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New Music: Pune Rap-Rock, Shillong Neo-Soul, Telugu Pop and More

We round up the latest from singer-songwriter Damini Bhatla, New Delhi rock band Firki and multi-instrumentalist Shreyas Iyengar, amongst others

Anurag Tagat Jan 11, 2021

(Clockwise from top left) Maaya Mattoo, Damini Bhatla, Semwal, Shubumm and Apartment Upstairs. Photos: Daniel Chinta (Bhatla), Sankul Thakur (Semwal), Courtesy of the artists (Mattoo, Shubumm, Apartment Upstairs)

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“Memories, For Now” by Maaya Mattoo

To pull the curtains on the year gone by, New Delhi singer-songwriter Maaya Mattoo released a new song called “Memories, For Now” on December 31st, collaborating with guitarist and audio engineer Maadhavan Bhattacharjee. Bringing together a playful but sparse guitar phrase and choir-like vocal delivery, Mattoo strikes right at the heart of things when she sings, “For now, we’re living a life online,” as a gentle string section kicks in.

“Brave Girl” by Shane & Josh

After releasing singles all through 2020 with ace producer Stunnah Beatz, Shillong artist Shane Kharbuki teams up with guitarist Joshua Kharpuri to release his first song of the new year, an R&B-inflected hip-hop tune called “Brave Girl.” While the video showcases a tumultuous relationship, it’s Shane’s saccharine croon that steals the show, harmonizing highs and lows like the next big star to come out of the North East.

“Kukku Main Jahaj Ho Gaya Hoon” by Firki

Picking a chorus that’s outlandish yet certainly comedic, New Delhi pop-rock band Firki’s new “not-love” song “Kukku Main Jahaj Ho Gaya Hoon” was created out of a poem inspired by a conversation that lyricist (and journalist) Ritesh Mishra chanced upon. Their third single so far, Firki deliver fun-loving rock ‘n roll with a harmonica solo to liven things up on the track, with the music video showcasing metaphors for the many-splendored (and not-so-splendorous) aspects of love.  

“Justice” by Sharad Dipesh Diyali ft Baiju Dharmajan

Kalimpong guitarist and composer Sharad Dipesh Diyali has been at it since 2014 and he teams with Kerala guitar veteran Baiju Dharmajan on a rollercoaster of grooves and rhythms called “Justice.” While there’s springing fretwork that you’d expect – and Dharmajan being the effortlessly cool Carnatic guitar ace – the artist aims to highlight how the world needs justice for everyone striving for it daily.

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“Riot” by Mission:Recovery

Starting off in 2018 and influenced by artists like rapper NF and rockers Linkin Park, Pune’s Mission:Recovery aka MNR aka Vishal Pisharoti amps things up with his latest track “Riot,” which is a short burst of rage directed at systemic injustices and how the youth can’t be enslaved. Going over wiry, threatening guitar riffs, there’s djent energy reminiscent of U.K. band Hacktivist for good measure, with booming beats for the verses and chaotic riffs in two and a half minutes.

“I’ll Be With You” by Apartment Upstairs

Formed in 2018 by singer-guitarist Rohan Pai and drummer Shourjo Chatterjee, there’s a shimmering hip-hop/funk and jazz edge to Apartment Upstairs’ LGBTQ+ friendly new song “I’ll Be With You.” Featuring producer Doc.Awes, rapper Fakeer aka Oran Brahma as well as saxophonist Abhay Sharma, the duo land at a radiant blend that’s for fans of hip-hop artist Anderson .Paak as well as moody funk-employing artists such as Vulfpeck and Jacob Collier.

“Dooriyaan” by Shubumm

New Delhi singer-songwriter Shubumm aka Shubham Chawla’s new song “Dooriyaan” paces itself in the beginning as a regular sonic musing, but that’s before the flute-aided chorus dips into dramatic post-rock territory. A sullen yet dreamy mood throughout, “Dooriyaan” features flautist Ipsita Mazumdar and is produced by Lakshyarth Singh

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“Midnight” by Damini Bhatla

After gaining major listenership and over a 100,000 views for her February 2020 debut “Sweet Nothings,” Hyderabad’s Telugu singer-songwriter Damini Bhatla returns with a sensual and cozy yet cutesy new track called “Midnight.” While the animated music video follows a couple at their most intimate, it’s elevated by Bhatla’s drawn-out, whispery croons over lo-fi beats by Niteesh Kondiparthy.

Elephant In the Room by Semwal

Chandigarh-based, Dehradun-bred singer-songwriter Shubham Semwal reached the crowdfunding target of ₹1 lakh for his debut EP Elephant In the Room within six hours, going on to hit a total of over ₹2.4 lakhs. All of that perhaps helps his smooth four-track EP stay memorable right from the first listen. Employing neo-soul, hip-hop and pop songwriting and featuring singer-songwriter Sparsh Dangwal and vocalist Julie Ngurang on different wavy tracks, Semwal hits home with songs about love and human connections.

“Tough Times I” by Shreyas Iyengar

The second release off his upcoming album Tough Times, multi-instrumentalist Shreyas Iyengar preps listeners with another taste of the prominent sonic direction of the record, which releases in February. With a modern jazz outlook, there’s serpentine, intriguing saxophone leads for lumbering basslines, restless drum work and just minimal flourishes of guitar and keys.

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