Time and over again, the indie music scene proves to be a diverse mix of extraordinary musical experiences. This, of course, is an exuberant experience that transcends well beyond language barriers. It is therefore important to commend organizations that help in displaying the dynamic scene of Indian indie music.
Compass Box Studio, a studio located in the Ahmedabad Cantonment region is doing an exceptional job in being an active contributor in the ever-growing independent system in India. Providing artists with all the necessary tools to help create and share their work, is a great initiative that has helped many artists get a better reach.
‘Compass Box Music: Unboxed Vol.4,’ their recent compilation album has featured some talented indie artists from all over the country. The 6-track album features artists and songs in Tamil, English, and Hindi. A harmonious blend of rich cultural expressions, the album is a treat to the ears. Produced by Raag Sethi and mixed by Protyay Chakraborty, the album, apart from the 6 artists, features Ahmedabad artists like Chirag Todi on the guitar, Meera Desai on backing vocals, Shivang Kapadia on drums, Harmish Joshi on woodwinds, Shankar Iyer on the guitar, Pritul Chauhan, and Daidipiya Seth on bass. Each of these tracks has live videos as counterparts on their YouTube, all recorded in one take.
Even though representation is important, quality is not something that can be ignored, and ignored it wasn’t in ‘Compass Box Music: Unboxed Vol.4.’ MS Krsna’s ‘Maranthathey,’ the first song in the compilation is proof of that. A song that is a representation of the evolution of the regional indie music scene, ‘Maranthathey’ is a unique blend of genres. It is progressive, yet pop in its essence and is a story well told.
A Tamil track that’s about “those of us who are meant to fly but leave our wings tied to things that don’t matter.” MS Krsna, the artist behind this wonderful track, is a singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer from Chennai who primarily writes in Tamil. The song’s spotlight, right from the beginning is on Krsna’s light, delicate vocals with the instruments supporting him well. With light drums and the violin melody joining somewhere in the middle, the song has surprising elements of saxophone sounds being replicated vocally. The whole song seems like an enjoyable conversation between the vocals, chorus, and instruments put seamlessly and well together.
Continuing on this is ‘Wrong Time’ by Manan Mehta. With its fun chorus, sensual yet sweet voice, and beautiful harmonies, this explorative indie-pop track by the Jaipur-based singer/songwriter/pianist talks about innocent love. With its soul-teasing saxophone solo, blissful falsettos, and cute nostalgic effect, the artist used the song as a way of expressing/admitting his love as a youngster. Manan Mehta is known for a blend of spare shoe gaze, synthesizer experiments, and melancholic tones.
The age-old saying “less is more” proves to be true in Harish Budhwani’s ‘Pehli Dafa,’ which is a wholesome song that uses just 3 instruments yet manages to convey emotions perfectly. The gentle guitar melody which feels like the beginning of a journey at the start of this soothing track complements well with the theme of the song – the magic of falling in love with someone for the first time. The Pune indie pop singer/songwriter’s song reiterates the simple joys of life that he believes to be lost in this fast-paced world. With soulful melodies packed in and the mellow clarinet, Meera Desai’s vocals elevate the experience to another level. ‘Pehli Dafa’ with its dreamy description of the myriad of emotions that go through you when you see a version of yourself that didn’t exist before, this song is one a listener would come back to.
The fourth track, ‘Underwater,’ by Surat singer/songwriter Jhansi Soni, much like the song title, carries a sort of stillness throughout the song. With its immersive, soothing electric and acoustic guitar intro, Soni’s excellent songwriting proves that storytelling is an art. ‘Underwater’ talks about choosing not to live with regrets and eventually resurfacing rather than comfortably breathing under the waterbed of bad times. A hopeful track that shows that just like we’re sure that the sun will come out even during cloudy days, proudly displays the artist’s powerful vocals as well as lyrical brilliance.
Singaporean singer/songwriter Shrae’s ‘ ‘Bout You’ gets you swaying right from the start with its engaging intro paired with the artist’s light and airy vocals. Inspired by a close and personal experience of something that made her happy, what started as a simple R&B arrangement grew into the Jazz Bossa Nova arrangement. ‘Bout You is surely a song that makes you feel alive with its fun saxophone and cello melodies.
The final song of the compilation, ‘Tresspasser,’ is about the perfect meet cute. Girl meets the girl, but one of them thinks of the other as a trespasser because the latter sits on a chair that the former had saved up for a friend. And now begins the romcom as imagined in this song written and sung by Tshering Bhutia, an indie/folk singer/songwriter from Ahmedabad. Time stands still and the stars align in this story. The song, meanwhile, evokes a strangely good sensation, which has probably been experienced by the two girls. The track is all about that slightly dreamy (and maybe slightly delusional?) love that is perfectly conveyed through the song with its joyful clarinet melodies. Bhutia has been singing in choirs and studying classical guitar which influenced her music which can be seen in this lovely track.
An unbelievable harmony has been achieved between all the instruments with the arrangement standing out in all these songs. The themes presented in each one of the tracks provide the listener with a sense of belonging and the work of the instruments does not go unnoticed. Of course, one must also appreciate the diversity of indie artists presented in this album. It is truly a testament to the talent and creativity found within our vibrant nation.