In 2018, so much of how we consume music has changed so drastically, there’s a real comfort in realising that music videos are still one of the most powerful ways artists can communicate directly with their audiences. Not only about more intimate aspects of their lives, loves and deepest insecurities, but also what they stand for and want to be about.
This year saw a wonderful and diverse offering from India’s independent music community, ranging from emotional storytelling that could very well be considered short films by veterans like Prateek Kuhad to refreshingly contemporary aesthetics and narratives by comparatively newer artists like Komorebi. Artists and their collaborators took leaps and risks to inject the ecosystem with things we hadn’t seen or needed to see and, all in all, it was a wonderful ride. Here are our 11 favourites from the year.
[This list is in no particular order]
It’s not often you hear a song that can bring you to tears and shake something deep inside you. Even rarer to watch a music video so intimately constructed and so breathtaking in its simplicity. The new music video for Prateek Kuhad’s cold/mess beautifully captures the raw, emotional ups and downs of a relationship – the effortlessness of a first love, the pain of heartbreak, and everything in between. Starring Zoya Hussain and Jim Sarbh, the visually striking video left even Kuhad with goosebumps. The video was made by Jugaad Motion Pictures, a close-knit team of people whose friendship, warmth and passion show through in their work. To get a closer look into the making of this video, Homegrown talked with writer/director Dar Gai and cinematographer Aditya Varma, whose sincere reflections on the filmmaking process and creative journey are as delightful as the video itself.
II. Nuka- “Don’t Be Afraid” YES
Nuka, is the alias of Anushka Manchanda, an Indian musician, who is now turning her sights to voice over artistry and music production. She started her career on a reality TV show, Viva, where she was part of an all-girl band. Her new music video, “Don’t Be Afraid” is a testament to her growth as a musician and artist. This video tries to communicate the deep connection humans have to nature. With dizzying images of her on a pyre waiting to be cremated and a group of men throwing her ashes into the sea, Nuka shows the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth with the message that we needn’t be afraid of this natural cycle. Its hauntingly moody aesthetics are championed by powerfully lush visuals. After the ambience is set, the music kicks in with Anushka gasping for air inside a funeral pyre. We later infer that her character is dead and a mournful set of family members and friends, played by her actual family and friends, are performing the needed rituals. The visual story brought to life by long-time collaborator and director Navzar Eranee explores her fascination with death, death culture, euthanasia and after life. The video finally culminates into her transforming into a tree, a nod to how energy is always transformed and never created or destroyed. Homegrown spoke with Anushka Manchanda further who describes her journey as an artist and the thinking behind this video.
This track dropped just last night and is already making its way to be the talk of the town. In a homage to Tilak Nagar in Delhi, Prabh Deep, Sez On The Beat and Lit Happu who call themselves BeeBay, rap against the backdrop of the city with elements of street culture filtering in and out. First in a grocery store, then in an underground parking lot, and then in the gullies of Tilak Nagar, the trio are surrounded by young Sikh boys on scooters and racing bicycles wearing hoodies and sneakers and embracing their “sauce” or qualities of street culture that make them unique and individualistic.
Raghav’s second music video from his album, “Songs From A Matchbox” is a feast for your eyes. From Raghav’s meaningful lyrics about government propaganda, fake news, and the rise of nationalism to Mehek Malhotra’s stunning frames of matchbox illustrations with bright and funky pop-art flavours, “One Sided Stories” is packed with substance and nuance. The video offers entrancing stop-motion animation that keeps you glued to the screen even as the team ensures a certain depth to their chosen narrative.
Another act in the Indian street and hip-hop landscape to watch closely is Seedhe Maut–a duo of rappers, Calm and Encore ABJ, who found a fitting home within Azadi Records’ diverse roster. Also produced by the brilliant Sez On The Beat, this music video released earlier this year in August and plays on the trope of superheroes having secret identities. “Shaktimaan” is a silent Noir film showing the journey of a young man trying to survive in a corporate workplace where he’s clearly unhappy. By choosing to keep the aesthetic simple and uncomplicated, this is a video that offers both comfort and clarity by allowing the straight up skill and personalities of its two young, exciting artists to shine.
