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Beats Beyond Bhangra: Ten Rising Producers from India You Should Know

Synth-pop, Bollywood throwbacks, and melodic electronica from India's top rising talents.

by Adwait Patil
Apr 8 2015, 6:50pm

Electronic music in India has been popping for a while now. Ten years ago, the dance community in India was a tiny group of people sharing common interest over the latest Aphex Twin, Prodigy or Chemical Brothers release. But each year, faster Internet connections and promoters stepping up their game have allowed more people to be indoctrinated into this cult. India's biggest electronic festival, Sunburn, drew 10,000 people when it launched in 2007, in the southern state of Goa. Today, it has moved to Mumbai, Dehli, Colombo, Sri Lanka and Dubai—and attracts crowds of up to 150,000.

Over the past five years, international acts have thrived on our shores. David Guetta, Tiesto and Swedish House Mafia have sold out shows, while Jon Hopkins, Modeselektor, Hudson Mowhawke, Kode9 and Mala have all played gigs here in recent years.

But even though people turn out in good numbers for these foreign acts, huge crowds at shows by local DJs is still a rare sight. When I went to watch downtempo electronic act Sulk Station at a club in Mumbai, I ended up seeing the same faces I did a year ago, at the same show. Old-guard artists like Dualist Inquiry and Nucleya, who were the first artists to take alternative electronic music from India to a mass scale in mid-2011, still pull the largest crowds at festivals and clubs.

While Dualist Inquiry's rock-influenced electronic music and Nucleya's Indian-ized take on dubstep have taken our country by storm, they hardly represent the wealth of talent bubbling up in India's electronic underground. Here are a bunch of young Indian producers you should be listening to today.

10. Sandunes

Photo by Shrinivas Kanchi

The Mumbai-based producer Sanaya Ardeshir is now three EPs deep, each one boasting a completely different sound. Her refreshing take on melodic electronica revolves around melodic synth-based compositions with fleeting percussive elements. She's also just completed a US tour, which included a show at SXSW and an opening set at Heems' Eat Pray Thug. Oh, and she just released her "Exit Strategy" music video on THUMP last month.

9. Lifafa

Frontman of the jazz/cabaret band Peter Cat Recroding Co., Lifafa has his aesthetic set on a retro-tinged thematic soundscape. Both his releases are soaked in same sonic palette that you would associate a gripping movie score to be. The light percussion sets the pace and his filtered Hindi vocal, which sound like they aren't made in this day and age, add to his sonic identity.

8. Aniruddh S Menon

The Bangalore-based producer is one the youngest producers on this list—I think he's still in college. His downtempo melodic music is made with light percussive beats and high-frequency notes, which generally act as the main elements in his tunes. On a Tumblr filled with his original artwork, he describes himself as a "tree climber and tea drinker," along with a "sound collage and music maker," which gives you a sense of how chill this guy is. He plays in a band called Machli, which you should definitely check out as well.

7. Tarana Marwah

Photo by Vivek S Nambiar

Based in New Delhi, Marwah is a keyboardist, songwriter, vocalist and producer. After played in a bunch of bands, she dropped her first solo release called Komorebi this year. Apart from the obvious Japanese inspiration behind her music, her new EP is a fantastic debut. With sounds bordering on the melodic electronica soundscape, her music is minimal, the arrangements are glorious, and the production is crisp.

6. Synthetic Lying Machine

Mumbai's very own analog nerd, Synthetic Lying Machine, likes to keep his identity a secret. He makes music that operates at lo-fi frequencies and likes to experiment using old gear and household items. With six releases on his Bandcamp, there's a lot to listen to.

5. Worms' Cottage

The hip-hop scene in India is still a tiny community. Rishabh Iyer alias Worms' Cottage is the new kid on the block, who's out to change that. He released his debut EP Tour Guide Imposter last month and it sounds great. There are some nice syncopated beats going on which Iyer raps and sings, sometimes with an undecipherable drawl. He'll only get better with time.

4. Your Chin

Photo by Anuj Prajapati

Raxit Tewari has had an interesting career in music. His band Sky Rabbit started out almost ten years ago and progressed from nu-metal to an electro-rock sound. As Your Chin, Tewari makes electro-pop. His monotone drawl, a basic drum and synth soundscape and straightforward song writing makes his music go down smoother than Patron on ice.

3. Aqua Dominatrix

Here's a guy who makes 70s-era synth pop music, but also plays in two metal bands. You can't make this shit up. Aqua Dominatrix (Akshay Rajpurohit)'s debut album is a year old; the groove laid down on this record is held together with some sharp percussive sounds. Did I mention that he writes his music using only hardware? Look ma, no computers.

2. Sid Vashi

Having grown up in Detroit, Sid Vashi music diet included equal parts Slum Village and Bollywood film music, which is pretty evident in the music he makes. There's a bit of R&B, hip-hop and the occasional Bollywood throwback when it comes to Vashi's music. His ability to sample sounds, including a classroom full of kids, is best heard in the last song he released called "Count & Provide" two months ago.

1. _RHL

Rahul Giri is sort of like the grand-daddy on this list. He's been at the forefront of India's burgeoning alternative electronic music scene, producing music himself and with his act Sulk Station. With Sulk Station, his work borders on a more trip-hop-esque palette, as _RHL his lo-fi vibrating soundscapes producer a darker set of melodies.

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