Tag Archives: #desiartist

Yung Raja (Image by Hans Goh)

‘I’m a Byproduct of Mixing the Vividness of My Culture’ Says Singaporean Rapper Yung Raja

26-year-old first-generation Singaporean Indian, and a prized member of the Def Jam South East Asia roster, Yung Raja‘s debut foray into the US territory commences with the release of his brand new single “Mami”, alongside Alamo Records, home to some of the hottest hip-hop acts such as Lil Durk and Smokepurpp. The artist, who has been dubbed as Southeast Asia’s next avant-garde hip-hop artist known for his tasteful unification of English and Tamil lyricism, aims to reinvent societal views in and out of his homeland, inspire the next generation of cultural conservators, and elevate Southeast Asian hip-hop to world-class stages through his music. Raja’s past few singles have zeroed in on his heritage, identity, and freewheeling way of life in Singapore. In March, he was included on NME’s 100 lists, appearing as the first-ever Singaporean to make it to the platform’s coveted “artist to watch” list.

In this exclusive interview, he talks about spreading joy, positive vibes through his art and his heritage-influenced music.

Yung Raja (Image by Hans Goh)
Yung Raja (Image by Hans Goh)

You just made your debut foray into the US territory with the release of your brand new single “Mami”. What was the idea and inspiration behind it? What response have you received? 

I’m truly inspired by how music can lift people’s spirits, and one of my biggest motivations is to spread joy and positive vibes through my art. “Mami” was a record we made encapsulating that, especially at a time where clubs are closed and people aren’t throwing parties anymore. I really wanted to bring the club to the listener. “Mami” is a banger that’s meant for having fun, and we are super grateful to have the support of Alamo Records in the journey of breaking into the US market.

Tell us how your Singaporean-Indian heritage influences your music. 

It’s what and who I am, really. Being a first-generation Singaporean Indian, my DNA is made up of all the wonderful things that make my heritage special. Being a hip-hop artist, it’s all about showing people your real background and story. I’m heavily inspired by my culture and driven to showcase different aspects of it tastefully through my arts.

Your previous songs have largely focused on your heritage, identity, and way of life. Tell us about some of the cultural issues that you hope to bring to light through your music.

Well, for me it’s all about representation. Being a part of a minority racial group in Singapore, I am very grateful to be able to use my voice to inspire goodness in others. Whilst doing so, I’m focused on shining light on various aspects of my culture in a manner that’s palatable to people all around the world.

Humour, color, and a sense of style always seem to mark your fresh and fashionable music videos. Tell us who or what are your musical inspirations.

I’m inspired by many different artists/people from the west and east – Tyler The Creator, Dennis Rodman, Travis Scott, A R Rahman just to name a few. I guess I’m a byproduct of mixing the vividness of my culture, the pride of my roots, my happy-go-lucky personality, and western hip-hop.

What are you working on next? 

More vibrations for people! Can’t wait to share more when the time’s right… all I can say for now is stay tuned! 


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer and editor based in New Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul’ and ‘Bombay Memory Box’.


 

Musician, Raja Kumari (Image provided by Raja Kumari)

‘I Was Told to Tone Down My Ethnicity to be Successful in America’ Notes Raja Kumari

Indian-American rapper, songwriter, and singer Raja Kumari is a force of nature. Hailing from Claremont, California, she is best known for her collaboration with notable artists including Gwen Stefani, Fifth Harmony, Knife Party, and Fall Out Boy. A fearless, charismatic personality and natural-born storyteller, her mission is to create art that blends her Indian roots with her American upbringing.

In this exclusive interview, she talks among other things about the challenges she had to face as an American of Indian origin, her latest tracks ‘I Am A Rebel’ and ‘Hello World’ which released on Women’s Day, and philanthropic activities that she participates in through her music.

Musician, Raja Kumari (Image provided by Raja Kumari)
Musician, Raja Kumari (Image provided by Raja Kumari)

Being of Indian American origin, tell us more about the challenges you had to face and the uniqueness you bring to your music. 

RK: One of the main issues I faced trying to get started in America was racism. I was always told to tone down my ethnicity, that I was “too Indian” to be successful in America. I struggled to find someone to look up to as a South Asian kid in America. I remember, on weekends I would travel for classical dancing and wouldn’t necessarily share that with my friends. I would come to school with the Alta (painting the palms and feet with a red dye) fading on my hands and they’d ask me, “What is that? Do you have a hand disease?” 

