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A Promising New Talent on the Block, Sijya, Releases her Debut EP, ‘Young Hate’

Ever since the pandemic, the Indian electronic music industry has been going through a bit of a transformation which of course has meant the introduction of a gamut of sounds and genres into the mix. As a publication that supports independent music, it is interesting to listen to work by emerging artists and postulate where the industry would be heading.  More often than not though, a lot of it ends up sounding similar to the next. So when you come across an EP that sounds radically different from the rest, you must share it!

When ‘Young Hate’, an EP by debut artist Sijya landed in our inboxes, we were intrigued. Sijya has a strong presence in the New Delhi music scene thanks to her work as a trained graphic designer, especially working closely with boxout.fm. She released her first track, ‘Have To Make My Bed’ in late 2021, on the widely acclaimed SUCHI Selects compilation, which drew attention and international support from the likes of Tom Ravenscroft (BBC Radio 6 Music), Crack Magazine, DJ MAG, Rolling Stone India and Wild City.

It must have been a tall task to follow the adulation that her single received, but Sijya did not disappoint. ‘Young Hate’ reveals Sijya as an artist with a strong, self-realized creative stamp. It features 6 tracks that evoke nostalgia for a youth that has long passed. Layered with minor key chord melodies, anchored in lush vocals, and supported by a rounded low-end, it is apparent that Sijya is an artist hoping to explore the deepest depths of her soul with the aid of creative expression in music. 

The EP opens with ‘Stonefruit’, also released as the first single, an introduction to the unhurried pace that is a key feature of the EP. With the help of languid vocals and slow-moving beats, Sijya establishes a clear ground for the rest of the EP. ‘Another Thing’, the next track on the EP, picks up the pace a little without compromising on its established pace with ‘Stonefruit’. Sijya’s knack for a minimalistic but confident approach toward sound design is clear from the get-go.

The following two tracks, ‘No Words’ and ‘52’ are soulful and melodic, designed to highlight the magic of Sijya’s vocals. Her dreamy voice is enough to hold the listeners’ attention but what is commendable are her masterful production and simplistic lyrics that harmoniously tie her vocals with the sound design. The next track, ‘Clear’, harkens to a stop motion approach to sound design with static cuts that organically build up into a melodic culmination. The last track ‘Tell Me’ opens the floodgates for experimentation. It might sound a little unsettling after the dreamy nostalgia of the entire EP, but it is a perfect end to the EP since much like in real life, nostalgia has bittersweet endings. 

The bittersweet nostalgia woven throughout the EP is contextualized by her choice to name the EP ‘Young Hate’.  Though she refrains from being able to pinpoint the exact reason why she named it what it is, she ponders whether it was because at the time she was “full of hate, or recovering from hate”. She goes on to say, “the music doesn’t sound like it, it’s slow and ambient and minimal–not punchy or clever like the name. If anything it probably sounds like healing–as I’m told by some listeners.”

Given her affinity for visuals, each track from ‘Young Hate’ is accompanied by its own video, all created in collaboration with Sijya’s friends – artist Urvi Vora, Improper.tv animators Mehr and Aditya, upcoming filmmakers Bhushitendu and Subodh and artist Annette Jacob – except the video for ‘Clear,’ which Sijya edited herself from her father’s home video archive.

We spoke to her about her journey from when she started to now.

The answers below have been edited for readability

How has your journey been from when you started learning the art of making music to now, when you’re releasing your debut?

The journey from then to now has been slow and steady almost, taking it one step at a time. I’ve been lucky to have a community of amazing people, especially women, in my corner helping/guiding me at every step. People like Sandunes, SUCHI, Gaurav Raina – people’s kindness and willingness to help always amazes and humbles me. 

Of course, there are also close friends such as Jay Pei, to run every track, thought and tech issue by, God knows there are many of those!

I think when I was starting and learning, that was probably the most exciting phase. I was making things all the time, listening to a loop I made over and over. The initial struggle with the tool also left little room for overthinking or second-guessing–just being able to make something took up all mental energy. It was a really stunning period and I wish I could recall how it felt more clearly.

Do you think that your journey as a female artist is different than your male counterparts? If yes, how so?

Definitely, in the long term and now, it’s been very different from my male counterparts. If I look at school and college, as a female, I definitely felt like an outsider to the various ‘jam rooms’ which predominantly felt like a boy’s thing. I think in my early years this definitely deterred me. I don’t come from a musical family, so it’s also not something I could have nurtured alone at home. It’s only recently, as an adult, when I saw women in my community (like Zainab & the entire Coven Code) picking up DAWs for the first time, that I felt comfortable taking this up. The Wildcity & British Council workshops really helped in my learning and also in building this community of women in my city.

Whose works in the industry are you excited about?

Some of my friends I’m excited about haven’t released yet and don’t intend to anytime soon. Not from the Indian scene, but I’m very excited about Ola Szmidt, from my label. Usually, I’m not one to be in awe of someone’s voice, but her voice and her singing have this deep kind of haunting effect, along with her offbeat, minimal production. She’s released some stunning work this year. I’m working on a remix for her as well. 

The release of ‘Young Hate’ precedes Sijya’s first live performance, taking the prized opening slot for a breakthrough artist at India’s most prominent electronic music festival, Magnetic Fields in Rajasthan. Alongside the tracks featured on her debut EP, it will be a chance for Sijya to preview where she will head next as an artist. While concrete ideas are already forming, as she explains herself, ‘Young Hate’ “is all born out of experiments and chasing a few exciting ideas… It’s about exploring while making.”

It is definitely heartwarming to see a ‘young’ artist making their journey from dark to light with such unflinching honesty in their creative expression. With dreams in her eyes, and the tools to make them real, we’re excited to see where Sijya’s journey leads her!

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