Independent music (also referred to as indie) is music produced independently as against through commercial record labels. The term indie is more often used to describe a genre and in this context, "indie" may include music that is not necessarily independently produced.
By definition, Indie music isn’t a definite style of music, but most indie bands are influenced by each other owing to a similar culture they are fostered in, causing a similar sound. The instruments are simple but well-textured, usually including a simple but original guitar riff, bass, simple drum beat (here’s an example) and vocals, often soft. The lyrics are powerfully intense, poetic even.
An indie music scene is the local independent music-oriented community of bands and their audiences. These local scenes can play a key role in musical evolution and lead to the development of impactful movements. Indie music scenes are often curated as a response to mainstream or music. They often contribute to the formation of polar identities among audiences and artists involved in it.
In the decade of the 1980s indie music went from being niche (mostly listened to by artsy, “woke” youth) to be mainstream enough to more often than occasionally dominate the charts. It was during this time when the term became associated with music that was more aesthetic, less commercial, often more experimental, which is the current perception of India music. This was also the decade when the term “alternative”, often used interchangeably with indie, lost its original counter-culture meaning.
Eventually, indie rock developed several subgenres and related styles, including lo-fi, noise pop, emo, slowcore, post-rock, and math rock. Hence, as can be inferred, indie music often refers to the culture shared by the individuals involved in the scene as opposed to the type of music, although threads are binding these in commonality.
Indie Music in India can be said to be flourishing, although the barrier posed by Bollywood music is immense. Promoter companies like Artist Aloud, venues like BlueFrog, channels and labels like MTV Indies, the festival NH7 Weekender and some radio stations have played a major role in popularising Indie music in India. However, the ambiguity surrounding what exactly comprises of India music still exists. Often, anybody non-Bollywood, non-classical, non-folk, and non-devotional was considered to be under the indie umbrella. Narendra Kusnur of The Hindu has a humorous suggestion about coming up with a completely new term to more accurately describe the Indie music scene in India - Independent Non-Film Music or INFL.
Despite the Honey Singhs and Badshahs blaring over radio channels and in clubs, Indie music in India has managed to flourish, thanks to a few commendable artists like these -
Nucleya - He doesn't define his music as Electronic Dance Music and is one of the most popular Indie artists of the Indian Indie scene.
The F16s - The F16s from Chennai have played at all the significant festivals in the country such as Nagaland’s Hornbill Festival, the NH7 Weekender, India Bike Week among others. They are known for making their music first and vocals and lyrics much later.
Dualist Inquiry - Dualist Inquiry is now synonymous with every live music scene that promotes this genre.
Parvaaz - Parvaaz's music is Rock music infused with Indian. The vocals of the band are mainly Urdu, Hindi and a little bit of Kashmiri, creating a highly creative fresh end piece.
Hari and Sukhmani - This musical duo from Chandigarh fuses Punjabi folk with ambient electronic music and is as indie as indie gets.
The Local Train - The Local Train is immensely popular and doesn't restrict itself to a particular genre and best expresses itself in Hindi.
Maati Baani - Their melodies are inspired by Hindustani classical music but they often collaborate with artists from various countries, creating a very innovative and exciting sound.
Ankur and the Ghalat Family - Created by Ankur Tewari, this Hindi pop-rock band plays an important role in the Indian Indie scene and has a way to go.
Kumail - First solo name on this list, Kumail has a unique way of presenting his electronic music. It will leave a calming and intense effect on you.
Sandunes - This electronic music project is the brainchild of Sanaya Ardeshir, a Mumbai-based producer, composer & synth player. Influences of jazz and blues can be seen in her music which blends various organic and electronic elements with a uniquely South Asian feel.
Prateek Kuhad - Prateek Kuhad had achieved immense popularity for his recent releases, and rightly so. Indie folk has a long way to go, and Kuhad is certainly an important name in the genre.
Clown with a Frown - This band has 9 members and they do a lot of funk covers of R&B Music. Pretty cool, we must say.
Apart from these, many hip-hop artists have been performing their version of desi hip hop in the gullies and bylanes of Mumbai for years. They've built a hardcore fan-base in the chawls, rapping about the things that affect their lives and have recently made it to the stage. These artists are none other than the likes of Divine, Naezy, MC Todfod, Prabh Deep among others.
The Indie music scene has steadily evolved, from the Raghu Dixit Project, Indian Ocean, Sky Rabbit to the current legends and following this music revolution is highly fulfilling. Discovering local indie music through cafes that support these ventures, social media and music festivals can be an enriching hobby and also supports local artists.