Things are evolving in the US now. I like to call it the ‘brown renaissance’ Indians are more relevant in so many fields, especially entertainment. On the other hand, some people in India called me a ‘culture vulture’. How can I be a ‘culture vulture’ in my own culture just because I’m born in America? I’m not just another South Asian. I still have put in my time to be Indian enough to talk about India without being an appropriator of culture. My family did a really great job of preserving the culture for us. We don’t fake it. We wear sarees for pujas, my mom does Vijayadashami and Navratri, I have studied Indian music and dance. As a result, my style is just a balance between the East and the West. 

I think learning to navigate both worlds with authenticity has helped me become the artist I am today. I have carved a place for myself in the male-dominated music circuit by staying authentic and rooted in my culture. I think there a lot of women in the industry who say a lot of things from the female perspective about relationships, broken hearts, love lost, pain, sadness, happiness, or sexiness; there are so many of those voices. I felt like we were missing my perspective. Of course, I could sing soft and beautiful songs but there are many people to do that.

You are also a trained dancer in Kuchipudi, Odissi, and Bharatanatyam. Tell us more about this passion of yours. 

RK: My passion for Indian dance started at a very young age. My mother had always wanted to be a classical dancer and it wasn’t feasible for her to pursue it growing up, so it was always in her heart to have a daughter who was a dancer so I came out dancing. My attachment to classical Indian dancing really gave me so much of my personality, so much the way I dress and the way I perceive the world, and also the stories that I relate to. Some kids grew up to Batman, Superman and I was really obsessed with the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and the stories of Hanuman. Those were my superheroes, and so I think classical dance really made that a part of my life. 

Tell us more about philanthropic activities you have participated in in the past through your performances. 

RK: I always believed art should be used for the greater good. Since I was a child, my parents always involved me in a lot of charity work and I was able to help build the meditational hall in Hyderabad and donate a wing for a hospital in Bengaluru. I consistently performed for so many temples to raise funds for building certain temples in Southern California. I think now I definitely use my art to open doors for others to create an opportunity to inspire. There are many philanthropic activities I am a part of but I mostly like to support the charities that support the girl child because I believe in India, we need more attention and more support to encourage young girls to be in art and not just sciences or leaving school as we usher in an era of more creative artists. I think we have enough of everything else and I would hate to lose our artistry as a culture with the idea of modernizing ourselves and lose everything we are, so anything that will help support the art, I am there.

Who are some of your inspirations? 

RK: Madhuri Dixit, Lauryn Hill, Kamala Harris, Missy Elliot, and Beyonce.

Tell our readers more about your latest tracks ‘I Am A Rebel’ (featuring Kiara Advani and Bani J in lead roles) as well as ‘Hello World’ (with Hollywood actor Rita Wilson and Brazilian singer Claudia Leitte), both of which released on Women’s Day. 

RK: Both these tracks were created from the inkling to motivate and inspire young girls. Teaming up with Rita Wilson and Claudia Leitte on ‘Hello World’ was amazing, as these are two women I have so much respect for and it was really cool to see how our styles complemented one another. When boAt approached me to write ‘I Am A Rebel’, I was so excited to collaborate with my longtime friend DJ SA on the music. I’ve always considered myself a rebel in my music choice, my career, and my unapologetic nature! I loved crafting the lyrics to depict that energy and I’m so happy to have been joined by so many strong women like Bani J and Kiara on the campaign.


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. 


 

Amanda Sodhi traveling (Images from her Instagram @amandasodhi)

12 Months. 12 Cities. 1 Suitcase: An Indian American Travels to India to Find Her Home

Amanda Sodhi is a DC native and was previously an LA-based screenwriter, songwriter, filmmaker, and writer. This year she has launched a program titled Twelve Steps to Home to travel across twelve cities in India. Amanda Sodhi has taken an unconventional path, following her passion and encouraging women to do the same. She has built on her versatile talents and uses them to questions the ways in which women are bogged down by society. In this interview, she expands on her new project and what it means to be a woman on the road less traveled.

