The music industry, like the other creative realms, was met by devastation because of the pandemic that has defined this year. It was a bolt that could shake the very foundations of anything, but the lockdown made us realise that creativity and art in any form will survive. And so did the music industry. The stage was missed but musicians echoed voices from their home to ours. In case you missed any of them, we present the best of music we have featured this year.
Anhad + Tanner: Our recent album was recorded in Delhi and Durham, mixed by Gaurav Raina of Midival Punditz and finally mastered by Graeme Durham in London. There was a lot of back and forth. Of course it was challenging, but it's also a big part of what makes our duo interesting. As each place touches the music in this whole process, they manage to seep into the layers in some very beautiful ways. I don’t think anyone has ever managed to blend the sounds of Durham and Delhi together, and getting to be a part of creating such a fresh combination of experiences is a big part of what makes this all so compelling for us. We won’t lie, it is really hard to work because with so many people, you’re constantly revolving around their schedule and making amends on your own. However, the addition of it is so worth the hustle, as you can instantly start hearing the weight in the music, as it goes via every new door it sets its path through and takes something unique along with it. Setting up sessions, facing technical issues, thinking of more DIY techniques — all these things were challenging but the support our collaborators and team has shown made the process a lot more calming to deal with.
KAVYA: I use music and lyrics as a form of communication. Sometimes I feel it is better for me to share my thoughts and feelings via a song, than just mere talking. Hence I am always inspired because there are so many people that I am constantly engaging with and always have something I wish to communicate. What better way to do that than write a song? Being inspired by my environment, whilst I am in the thick of it, is the greatest inspiration as I am not trying to escape or run away from anything, and write down my emotions on a piece of a paper as each day passes by. Oh, and the rain really inspires me too. It gets me very emotional and always puts me in such a mood to write some music!
Tarun Balani a.k.a. Seasonal Affected Beats: Whether I am behind the drums with my group Dharma, or writing for SAB, I am essentially trying to share stories through sound, however, the presentation is very different. With Dharma, the storytelling is through intimate performances and almost inviting the audience on stage with us to witness the drama that unfolds with improvised music. However, with my electronic avatar, Seasonal Affected Beats, since it's a solo project which relies on technology, I felt the need to really augment the performance with the technology and think a lot outside of the box. The trans-media aspect of the live show is to really create an immerse experience for the audiences and go much beyond just the performance part of it.
Sarathy Korwar: I am a first generation Indian immigrant in the U.K. but I have always stayed true to my roots and also try to control my narrative. I don’t try to use my Indianness as a calling card, rather I make music and want people to see it for what it is. The biggest thing is breaking people’s expectations of what they think my music should look and sound like, given my background and influences. I can only do that by paying attention to how I put my music out.
Thaalavattam: I am a designer turned environmentalist, more than a musician. From nature, colour and people, everything inspires me. Things I see in everyday life. Even found objects like PVC pipes and discarded bottles among others. Those are my influences to create music instruments rather than graphic design which also plays a major role in my life as a musician. All my instruments are up-cycled. Some big, some small, some so huge that they are installation like. One of my favourite instruments so far is called Tubela which is made out of discarded PVC pipes and is a very melodic percussion and plays like an analogue synthesiser. Another instrument is made out of twenty five discarded water jugs and is called floating jugs. I’ve made spring based instruments, bottle based instruments. Sometimes my sets are mixed with hybrid setups and sometimes I go completely acoustic without up-cycled percussions.
Madame Gandhi: Throughout my childhood, I always attended all-girls private schools. In NYC I attended The Chapin School, and in Mumbai, I attended St. Anne’s. I loved my time at both because it was so inspiring to be around other women and girls, and celebrate the space to be leaders without the more domineering energy of our male counterparts. But I also felt critical of how we as a society in general school our children to conform, to not question society, to not develop their own creative intuitions. So, this music video is about moving from repressive spaces where we just take in what we are fed, and seeking out acts and spaces of personal freedom and liberation in our own lives. It feels especially timely during this period of global unrest. May we all take a moment to ask, ‘what does my own oppression look and feel like? Whose oppression might my actions inadvertently be contributing to?’ and, ‘what does freedom look and feel like for me?’
Saba Azad: Throughout the lockdown I was doing really well in my cocoon, at least, until I'm not thinking about the world crumbling outside. I love being by myself so it’s easy. I have a roof over my head, food on my plate and a means to make a living despite the lockdown, and I’m grateful every day for this because a large part of the population is not so fortunate. Honestly I don't think there is much room to complain for someone in my position. There is however a sense responsibility to do all one can to help and contribute towards those less fortunate. It's a struggle to not feel guilt about one's own privilege given the horror stories one is hearing on a daily basis, but a better use of this privilege would be to do all one can to help out.
Deveshi Sehgal: Despite the dreary reality and loss that this pandemic has pushed humanity to face, I think in these times something has shifted at the core for a lot of us. The lack of movement and accessibility has made me realise that as humans, we learn to adapt to the environment that we are presented with. Speaking of environment, nature is finally blooming and the planet is finally breathing as it should. Everything except us is flourishing. I think I'm going to always remember this time for the things I felt through the silence. It has given me time to introspect, to reduce my wants, and most importantly, to look at myself as not something separate, but as a part of a whole — we are all in this together. I think prior to this, there was this need and a rush to stand out and to prove oneself, to give one's existence some meaning based on parameters set by society, but I really do feel that the things that truly matter are always kept on the sidelines in this quest. I hope to continue to cherish and contribute more to the things that count — fresh air, blue skies, love, compassion and empathy.
Komorebi: Sometimes I use my music as a form of catharsis, to deal with my problems, and therefore it becomes relatable to others. This is a more selfish outlook. Other times, I write music to inspire feelings of hope and positivity in others. There is a layer of social responsibility in having your voice heard by so many people. Rebirth falls into the latter category and was meant to instil feelings of courage and strength in people. Honesty is the most important thing to me. That is what I want to convey above everything else.