Independent Indian Artists: The F16s - Photograph by Ashwin Mohan

Beyond Bollywood: 10 Independent Indian Artists You Need To Know

From rap to folk fusion, here’s some pathbreaking independent Indian artists who deserve more love.

When people hear the words “Indian music,” they usually associate it with either sitar and flute-heavy sounds. The ones that play at an Indian restaurant or in a New Age-y establishment selling crystals and incense. If not that, then extremely catchy, dance-focused Bollywood music with iconic hooks (and hook steps). But there’s more to Indian music than just classical and Bollywood tunes. The diversity of India is such that music from different parts of the country remain entirely unfamiliar to those outside of it. However, in the streaming era, more artists — singing in both English and regional languages — have found varying levels of success. As a result, they’ve broadened the popular understanding of the Indian sonic landscape immensely. Eager fans now have direct access to these artists and their music, which has evened the playing field in an industry that’s notoriously difficult to break into. 

India, like many Asian countries, is highly STEM focused. The age-old stereotype of Indians wanting their children to be ‘doctors, lawyers and engineers’ holds true. To dare to pursue a career in the arts in India requires no small amount of grit, valour and perseverance. Least of all, because the arts scene in India is still quite nascent and not exceptionally lucrative. Additionally, one has to make peace with societal stigma and the absence of any kind of infrastructural support. In short, you have to do it against all odds. That’s why it’s all the more incredible that anybody would do it at all. Below are some artists who have defied norms, taken creative risks, subverted expectations, and redefined the sound of India.

Parekh & Singh

Parekh & Singh are a Kolkata-based dream-pop duo composed of Nischay Parekh (vocals) and Jivraj Singh (drums). They released their first album, Ocean, in 2013 and have since released two more albums, Science City (2018) and The Night Is Clear (2022). Their tranquil dreamy soundscape is reminiscent of early Tame Impala, Alvvays, or perhaps, Mazzy Star. Parekh’s vocals add a distinctive sweetness to the duo’s output. He is to Parekh & Singh, what Greg Gonzalez is to Cigarettes After Sex. The duo is often in matching tailored suits and their music videos are frequently populated by animated characters. The whimsical visual aesthetic adds a nostalgic charm to their music.

As a bonus, here’s their magical rendition of Radiohead’s “Karma Police”:

Chaar Diwaari

Chaar Diwaari (literally, “four walls”) is the stage name of Delhi-based artist Garv Taneja, who is as much a visual artist as he is a musician. His stellar self-produced tracks, along with their trippy cinematic visuals, have quickly established him as a musical maverick. Influenced by alternative hip-hop, electronic, and retro Bollywood music, he’s a genre-defying sensation who directs and edits his own music videos.

With one EP, Teri Maiyat Ke Gaane (literally, “your funeral songs”), and a dozen or so singles under his belt, Chaar Diwaari sings primarily in Hindi. His abstract lyricism is at once poignant and open to interpretation. It’s hard to describe his sound without adding that it is distinctively his own. With each release, he seems to be breaking free of the “four walls” he’s chosen for himself. Experimental yet accessible, avant garde yet enjoyable enough to listen to on repeat, the 21-year old is just getting started.


Anoh Jacob Biju. a.k.a Anohnymouss, is a rapper and producer from Kerala, who raps in both English and Malayalam. He dropped his first single ,“Prodigy,” in 2019 as an 18 year old. In 2021, he released his debut EP, Seek. Influenced by rappers like Eminem, Logic and Drake, Anoh reinvents the genre to suit the cultural syntax of the world he inhabits.

Rap artists Akon, 50 Cent, and Eminem enjoyed a certain niche popularity in Kerala in the 2000s. It eventually culminated in the creation of a local hip-hop scene in the early 2010s that was further bolstered by the success of artists like Street Academics. The viral hit “Neela Bucket”, an amusing parody of “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent, is widely considered to be the first Malayalam rap song. Anoh inherited this syncretic legacy, and continues to play around with form and sound that’s simultaneously Malayali and global.

