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Beyond the Border: Urdu Poetry from the Diaspora, Sri Lankan Bedroom Pop, U.K. Ambient

We track notable releases from seasoned American DJ-producer Brooklyn Shanti, Canadian rapper Villa and more

Anurag Tagat Nov 30, 2020

This month, our Beyond the Border round up includes Bay Area-bred Indo-American Sheherazaad, London-based guitarist-producer and composer Aditya Bhatt and veteran producer-DJ Brooklyn Shanti (from left). Photos: Simrah Farrukh (Sheherazaad), Nadish De Silva (Aditya) and Courtesy of the artist (Brooklyn Shanti)


San Francisco-based artist Sheherazaad brings together an enchanting marriage of western classical styles with Hindi and Urdu poetry on her debut album Khwaabistan. Drawing from training in both, Hindustani and Western classical, Sheherazaad’s voice also bears inflection adapted from her experience in jazz, musicals and opera. Across nine tracks, the artist is remarkably breathtaking in the first half on songs like “Muhajir” and “Hum Chal Rahe Hain” and then switches up to a different mood with tracks such as “Gao,” bringing in a gypsy element and the folk ditty “Shayad,” although there’s more moroseness on offer with “Ilaaj” and “Mera Jo Baqi Hai.”

Brooklyn Shanti

For more than twenty years, producer-DJ and vocalist Brooklyn Shanti aka Nathan Laskar has been a key contributor to the South Asian music scene in the U.S.. With collaborations ranging from veteran voice Asha Puthli to actor/singer Evelyn Sharma over the years, the artist has been prolific and productive through most of 2020 as well, releasing singles that’s led up to his new album Storm Before the Calm. Released via his longstanding label Soulspazm, the artist formerly known as The1Shanti has taken to bass music and even more good vibes with his latest, going from strength to strength.

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About a decade ago, Punjabi-Canadian artists called The Zoo Babies released a song called “Supreme Duffle Bag” which featured rapper-singer Villa and went somewhat viral. Since 2016, however, he’s been putting out his own tunes that run between pop and hip-hop. His latest is part of the label Dunali Tribe, a hook-centric song called “Senti,” which aptly covers a range of emotions (including self-indulgence) that Villa seems to have encountered in his immediate circle. The song is supplied with a music video directed by Mahan Films, which sees Villa taking time off in Italy.

Arnon Ray Pereira/The Drift

Colombo-based singer-songwriter and producer Arnon Ray Pereira often describes his music as bedroom indie pop and we can hear this with his solo material as well as his work with alternative band The Drift (who released their happy-go-lucky debut single “Antidote” in September). The major discernible difference with the solo project, of course, is that Pereira is his indulgent self in the best way possible. Songs like “Rich Friends” offer shimmering synthwave (gaining the support of Thailand label Rats Records and Bangkok pop artist Phum Viphurit), while “Easy On Me” is jazzy, bluesy and stripped down like it was taking a page from the American South.

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आदित्य / Aditya

Architect and musician Aditya Bhatt draws from post-metal, ambient, Hindustani classical and science fiction with his project as producer and guitarist. There’s a lot of drone and synthesizer experiments poignantly unfolding on his new album उद्यान / Udyan, which flows across five tracks as an enveloping listening experience. Rooted in guitar and synth jams, the artist explores “organic growth” in sonic movements. His just released standalone composition “Drown,” however is much more cinematic. He describes it as his way of mimicking “being submerged by rhythmic rolling waves, occasionally offering respite in moments of clarity as the current carries you, leaving you adrift.”