Sometimes the most unexpected songs make it to your everyday playlist, and that thrill of discovery is unparalleled. The song you heard at a party when the mood was just right, or those soundtracked into your favourite TV show or movie, or the one you will forever associate with that unforgettable road trip…
And now we appear to have hit another goldmine. Pay closer attention to all the standup comedy you’re consuming with increasing urgency, and you’ll see how so many comedians in the country are working homegrown indie artists across genres into their videos and specials. Opening tracks are everything—who knew?!
Here are some great songs to pregame with next weekend; they may not be new but wow, do they lift your mood.
1. Shamoon Ismail (via Gaurav Kapoor)
Gaurav Kapoor’s Amazon Prime Video comedy special Ha-Ha-Kar, which dropped last year, closes with ‘Jutt Blues’, a “Punjabi blues” tune by Islamabad-based singer-songwriter, Shamoon Ismail. And we haven’t heard anything this smoooooooth in a really long time. Not to mention how goddamn gorgeous this 27-year-old is, even to look at. So will you rewatch this Big Lebowski-inspired video over and over and over again? Hell, yes. Get clicking. (You ’re very welcome.)
Add it to your playlist by downloading it here.
2. Spud in the Box (via Sahil Shah)
Sahil Shah’s special Childish Behaviour (Amazon Prime Video) features music by Siddharth Talwar from Mumbai’s six-piece alt-rock band Spud in the Box, and Mumbai-based music producer Zain Calcuttawala. The music they’ve created for this particular special isn’t available to stream just yet, but here’s Spud’s WHOLE debut album, Lead Feet Paper Shoes.
3. BLAKC (via Azeem Banatwalla)
Until about a decade ago, and well before standup comedy was a viable full time career for anyone in India, EIC’s Azeem Banatwalla used to write a bit on the side. His first love was technology and gaming, but he was also apparently exploring local indie music bands. Banatwala’s special Cometh The Hour (Amazon Prime Video) features the track ‘Newspaper Boy’ from Mumbai-based alt-grunge rock band BLAKC’s first studio album, Choking On A Dream. And this seems to be something of a dream realised, as you can see from this fanboy’s 2010 review of the album (also available for free streaming and download here).
4. Nucleya (via Biswa Kalyan Rath)
Back in 2015, Biswa released five of his performance clips on YouTube. They flew across platforms and timelines at warp speed, turning him into a viral sensation, finally famous for more than his wildly popular series with Kanan Gill, Pretentious Movie Reviews. Setting the mood for these clips is bass raja Nucleya’s ‘Aaja’ (feat. Avneet Khurmi and Guri Gangsta) from his 2015 album Bass Rani, which was also on fire at the time.
If you’ve never heard it before or, more likely, are ready for a redux, the whole album is free to download here.
5. The Lightyears Explode (via Karunesh Talwar)
Talwar has a clutch of brilliant YouTube videos on his channel, well produced and edited, and showcasing him in stellar form. Many of them sample the track ‘Diet Coke’ by Mumbai-based punk rock band, The Lightyears Explode. The band has one of the most original sounds on the scene, combining addictive pop hooks with crunchy riffs, and layering it all with a pounding bass and rhythm section that gives it a uniquely Indian flavour.
Also recommended are the tracks ‘Kunj Gutka’ and ‘Garam Dharam’.
6. Skrat (via Azeem Banatwalla)
For his second special, Problems, Banatwalla used the music of the Chennai punk trio Skrat. Its driving, manic opening riff immediately sets the mood for the special as one that’s far angrier than Banatwalla’s first special. It’s an intense little earworm of a song, and Banatwalla thoroughly delivers on its promise with what is (as of writing this) India’s best one-hour special yet.
7. Shashwat Bulusu (via Aakash Mehta)
The opening package of two of Aakash Mehta’s 2018 YouTube videos was among the slickest of Indian comedians’. It featured a shot of Mehta walking to edge of a terrace, with a frenzied drum solo for a soundtrack. The shot then soars over his shoulder to take in the Mumbai skyscape, while text is slapped onto the screen to a shouted “A-five, six, five-six-seven-eight!” followed by a heady, swinging acoustic bass riff. This, it turns out, is the intro to the song Under the Sun by Baroda-based singer-songwriter Shashwat Bulusu, a brilliant bullet of a song that will leave you humming it even after your first listen.
8. Naezy (via AIB)
When comedy collective AIB was signed on for a news comedy show on video streaming platform Hotstar, they roped in India’s hip-hop emperor Naved Shaikh (or Naezy the Baa, as he is more fondly known), to create the title track Tragedy Mein Comedy in his signature freestyle street rap style. Naezy was peaking in this genre at the time, and unsurprisingly, this track went viral too.