What comes to your mind when I say “Indie Artist”? It’s hard to admit, but the first image that comes to mind for me is a white singer-songwriter or under-the-radar band. If you, like me, want more “India” in your “Indie” when scrolling through Spotify (instead of just hitting “Discover Weekly” for the 100th time), then look no further. For your convenience, I have collected some South Asian Indie Artists in the diaspora that are just too good to be ignored:
1. Norah Jones
Remember Norah Jones? Related to two famous sitar masters, Jones (born Geethali Norah Jones Shankar) is a master of the soothing melody. She has broken all genre boundaries since her debut in 2002, earning 9 Grammy Awards.
Her famous songs “Don’t Know Why” and “Come Away with Me”, are the best reprieve on any bad, rainy, stressful day that comes your way.
2. Jai Paul
You probably don’t remember Jai Paul, the british artist that was one of the first to create the modern electronic sound. In 2012, his work was used by Drake and Beyoncé and caught international attention, but after his debut album leaked he dropped off the radar until 2019.
You can hear his indelible mark on modern music in avant-garde masterpieces “BTSTU” and “jasmine – demo” and you can read about him in this Vulture Article.
3. Joy Crookes (UK)
An Indie Singer that specializes in a Neo-Soul sound, Joy Crookes has been carrying Norah Jones’ torch with her own smoky vocal flair. Since 2016, she has released 3 EPs and is set to release her debut album in the next year.
Her music is a staple of a quiet Sunday morning or a coffee shop study playlist. You can’t go wrong with her easy “Don’t Let Me Down – Demo” or the fun and vintage-sounding “Mother May I Sleep With Danger”.
4. Young the Giant
If you somehow managed to sleep through 2011, it might be possible that you haven’t heard of Young the Giant. In any case, lead singer Sameer Gadhia’s vocal talents shine on all four of their albums.
If you’re like me and completely forgotten about them (except for occasionally hearing “Cough Syrup” and getting weirdly intense middle school flashbacks), check out their album Mirror Master. The songs “Superposition” and “Heat of the Summer” show the more experimental side of their work.
You can’t necessarily tell since this is in writing, but talking about Raveena makes me just as excited as the time my professor in freshman year told us “the final is cancelled, you all get A‘s”. Raveena Aurora is an ethereal powerhouse, her music soft and divine. Since releasing her EP Shanti in 2017, she has performed at Camp Flog Gnaw, come out as bisexual, and released her debut album Lucid.
As a fellow Punjabi-Sikh, Raveena’s work is like audiovisually experiencing myself in media for the first time ever (sorry, Bend It Like Beckham). Songs like “Honey” and “Mama” are like a deep breath of fresh air, and also definitely make me want to cry.
6. Madame Gandhi
Singer, Feminist, Menstrual Activist, and Producer Madame Gandhi (born Kiran Gandhi) is an artist of a new age. Her music feels alive, teetering between loving and out of this world. After working as a music data analyst, Gandhi drummed for M.I.A. before making her own music.
Some of her most enthralling work can be heard in her songs “After You”, and “Bad Habits”.
7. Weston Estate
With the current popularity of lofi and indie pop, it was only a matter of time before we got a group like Weston Estate. These five North Carolina high school students take inspiration from the growing wave of anti-pop and bedroom pop artists (link).
Since 2017, they’ve become known for “Fresh Air” and “Cotton Candy”, each with almost 4 million plays on Spotify.
Close your eyes: think of your favorite moment hanging out with a friend, and I can guarantee the soundtrack to that memory would be Sanjana. Between her talent on guitar and her vocal prowess, you’d be remiss to not add her to your “~vibes~” playlist.
Her Debut EP, Water I’ll Grow features 5 new and old songs from the artist.
Shreya’s music is hard to locate. Its lofi beat, pop vocals, and traditional Indian singing is a unique synthesis of the artists on this list. She’s also literally hard to find — except for her account @shreyasings on Instagram.
The Seven Deadly Sins was released earlier this year, and “Gluttony” has become by far the most popular.
10. Jay Sean
Okay, yes, Jay Sean (born Kamaljit Singh Jhooti) is a British pop singer from over a decade ago. This honorary spot is for being the only non-bollywood radio singer from our childhoods.
“Down” topped the charts and featured none other than Lil Wayne, securing it an award for the most 2009 song ever made.
By Jasleen Gill for MidWave Magazine