IC: You have a background in writing and music, what urged you to fuse them together and create your project Twelve Steps to Home, and what does it mean to you?

AS: I was born and brought up in Washington, DC. I’ve lived and worked in Los Angeles, too. I moved to Mumbai when I was 25. At 29, I moved to Kolkata, shuttling between there and Delhi. However, I kept outgrowing each city after a point, and it really felt quite isolating. I felt like I belonged both everywhere and nowhere. I couldn’t identify any one place as “home,” as a place to return to. 

Often, people define home as where their family is. Since I am estranged from my family, the definition of “home” is especially blurry for me. 

The lease of my Kolkata flat was anyhow expiring in December. So, I sold all my furniture, downsized to one suitcase, and began a brand new journey of uprooting myself consciously month-after-month – 12 months, 1 month per city. I will be documenting this journey in the form of a book. And, I intend to release my next song with a music video that draws from footage from all 12 places. 

I have no idea what the outcome is going to be at the end of this path, if I will discover what “home” and “belonging” means or not. But, at the moment, I feel like I’m living my best life, indulging in all these new experiences and meeting so many new people.

IC: As an Indian, there are often challenges that urge us to take a ‘safe’ path in our career due to family or societal pressure. What brought you to find success in your passion and how do you cope in that environment?

AS: It was difficult. My family was neither able to accept that I wanted to pursue a creative career, nor were they were able to wrap their head around the fact I was going to move to India. Eventually, I reached a breaking point where I felt it was high time I lived my life fully, without any guilt. Therapy also helped. Sometimes it takes years of something building up slowly to make a person finally snap, not care about what society thinks and muster the courage to live life on their own terms. 

IC: As a woman traveling in India, how is your artistic process impacted through challenges or obstacles you may face that other genders don’t? What has changed in your journey?

AS: It is challenging – often, people try to discourage women from traveling solo by instilling fear in them. Sometimes people feel resentful that you’re traveling freely when they have succumbed to societal pressure and are conforming to certain expectations of how life should be structured by XYZ age. Some people show sympathy that, “Oh, you don’t have a boyfriend or husband to travel with?” as if that’s even a prerequisite! A few people, however, feel inspired to also travel. It’s a mixed bag.

I remember when I was in Port Blair, one of the hotels I stayed at created random rules just for me because I was the only solo female traveler at their property. It was suffocating. Also, in many cities, I have faced eve-teasing. It can be really upsetting. But, I don’t let it discourage me. Why should a few assholes ruin my plans? My life has been enriched through all the travel experiences I’ve been blessed to have – I’ve learned so much about different places, different people, different cultures, different viewpoints, different lifestyle choices. So many stories to tell!

Regarding my artistic process, there are a lot of men with very fragile egos one comes into contact with; some of them do try to jeopardize your project(s). This is why I like to work alone as much as possible. And, this is why I don’t rely on artistic projects to pay my bills. I freelance as a social media consultant, content writer, and VO artist. This decision has enabled me to create art on my own terms.

IC: In the same manner, how has the pandemic impacted your journey?

AS: The travel guidelines for each state in India keep changing, so I have to pick places accordingly. And, I have to be mentally prepared that flights may get canceled last minute. Because not as many tourists are flocking to each city, I get to experience the best of the local vibe. With this crisis occurring in India right now, it seems I’ll stay put in Kashmir for another month. I will proceed with caution and be sure to monitor the situations carefully. 

IC: What do you want to say to women, who also want to strongly pursue their dreams but are afraid to for different reasons? 

AS: We are all going to die sooner or later…Marne se pehle, please thodda jee lo.

The fact we are all mortal should be the biggest motivation to pursue one’s dreams unapologetically. Better to try and fail in the process rather than be resentful or blame others for stopping you. Yes, everything comes with consequences. But, in the end, I firmly believe the only person stopping you is you. 

IC: As a woman who has taken an unconventional path in life, is there a lot of emphasis on mental health? In India, where there is a strong barrier for women, and where mental health is a taboo, how do you cope with facing such challenges? 

AS: I’ve been in and out of therapy for nearly a decade. I’ve also reached out to shrinks and life coaches, as and when I’ve felt it was required. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with Mixed Anxiety Depressive Disorder. Instability, for prolonged periods, is usually a trigger point for me, which mainly stems from a lack of a sense of what “family” is. Sometimes being open about your own mental health journey – especially if you seem high-functioning – inspires others to also seek help. It is best to lead by example.

