This year tested everyone, and artistes managed to come out stronger than ever. Spending months in lockdown, creative juices were flowing, and at the end of the year, we have a long list of great artistes who managed to turn the year around, and deliver.
Ase and dubSekhri make up MadStarBase, the tag-team duo of DJ + producers who have revolutionised Bollywood bootlegs and remixes. They are well-known for their ability to take any cheesy ’90s Bollywood number, and make it sound like a 2020 song. So, a Govinda dance number can be turned into a Drake-sounding club anthem, if MadStarBase get their hands on it. The duo spent 2020 populating their already-impressive music catalogue with even more unique Bollywood edits, original tracks, and a few international remixes
Composer, producer, and musician Achint, is known as the go-to guy when it comes to composing music for branded content. But he also built a name for himself in the indie music scene with incredible projects, like Shalimar, and his collaborative album with folk singers, The Khan Brothers. This year, Achint hit a career milestone by composing the music for Hansal Mehta’s mega-successful Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, with the theme song becoming became an anthem of its own.
If MadStarBase focuses on Bollywood, Raaja Beats derive their sound from the Southern part of the country. Raaja Beats is a newly-formed duo made of Raka Ashok and Malfnktion. The two worked together this year, and finally released their highly-anticipated, self-titled debut EP. Their sound takes classic Ilayaraaja compositions, and turns it into a trap banger.
Vocal powerhouse Ambika Nayak, aka Kayan.a, spent the year contributing to her own discography with two new singles — Cool Kids and Please — one with up-and-coming producer Nate08. Kayan.a also reunited with band Kimochi Youkai to release a brand-new single, Round and Round, while also contributing to her electronic group Nothing Anonymous with the song Waste Away.
TECH PANDA & KENZANI
The Indian classical electronic scene is niche, but Tech Panda and Kenzani are arguably the hottest names of the genre right now, if not the general Indian electronic space. 2020 was an explosive year for them, as they released close to 10 stunning tracks that incorporate the classic Tech Panda & Kenzani sound.
Oceantied truly led the way for bold artistic endeavours this year. As soon as the country was thrown into a lockdown, he decided to use the time and bring multiple artistes to work on something special. 22 producers, including him, came together to release 22-2, a collective project that highlights some of India’s most prolific electronic producers, and their capabilities. A few months later, he brought another set of producers for a sequel of 22-2, once again, during the lockdown. The proceeds from both these albums were donated to migrant labourers and those affected by cyclone Amphan.
One of the newest electronic artistes on the block, Morèno’s sound is one that is hard to find. Being a young producer in the Indian electronic scene, Morèno has already showcased his versatility through his music catalogue, that ranges from evocative electronic tracks to hip-hop/rap infused bangers. He spent the year putting out a remix to Prateek Kuhad’s Drown, along with other originals, including Ginza, which turned out to be his biggest hit yet.
ANHAD + TANNER
Anhad + Tanner are two, new, young incredible artistes who have given folk fusion a fresh take. Anhad Khanna and Tanner Willeford spent most of last year and this year working on their debut EP, In Other Words, and released it in August. Mixing traditional Indian instruments with neo-electronic sounds, the mesmerising and soulful project helped put the duo on everyone’s radar, including ours.
Among the brood of India’s mainstream rappers, Divine has undoubtedly ruled 2020. For the first time, he and Gully Gang released a collaborative album — Shutdown. Apart from that, 2020 was spent releasing back-to-back standalone singles, but what truly puts Divine in front, is his features. The rapper had one of his commercially biggest hits by hopping on Jass Manak’s No Competition, and appearing on the remix of UK grime artiste Dutchavelli’s track Bando Diaries.
Producer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist OAFF doesn’t make club anthems or pop numbers, but instead, spends his creative energy on producing mesmerisingly calm music that have a cinematic tone to them, along with a few pop experiments here and there. OAFF started the year with a stellar single featuring Kayan.a, but spent the lockdown period writing, composing, and producing multiple mini-songs, whose snippets he constantly shared on social media.
SEZ ON THE BEAT
Sez on the Beat was a busy man in 2020. First, having a positive career shift by starting a new label — The MVMNT — along with Faizan Khan. From there, he and Khan carefully expanded the label’s roster. In the process, he released the ISSA VIBE EP with Lit Happu, remixed Ritiviz’s Thandi Hawa, and helped produce several songs, and released a compilation album with all of The MVMNT’s artistes. All the hard work eventually paid off when Sez ended the year with a bang, thanks to his nomination with Siri for Best India Act in the 2020 MTV EMA awards.
2020 proved to be another great year for Raja Kumari. The artiste earned her 3x platinum plaques for City Slums and had a slew of releases — Bindis and Bangles, Peace, Shanti, and N.R.I. She also featured on Krewella and NERVO’s track Goddess, but one of her biggest highlights still remains her appearance on the 2020 reimagination of Bob Marley classic One Love. The song was reimagined by Marley’s family to support UNICEF’s efforts during the pandemic, and Raja Kumari lent her voice to it.