These are the musicians we’ve had our eyes (and ears) on this year:
Ahmer is an underground political voice who stands up against injustice and inequity through his music. His skills as a rapper and a storyteller prove him to be another prolific rapper in Azadi Records’ roster of artistes. He’s not here to make money but tell a story that needs to be heard. The Kashmir-based rapper released his long-awaited debut album this year with lyrics that were self-reflective and statements that make you turn your attention towards matters plaguing the valley.
Suryakant Sawhney, better known as Lifafa, had a stellar start to the year with his critically acclaimed and massadored project, Jaago. The album introduced listeners to Lifafa’s rustic singing style fused with genres like Sufi and electronica. He went on to become a familiar name in almost every festival line-up this year. The artiste had already built a loyal fan base with his former band Peter Cat Recording Co., but Lifafa is an entity on its own that looks to sonically stand for something new.
Mumbai-based CHRMS is just a teenager but already with an established sound of his own. His electronic album, Lover Boy, showcased his capabilities as a versatile producer to mend and bend genres to his will. While listening to his album is a musical journey in itself, watching him perform live is a different experience in itself. From having songs that chain you to your bed thinking about your ex, to those which feature talented rappers and head-bobbing beats, CHRMS is one of the latest electronic artistes from India who has the potential to be internationally regarded for his sound.
Taba Chake has done his rounds playing gigs and serenading crowds by strumming his guitar, but the Arunachalese artiste had one of his biggest breakthroughs this year with his 10-track album Bombay Dreams. A soulful and intimate project, Bombay Dreams saw Chake delve into what it’s like adjusting to a city like Mumbai after living in his pastoral hometown of Doimukh. He drew inspiration from folk and soft rock for the album and the project is easily one of the most unique and interesting albums released this year.
RIZ & YOSHI
While gully rap found huge success this year thanks to the success of Gully Boy and gully rappers, commercial trap/hip-hop is still a niche genre. Mumbai-based duo Riz & Yoshi helped bring the sound to our shores with their 10-track album, Superhero Cereal Box. The album saw Riz & Yoshi exchange rhymes over spectacularly produced tracks with genres such as dancehall introduced along with other bangers. They followed that up with taking over the year with some energetic live performances and opening for some of the biggest rappers to visit India this year.
After being seen rapping opposite Ranveer Singh in Gully Boy early this year, Krishna Kaul aka KR$NA went on to release a string of highly-successful singles and music videos. The most noteworthy of them all being his diss track Seedha Makeover against the fellow rapper, Emiway Bantai, which eventually turned out to be the glorious end of a long-drawn beef. The track sent social media into a frenzy and its popularity helped the music video gain over three million views in no time. KR$NA’s other commercially successful releases throughout the year and a knock-youin-the-face diss track definitely helped cement him as one of the most formidable rappers of 2019.