Peter Cat Recording Co

Peter Cat Recording Co, or PCRC, is a Delhi-based indie rock band consisting of Dhruv Bhola, Suryakant Sawhney, Karan Singh, Rohit Gupta and Kartik Pillai. Founded in 2009, they’re named after a legendary restaurant in Kolkata, which itself is named after an English cat. The band released their first album, Sinema, in 2011, followed by six more albums since then. The signature “PCRC Sound” is one that freely samples jazz and psychedelic disco. Frontman Suryakant Sawhney delivers lyrics in a fifties-crooner singing style a la Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra. Velvety smooth, dreamy, ethereal, and full of old-school charm, PCRC found success outside of India as well. They’re currently signed to the Paris-based label, Panache.

Thaikkudam Bridge

This rock-folk-metal band has been a mainstay in the Indian rock scene since their 2013 music show debut. With various changes in its lineup over its decade-long existence, Thaikkudam Bridge currently consists of 15 members from all over India. They’re named after an actual bridge in Kochi, where the band is based. As one of the most successful acts in India’s independent music scene, Thaikkudam Bridge has toured all over the country and in more than 25 countries across the world, including the United States and Canada. Their hits, like “Fish Rock” and “Navarasam,” are now considered cult classics. Musical collaborators include artists like Hindustani maestro Ustad Rashid Khan, sitar player and composer Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Jordan Rudess of metal band Dream Theater, and Chris Adler of Lamb of God.


Mumbai-based band Alif derives its name from the first letter of the Urdu alphabet which symbolizes the “oneness of everything.” Frontman Mohammad Muneem is a poet and a professor of poetry whose Kashmiri heritage and Sufi mysticism shaped the output of the band immensely. Alif’s music puts a contemporary spin on Kashmiri folk music. With songs like “Jhelumas,” “Lalnawath,” and “Kya Karie Korimol,” Alif has established themselves as an act to look out for. Singing in both Koshur and Hindustani, Alif has released two albums (Sufayed, 2017 and Siyah, 2021) and many eclectic singles, including a Sufi rap song with MC Kash, titled “Like A Sufi.”

Tetseo Sisters

Sisters Mütsevelü a.k.a Mercy, Azine a.k.a Azi, Kuvelü a.k.a Kuku, and Alüne a.k.a Lulu are Nagaland-based artists who sing in the traditional Li style. They released their first album, Li Chapter One : The Beginning in 2011. Since then, they’ve released numerous singles as well as an EP, A Slice of Li, in 2019. Singing in their native language of Chokri, the quartet appeared at festivals in India and abroad. Most of their songs are accompanied by the traditional Naga one-stringed instrument, known as the Tati. Their commitment to keep traditional Naga folk singing alive has made them cultural ambassadors of their state.

The F16s

Formed in 2012, this Chennai-based band describes itself as “a pop band disguised in a rock and roll outfit.” Inspired by acts like LCD Soundsystem, Julian Casablancas, The Voidz, and The Horrors, their soundscape is blissful and dreamy with groovy bass lines and a lot of synth. Their immaculate discography is perfect for fans of Mac Demarco, Tame Impala or Tyler, The Creator. They have released two albums and numerous singles which have acquired over four million streams. 

Anish Sood

Anish Sood, also known as Anyasa, is a DJ and producer who made his debut in 2008, when the electronic music scene in India was still in an embryonic stage. In his long career, he has released five EPs and over a dozen singles and remixes. His track “Starry Night,” featuring Zach Sorgen and Kelechi, won an Independent Music Award in 2018. Influenced by deep house and trance, his tracks are emotional, blissful and sublime. Currently, he’s signed to the revered UK label Anjunadeep.


Consisting Khalid Ahamed (vocals/guitar), Bharath Kashyap (lead guitars), Sachin Banandur (percussion) and Fidel Dsouza (bass guitar), this four-piece band is known for genre-defying music rooted in a psychedelic-ambient-folksy soundscape. They released their first single, “Dil Khush,” in 2011 and have since produced four albums. Khalid’s raw earthy vocals — a Desi Hozier, if you will — combined with the tranquil-rock production renders a sound that you want to return to again and again. 

Header: The F16s | Photo by Ashwin Mohan

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