Scroll down to hear the artists featured. Photos: Courtesy of the artists; Gaurav Kamat (Nikhil Pose); Blake D’Silva (Esther Simon); Joseph Fernandes (Jatin Khurana)
Hyderabad-bred singer-songwriter Vanishree Sahu’s debut single “Falling,” released earlier this year, encapsulates her as an artist to a tee. The song features brilliant pop melodies, her layered husky vocal parts and splendid harmonies as well as her infectious lyrics. However, Sahu’s versatility is second to none as she has the ability to be a crooner, powerhouse vocalist and even spit quickfire bars. The musician is also raking in plenty of views on Instagram for her covers, making her an artist to definitely watch out for.
Mumbai-based Rae Valentine already has a number of singles credited to her name as well as her 11-track debut album Faith, which came out in 2019. On the record, the singer-songwriter experiments with various sonic elements such as acoustic songs, tropical offerings, straight-up pop numbers and even ballads. Earlier this year she released the dance leaning “Let Me Love You,” which features verses in English and Spanish. Currently, she’s working on more of her own music and collaborations that she plans on dropping soon.
Singer-songwriter Jatin Khurana made quite a mark for himself in Mumbai’s open mic and jam scene over the last couple of years. While it was only the folks at gigs that heard Khurana’s songs for the longest time, 2020 has now seen him release some of that material to a wider audience. The acoustic guitar strummer has put out three singles this year, “Yeh Dosti,” “Sukoon” and his most popular number “Kaidee.” The extraordinary “Kaidee” includes stellar songwriting and musicianship from Khurana himself as well as bassist Hansel Dias (from folk fusion band Aankh Micholi), guitar and drum parts by David D’Souza (of rockers The Rapid) and backing vocals from fellow singer-songwriter Maanuni Desai.
Guitar whiz and vocalist Aditya Thakkar’s music ranges from his influences in Coldplay’s momentousness, Led Zeppelin’s heaviness and John Mayer’s lyricism. The Mumbai singer-songwriter has done his fair share of rounds playing gigs around the city and is currently gearing up to release his music. In the locker, Thakkar has created gems which include the dreamy “Sunsets in Tokyo,” the charming “Come With Me” and the pop-rock “You Never Know.” The artist’s playful vocals and his exceptional fretwork make his music quite an intriguing listen.
If you’ve dined at a fancy Mumbai hotel, chances are you’ve heard a bright, bold and elegant voice accompanying itself with a piano singing beautiful renditions of popular songs. That voice belongs to the very talented Esther Simon. The musician’s supreme control with her vocals juxtaposed with her playing ability is unmatched and unique in every sense of the word. Although Simon hasn’t released any of her own material, word on the street is that she is cooking something up which ought to bring her graceful musicianship to the forefront.
Chennai-based singer-songwriter Krishna.K is likely amongst the most ardent backers of his fellow musician ilk, considering there’s charming, sublime ukulele covers of everyone from Bengaluru artist Huyana to Anoushka Maskey. Also a bassist, 18-year-old Krishna took Carnatic vocal lessons as a child and clearly there’s a sense of melody and delivery that seeps into the five singles out so far, including the most recent one “Indigo.” A pansexual transman who occasionally touches upon themes of queer identity, there’s a glimmering quality to even the most bare-bones rendition of anything Krishna sings and strums along to, but he can also craft groovy Carnatic-informed upbeat songs like “Dragon,” which has been his most popular song yet on Spotify.
Backed by Ahmedabad’s Compass Box Studio, Gujarat-based singer-songwriter Prayas Rokde arrived at the juncture of writing music only with his nostalgic debut single “Bachpan” earlier this year. Prior to that, Rokde was already a photographer, graphic and product designer and an Illustrator. His latest song “Mamuli Khayal” also points to a poet who has steadily sharpened their words, offering it convincingly over musing violin (Protyat Chakraborty), bass (Raag Sethi) and glowing rhythmic arrangements (Alex Nazareth). Seeking the thoughts which lie between mundane and profound, Rokde’s previous single “Maaya” pulls in the direction of fusion, entirely instrumental.
New Delhi-based Maaya Mattoo digs into R&B just like one would expect an artist to – groovy and smooth. Although the acoustic guitar dominates alongside Mattoo’s vocals, there’s certain sonic flourishes and layers that make songs like her latest single “Blue Over You” an overall treat. There’s a low boom of a horn section, skittering vocal harmonies and more. Although trained in Indian classical vocals, Mattoo clearly has a soul songstress within her that’s emerged on her debut 2020 covers EP Songs By Someone, Vol. 1. With a production assist from Anindo Bose (Shadow & Light, Advaita) and Maadhavan Bhattacharjee, Mattoo is well on her way to becoming a formidable, versatile singer-songwriter.
Releasing his debut album Diurne in August this year, Kozhikode-bred, Auroville-based classical guitarist and composer Abhaydev Praful reveals a precision and dynamism that dares like few other young artists in the country right now. Across eight short tracks that draw from themes of stillness, stupor, confinement and more, the 26-year-old wrote the music about three years ago and had musicians from the Madras Chamber Orchestra record as a new troupe called Monsoon Ensemble. A wholly instrumental release, Diurne sees the artist at a moody yet content storyteller. The cadence changes up a few times (“Tango”) but otherwise, there’s string, piano and even flute as the central elements.
A gentle, wistful croon and reverb-heavy electric guitar seem to be Mumbai singer-songwriter and producer Nikhil Pose’s weapons of choice. Although his single “Dream Together” (released in June this year) showcased a more upbeat side to the artist, Pose’s strength clearly lies in being that artist in a small and cozy room who can offer radiant yet somewhat minimal sonics with measured words about personal experiences that lead with a larger message of relatability. Releasing one song each month (with two in August), singles like “April Song” are tempered, while “Infinity,” “Give Me Love” and his latest, “Tell Me About You” offer much-needed warmth.
Read part one of 10 Singer-Songwriters to Keep an Eye Out For here.