There is absolutely no doubt that over the past decade or so, the shape of the music-industry has been transformed. While a lot of it is owed to individual key players, there have been game-changing record labels that have disrupted the scene in their own unique way. They have platformed new unique talents, championed voices of change and set the overall tone for how the future of the music industry can and should look like. Among the many record labels, there are a few that have upped the stakes and shaken the status quo. It is these visionaries that we are celebrating at Homegrown. Here are seven Indian music record labels that have completely changed the face of music as we once knew it.
Launched in August 2021 by Third Culture Entertainment, Export Quality Records was built as a vehicle for the export of contemporary Indian music, across genres, to a much wider global audience. Since it’s inception last year, they’ve been committed to this cause whether it is by highlighting brand new artists or treading into new terrains with veterans. Providing an international platform to independent artists from India, each release of theirs so far has been unique, experimental and bold. The indie label’s debuting output was a playlist of founder Tej Brar’s selections of the most exciting new indie acts. Within the label, Brar works with artists on a project to project basis as opposed to co-piloting their entire career.
Disrupting the music industry and the status quo is Azadi Records, a socially conscientious label with its heart in the right place. The Delhi-based independent record label was established in 2017 by cultural journalist Uday Kapur and businessman Mo Joshi. It is a platform for South Asian artists to release forward-thinking, politically conscious music that critically engages with and comments on the pressing issues of our time. The label of the culturally conscious creators has been a true game-changer in the industry. Among the first to be signed onto the label was New Delhi-based hip-hop artist Prabhdeep who is considered to be one of South Asia’s most critically acclaimed artists. Also on their rooster are artists like Ahmer and Ali Saffudin from Kashmir, Sez on the Beat, Seedhe Maut, and DJ BLUnt among others.
Founded by Navzar and Ranveer Singh, the passion project IncInk Records was a direct product of the hip-hop boom that the country experienced with the success of the film Gully Boy (2019), which brought the underground subculture to the mainstream. The independent music company has placed promoting art at its core. Among the first few artists on their rooster were Kaam Bhaari, SlowCheeta, Spitfire and Devil The Rhymer. Since its inception, the label has been promoting a wide array of hip-hop and rap artists, giving them the platform and also promoting conscientious choices along the way. The label was also among the first to align with the cause of inclusivity when it made a music video in ISL (Indian Sign Language).
Mumbai-based Milkman Crew has been a pioneering force in India’s ever-evolving electronic music scene since 2016. Right from building the foundations of India’s nocturnal, warehouse-rave culture to curating international and local artists that are at the forefront of the electronic music underground scene, Milkman Crew has come to be known as a formidable force. A natural progression to their sub-cultural endeavours is their new record label – Milkman Records, which debuted late last year with 23-year-old Mumbai native Azu Hoyvoy’s EP ‘Future Literature’. Veterans in the game, the label is marked to take warehouse-rave culture to another level.
In perhaps more ways than one, we owe it to Pagal Haina for making the Indian indie scene what it is today. Founded by Dhruv Singh and co-founded by Lucy Peters, Pagal Haina’s strength lies in discovering, nurturing and empowering artists with an eye on global reach. From 2011-2018, they represented Prateek Kuhad, the golden child of India’s indie music scene, who was also in some ways responsible for many people discovering even more up-and-coming indie artists. Currently on their rooster are some of the biggest names on the indie scene — Peter Cat Recording Co, Lifafa, The F16’s, Ditty, Shantanu Pandit, Bowls, Begum, Rounak Maiti, Karshni, Run it’s the Kid and Shashwat Bulusu.
Delhi-based electronic musician, Madhav Shorey aka Kohra has always been known for his experimental sound, his refusal to blindly follow trends and for creating soundscapes unlike any other in the Indian music scene. In 2011, he founded his record label and collective Qilla Records, which is at the forefront of pushing future sounds in the genre. It promotes forward-thinking dance music as well as unique and upcoming artists who create alternate sonic realms. The cutting-edge, bold and open-minded record label has put out quality underground dance music since its inception.
This Delhi-based record label created by experimental hip-hop artist, Kunal Chabbra has fostered a unique community for hip-hop and electronic music enthusiasts alike. At the core of All Star Sauce is a need to propagate new music and emerging artists that should be on your radar. Doubling as a music collective and an online radio show (Barbecue Chutney) with Boxout.fm, All Star Sauce has been a pioneer with regards to innovating and diversifying during the pandemic. With an aim to bring a commercial audience to lean towards experimental hip-hop sounds, this music label has also ventured to various venues across Delhi and Mumbai, where they have curated live shows over the years.
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