Homegrown Artists At The Forefront Of The Kolkata Indie Music Landscape

l: Parekh & Singh r: Whale in the Pond
l: Parekh & Singh r: Whale in the Pondl: Parekh & Singh r: Whale in the Pond

Kolkata is the birthplace of like Manna Dey, Salil Chowdhury, RD Burman, Bappi Lahiri, and many such musical geniuses. They began their music career, which included composition, writing, and playback singing, in the heart of the city before moving on to more ambitious pastures in Bombay. Some will tell you that such talented musicians from three generations ago are never to be seen again. They will also claim that modern music is nothing like the good old times. While I shall not debate their claim, I believe, like all forms of art, music is constantly evolving.

The world is changing, technology is developing, and science is growing —so why not music? Even fifteen years ago, there was not much electronic or hip-hop music prevalence in Kolkata. They were seen as different, practiced chiefly in underground circles, and viewed as alien from representational Bengali culture and its beloved Rabindra Sangeet. Times have changed and new forms of music have taken over the city in myriad forms. The musicians’ popularity has also increased owing to the power of the internet and the contemporary culture of artist patronage.

Let's explore some exciting musicians from Kolkata spread across the music genre spectrum.

I. Parekh & Singh

This dream pop duo needs no introduction and they have taken the world by storm with their music. Its members are Nischay Parekh, the vocalist, also playing the guitar and synth along with Jivraj Singh on the drums and electronic sets. Their first album, 'Ocean', was released in 2013 and Rolling Stones magazine described it as one of the most Indian albums of the year. With their Wes Anderson aesthetic music videos and wonderful musical arrangements, they quickly rose up the ranks as one of the most successful Indian bands. Their third album, 'The Night Is Clear', was recently released this September.

Listen to their music here.

II. Underground Authority

It is an alternative rock/hip-hop band. Formed in early 2010, in Kolkata, their music comprises a blend of protest poetry, reggae, alternative rock, rap, and hard rock. They identify as a socialist band and are known for their anti-establishment lyrics. They began their career performing in pubs in Kolkata but soon rose to fame after winning several renowned music competitions. The current band members include Santhanam Srinivasan Iyer (EPR), Adil Rashid, Soumyadeep Bhattacharya, and Sourish Kumar. They have performed in several festivals and concerts across the country and often do charity fundraisers for healthcare and education causes.

Listen to their music here.

III. Satyaki Banerjee

Satyaki is a composer and part of an Anglo-Bengali band. He plays instruments like the dotara and the sarod, and his performances include Indian classical and folk elements. His experiences with traveling folk musicians in fairs and gatherings and the dotara influenced him to blend his classical musical training with folk, to create a unique brand of music. He is also a self-taught oud, rebab player, and a wonderful vocalist of Bengali mystical poetry in the Baul and Kirtani traditions.

Listen to their music here.

IV. Fiddlers Green

This acoustic band with their folk notes will enchant you with their music. Comprising of senior musicians, the band's name is inspired by Greek mythology describing a place where musicians and sailors go in the afterlife-a place without suffering. The vocalist is the renowned folk musician, Arko Mukherjee, guitarist Shamik Chatterjee, on the bluegrass mandolin is Diptangshu Roy and the percussionist Ritoban Das adds the flavors of Central Asia, Africa, and Latin America to the band’s repertoire. They believe in music for the people and are famous for their Baul and Fakiri songs.

Listen to their music here.

V. Whale in the Pond

This band comprises the youngest members in this list of musicians but don’t let the lack of years fool you; they are an equally talented group of musicians. Whale in the Pond an indie dream-folk band comprising multi-instrumentalists Sourjyo Sinha, Shireen Ghosh, Deep Phoenix, and Sagnik Samaddar. They recently organized a fundraiser called Barak to help the people afflicted by the Assam floods. It was performed in Chaitown Community, a space that offers a place for talented artists across the city. Their songs are in English, Bengali, and Sylheti, which adds to their versatility along with the wide range of instruments in the band’s arsenal.

Listen to their music here.

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