-placed morsing sample. – Anurag Tagat
Swadesi – “The Warli Revolt” ft Prakash Bhoir
In the thick of all the voices raised during the #SaveAarey campaign to protect green spaces in the city, Mumbai hip-hop crew Swadesi went one up and released “The Warli Revolt,” which currently stands as one of Indian hip-hop’s most hard hitting protest song. It’s not just the tribal percussion or bellowing horn sample, it’s the legitimate anger and conviction in MC Tod Fod, 100RBH and MC Mawali’s verses that jump out, in between the tribal chieftain of Aarey, Prakash Bhoir’s unfiltered, poignant chorus on exploitation and corruption. – A.T.
Dopeadelicz – “Aai Shapath Saheb Me Navtho”
When the beat kicks in for Mumbai rap crew Dopeadelicz’s track “Aai Shapath Saheb Me Navtho” you immediately think of Nineties gangsta rap. On this tell-all song, Stony Psyko spills the beans of being caught by the Mumbai police and getting through to them with his dope rhymes. While Stony Psyko spits bars about his real name, his religion and address, the track is led by a smooth beat underlined with slick treble piano notes. – D.B.
Prabh Deep – “Maya”
A track that featured as one of our Editor’s Pick of the month earlier this year is New Delhi rapper Prabh Deep’s “Maya.” Many months on (and a few new singles later), we still can’t get enough of it. The mellow and emotive song leans almost towards experimental jazz meets hip-hop. The addition of bassist Harshit Misra aka Hashbass and keyboardist Archit Anand on the song along with Prabh Deep’s heavy delivery makes for a fine listen. – D.B.
Faridkot – “Subah” ft Pavithra
The New Delhi rock band – primarily the songwriting duo of vocalist IP Singh and guitarist Rajarshi Sanyal – pack a mean fuzzy glitter punch with their funkiest song yet. Clearly, moving with the times is not a problem for Faridkot. They’ve done soulful pop-rock, whacked-out psychedelic rock and are now seem to firmly plant their feet in the radio-friendly Hindi rock space, albeit with distinct flourishes – like the inimitable vocal harmonies of Pavithra Chari, from fusion duo Shadow & Light. – A.T.
Thermal And A Quarter – “Leaders of Men”
Bengaluru’s rock veterans Thermal And A Quarter’s second single “Leaders of Men” off their forthcoming album A World Gone Mad is a well-packaged blues offering that you can listen to on loop. Vocalist-guitarist Bruce Lee Mani’s coolly takes down politicians and leaders in powerful positions not just in our country but across the globe. Sonically, the song gives you everything you want from a blues number; a thumping bass line, a groove that hits all the right spots and a spellbinding guitar solo. – D.B.
Bhayanak Maut – “Pindakaas”
If you didn’t already know, “Pindakaas” takes its name from the Dutch word for peanut butter. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably still not as gross and funny as Mumbai metallers Bhayanak Maut’s comedy-horror lyrics on their rattling comeback. Joined by new vocalist Aman Virdi – who is initiated in by screaming, “Muh Me Le Le!” – there’s (aptly) chunky basslines, explosive drum work and razor-sharp riffs. Tune in to the non-YouTube version for a bonus electronic outro. – A.T.
Tejas – “River”
With his 2019 single “River,” Mumbai singer-songwriter Tejas forayed into new territory and emerged triumphant. The electronica track was like nothing he had released before. Created in collaboration with Toronto/Mumbai producer Arnob Bal aka FamLi, “River” wades on a groovy ripple of synth that blends seamlessly into Tejas’ silky vocals, amplifying the boomy pulse and flickering percussion of the EDM beats. Present are the singer-songwriter’s signature metaphorical lyrics set to a simple narrative, making the song worthy of many interpretive listens. – J.X.