I conduct writing therapy workshops through my startup Pen Paper Dreams and try my best to counter the stigma surrounding mental health at a smaller level. For example, one of the books I had my reading group explore is Maybe You Should Talk To Someone. It helped bust a lot of myths. 

IC: You have traveled and lived in places that are on opposite ends of the world, adapting to cultures that may be completely alien to you. What is your support system in this process and how do you thrive in each city and culture to fully experience it?

AS: Indeed, every city is unique. But, at the same time, humans are also very similar, irrespective of their surface-level differences. When you are mentally prepared that you have to make the most of any place, any situation, it helps you adapt quickly. I’ve been lucky to make friends and acquaintances everywhere I go – they have all been an extremely important part of my support system. Humans are social creatures – we need interaction in healthy doses to thrive; that’s definitely one thing this pandemic has made crystal clear. 

IC: How important is it to have an identity as a person separate from being a daughter, mother, sister, etc and in Indian society, how do women tackle that?

AS: Before being a daughter or a mother or a sister or a spouse, you are first and foremost an individual. A person is much more than just the role they play within a family. One’s identity is a mix of different elements at a personal level, family level, and social level. Do not let one role define your entire being.

Check out Amanda Sodhi’s music here:


Swati Ramaswamy is a recent graduate from UC Davis and is an aspiring creative writer who loathes speaking in the third person. 


 

Why Madhubani? Find Out At Our Free Workshop!

Why Madhubani Art?

Madhubani literally means ‘forests of honey’ and refers to paintings in a distinct style that captures viewers’ attention with their vibrancy. ‘Madhubani’, is a folk art handed down over thousands of years from the times of Ramayana. Tradition states that King Janak of Mithila commissioned artists to make paintings for the wedding of his daughter, Sita, to Lord Ram. The womenfolk of the village drew the paintings on the walls of their home as an illustration of their thoughts, hopes, and dreams.

With time, the paintings became a part of festivities and special events. It was unknown to the outside world until the massive Bihar earthquake of 1934. House walls had tumbled down, and the British colonial officer in Madhubani District, William G. Archer, inspecting the damage, ‘discovered’ the paintings on the newly exposed interior walls of homes. Archer was stunned by the beauty of the paintings and their similarities to the work of modern Western artists like Klee, Miro, and Picasso. Slowly and gradually, Madhubani paintings from Bihar, India, crossed the traditional boundaries and started reaching connoisseurs of art at the national as well as the international level. 

Madhubani paintings, done in villages around the present town of Madhubani, were usually done on freshly plastered mud walls of huts. These paintings use two-dimensional imagery, and the colors used are derived from plants. Traditional themes generally revolve around Hindu deities like Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. The paintings also depict natural objects, like the sun and moon, and religious plants, like tulsi (holy basil). Other motifs include scenes from the royal court and social events, apart from activities from daily life. 

Madhubani is a unique folk art that is said to beckon the gods every morning who comes invisibly to the household to bless the members of the family and to bring prosperity. Hence my fascination with it!

About Bandiworks and Me

I’m a multi-disciplinary artist who enjoys engaging with folk art from across the world – with a special focus on India. The idea is to share with people the simplicity of these creative forms and my love for them – I find them so empowering. I design and conduct experiential workshops for all age groups, giving a contemporary bent to heritage Arts and Crafts. 

At Bandiworks, one of the artforms we worked with extensively is ‘Madhubani’ of Bihar. We have adapted this folk art to create contemporary custom-made articles of use as well as curated paired experiences which introduce you to Madhubani in different settings. Be it along with the traditional food of Bihar, the Dashavatar rendition in Kathak, or the intricate folds of Origami. This juxtaposition makes for thought-provoking forms of expression and gives rise to unexpected conversations.

India Currents and Bandiworks Connects

Join me, in collaboration with India Currents, for a free LIVE Madhubani drawing workshop on March 31st at 6:30pm PDT and 9:30pm EDT.

Sign up for the event here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/146816172123

Join us from anywhere in the world to celebrate Holi and draw Madhubani art.

This event is for all ages and will run as a 1.5 hr online workshop on Zoom.

