Indie Music-  Striking The Right Chord

The talent is here, momentum is growing. Indie music is now making new waves in the Malayalam music industry.   

With online streaming becoming extremely popular, independent or indie music is the new vogue of the music industry. Indie musicians climb up the charts as the trend has in it a new wave of rock culture. Music lovers of Kerala embrace the indie scene as many bands such as ‘When Chai Met Toast’, ‘Agam’, ‘Avial’, ‘Street Academics’ produce originals. From the scratch to making it big in the industry, this genre has many successful rappers and bands as its exponents.

Right from conceiving an idea to streaming it online, it is a long journey. Conception is the key, as the musicians do not have a pre-set theme to write or compose on, unlike for the film playbacks. A sudden popped-up idea becomes a tune and through jamming sessions, develops into a composition. The theme is then set, the lyrics are written and the song is then composed and recorded. The process is not always linear, becomes shuffled, though the pattern goes somewhat like this, with elements added in between for a tinge of acoustic novelty.

Ashwin Gopakumar

Idea is the key

 As the name has it, the work is entirely independent as the credits to the lyrics written, music composed, vocals given and video shot rests within the few members of the band. “Sometimes we include other artists to pitch in their ideas and to get their perspectives as well on our work. ‘Jugaad’ is the team from Mumbai whom we collaborated with in ‘Break free’. But the final say is undoubtedly from the band”, says Ashwin Gopakumar, front-man and lead vocalist of ‘When Chai Met Toast’ band.

Ask the musicians about the new wave in the genre, and they’ll say hip-hop. Alternative hip-hop is what indie music lovers in Kerala are gaga about. With rock music, pop and even the soulful melodies still slaying the slot, hip-hop in the indie scene has an altogether separate fan base. Women in the rapping scene may not be a new thing, but not mainstream as well. Indulekha Warrier, who raps on some strong content like cyber-bullying and gender stereotyping says, “Rap has evolved as a means to express oppression, and is very impactful.”

Choosing the platform

Indulekha Warrier

Reaching out to the right platform to put out the work is essential for an independent music band to connect with their audience. With the youth primarily being the indie listeners, the bands have their music put up in streaming platforms like Spotify, Wynk, Apple music, YouTube music etc. The administrative platforms like OK Listen, Believe music, CD Baby and the likes mediate the musicians’ work to the streaming platforms and charge them for that. The streaming platforms provide the musicians with the royalty which is again, mediated through the admin platforms. Gone are the days when artists stuck on to mainstream money making. With new ways opening up, many indie musicians take this up as their full time career.

Not having a record label to back up is a challenge for the newbies. “Organic promotion is the only way left for you as an independent musician if you cannot fund for paid promotions. It’s all about how you market yourself through social media and how much your works are shared”, says rapper Fejo, who rose to fame with the much loved rap video ‘Kootilitta Thatha’. 

Adding to it, Rex Vijayan, lead vocalist of Avial band says, “Record label helps an artist to pitch shows and deals with the artiste management aspect. That is an asset compared to when you have to promote yourself alone.” Having said that, getting the sponsors by oneself and setting the sail alone is what makes this genre independent indeed. YouTube is the only video platform wherein indie music albums can be viewed. Film music has an edge over indie music for that matter. 

The new era

“Indie music industry has to tune-up more. There is still a reliance on the film industry. Music has always been a sidekick of the film”, says Amjad Nadeem (Azuran), lead vocalist and lyricist of Street Academics band. 

Underground music, is what the hip-hop subtype of indie was called. Mainly so, because it was not signed with a label per se and also the attention it got during the time it was kicked off was minimal. However, there occurred a sea change within the decade; indie musicians can now easily make a living out of it, from what seemed to be challenging before. Rapping in Malayalam isn’t a cakewalk for many. Nevertheless, it’s the beat and the music that speaks for some others. Be it performing in the native language or being multilingual, the audience is all cheers for some peppy numbers to groove.  

As the musicians head on for some break free originals and the audience embrace the bandwagon, the trend paves way for all-inclusive acoustic brilliance.

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