Beyond the Border: The Latest from the Diaspora and Indian Artists Overseas
This month, we check out the latest from Canada-based Mysoulisahippie, Los Angeles-based rapper ZZ, London singer-songwriter Krameri and more
New Delhi-bred, Los Angeles-based Zefaan Kanwar aka ZZ released his debut album Degenerates earlier this month, encapsulating the soulful, carpe-diem hip-hop style that’s synonymous with West Coast artists. There’s 16 tracks in all that cover ground on trap, hip-hop, dancehall and even Latin vibes, like one of his most popular songs to date, “Wildfire.” Cuts like the lo-fi booming beats of “MOOD.” and Auto-Tune flavored trap of “ICY” sum up just the kind of party ZZ wants to throw with co-creators including Lil Littlez (Sohail Rana Kanwar), Lesotho-bred Thorii and Guapdad 4000 aka Akeem Hayes, amongst others.
Los Angeles-based Indian-origin singer-songwriter and producer Aaryan Shah has been slowly amassing a bevy of followers in the U.S. for his wispy R&B style, best heard on songs like “Renegade,” “To the Ends” and “Dissociation.” They’re all part of his two-part album The Arrival, which unravels well with the space exploration visual and sonic aesthetic that Shah has built for himself over the last three years or so. The chill, melancholy (borderline despondent) R&B style stands out once again on his latest track “Isolation,” which released late last month. Although there’s some intentional mystique behind the artist, Shah is one to watch for his steady rise.
Montreal-based Ayushman Dash – who works in artificial intelligence – may have started out as a guitarist in prog and fusion band Shabd in Bhubaneswar, but a few hops across the world later (including Germany), he started his own project called Mysoulisahippie. Don’t let the name fool you, Dash focuses the power of prog, ambient and “indie-chill” into a potent and poignant EP called Hri. “I find a deeper connection with the Buddhist interpretation of the word Hri (Hrī, Hṛ:), which translates to conscientiousness or self-reflection,” he says. Recorded in the midst of a pandemic, songs like “When You Love a Storm” features a spoken word performance from his brother Anshuman Dash, which elevates the sonic treatment to close off a rollercoaster record comprising instrumental prog (“Transience,” “Hri” and “Tulum.”)
Originally starting out as a duo in Chennai, singer-producer Damini Chauhan aka Krameri has, over the years, honed an intimate songwriting sense that shines on her latest single “Loving You.” Based out of London, the artist first struck big on streaming platforms with “Dead Roses” in 2019. Also released last year was Krameri’s debut album Dreams of a Unicorn and the prolific run continued with By the Sea EP, which came out earlier this year. Channeling ambient production and trip-hop cues over layered vocals that show off her Indian classical and pop vocal prowess, Krameri is clearly one to watch.
Punjab-born Canadian hip-hop artist Saint Soldier aka Amrit Saggu especially makes it a point to be as caustic as possible when he sings and raps on “Role Models,” one of the latest songs off his just-released album Karma. He offers with a heavily sarcastic laugh, “Check out this bizarre/grown ass man talking about the doors on his car.” Releasing music for more than a decade, Saint Soldier garnered major attention for addressing gang violence on “A Stray” (2016) and has three albums to his name now. It marks a closure of sorts for a thematic trilogy that started with Infinity in 2015 and followed up with Duality in 2017. The artist, however, promises more singles and reinvention.
Pablo, Arin Dez, Punkstah
With Bengal and Bangladesh still reeling from the effects of cyclone Amphan which struck in May, a new collaboration shows that beyond country boundaries, Bengalis remain unified as they rebuild. “Sujon Re” features producer-rapper Pablo Dutta, rising Bengali artist Arin Dez, Bangladeshi rapper Punkstah and a soaring chorus from vocalist Soham Mallick (from New Delhi rock band Moongphali). While Punkstah had two songs in the soundtrack for the recent action flick Extraction, “Sujon Re” brings together verses in Bengali (Pablo and Punkstah) as well as Sylheti (Dez) over buoyant, hip-hop beats.
While Louisville, Kentucky-based twin brothers Kush and Neil Nijhawan aka Twinjabi made their debut with the breakaway hit “Bombay” last year, their seductive Hindi-English songs have been steadily gaining a following with each single release. The latest is called “Brown Magic,” which has all the makings of a versatile pop hit – from string arrangements to tropical beats to clever desi references to Bollywood. The vocals might seem a tad affected when it comes to Hindi, but Twinjabi have their hearts in the right place – set to woo all the “brown queens out there.”