No previous drawing skills required!!

You will walk away with the knowledge of an age-old traditional art form, appreciation for it because you’ve drawn it yourself, and an hour of relaxation and fun – much needed during these times.

Materials Required:

  • A4 sized paper (Thicker is better. Handmade paper if you have access to it)
  • Fine tipped gel/fibre tipped pens in black and red (fine-tipped sharpies)

Look forward to seeing you all there!


Bandana Agarwal is passionate about folk art from around the world and hopes to make it accessible!

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: From Trinidad to America

Being newly retired, memories of my childhood bubbled up, as I finally had time to daydream. My father’s grandmother, Gangee Maharaj, arrived in Trinidad from Raipur, India in 1900. Many Indians came to Trinidad as indentured laborers eventually earning plots of land from the British. Thus, my great-grandparents received their own land, passing it on to my grandparents, on whose farm I grew up. I remember vividly our two beloved cows, Rani and Raja. We were often blessed with fresh and nutritious milk.

To become an eligible bride, one requirement was to be able to skillfully puff a paratha! Achieving the perfect architecture and weight of the delicious and well-known flatbread takes practice. Only then could you have your handprint painted on Grandma’s kitchen wall. This meant that you were allowed to enter her kitchen and prepare a meal under her supervision. My first painting had to be of this kitchen!

I also remembered the wonderful folklore of Trinidad infused by the many African immigrants. We heard many stories of mythical creatures. Moko Jumbie was invoked to protect the people during the long and arduous slave boat journeys from Africa. The Soucouyant is a vampire, popular in many Caribbean countries. I remember being very scared hearing some of these stories as a young girl!

My paintings are of memories from my childhood, which was steeped with traditional Hindu ceremonies, African folklore, the natural beauty of the islands, and the array of cultures of the diverse population.

The world is a family 

One is a relative, the other stranger, 

say the small minded. 

The entire world is a family, 

live the magnanimous. 

Be detached, 

be magnanimous, 

lift up your mind, enjoy 

the fruit of Brahmanic freedom. 

—Maha Upanishad 6.71–75 

The Yamas and Niyamas of Healing Patterns and Colors is the title of my newest painting collection.

Imagine that these ethical principles, the yamas and niyamas of the ancient Upanishads are embedded in all my paintings. The sage, Patanjali expounds on them in his Yoga Sutras. Sutra means “thread” in Sanskrit, which you can see represented by the many-colored line segments in this painting collection. 

Indra Persad-Milowe’s Art Piece, The Yamas and Niyamas of Healing Patterns and Colors.

YAMAS: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras lists five yamas, or moral restraints, which apply specifically to how you behave outwardly toward other beings.

1) Ahimsa – Non-violence in thought, word and deed 

2) Satya – Truthfulness 

3) Asteya – Non-Stealing

4) Brahmacharya – putting the “path to the Divine” first and foremost in life 

5) Aparigraha – Non-hoarding, freedom from grasping 

NIYAMAS: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra lists five niyamas, or observances, which apply specifically to how you conduct yourself on a more personal level. 

1) Saucha – Cleanliness 

2) Santosha – Contentment 

3) Tapas – Self Discipline 

4) Svadhyaya – Self Study 

5) Isvara-pranidhana – Surrender: offering yourself completely as a vehicle of the Divine will 

My ten-piece paintings capture religious and cultural life in so many patterns and colors, just like our world is full of varieties of patterns and colors. They reflect many disciplines and ideals of life: faith, fortitude, sacrifice, respect, and love. Love and respect for all patterns (ways of life) and colors (global cultures) are a very important Hindu worldview – “VASUDHAIVA KUTUMBAKAM” (The world is a family).


Indra Persad Milowe is a visual artist living and working in Salem, Massachusetts. She is currently working on an extensive series of paintings, drawing upon childhood memories of growing up in Trinidad during the 1950s.

MAALicious: Love Your Artisan Jewelers

Those who love jewelry and the world around them, have something special to celebrate with this Valentine’s Day month.

Designed in New York City and made for the global Indian woman, Maalicious Jewelry was born two years ago out of a desire to empower women artisans in India. The brand aims to innovate and create quintessential jewelry with a rich dose of tradition. Its inspiration is Indian, tribal, and historic. All of its earrings are 24K gold-dipped. Some of its artists get over 50% of the proceedings from the jewelry, and a few of their earrings are made using sustainable material like clay.

