On World Music Day, meet the 8 indie Indian women musicians you need to put on your playlist

It’s World Music Day today and if you’re tired of the same old, same old, we offer new choices. These eight women are making a mark on India’s rising indie music scene, and are sure to put a spin on your everyday playlist.
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In recent years, independent musicians have been entering India’s music industry and catching the attention of listeners across the country. If your playlist sounds monotonous and clogged with similar-sounding pop music and electronic beats, these eight independent and rising women musicians will strike the right note.

(L-R, top row) Varshita Ramesh, Megha Shankar, Aarifah, Aasha Sriram

(L-R, bottom row) Banat, Karshni, Mali, and Ramya Pothuri


Varshita Ramesh

Image: Courtesy of artiste

Based in Bengaluru, Varshita Ramesh is a versatile musician with a soft spot for jazz and blues.

"There’s something about music with soul that really brings me a ton of happiness,” she says.

So far, the 20-year-old has performed at the Seven Islands Film Festival, Covelong Point Surf and Music Festival, several major venues across Bengaluru, and even for film industry veteran AR Rahman.

Varshita, who grew up in Thailand, moved to India when she was around 13 years old, and decided to explore music with a course at KM Music Conservatory, Chennai. By the time she was 15, Varshita was recording and performing professionally. She found her love for jazz when she attended a workshop at Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, and hasn't looked back since.

Varshita released her first single, Stay, in early 2018, and plans to release her debut EP later this year. Her music is available on platforms like Spotify, YouTube, and SoundCloud.

Megha Shankar

Image: Courtesy of artiste; Photographer: Krishna Karthik

For Bengaluru-based Megha Shankar, music is all about soul, feeling the music, and exploring the limits of her vocal abilities. What sets Megha apart, as a musician, is her powerful vocal range.

She decided to explore her musical talent five years ago, when she first moved to Bengaluru from Mumbai where she was studying. The 26-year-old is now also part of the band One Girl Shy, which she says helped boost her confidence and visibility.

"Things really escalated for me since I stepped on stage for the first time, because I got heard by different artists who’ve asked me to collaborate or guest feature with their bands," Megha says.

In 2017, One Girl Shy released its debut album, after which the band toured across various cities in India. Megha also launched her solo project - Megha Shankar Live - through which she collaborated with artists like GrapeGuitarBox, Jason Zac Band, and Indigraffiti.

Apart from music, Megha is also a counselling psychologist, an educator, and an illustrator.

Aarifah

Image: Courtesy of artiste

Aarifah is a musician from Mumbai whose music style, according to her, is simply honest. The 26-year-old started exploring music when she decided to learn how to play a few instruments, but never really envisioned herself pursuing it full time.

"I picked up an instrument, then I picked up another one, and would hum subconsciously. I slowly started participating in college competitions, open mic nights, and finally started playing gigs. It happened quite randomly," she says.

Aarifah has worked with artists like Sandunes, Madame Gandhi, and Yo Yo Ma. She has also performed at the RedBull Tour Bus, the Madame Gandhi tour in Mumbai, NH7 Weekender in Meghalaya, and with Prateek Kuhad in Bengaluru this year.

Aarifah plans on releasing music soon, but her existing songs are available on YouTube and SoundCloud.

Aasha Sriram

Image: Courtesy of artiste

Chennai-based singer-songwriter Aasha Sriram describes her music as “a melange of jazz, blues, and a mix of various other genres”. Aasha started performing for an audience a few years ago; first in pubs on weekends, then at larger gigs like Sofar, and recently at her own shows. She has also lent her voice to a few films and ad productions.

Aasha's interest in music began as a child, when she accompanied her sister to music classes and picked up a few notes. Aasha says she derives inspiration from bands like Poorvaa and Sean Roland and Friends.

"Music to me is feeling great about a song, and making others around the world feel just as good," Aasha says.

The 22-year-old, who is also a trained Carnatic vocalist and violinist, plans to release an original EP soon.

Banat

Image: Courtesy of artiste

Banat is a 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Mumbai, who describes her music as folksy-neo classical-alternative, but is still “exploring her sound”. She decided to pursue music full time in her final year of law school, after having written and performed in the confines of her room and a few open-mics for a long time.

Soon after, Banat began performing at larger gigs including Music Mojo Season 5, and realised how happy it made her. Since then, she has toured across India, and various European cities like Berlin, Krakow, and Budapest. She says music has helped her come out of her comfort zone, and build self-confidence.

To anyone second-guessing their self-worth, Banat says, “Break out of your shell and take pride in your work.”

Banat has two original singles on her YouTube channel, and plans to release her debut EP this year.

Banat plays a small tune for World Music Day!

Karshni

Image: Courtesy of artiste; Photographer: Donna Cyril

Mumbai-based Karshni is a 19-year-old who describes her music as “mellow soul/pop”. Having performed at shows like LVNG and Sofar, she consistently gathers a dedicated listener-base everywhere she goes.

To Karshni, music is like a personal diary. "It's the only way I can fully express myself without feeling like I’m oversharing and without any inhibitions," she says.

Still starting out with university, Karshni also balances her life as a student of mass media. She hopes to take up music and media as parallel careers someday.

Karshni started exploring music two years ago, when she decided to try her hand at writing original music. She has released several songs of her own since then, including a collaboration with duo Three Oscillators, which saw over 50,000 streams on Spotify, and a feature in Rolling Stone India.

Karshni says she will release another official single in July this year; this will be available across Spotify, SoundCloud, and iTunes.

Mali

Image: Mali / Instagram

Maalavika Manoj, aka Mali, is a singer-songwriter from Mumbai, whose music is inspired by classic pop from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The 26-year-old musician released her debut EP - Rush in January 2017, featuring five original songs.

In an interview with Platform, Mali says her interest in music began as a young girl, when she quickly learnt the lyrics to songs from cassettes and CDs her parents used to play. She wrote her first song, No Place Like Home, when she was 16 years old, and has been writing ever since.

Mali has performed at gigs like Sofar, and has also given a TEDx talk at Bocconi University, Mumbai.

Ramya Pothuri

Image: Courtesy of artiste

Originally from St Louis, Missouri, the now Mumbai-based Ramya Pothuri is a “soulful, dreamy, and smooth” musician. The 20-year-old has performed at events like Sofar, The Quick and Dirty Tour, Colours of Soul, and Control ALT Delete.

Ramya fell in love with music when she was 17 years old and working as a lounge singer at a hotel in Hyderabad. After this, set on pursuing music as a career, she moved to Mumbai to fulfill her dream.

"Music is like a friend who is always there for me. Whenever I feel lonely, or feel people don't have my back, it’s there. I'm never truly alone," she says.

Ramya released her debut EP, We Never Left, in 2016, which she promoted through The Living Room Tour. She recently released her latest single Summer, and plans to release two more this year. Her music is available on platforms like YouTube, Spotify, and SoundCloud.

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