6 Indian Queer Artists Carving Out A Niche For Themselves
1. Jay Anand
This 29-year-old singer-songwriter has been one of the most prominent figures of the LGBTQIA+ community in the country. Anand started pursuing music at an early age, aiming to become a musician someday. After completing his graduation from India, he went on to pursue post-grads in music. He currently holds a degree in Performance (Guitar) from Musicians Institute, LA.
He had independently released an album Faces of Love (2017) and two singles, Fool to Want You (2018) and Come Home (2019). His journey did not stop there as he went on to provide vocals in the title track of the Bollywood movie, Looop Lapeta which came out on February 4, 2022. He has also worked in a couple of advertisements with Sidhant Mago and Mayank Mehra, his co-singers in the song.
Being a transgender person himself, Anand has been quite vocal about his stance on gender identity by sharing awareness videos on his Instagram. His music ranges from supple tunes drenched in emotions to delicate, acoustic-influenced melodies. His music explores the themes of human relationships, love, identity, and acceptance.
2. Alisha Batth
Alisha Batth discovered the power of music at an early age and has been using it as a tool of expression ever since. For a while, she studied at The Berklee College of Music in the USA before moving to Paris to pursue a degree in photography.
Batth was a performer in season 2 of MTV’s Coke Studio where she rendered a heart-wrenching performance of the song “Do Gallan” along with fellow musicians Hitesh Sonik and Vijay Prakash. She went on to have a thriving career in music having released her debut single in 2012 titled “Flood” which consisted of two tracks, “Familiar” and “Follow”. She eventually came out with her debut EP Prologue in 2018. She released three singles in 2020 titled “Blue River”, “All I Want” and “Language of Creation” respectively. Last year, she released two more singles, “Song That You Keep Humming” and “End Of The World”.
The musician is heavily inspired by punk and folk and cites the 90s era as one of her most prominent influences. Her songs croon about love, life, and the enigma surrounding it all. She uses her guitar and voice as an extension of her soul and uses them to voice her innermost thoughts and feelings.
3. Teenasai Balamu
Hailing from the city of Bangalore, GrapeGuitarBox aka Teenasai Balamu got into music as early as 10-years-old. They learned how to play the keyboard from their brother and eventually picked up the guitar at the age of 14. Balamu decided on pursuing a career in music while getting their degree in Media Studies.
Soon, they began to upload covers of popular songs on YouTube. This would eventually lead to their big break in 2016, when their music got recommended by Rolling Stone India, one of the most popular music journalism publications in the country. This inspired Balamu to release their debut EP Out. Since then, theyhave gone on to release another single in 2020 titled “Free”.
Balamu’s music celebrates their gender identity as non-binary, in a world where everything is segmented into two extremes – black and white. They use playful and fluffy tunes to sing about queerness, toxic relationships, love, heartbreak, and rising above gender stereotypes. Their music comes as a breath of fresh air where one’s identity is honoured rather than rejected.
4. Angelique Jacquet
Angelique’s musical inclinations were evident from childhood as they began to explore multiple instruments to find their voice. Although experimenting with so many instruments gave them a dynamic range, they have made it known to the world that their heart belongs to the piano.
The musician released a short EP Digital Native in 2020 which was followed by the release of their debut full-length album Insequeer in the same year. They released a single, “Miniscule Molecule” in 2021 which was followed by another small EP titled Electro Cutie. They followed this up with another subsequent full-length album titled VHS (Vagina, Heart, and Soul), all in the same year.
Angelique’s music is versatile. Containing hints of synth-pop blended with vibrant piano melodies and chilled-out percussion beats, their music is almost a catharsis for both the musician and the listeners. Almost all of their stuff is strictly instrumental which leaves out space for one’s interpretation.
5. Friends of Linger
Friends of Linger like to call themselves a “mix-genre indie band”. But they have pretty much stood out to be an integral part of the queer community in the Indian independent music scene. Based outside of New Delhi, the band is a result of multiple collaborations between session musicians. Sharif D Rangnekar, an author and a musician, fronts the band.
In 2013, the band came out with their debut single Head Held High, which was a tribute to the LGBTQIA+ community in India. After three years, they released another track titled “Miss You”, an ode to same-sex relationships. However, it received some backlash from the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) which forced the band to cut down ten seconds’ worth of clips from the music video. But they were not letting this go without a fight. After a long-drawn and tiresome case, they finally won and made history in the pages of the Indian queer community’s legacy. In 2018, they released two other singles titled “Dedication” and “Silence”. In 2020, they came out with “See You On the Other Side (Of Corona)”, a quarantine ditty, and “I Am Who I Am”.
The band uses their music as a medium to speak out on social issues, the experience of being queer in India, queer love stories, and other subjects. Their songs are an expression of what they stand for as they believe in the power of words and melody to create stories around things that often get lost in the humdrum of media attention.
Prakti likes to sing about mental health and emotions. Hailing from Delhi, this musician has built up a fanbase in recent years, creating music that a lot of young people can identify themselves with. With her comforting voice, she aims to be the support that a lot of people need in times of crisis. Her academic background in Psychology aids her in spreading awareness about mental health through her music. On lazy days, she can be found uploading covers of popular music on Instagram.
She released her debut 4-track EP Why Don’t You Speak in 2019. She also released another single that year, titled “A Misspelled Bananna”. In 2020, she released another single, “Words”. 2021 saw the release of her latest single titled “Savaan”. This is the only song in her collection that she sings in Hindi.
Prakti has cited quite a few prominent names in the music industry as her inspirations. This includes John Mayer, Sara Bareilles, Lianne La Havas, and Norah Jones. Her music is solely lyrics and melody-focused which enables her to communicate her musings to the world. That is where she feels the safest. Her music is dainty and vulnerable, lulling you into a sweet sleep.