Beyond the Border: Punjabi Grime from U.K., Hinglish Dark-Pop from Australia, Wavy Prog from Pakistan and More
This month, we check out the latest from Canadian artists such as Guru Lahori, Indo-Irish Artist Sarah Packiam and Colombo singer-songwriter Asela Perera, amongst others
Leicester, U.K.-based grime and hip-hop artist Deelite MC (Rana Jai) has been in the game for over six years and has four albums to his name already. Being supported by the likes of Punjabi-origin hip-hop artist Premz (“Don’t Watch Me,”) Deelite brings a steadfastness that’s so unfailing. Of course there’s a line addressing how his rap game can “flow like the Ganges” on his early 2020 song “Diffrnt,” but the gruffness and conviction stand out. Gaining a few more supporters in U.K. DJs such as Charlie Sloth and Bobby Friction via their radio shows, Deelite is now working on a fifth album, comprising 10 tracks that will release soon.
At one point, Islamabad prog/electronic band Wisdom Salad’s vocalist Asjad Junaid jokingly described how he was a singer in an instrumental band. Going from heavier and darker prog sounds heard on “Glow,” their latest single “Begin” takes a page from the book of American math-rock band CHON and makes things somehow weirder. With the trippy music video drawing from the absurd and building on metaphors of cyclic existence, Wisdom Salad wander into equally lightheaded soundscapes to match, aided by guitarists Mustafa Tauseef and Shamsher Rana, vocalist Junaid and drummer Daud Ramay (part of metallers Takatak).
Colombo-based, Austrian-Lankan Asela Perera recently released his second album Gold, following up 2015’s These Years. The singer-songwriter showcases warm, introspective pop-rock across 10 tracks, starting with string sections (“Design”) and rumbling distortion used subtly (“Try”). There’s pained recollections (“Your Satellite & Our Signal Fire,” featuring vocalists Natasha Senanayake and CC De Silva) but also country and Americana vibes (“Home,” “Stereo Monologue”). The album’s title track offers a lullaby but Perera is nowhere from being done in terms of range. There’s hyped up electro-rock/fusion on “Silence” with singer Kavya Botejue, which remains a scene stealer on Gold.
A steely R&B croon, Indian vocal harmonies and pop hooks all go over bass beats in Miami-based artist Sarah Packiam’s latest release “Never Find Another Like You.” She sings, “I never fit in to the East or the West/Used to get mad but now I feel blessed” and that pretty much offers the best insight to Packiam’s Irish-Indian identity. Born to a desi father who played guitar and a mother who wrote poetry, the ingredients seemed to make Packiam destined for music. By 2015, she had her debut EP Again, but it’s only in the last two years that the artist has leveled up, with empowering electro-rock on “She’s A Riot” as well as co-hosting HBO Latino’s performance series A Tiny Audience.
Karachi guitar duo Sherjeel O’Neil and Jahangir Hashmi have been at it since 2016 and their latest single “Zero Gravity” is an indication of just how polished and cutting-edge things have got for them. Although bearing the imprint of djent production that can sometimes sound all too familiar, Shajr craft their way around futuristic electronic layers and strong guitar melodies before bringing the hammer down for odd-time rhythmic gymnastics, plus breakdowns to boot. The prog band, who have previously participated in well-known competitions like Pepsi Battle of the Bands in 2017, also released a single called “Qaid” in 2019.
Calgary, Canada-based hip-hop artist Guru Lahori is of Pakistani origin, but he’s also all about flexing his Punjabi roots. While he teamed up with Indo-American artist Kaem for a rap song called “Raid” late last year, Lahori makes slick moves on his latest single “Westside.” Understandably, there’s a salute to his Canadian identity as a rapper but also continuing his intent of singing for and to what he describes in his bio as “the new generation of desi music listeners all around the world.” Produced by Maninder Dogra aka DJ DMS, there’s a bit of old-school scratching to create a slightly nostalgic vibe to the track.
India-born, Melbourne-based singer-producer Ashwarya aka Aishwarya Shah channels her years growing up on Sixties Bollywood music played at home by her grandparents as well as modern dark-pop and hip-hop artists like Billie Eilish and Travis Scott on the singles she’s released so far. The TikTok-buoyed phone-shot video for her debut single “Psycho Hole” blew up just as it should for her warped sense of production, but then it was “Biryani” that might interest even Indian fans, considering the 21-year-old sharply announces at the start, “Tum ho meri, dil ki dhadkan.” With a new song called “[email protected]” releasing on October 29th, we’re likely to hear more shapeshifting, multicultural tunes from the Indian/Australian.
Read more from Beyond the Border here.