Beyond the Border: Bops from India’s Neighbors and the Diaspora
Germany-based multi-lingual artist Muzzle, Toronto singer-songwriter Romana, Pakistan’s Uzair Jaswal and more make it to our column this month
The New York-based queer pop artist is amongst the most empowering, fearless composers who gained larger attention with 2017 releases such as “Migrant” and “Promise Me.” The Indian-origin vocalist and singer now prepping for the release of his new album The Sex Issue, which has been prefaced by wondrous songs like “Common Questions,” “BBC” and most recently, “Jungly,” which samples 1981 film Silsila’s Lata Mangeshkar-led tune “Yeh Kahan Aa Gaye Hum.” Aided by producer Beau Sorenson (who’s worked with indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie and more), Aish offers a sense of wild unpredictability with his aural and visual aesthetic, which is always refreshing in the pop world.
Inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle,” London-based artist Super Joshi goes all-out with swirling trap and hip-hop production for his Punjabi-English new track “Gaane Uchey.” A suitably bass-heavy track that talks about driving around with the windows down and the volume way up, Joshi previously released “Bari Barsi (Hip-Hop)” earlier this year. It’s been a long road of sorts to return to music for Joshi, who says he suddenly lost his voice for two months and underwent a year of speech therapy and even learnt music production at the same time. Following a stint at London’s Lyca Radio as a host, the producer-singer is focusing on music all the way now.
Amongst the standout names from season five of Coke Studio in Pakistan, singer, composer and actor Uzair Jaswal has been at it since the age of 14 and hails from a family of musicians. The Islamabad-based artist teamed up with another instantly recognizable name from Coke Studio, Momina Mustehsan for a heartfelt, pure love duet called “Hamesha.” With it’s wistful, almost nostalgic sonic treatment, the song stands at over 1.5 million views on YouTube. Up next, Jaswal got more songs coming up for his next project, which is a collaboration with names in Pakistan’s music scene.
Indo-Canadian entrepreneur, harmonium artist and producer Justin Ashar first gained internet fame in 2016 for covering chart-toppers like Drake’s “Hotline Bling” but he’s since made bigger strides in the music industry by setting up a label called Pug Life Records in 2018. While Ashar may have taken a bit of a backseat on the music making front, he’s gone on to bring in names like hip-hop artist Harm Franklin (currently known for featuring on Nepali-American artist Curtis Waters’ hit “Stunnin’”) and Indian-American electronic music producer Air Apparent aka Neil Sethi. The producer recently released a melodic new dreamy song called “Cosmos.”
Part of the early wave of IndiPop in the country with a group called S5 (that also included singer-composer Benny Dayal), Suvi Suresh aka SuVi hailed from Thrissur and went on to be a featured playback voice in several Tamil and Hindi film soundtracks. She’s so far released her debut EP Game Changer in 2019. A prolific independent artist as well who’s now based in Los Angeles, she recently teamed up with Kerala beatsmith Parimal Shais for “Dopamine,” a takedown of money-making educational institutions, patriarchy over subtle South Indian percussive elements and a smooth turn to Sanskrit quotations and a Tamil hook.
New Delhi-bred and currently based in the city of Kleve in Germany, rapper-singer Muzzle teams up with Zimbabwe-origin producer Malo on the Beat for Hindi, Punjabi and English all blended together on a seriously infectious brass-heavy tune called “Chulo.” A fresh take on all things tropical as well as Indian, Muzzle has been releasing music since 2019 and offers a global as well as local mix of sonic influences in his catalog.
Self-taught visual artist and a singer-songwriter, Indian-origin Torono-based Romana Kassam (who uses her first name for her music) celebrates being comfortable in your own skin on her latest single “Melanin.” The laidback production by fellow Toronto musician Jeia Rouge aka Febby Tan follows Romana’s debut single from earlier this year, “Holding Space.” With the latter addressing what the artist calls “emotional awareness,” Romana is chiefly concerned with tracking experiences as a woman of color in Canada.