Poonam Thimmaiah, Founder of Maalicious

Maalicious’ Founder, Poonam Thimmaiah, spent her childhood hopping across India as her father would get transferred every three years. Growing up in different states developed in her an aesthetic that’s appreciative of and deeply rooted in various Indian subcultures. “I have immense appreciation for Indian handicrafts, and have always dreamt of making products work with women artisans using dwindling art forms that were chic enough to cater to the urban crowd,” says Thimmaiah about the idea behind her handmade jewelry brand.

Born as a pet project, Maalicious was conceived at Poonam’s home in New York while mending a broken heart caused by a miscarriage in her 36th week of pregnancy. “As they say, adversity leads to opportunity, and delving into arts helped me during those dark times,” she recalls. This was combined with her longstanding desire to create and wear her own designs. 

Poonam partnered with differently-abled students studying jewelry in Mysore on her visit to India a few weeks later. She then worked with women artisans to integrate various Indian art forms into the jewelry. A lot of research, learning, sweat, and blood later, they have grown into what Maalicious is today. The brand has had some amazing moments in the last few years, including being featured in British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar Thailand, and more. Last year, they also showcased their jewelry at the New York Fashion Week and the Paris Fashion Week. This year, it has again been selected for the New York Fashion Week in February. 

Maalicious Jewelry

What sets Maalicious apart from others in the market is its goal of giving its customers beautiful, lasting jewelry while holding the values of quality, labor rights, and sustainability paramount. Maalicious is also making efforts to support women artisans and rejuvenate their traditional arts. Its goal is to provide talented women artisans with a platform to shine, thrive, and succeed. A women-only run firm, the brand has around six women artisans that it works with on a regular basis in India, and has also collaborated with a few others in Italy and Ukraine. Their long-term goal is to stand in solidarity with skilled women and build a platform where they can support each other. “We would love to give back more to marginalized women and help with their sustenance,” says Thimmaiah. 

Further, Maalicious uses responsibly sourced and sustainable materials in their products, such as terracotta clay or red baked earth, silk thread, and wood, which have been part of our culture for centuries. Its distinctiveness also stems from their need to innovate in this space. “Everything is handmade and so, imperfect but that’s what makes them unique,” says Thimmaiah. For instance, their Vintage earrings are made of terracotta clay and then hand-painted. Their customizable Alice earrings can be personalized with pictures from their customers. Further, most of Maalicious’ signature pieces have a story from India’s glorious past behind them.

One of Maalicious’ earrings is a tribute to a unique and fascinating community called the Drokpas, about 5,000 of whose members today survive in the high altitudes of Ladakh. Believed to be the oldest and purest human tribe, the Drokpas inhabit the cluster of seven villages located down the Indus River. They are known for their liberal views, elaborate jewelry, chiseled features, and beautiful gardens. The Amrita Sher-Gil piece is a tribute to the famous Indian painter known as the pioneer of modern Indian art. Often known as “India’s Frida Kahlo”, she painted many self portraits and captured the daily lives of Indian women in the 1930s, often revealing a sense of their loneliness. 


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer and editor based in New Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul’ and ‘Bombay Memory Box’.

2021 Is the Year For Indie Indian Artists

The global pandemic changed the way we live. And, it has definitely impacted the lives of independent artists in more than one way. While 2020 taught independent artists to innovate and channel their creativity, it also increased online content competition.

India Currents speaks to two independent artists, Atlanta based singer-composer-coach Vinod Krishnan and Mumbai based singer-songwriter Mallika Mehta – to learn the challenges they faced in the indie-music scene in 2020 and what’s in store for the new year.

Vinod Krishnan, who previously released viral productions with IndianRaga and his independent hits like Kaalai Pozhudhil, Saajan, etc., has been in the independent scene for more than two years now. He is popularly known for his IndianRaga Shape of You Mix, which garnered a viewership of 8M+.

Mallika Mehta, titled the “Adele of Mumbai,” released her first EP Evolve when she was 19 and has come a long way while dabbling between genres, styles, and songwriting processes. She recently released a single “Kaafi” that has been performing incredibly well on all audio platforms. 

