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New Music: Hip-Hop from Kolkata, Alt-Rock, Tribal Trance from Bengaluru

Check out the latest from Pune singer-songwriter Harish Budhwani, Jaipur band Atrangi Funkaar, Kolkata’s Archiesman Kundu, singer-songwriter Jennifer Rabha and others

Anurag Tagat Nov 20, 2021

New music from pop artist Rivita, rapper Archiesman Kundu and Guwahati singer-songwriter Jennifer Rabha, among others. Photo: Ryan Doody (Rivita), Jasprit Singh (Archiesman), Bijit Sarma (Rabha)

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“Read your Mind” by Jennifer Rabha

Guwahati singer-songwriter Jennifer Rabha makes an impressive, slick debut with her song “Read your Mind.” Featuring buoyant, club-friendly production by Assam-based Gemmi, Rabha clears her system of a toxic past relationship with pop and R&B hooks. In a self-directed music video – shot by Jenet S. Chakma – you see Rabha and her friends showing off their dance moves.

 “Where were you when I had Covid” by Rivita

Indian-origin, U.S.-based singer-producer Rivita looks at the pandemic from a different angle in her dark, emotive pop song “Where were you when I had Covid.” Presumably, the answer to that pertains to measures like social distancing and quarantining, and Rivita’s lyrics pick up exactly on the emotions associated with those measures, even working in a sing-along portion that goes “C-o-v-i-d”, making her one of the first musicians we’ve heard to be so head-on about the pains of the isolation people experienced.

“Uncle Ji” by Atrangi Funkaar

It may be unironic or intentional, but Jaipur rockers Atrangi Funkaar have labeled “Uncle Ji” as an “alternative cringe pop song”. The rap verse backed by an energetic chorus and rock arrangements are loaded with humor, and takes a shot at a society that has an opinion on matters that aren’t relevant to them and the generational disconnect seen in social interactions in India.

“Dosti” by Harish Budhwani

Although the song’s title might suggest a story of friendship, Pune singer-songwriter Harish Budhwani’s folksy “Dosti” invokes the giddiness of a first crush. Taking a page from the freewheeling songwriting style of Ankur Tewari, Budhwani wears his heart on his sleeve through this whimsical song.

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“Harry” by Slyde, Xerxes and Big Mo

Bengaluru-based rapper, poet and songwriter Varun Bhat aka Slyde teams up with Pune beatboxer Xerxes and Shillong jazz pianist Big Mo for a heartfelt, life-affirming hip-hop song called “Harry.” Talking about mental health struggles, there’s a story around the eponymous character and seeking a shoulder to lean on. Slyde’s inherent message about the importance of empathy is the kind of narrative we’d like to hear more in Indian hip-hop.

“Yellow Lights” by Archiesman Kundu

The bass beats boom emphatically on Kolkata rapper Archiesman Kundu’s latest single “Yellow Lights.” The hip-hop artist peppers in a bit of Punjabi amidst his Hindi lyrics, leveling it up with a seriously flashy music video shot by Jasprit Singh. Kundu gets in the fast lane with an appropriately yellow Porsche, letting currency fly as he zips through the streets of Kolkata.

“Someday I” by Second Opinions

Rock band Second Opinions comprises seasoned musicians who say they’ve returned to writing and recording after a while with this new project. On their second single “Someday I,” there’s straight-up, throat-shredding rock about aspirations and what-ifs.

“On My Birthday” by Akhil Sahni

On his second single, Gurugram/Delhi NCR-bred, London-based singer-songwriter Akhil Sahni runs through an affectionate guitar melody to talk about an all too common occurrence – the fact that people whom you were once close to now end up limiting themselves to just texting with birthday wishes. Sahni sings introspectively about courtesies and life’s irreversible changes.

“When Nature Calls” by Shanka Tribe

Kerala band Shanka Tribe scale up to seven members on their debut single “When Nature Calls,” a powerful instrumental piece with Bonny Abraham on the oud and ominous basslines from Aswin Lal. The driving force on the five-and-a-half-minute “tribal trance” track remains percussion and drumming from Munna P.M. (also helming the didgeridoo), Nithin M. Menon, Sreeraj K. and Joel Jackson. As the track picks up the pace and adds more layers, Libin Noby brings flute and synth textures to “When Nature Calls.” It’s all even more heightened by a roving music video cutting through verdant Kerala forests.

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ABRACADABRA by evermoon

Bengaluru-based artist Tejas Ramakrishna (also part of singer-songwriter duo No Home) creates music under the moniker evermoon and his second album ABRACADABRA was released in late October. Bringing in a host of singers like Trina Dutt (the excitable, nostalgia-leaning opening pop track “fax me a hug”), Anya Menon (the surreal song “under the sun”) and his No Home bandmate Mary Ann Alexander (on the suitably groovy “by and by”). There’s indie rock flourishes (“chateau,” “pretending” and “saintly”), electronic pop (“cherish me” with Suchitra Lata), swing (“hot cauldron ragtime” with Adithi Sagar’s smoky vocals), and grandiose, theatrical rock on the title track.

“Sleeping” by PA System

Among the final singles releasing from their debut album Strangers Down the Hall, indie band PA System’s seventh single is the charmingly straightforward track “Sleeping.” Sticking to a now-settled style of affable guitar parts and lush keyboard portions over Pratyush Shankar’s straight-from-the-heart vocals, “Sleeping” is accompanied by a video that shows members of the band unwinding at home.

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