2022 was a good year for Malayalam music. From the films’ perspective, we had, after a long time, a handful of albums that were celebrated through and through – the likes of Hridayam, Bheeshma Parvam, Thallumaala, et al. In the midst of this chaos, one thing that we probably missed observing was the increasing involvement of indie music in mainstream films.
There was Dabzee and SA who came out with the brilliant Manavalan Thug (Thallumaala). Rapper Marthyan had an eventful year – he was involved in two projects, Naradan (with MC Couper) and Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey. Fejo scored big too, rendering an A10 Fanboy song – the only good takeaway in the big-ticket ‘Aarattu’ – and also did numbers in Ullasam and Naradan. Thakara did a track in Oruthee, Irfana Hameed in Thallumaala, Arivu in Kumari…I’m probably forgetting many instances, but you get the idea: Indie artists are finally getting recognition from all quarters. This is not to say that, making it into mainstream music is the end goal: rather, their increased acceptance would give them the (financial and other) leverage to make more music in the indie space. It was Job Kurian who probably started this trend a decade ago, but today the route has many more takers. Something to rejoice about?
From a purely indie perspective too, the year was a memorable one for fans. We saw our favorite artists’ lineup for IndieGaga concerts across the state. Motherjane is back with a four-track EP (1 1 1) after years. We also saw the return of Agam after around 4 years, with a soulful revamp of Uyirum Neeye. We saw a few of our indie artists go ahead and capture the imagination of the entire nation, with original Hindi music – such as Pina Colada Blues (Hear ‘Tera Nishan‘ yet?), Anumita Nadesan (‘Khwaab’) to name a few. We now have artists who produce Weeknd-ish synth pop such as GWS. The sheer variety of sounds that are coming out of the indie corners of Kerala is nothing but a joy to watch. On that note, let’s celebrate the diverse sounds that (we believe) created an impact this year. Roll that PinkLungi Billboard where showcase the best indie music released by Malayalis in 2022.
#9. Monsoon Love – Jan Sam Bobby, Nevin Thomas, Fahad Rahman
Monsoon Love is a dreamy romantic track that benefits from effortless singing (by Fahad Rahman). Jan Sam Bobby, while he has a stronghold on EDM as a producer, is also a prolific pianist, and this really helps lift the song (given it’s heavy on chords). The fact that he had another producer/composer on board – Nevin Thomas – is also a big plus, as it opens doors for exciting collaborations. A new addition to your rain playlist, perhaps?
#8. Full Naked – Sreenath Bhasi, V3K
There hasn’t been a bigger flag-bearer of the Kochi bhasha in this generation like Sreenath Bhasi. And so, whenever he gets crooning or rapping, we prime ourselves for his unique brand of music. Full Naked also has the trademark Kochi slang elements, but here it’s also about the unpredictability of where Bhasi is going with the verses. He gets ample support from producer V3K (who’s had a fabulous year by the way, with back-to-back releases).
#7. Bandana – The Baby Jean, Kalla Sha
Fashionista-turned-rapper Baby Jean arrives on the scene with an absolute banger. The highlight of ‘Bandana’ is Jean’s unique voice, complemented by some killer beats courtesy of producer Kalla Sha. Be sure to wrap your head in a bandana and vibe & groove to this (Jordande) melam!
#6. Neeye – Redvin, Nevin Thomas, Madhav Nair
Redvin is an electronic music composer who offers an exciting music flavor – taking inspiration from Western artists such as Skrillex & Diplo, and yet creating something close to home’. In ‘Neeye’, he along with Nevin Thomas, merges a beautiful melody (crooned to perfection by Madhav Nair) on top of EDM-style beats – a song that’s equally sing-worthy as much as it’s dance-worthy!
#5. Therapara – Parimal Shais, MC Couper
Parimal Shais & MC Couper teamed up for an EP this year – Rap Bhooshanam Cochin Brothers Pvt. Ltd. – and the hype was understandable. This was a duo that had already created waves with collabs such as ‘Nerchapaattu’ and ‘Curry Chatti Beats Ep 5’. ‘Therapara’ brings out the best of both parties – MC Couper’s remarkable flow and hold over the language, and Parimal Shais’ unconventional choice of samples and beats. Don’t miss this one! (Also check out Sadhanam Kayyil Undo? From the same EP)
#4. Marap – Matadoria
After the hugely popular single ‘I.O.Y.A’ (2020), 6-member rock outfit Matadoria follows it up with another existential track, albeit a more ‘serious’ one, that puts their skills on full display: a memorable guitar riff, some intense lyrics, soulful vocals et al. And don’t miss the music video (arguably one of this year’s best) which is sure to tug at your heartstrings!
#3. Aakasham – Aromal Chekaver
After tasting success with the single ‘Veyil’ last year, Aromal Chekavar really came into his own in 2022 with his debut album ‘Hope’. While there are many earworms in the album (Kadal, Yathra, and Yellow to name a few), Akasham stands out for its peppy rhythm and feel-good melody. All said and done, Aromal Chekavar is our big bet for the indie scene in 2023!
#2.Travelling Gypsies – Shanka Tribe, 6091
Given the concentration of independent music around rock, hip-hop, and pop, Shanka Tribe is a novel voice in the scene. Their sound falls primarily under the Trance genre, with ample elements borrowed from tribal music, mantras, and natural sounds. They create a unique soundscape arising from different permutations of instruments, from the Didgeridoo ( wind instrument) to the udukku to the Djembe, etc. Travelling Gypsies also benefit from the augmented sound quality owing to the involvement of an expert prod (6091). Vibe max!
#1. Oombalum Kanjiyum – Malayali Monkeys
In 2022, it wasn’t just Odiyan Manikyan but also lakhs of Kerala youth that tripped on kanji. There hasn’t been a more iconic (also relatable?) track to come out of the indie stables in recent years. Malayali Monkeys keep it simple instrumentation-wise (a harmonium-led track): it’s more about the sed, yet hilarious lyrics and rendition. On that note, tag your ‘aliyan’ who you go to for ‘500 edukkals’ 🙂
Do check out our Spotify Indie Music list of 2022 here:
Did we miss out on any of your favorite numbers? Do comment below!