Native beats: The best indie Indian music in 2023
Editor’s Note: In today’s Listen section we inaugurate a new partnership with the wonderful folks at music company first.wav. The company works as creative partners for artists–with producers, songwriters and engineers–to help them succeed. The cool bit: first.wav is entirely run by artists–who really know and care about music. Every month, first.wav will curate an exclusive playlist of their favourite tracks–and it won’t be limited to artists who they represent. Since it’s the end of the year, they’ve pulled together their picks for the best homegrown music of 2023.
Written by: Adi Verma, a music producer, drummer and songwriter.
Each track on this list has a larger cultural play—be it for their innovation, social commentary, or their sheer ability to capture attention. Join us on this auditory journey as we dissect, celebrate, and appreciate the best of 2023.
‘Chorni’ by Sidhu Moose Wala and Divine: This power-packed Punjab-Mumbai collaboration was in the works for a couple of years. A year after the shocking demise of Sidhu, Divine paid tribute to the legend by creating a music video that recreates Sidhu’s virtual avatar. Lyrically, “Haan Amar Rahe Mere Dost Jo Paar, Milke Tumse Ab Karni Baat'' was Divine’s way of saying ‘Legends Never Die’ to his collaborator on the track. Watch the music video below:
‘Dear Sahana’ by Sid Sriram: Sid Sriram has to be one of the top artists of the year. Playing at a Tiny Desk Concert to touring with the legendary Bon Iver; this year has been nothing less than magical for him. ‘Dear Sahana’ opens like a personal diary entry revealing the singer's vulnerability and flows towards the chorus with a bittersweet beauty. The instruments also mirror the emotional arc of the track but never overpowers the vocals rather only compliments it. The track is a soul-stirring ballad that goes beyond music, resonating with anyone who's ever felt the weight of heartache.
‘Moondance’ by Dhruv Visvanath and Benny Dayal: Dhruv Visvanath has been going from strength to strength. From being the only Indian finalist on ‘My Kind of Country’, a show in search of the next global country music star on Apple TV, to working with the likes of AR Rahman and Vishal Bharadwaji—it has all worked out for him this year!
Moondance is a song from his new album ‘Dancing In The Dark’ and is a collaboration between him and the Bollywood singer Benny Dayal. While the song is an absolute gem, the percussions are the most intriguing part of the track as they were recorded using glass bottles, which you can see here.
‘Lamhey’ by Anubha Bajaj: Anubha Bajaj has earned the moniker of the ‘Indian Charlie Puth’. From creating trending reels of ‘anything can be made into music’ where she takes everyday sounds and transforms them into harmonious tunes to making chart busting pop hits.
Her song ‘Lamhey' is a masterclass in storytelling. The fusion of simple yet soulful melodies along with modern pop production techniques create a sonic landscape that feels both familiar, and fresh. Bajaj's vocal delivery and use of harmonies and nuanced dynamics adds an extra layer of brilliance to the overall track.
‘Go To Sleep’ by Hanumankind: Driven by Parimal’s South Indian music inflected production and Hanumankind’s vocal prowess, ‘Go To Sleep’ is the brainchild of the duo Hanumankind and Parimal Shais.
The music video takes the inspiration from the cult classic ‘Fight Club’ and weaves it seamlessly into their musical narrative and the intentional incorporation of these thematic elements adds an immersive and thought provoking experience that transcends the boundaries of traditional music videos.
‘Parkour’ by Lydian Nadhaswaram: Lydian Nadhaswaram is a prodigy pianist. At just the age of 10, he was invited to give his first TED talk hosted by Shah Rukh Khan, At 13, he won ‘The World’s Best’ global talent show where he played a two piano medley and now at 16, He has released a jazz fusion album ‘Chromatic Grammatic’ which features 12 songs in all the 12 different keys of music.
Parkour features international collaborations including the legendary Dave Weckl on Drums, Eric Marienthal on Saxophone and Mohini Dey on Bass. Lydian and his bandmates weave their way through complex musical passages and solos that push the boundaries of modern jazz music in India.
‘Crown’ by King and Natania: After King’s global hit ‘Maan Meri Jaan’, he is back to take his spot as India’s new-age pop star. ‘New Life’ is a testament to King's artistry and ‘Crown’ co-written with Natania and produced by David Arkwright and additional guitars by Dan Thomas reigns supreme in the list. The track navigates through various different genres like dark pop, regal trap and hip hop. King effortlessly covers the whole spectrum in a fairly new soundscape that leaves the listeners wanting more.
‘Sunoh’ by Tejas, Ankur Tweari, Javed Akhtar, The Islander and Dot: Sunoh is a track born from collaboration. The track is a nostalgic pop hit that weaves poetry, vocals, and words into a timeless piece with an amazingly fun horn section conducted by Suresh Lalwani for an upcoming Netflix show called the ‘The Archies’ which is set to release later this year.The soundtrack is as exciting as the hype around the show.
‘Khoya Sab’ by KSHMR, Yungsta and Lisa Mishra: Probably one of the biggest names in the global EDM scene, KSHMR's new Hip Hop album ‘Karam’ features a stellar set of DHH artists. His way of using and fusing Lisa’s and Yungsta vocals together on ‘Khoya Sab’ is just genius and it quickly became one of the favourites due to the sheer passion and creativity behind the record. The production is top notch and the lyrical theme of the track also connects on a personal level with the listeners.
‘Downers at Dusk’ by Tallah Anjum: Yes, we said we’ll keep the list to homegrown releases but we couldn't resist including Pakistani artist Tallah Anjum’s ‘Downers at Dusk’, a song from his recent album,‘Open Letter’. The song, produced by the young prodigy Umari, is one of the best Desi Hip Hop songs. The infusion of urdu poetry with modern production and hard-hitting beats is just absolutely brilliant. The Song is a depiction of a lover's lonely heart and Anjum’s ability to write and phrase lyrics over a slow and minimal production really stands out.
You can listen to all of these songs in a handy playlist here.
Listening with first.wav
first.wav is a music company run by artists that helps connect listeners to new music. With a team of writers, producers, singers, first.wav is a creative partner to artists that helps them navigate the tricky music world by giving them a platform to scale-up. Head over to our Spotify page to find out all the music we've been listening to.