Jazz, bhangra, fusion, pop and R&B – these amazing Indian-origin artistes have it all covered
If you listen to ‘Satellite’, it is easy to dismiss Asha Sing as just another candyfloss-pop singer. But give ‘Mercy’ a listen and you are most likely to realise why she hit the number seven spot on Billboard charts with that debut track of hers two years ago. The song itself is highly confusing, but in a good way – it begins with a heady mix of bhangra and sails into an extremely catchy melody. An earworm straight out of a crossover film, if you will.
Photo source: www.ashasing.com
“In the American community my Indian heritage has had nothing but a positive reaction. People are drawn to new cultures and learning about things they don't know,” says the 23-year-old Los-Angeles based singer whose music journey began from performing in church, to winning competitions in college. After completing a course in music business two years, she was ready to hit the road. That’s when ‘Mercy’ came out. Going by the way she dresses to her musical leanings, Asha wants to build a new Western-desi image where she is every bit of a modern, American pop star albeit with strong Indian folksy bent. Surprisingly, it is the Indian community from which Asha is yet to receive support. “Since most of my music is in English, most older crowds aren't interested in booking me because they are looking for something a bit more traditional. When it comes to younger crowds, it has really been very hard for female artistes to break through,” she confesses.
Rehan Dalal, on the other hand, has had a polar opposite music trajectory. The jazz singer, who has two records to his credit, grew up in Mumbai and moved to Canada only a few years ago. “I've never really been a musician in India in any meaningful way. I really picked up the guitar after moving away from here and my musical experiences here have been quite limited,” he says. Relocating to Toronto has been a boon for him, he admits. “R&B, soul, blues, jazz and hip-hop which are primarily the types of music that have influenced me and that I grew up listening to are all distinctly American,” says the 28-year-old artiste.
Photo: Jacob Blickenstaff
He is currently working on a full-length album. “This new record will definitely be more a jazz record than anything else,” he informs. Music might have happened as a hobby for him, but the young singer is now looking forward to many music milestones. “(I’d) hopefully playing bigger shows in more places…I'd love to be writing more for other artists, and hopefully more immersed in the indian music scene, that I'm sure in five years will be booming,” he feels.
On the other end of the music spectrum, London-based Sukh Knight has been steadily rising up EDM ranks. The young DJ-producer, best known for his track ‘Ganja dub’ and several other remixes, has been touring widely across Europe playing his style of grime/dubstep sprinkled with Asian influences.
Photo source: Sukh Knight/Facebook
Indians who love dubstep are sure to dig his dub remixes of Bollywood songs like ‘Choli ke peeche’. He’s produced tracks for several labels like Nasha, New World Audio, Nebula Music Group and others.
It would be unfair to profile rising artistes of Indian descent without taking note of the gifted singer-songwriters on the global circuit. One young voice worth mentioning is Rajan Chelliah, from Philadelphia, USA. The singer is a one-man army who works his magic on the guitar. “I love writing acoustic driven songs, with a little electronic element in it sometimes. Music, for me however, is more of a way to connect with people. Thus I always focus on writing songs that can actually have a positive impact on my audience, the way music has been for me,” says the 21-year old balladeer who is currently studying biology with a pre-med track in university. But he’d like to take a few years off to play music, he says. “I'm thinking of going to music school. But nothing is set in stone. Hopefully, in five years I'd have at least one album out and be touring. I would love to tour in India someday.”
Photo source: Rajan Chelliah/Facebook
Most indie artistes have to make tough choices when it comes to creating music that stays true to their artistry but also has commercial viability. Rajan hopes that those decisions get less threatening in times to come. “Someday, maybe artistes like us can actually make a career out of playing original music without having to move into cinema music,” he says.
Among fusion artistes, the one person that has been pushing the cause of Indian classical music (no, it’s not the boring stuff that’ll put you off, trust me) is the talented, and very charming Suphala.
Photo source: Suphala/Facebook
The New York-based tabla player, who studied under maestros like Alla Rakha Khan and Zakir Husain, has released four albums till date and has secured a cosy spot among NRI musicians as a sort of futuristic musician. Her concerts merge borders between genres, a sight that is quite an experience to watch.A powerhouse on stage, this lady!
Cover photo: Jacob Blickenstaff