Indie Artist, Vinod Krishnan.

“Challenges make our journey interesting.”

Independent artists have been facing challenges like remote collaborations, remote productions, remote content, shifting trends in 2020. “But every challenge presented a learning opportunity.,” says Krishnan. When thrown with the lockdown, musicians collaborated over Zoom and released videos through online collaborations. Event management companies took concerts online and supported other artists and music communities.  

“This year is going to be a learning curve,” says Krishnan. “There is more online content now because of the pandemic (concerts, movies, short series) are all coming online, so an indie musician has to now make video content to make their songs get some attention. That’s expensive.” Meanwhile, Mehta says the pandemic has definitely nurtured her creativity and gave her more time for music that she will continue to do this year. “If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, I don’t think I would have written so much music in one year,” she adds. “One thing 2020 taught us is that planning forward is not always the best idea. So for now, I’m taking each day at a time.” 

Mehta adds that she enjoys the challenges for the love of her work. “I love telling stories through my songs, and when I get messages from people saying how they love the melody or lyrics or how they feel the exact same way or how it made their day better, that right there makes me want to write another song,” she says. “It’s the love for music, the support from loved ones and strangers, and the fact that you know you’re making a difference doesn’t matter big or small.” It’s intriguing to see how independent artists are highlighting the challenges they faced and growing from them simultaneously while giving us beautiful music to listen to.

Indie Artist, Mallika Mehta.

We are all playing the social-media-game!” 

While there are opportunities, there’s also competition on the online spectrum. Mehta says, “a lot of labels have been supporting indie artists, but the competition is incredible, the number of artists releasing music is in numbers you certainly can’t count on your fingers. So until then, independently releasing music is our only way forward.” 

Yes, there’s going to be more competition for viewer attention this year,” adds Krishnan. “That means more OTT content since people are indoors because of the pandemic. Independent artist channels without labels or sponsors are tackling hurdles like viewer reach, social media visibility, shares, and the Instagram algorithm to reach their new fans,” he adds. 

“2021 is a year of possibilities.”

“Despite the curveballs, the joy of creating new music keeps me going,” says Krishnan.  “Why do filmmakers make more movies, even if they had a flop one time? Creative artists have risktaking as quality.” Independent artists are inspiring the music community with their philosophy and never-give-up attitude, and that’s exactly what we need for this new year.

Mehta says that being an independent artist comes with its set of challenges, and if you add the pandemic to it, it only becomes more unprecedented. “But as I said, I create music because I love it.” 

This is the year of possibilities, and indie artists are hopeful for a positivity-filled 2021. “Independent musicians are coming up by the dozen, which I think is absolutely great. A singer-songwriter is a storyteller, and it’s funny how a lot of people across the globe do share a similar story with you.“2020 itself had a lot more independent music released, and 2021 would just add onto that,” says Mehta. 

Krishnan agrees that 2021 is the year where more indie musicians will join, build, and create content. Because being an independent musician, this year, means, as Mehta says, “all the power and decisions are in your own hands.”

According to Mehta and Krishnan, this year will show more growth and opportunities. We are looking for an indie-filled 2021, where more artists emerge and put out their music and share their talent with the world. 


Sruthi Dhulipala is a San Francisco-based communications professional and writer. She is also an independent singer-songwriter and you can find her music on all audio platforms. Sruthi enjoys the art of writing and has been priorly published in an International Anthology, “Lakdikapul II,” through an Indian Poet’s Association. She is passionate about music, writing, expression, and her goal to promote music to the benefit of the people through her own art and others’ art.

Trip-Hop Artist Combines English and Urdu

Experimental solo artist, Neeq Serene introduced her haunting and introspective debut single, ‘The Others‘ in May 2020, crossing over genres of trip-hop, alternative RnB, and gothic neo-folk.

An emotive and cinematic soundscape, the sophomore single ‘Fields of Gold’, released on 8th January 2021, features hypnotic vocal layers sung in both English and Urdu, inspired by Serene’s South Asian roots. When writing the song, Serene envisaged crossing the boundary from this world to the next – where departed souls shall meet again.