VI. Mali- “Play”
Mali Manoj, a Bombay-based musician, released her first single, “Play,” this year in April. In this beautifully shot video that takes you through semi-urban scenery in a train ride, Mali’s sweet voice rings loud with wistfulness and nostalgia for a sweet familial relationship. Surrounded by beautiful coastal views in Kannur, Kerala, she sings, “You yield to pressure from the crowd,/ You try but you can’t play out loud,/ Your lungs they seem to disobey you./ Please find the strength to play us just one more” while we’re allowed to bear witness to the intimate and affectionate dynamic between her and her grandfather in a manner that leaves its gentle trace long after the screen has blackened and the music is over.
VII. Dhruv Visvanath- “Wild”
Directed by now long-time video veteran with a portfolio that extends from advertising to independent music subcultures, Tanvi Gandhi, expectations were already high with this music video. With “Wild,” the musician and filmmaker deliver together a perfect amalgamation of lazy charm and upbeat melody depicting ordinary Indian life within the household and in public, on the street. The protagonist of this video is a mop that’s been brought to life through animation which bears witness to everything anyone watching could be– from young boys buying candy in a street stall to men selling items from their stores. Ultimately, it’s this simple metaphor for the human condition that sings loudest.
“You & Me” is a new Dualist Inquiry song to which Sanchal Malhar, a former Superfuzz member, lent his voice and lyrics. The video plays to the ‘90s aesthetic made famous on channels like MTV and Channel V with its pixelated images and popping colours that inject freshness into Sahej Bakshi’s overall artistic identity. The collaboration has birthed a melody so addictive that Malhar’s passionate belting of the clean funk notes is sure to run through your mind for days, and the chosen vibe for the video makes for a perfect marriage. Over the years, Bakshi’s love for video as a medium of expression has become more and more apparent, and it’s led to numerous quality music video initiative like last year’s ‘Violet’ that have set expectations higher. In spite of its simpler approach, “You & Me” doesn’t disappoint.
IX. Peter Cat Recording Company- “I’m Home”
Peter cat Recording Company’s “I’m Home” opens with the old scratchy effect akin to a gramophone’s classic sound. During the entire video, the vocalist is crooning to a man walking through various terrains in a drunken stupor of sorts. The slow motion video is accompanied by the vocalist’s voice that is layered and rich. The aesthetic of the video is dusky with random explosions of colour and light in between making the contrast seem all the more striking and for us, it was a fast favourite when it came to its visual offerings. As a band, too, Peter Cat never shies away from being unabashedly themselves and it seems to be a formula that pays off every single time.
Delhi-based Tarana Marwah’s “Komorebi” is one of the most interesting independent artists to find solid footholds in the music industry this year, though she’s been around a little longer than that. Her unique approach to her entire musical identity, not to mention a willingness to lay bare vulnerabilities in her work, comes alive in this music video. Opting for a simple, stripped-down formula, it allows you to dwell on the song’s narrative of unrequited love in the 21st century with all its digital trappings without too many distractions. “Candyland”’s animation is clean and muted, with puzzle-piece like transitions that are smooth and fit perfectly so as to not disturb the fluidity of the overall story. Its story is the star and the excellent use of colour palette stands out in this one too. For these, all credit goes to animator Sharath Ravishankar.
Marwah reached out to the talented artist via instagram and both believe the creative partnership to have been destined. “The story was one that I had sitting in the back of my head for a while, though I hadn’t a chance to execute it until Tarana approached me with her album that I had a surprisingly appropriate context to work within,” he explains. Together, the duo gives life to the protagonist of Candyland–a woman in love with a woman–an element Tarana feels contextually adds a layer to the entire idea that some relationships just aren’t made to last. Especially in modern day India. The artist told Homegrown, “the internet is slowly becoming one of the most powerful mediums of communication, storing all human interaction in a big invisible bubble, which I feel is extremely tangible and can be felt as space between red-blooded humans. Sometimes I question the authenticity of these interactions, somewhat like the past...”
Probably one of the most entertaining music videos to come out this year, this one’s focussed on gripping storytelling that doesn’t self-indulge too much. Focused on a certain Ms. Lobo (played by Shivani Shivkumar) slyly orchestrating events so she can steal Malfnktion and Shayan’s music, specifically the track, “‘Vincent Chase Slippin’ it’s fun in a way we don’t see enough of in an industry often weighed down by a lack of resources or willingness to take risks. We loved their subtle ode of sorts to House Parties, and often ignored but vital element of the independent music ecosystem, almost as much as we loved the vibrancy of the colours and overall aesthetic. A job well done by everyone involved.
Feature image credit: cold/mess
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