As the year draws to a close, we can all agree that art (in any form) was a major factor that helped us retain our sanity. We thought of how Malayalam music evolved from a cassette ecosystem to the streaming space, and how independent artists have been a huge part of this change. The PinkLungi Billboard is an attempt to celebrate the best of indie music that came out this year.
The word ‘indie’ has different connotations, and we have decided to stick with a basic definition: original non-film Malayalam songs (covers not included). We got the PinkLungi team to listen to over 50 songs and then shortlisted the top 18 spots for the best of Indie music based on vote count. Hope you guys discover some great music through this. Happy listening!
#18: Morumvellam by Nomadic Voice ft. A.B.I, ThirumaLi & Achayan
Four artists with four different styles take on the word ‘Morumvellam’, giving it their own twists. The track can be generalised as an unabashed f#ck-you to haters. Just makes you realise that there’s some real movement in the underground scene here!
#17: Aadiyilalo by Masala Coffee
In typical Masala Coffee fashion, Varun Sunil and Co recreate the classic naadanpaattu with added zing. The song is focussed on a simple truth: that there’s no beginning and no end to this universe. That our lives are more trivial than we think, as we all ultimately become dust. What an ironic year to release the song!
#16: Kottu Paattu by Dhanwin KB ft. Nomadic Voice
The kind of frenzy that this song created among the youth was incredible. It was played at weddings, featured in dance covers, reels and WhatsApp statuses – and justifiably so. This track is the latest addition to the elite league of our ‘Vellamadi Anthems’ (playlist to be released soon).
#15: Vayyaveli by ThirumaLi and Thudweiser
Only ThirumaLi can make a song about a good-for-nothing look like a flex (he’s done it earlier with Ozhappan Anthem too)! The Arab-style beats by Thudweiser and the fun verses make this one a loop-worthy track. Oh, and fans of Sanju Techy have reason to be happy too!
#14: Uyarnu Parannu by Vineeth Sreenivasan ft. Divya Vineeth
This year, Vineeth Sreenivasan added another feather to his now-loaded cap: he turned music director! Divya Vineeth makes a confident debut, and her vocals are amply supported by guitarist Sanjeev T. It stays very much in the Vineeth Sreenivasan universe: light, feel-good and smile-inducing!
#13: Return by Manikandan Ayyappa ft. Vineeth Sreenivasan, Niranj Suresh
Shot by Mridul Nair and featuring a bunch of known faces, from Sunny Wayne to Deepak Parambol to Ganapathy and Shani Shaki, the song is one of hope. Apart from the catchy folk music, this is also one of the best music videos shot post-Covid. There’s a good chance you’ve heard it already – during the elections!
#12: Kaantha Reprised by Masala Coffee ft. 6091, Spacemarley
At a time when people have lost hope in tomorrow, Masala Coffee brings us this steaming hot cup of nostalgic energy that serves as a proxy for Thrissur Pooram and all things we hold dear to us. Though the starting portion feels like a sped-up version of the original, the EDM elements kick in and bring quite a different vibe by the end.
#11: Zita’s Lullaby by Wasim-Murali ft. Anne Amie
This song was released on the Karikku Tuned channel earlier this year, to rave reviews. It is centered on a mother’s hopes and dreams for her unborn child. We recommend you add this one to your “Good Night” playlist!
#10: Chayappattu by Sithara Krishnakumar
A lockdown muse written by Muhsin Parari and composed by Sithara herself, Chaaya Paattu is simple and powerful. The melody almost takes you back to the ghazal era of the 70s. A cup of much-needed Sulaimani, for sure!
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#9: Naadan Vibe by Ribin Richard ft. ThirumaLi
You wait for the beat to drop, and then the beat drops harder than our economy, and before you know it, you’re grooving to the hook. This song gives us a lot of expectations about the Malayalam EDM space, no cap!
#8: Nadhi by Sangeeth Vijayan ft. Arya Dhayal
Arya Dhayal has undoubtedly been one of the breakout sensations of the year. Her vocals, coupled with lyrics by Anil Raveendran, make this one of the best romantic songs of the year. The song, produced by Greentunez, also featured in the BBC Sounds’ Song of the week.
#7: Laathiri Poothiri by Gowry Lekshmi
The song was released hardly a week ago, but it has already hit critical mass and how! The hit Christmas carol, composed by Jerry Amaldev in 1984, is given a millennial flavour by Gowri Lekshmi, who is seen chilling with her friends in the fun music video.
#6: Aalayal Thara Veno by Sooraj Santhosh
Sooraj Santhosh, with this spirited rehash of the celebrated old song, tweaks the lyrics to question stereotypes that have been normalized over the years. Why is going to war seen as something glorious? Why should ‘good girls’ exercise restraint? Is the presence of mantrimaar sufficient for ‘nalla naadu’? You ask yourself all this and more, as you groove along…
#5: Panipaali by NJ
Neeraj Madhav followed up his experimental lockdown EP (Jungle Tales) with this earworm of a track. The story-within-the-song and the trippy music video made it a viral success, with several #PanipaaliDanceChallenges dropping on the ‘gram. The yakshis are reportedly happy too – they finally have a party anthem.
#4: Kaalam by Job Kurian
Fans of Job Kurian would know that he derives a lot of his music from personal experiences. Kaalam is no exception; it is a homage to Kochelayamma, a strong woman in his family, who lived four generations before him. Kaalam is a vibrant song that we hope, in all irony, transcends time and stays in human (and machine?) memory for years to come.
#3: Voice of the Voiceless by Vedan
Vedan gives us the most lyrically satisfying and politically charged song of 2020. An outrage for/of/by the downtrodden segments of the community, this track demands your complete attention; every verse makes you re-gauge your privilege and ignorance towards the blatant inequalities in the ways of the world.
#2: Kozhipunk by Sreenath Bhasi and DJ Sekhar
A mourning of poor governance, K Sachidanandan’s 1972 satirical poem is given a psychedelic treatment here. What starts off as a groovy number, soon escalates into darker territory, with the music turning ominous and the visuals hinting at the many cases of injustice that have occurred lately. This one is sure to haunt you for a while.
#1: Pambaram by Street Academics
Though the album Loop was released in 2019, this sleeper hit got its deserved recognition only this year, when Karikku released its quirky music video. Written and performed by Earthgrime and Azuran, and featuring the Street Academics crew with a host of other hip-hop artists, the song is a protest on behalf of the youth – how we have all the answers, though we all think (and are taught to think) that we’re screwed up as a generation.
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What were your favourite Indie music tracks in 2020? Let us know in the comments section.