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Meet NEXA Music Top 24 Artist: Kalmly

The 19-year-old Mumbai vocalist wowed listeners with his crisp tenor tone and sleek pop

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Riddhi Chakraborty Feb 18, 2020

Kalmly's unique brand of pop offers soaring vocals with blends of tropical house, dance pop and future bass. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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When you first hear Mumbai artist Shaan Kambli sing, it’s a pretty delightful surprise. Better known by his stage name Kalmly, this 19-year-old vocalist gained recognition last year after the release of his dance pop single “To Be Lonely.” Kalmly wowed listeners with his crisp tenor tone and sleek pop, setting himself apart from his peers with his debut 2017 EP More of a Cold Blue.

Currently in university in London, Kalmly first knew he wanted to make music back when he was in middle school, influenced by the likes of Justin Timberlake (also known for his falsetto and signature tenor vocal tone.) “I remember listening to [Timberlake’s album] The 20/20 Experience back in 2013–now seven years on repeat and counting–which inspired me to begin composing,” explains the vocalist. He adds, “I’ve always felt most understood when I sing a song I’ve written. I guess life moves so fast today, we don’t have the liberty to pick and choose the words we want to speak–writing gives me that opportunity.”

The singer-songwriter’s recalls that before he headed to London to study music, he decided to ask various industry professionals about his chances of making it as a pop artist in India. “Much to my surprise, nearly all of them immediately said that my only shot at becoming an English pop singer lies abroad–one even asked me if I was an Indian passport holder!” he laughs. When the future for Indian artists who sing in English seems so bleak in our own country, Kalmly feels that a platform like NEXA Music can help bring attention to the problem and give indie artists who sing in English a bit of a boost. “After having seen even such well-meaning and experienced musicians denying the possibility of an English-pop era in India, I truly believe NEXA Music’s commercializing Indie-English musicians within the country is more important than ever.”

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Kalmly’s brand of pop offers soaring vocals with blends of tropical house, dance pop and future bass–a formula a little reminiscent of American singer Mathew Koma and wholly refreshing in the Indian indie music space. His previous releases “Steadfast” (2018), “How Things Will Go” (2019) and “To Be Lonely” (2019) experiment with these combinations and elevate him to the international pop standard. The singer-songwriter’s unique sound saw him shortlisted as one of the Top 24 contestants on NEXA Music and a spot on the December 2019 cover of Rolling Stone India with Oscar and Grammy award-winning music director A.R. Rahman.

In addition to releasing his track “Postcard” (produced by celebrated composer Clinton Cerejo) via NEXA Music, Kalmly dropped a new single titled “Sympathy Monster” in January. He has another single coming this month and a two-part album which will release as EPs through 2020 and 2021. “The songs of this project are meant to be escapist,” Kalmly says. “The first EP being about pleasantly wonderful stories in which everything works out like a fairy tale, offering listeners the opportunity to forget the concerns of their everyday life for a few minutes. Sonically, they cover a wide range of world/folk sounds but do so within a strict commercial pop context.”

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