On the noble path of independence, we often lose sight of our raison d’etre. This is true more so for collectives, than for individuals. Many collectives have been unable to weather the storm that is existential questions in the face of a raging pandemic. Some went through a rough patch, many disbanded. In the face of this grim reality, when we hear of a collective resurfacing, it feels like just the ray of sunshine that you need on a rainy day.
One of the things that Jwala got right and that ultimately led us to them resurfacing during the pandemic, is that its members were born in the internet era and learnt how to live with it, rather than at odds with it. They understand the true power that the Internet has in dissolving physical boundaries, that most other collectives fought hard against. As the pandemic has shown, geographical separation caused by imaginary lines drawn by men in power, hold little significance to the world out there. jwala is an Indian artist collective and record label founded in 2017 releasing music from the country and around. They’ve put out 70+ songs through 11 compilations featuring 65+ artists and musicians.
Of course, over the course of their apparent hiatus and course-altering changes in the world, they have evolved. We spoke to them about these changes, and here’s what they had to say, “We used to release all our compilations on SoundCloud (and sometimes Bandcamp). While SoundCloud is a great platform, there’s no way indie music will reach a bigger pool of existing and potential music listeners if it isn’t on Spotify, Apple Music and the like. New Light (the new compilation) is on all major streaming platforms, our first release to ever have that distinction. Guess the years and reception to indie music made us adapt to the times! We’re also going to put music out only when we feel like it, to ensure balance and quality with every release.”
What is interesting and what is being seen more and more in artists across the world is the refusal of being characterized by a genre or even many of them. On being asked about them releasing ‘cutting edge electronica and left-field music’, they were quick to disabuse us of any such notions.
“Words like “cutting-edge” and “left-field” are thrown around in music all the time in so many places but all we ask for (and aim to release) is music that doesn’t conform to genres, or something that sticks to its roots yet completely obliterates them. For example, someone with a guitar could be singing songs about consumerism and someone else with a piano could be playing a ballad picturing mankind’s impending doom because of an alien invasion. We’ll take some liberty in saying that we’ve had the honour of releasing some of the most sonically diverse music this country has seen, from producers in various parts of the country. We just want to keep that momentum going!”
Their latest compilation is a short one, but one that encapsulates everything that you have read so far. Named New Light, the EP brings together the artists for a compilation of 4 tracks, all of which sound quite different from each other, atleast at first. After listening to the compilation multiple times, you begin to sense a thread that holds all the tracks together, but you’re unable to put your finger on it. Is it the almost ethereal quality of the tracks with lush atmospheres contrasted against signature elements like vocals or drum beats? The artwork for the compilation (made by Dolorblind & Moebius, members of the collective), almost as if to embody its contrasting nature, is an explosive purple set against a beige background, depicting a burning flame.
Here’s what they had to say about the thinking behind the album, “New Light is a refreshing reboot for us. Most of us in Jwala have started to look at life from a fresh, more experienced perspective. This inspired us to name this release ‘New Light’. Preliminary demos circulated within us for three months and then we put it out everywhere. The artwork depicts that no matter how difficult the situations are, the fire keeps burning and we keep going. We haven’t stopped and we will never stop.”
Artists in the first row (from left to right): 4lienetic, Cash, Cowboy & Sailor Man Artists in the second row (from left to right): Hedrun, Moebius, Dolorblind
With grandiose dreams and general disregard for structure, one would expect teenagers unaware of a world that is pretty cut-throat. This couldn’t be far from the truth when it comes to Jwala. They are clear about why they are doing what they are doing, and how deep the ideology goes. An unflinching awareness of their roots enables them to reach their branches higher and provide shade (create change) in the world. Of their ideology they say, “ Our primary ideology revolves around democratizing the modern musical experience. We’re about great sounding music and a culture without any barriers to entry to that great sounding music. Most indie music in India is still very ‘upper middle class metro city’ and even though we’re probably from the same trope, we’d like it to reach beyond. There’s a lot of financial, location & social barriers to entry into this music culture thing and we’re trying to break it. For example, Delhi Sultanate and Begum X tour around India with their soundsystem and spread the power of reggae music to places that haven’t even heard of it. We’d like something like that to happen on a much broader scale. We’re trying not just to be accessible, but to actively penetrate spaces where such music doesn’t exist, in hopes that at least someone who listens to it gets into it.
Our other core ideology has also been that it’s never the stature of the artist that matters, it’s the quality of music we get. We don’t really care whether you’re an “indie scene veteran” or someone who started releasing music three hours ago on an obscure page; if the music fits whatever we said on question 2, we’ll be more than happy to release it. We started off with our compilations as a means to disrupt the disparity of popularity and bring back the focus of what matters and will always matter the most to us: music. Now even after three years and so many independent artists popping up, this country still has 1.3 billion people and our hunt for fresh new music isn’t over.”
With a fantastic comeback, heralded by New Light, it is safe to say that Jwala might just be the volcano that was waiting to erupt on the independent electronic scene in India.
Jwala’s current roster includes
- Apurv Agrawal (Cowboy & Sailor Man)
- Brij Dalvi (Three Oscillators)
- Rohan Sinha (Dolorblind)
- Karan Kanchan (Karan Kanchan)
- Nikunj Patel (Moebius)
- Palash Kothari (Hedrun, Sparkle & Fade)
- Veer Kowli (chrms)