2019 saw the launch of PINERO|SERENE, a dream-pop songwriting collaboration with bass player Cheryl Pinero. The debut EP, ‘Dark Matter,’ was released on 28th July 2019, with the first single, ‘Take My Soul’ premiered by Clash Magazine. In this new sonic chapter, Neeq reveals a self-reflective journey through minimal, electronic music and deep lyricism, drawing on influences from the alternative music world and her Kashmiri heritage.

‘Fields of Gold’ written and performed by Neeq Serene
Instruments written, played and recorded by Neeq Serene
Orchestra, guitar and additional synth-overdubs played and recorded by Gon von Zola
Mixing and production by Gon von Zola


 

Raj Ramayya

Spicy Beats Brings the Indian Heat

Indo-Canadian Musician, Raj Ramayya loves to be busy. When he’s not traveling the world performing at anime and game conventions for some of his hit soundtracks like Cowboy Bebop and Resident Evil, he is hard at work writing and producing music for some of the top anime and games in the world like Tower of God or perhaps just scoring award-winning culturally relevant documentaries about social justice and environmental issues with titles like Shadow of Dumont or Who Killed Gandhi?

Sometimes, Raj can be found remixing tracks with an Indian Electronic flare for classic artists such as Stephen Stills or at his studio in The San Francisco Bay area sipping pinot noir and cooking curries. Other times, when he’s not in the studio (which is rare) you can find Raj cooking spicy dishes with his mom in Saskatoon or sourcing chili peppers in South Asia, or drinking sake in Tokyo.

For Raj, music, food, drinks, and traveling make the world go round and his voice can literally be heard all over the world. As one of the most highly sought after session singers during his decades-long stint in Japan, Raj was the voice of John Lennon and featured on 200 spots on ads for everything from Pokemon, Astro Boy, Sapporo Beer, and Toyota

This latest release entitled “Spicy Beats” pulls together classic acoustic rock-influenced melodies with electronic beats and a host of Indian instruments and singers all held together with funky baselines and recorded in studios, bedrooms, bathrooms, and bars in Chennai India, Tokyo, Japan, and San Francisco, California. Spicy Beats puts a unique twist on some incredibly catchy hooks. If you enjoy spicy music or would like to know what spicy music is, then tune in and get ready for Spicy Beats.  Pre-order / Pre-save the album: https://smarturl.it/htr-raj-spicybeats 


 

Art That People Step On

While walking, have you ever walked around or over a spot that looks dirty because of leaks, spills, smudges, or splatter? How about bird poop?

The next time you come across what looks like a dirty area, don’t just keep walking. Stop and look, and have your smartphone camera ready. You will be surprised to find patterns that look like art in the area that looks like it should be avoided.

I initially started looking for patterns in nature and on paved surfaces, walls, and in other manmade objects that looked like the symbol “or “OM”, which is a symbol that has religious and spiritual significance for Hindus. I only found two patterns that looked somewhat like .” 

At the end of the year 2016, I started noticing other patterns in spills, leaks, stains, smudges, splatter, spit, and weathered, eroded, and repaired portions of sidewalks and other paved and semi-paved areas that people generally step on without paying much attention. To my curious mind and eyes, some of the patterns looked like works of art. Soon I started noticing more and more ‘works of art’ as I walked on paved, semi-paved, and unpaved surfaces. Using the camera on my smartphone, I started taking pictures of the artistic patterns observed.

I, now, have a growing collection of photos called “Art That People Step On” and am able to quickly spot art-like patterns in dirty-looking areas on surfaces.

Some of the skills used to identify patterns of art in what appears to be dirty-looking areas include focused observation, identifying patterns, making connections, rotational visualization, asking questions, curiosity, and imagination. 

Viewers’ interpretations of what the pictures are and the artist’s interpretations may be quite different, and this is perfectly okay. Everyone perceives things differently, based on their prior knowledge, experiences, and cultural perspectives. 

If the pictures provoke some conversations among strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family members who view them, I will be happy. 

Photos from the “Art That People Step On” collection have been exhibited at the Beverly Hills art show in May 2019, October 2019, and October 2020. During the show in October 2020, one photo was awarded the Third Place ribbon by the judges and also won the People’s Choice Award in the Photography category

Why don’t you try your hand at it? What would you title this picture?


Dr. Mandayam Osuri Thirunarayanan was born in Madras, India. He became a citizen of the United States and currently lives in Miami, Florida.