Reel Small World: India भ◌ारतA Compilation of Club Tunes by Indian Artists for a UK Label

If there is one thing that the pandemic made clear, it is how small the world really is after all. An invisible virus spread across the globe in a few days and we all know what followed. For many, this reduced expanse of the world was a cause for alarm. Artists saw in it an opportunity to cross the borders that previously held them back. Shedding the norms of in-person collaboration, artists across borders collaborated to produce works that spoke to multiple cultures. Once the pandemic was done doing its thing, artists came out of it with a stronger sense of community, particularly in the micro scenes of underground music.

As an ode to the chance encounters that link underground scenes across cities, countries, and continents, Reel Long Overdub, a label from London, launched their new “Reel Small World” compilation series, starting with a deep dive into the blossoming Indian scene curated by Jai aka Monophonik.

Cutting the tape on the series’ pilot, Jai has rustled up a myriad of talent from his homeland, foraging ten cutting-edge club tunes from emerging talents in Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, and more. Twisting between techno, trance, jungle, and tripped-out minimal, the compilation is a perfect example of how quickly the Indian electronic music scene is evolving to occupy space on a world stage.

Monophonik first came in contact with the people at Reel Long Overdub in Leeds, where he was studying in 2019. A few gigs and a vinyl release later, the conversation steered toward an all-India compilation to herald their new series Reel Small World, for international series with which the label plans to focus on international artists.

Having been a part of the Indian underground music industry for about 8 years now, he quickly narrowed down Indian artists with a global sound that would be a good fit to be played in UK clubs. He approached the artists with the intention of bringing attention to their work that would be played in the UK clubs and by extension to the Indian underground music scene. In fact, the cover artwork by Hiranya Gulati, has been selected for it evokes Indian culture while sticking to an abstract approach reminiscent of the West.

The compilation is a testimony to the burgeoning talent in India’s club scene. The compilation opens with an ambient track by Hiranya, a talented new producer making waves with her well-curated gigs. We next hear from seasoned producer GoodMostlyBad, Mehar Bedi, who brings her bassy chops to her track. Mehar has been releasing singles and killing it at gigs with her daring tracks that are as punchy musically as they are political.

The opening tracks follow techno goodness by Angus 12 & Monophonik himself. Apart from being the curator of this compilation, Monophonik shows how further he has come in his producing journey, being one of the foremost artists who use modular synthesizers for techno. Prismer, a well-known name in the dub and DnB circuits, brings a dub techno feeling to the compilation. Qilla Records artists Kohra, Zequenx, & FILM toe the lines between techno, breaks, and acid, progressively upping the energy of the compilation with each track. Rafiki, a seasoned breaks and electro artist and founder of KRUNK, brings a high energy track with tight beats and a groovy melody that will not leave you any time soon. The compilation finally closes with a banging breakcore track by Zero State Kid. It is easy to see that Jai has managed to curate his brief to perfection.

It is often hard to tell a story with a compilation or to stick to a coherent sound, but Monophonik executes the task masterfully with his carefully curated selection. His skillful curation reflects his appreciation for the growth of the underground music scene and the way it is evolving into a global sound.

As an accomplished artist, Monophonik advises emerging artists to have fun with their music. He understands the pressures of making a sustainable living with a music career and recommends that people have multiple streams of revenue to ensure that their music stays creative and fun. In a similar strain of thought, he believes that he has learned to not rely on gigging too much since, as the pandemic has shown us, gigs are an unpredictable source of income that can adversely affect your music making.

Reel Small World is a wonderful initiative to bring two worlds together. Apart from being a great compilation, it is also a tool for philanthropy since all proceeds from this release will go to Salaam Baalak Trust, a Delhi-based charity supporting street kids through shelter, education, and vocational training. We hope that compilations in the future will continue to showcase these micro scenes and bring them to the world stage!