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Getting to know the Indian Indies: From Prateek Kuhad to Lifafa

Indian generations have grown up listening to Bollywood music. The music that made us move uncontrollably and sowed the seed of dance into countless people. In contrast, indie music or even non-Bollywood music culture was never as mainstream as Bollywood music. The two played in different leagues in a specified hierarchical structure where Bollywood sat on top. However, recent times have seen the emergence of many indie/pop artists and bands that have caught the eyes, ears, and hearts of India’s youth and the older generations.

One of the most significant examples of this phenomenon is the musician Prateek Kuhad. He rose to fame after he started producing independent music that was inspired by several western artists. Prateek’s songwriting was firstly entirely in English and eerily similar to how western Indie artists produce music. Since he was targeting an audience that was the most influenced by western culture and was drawn to American mainstream music, he was an instant hit. Prateek decided not to limit himself and capitalise on his fame to enter Bollywood with a calm entry. He wrote a song or two for Hindi movies but ultimately decided to build his own brand. Kuhad has seen tremendous success with being viewed as the mainstream Indian indie musician with sold-out concerts, culturally influential music videos and unforgettable tunes. His influence is visible, so much so that any new artist that seems to fit into the same cookie-cutter that Prateek stitched his brand with is automatically associated with him and put into the category of the “Prateek Kuhads”.

Lifafa is the solo project of one of the members of the Indie band Peter Cat Recordings which singer Suryakant Sawhney started to step away from music that wasn’t just produced for a niche audience. His primary goal wasn’t capitalising on India’s demographic but producing Hindi indie music that a wider audience could enjoy. In his own words, he wanted his music for the people. His 2019 album Jaago allowed him to establish himself as a solo artist independent of his work with his band. What is very interesting is that Suryakant grew up listening to his mother’s favourite Bhajans and Mohammad Rafi songs, sounds that we don’t usually associate with indie music.

It seems peculiar when the up-and-coming indie musicians disclose that this unopposed and dominant influence of mainstream Bollywood music gave birth to their creativity as artists. We find culture and music intertwining when we see modern Indian artists internalising their musical roots to produce something vastly different yet equally influential. Their exposure to music that hit the mark for Indian audiences allowed them to make music that pleased the same audience but in contrasting ways. It is, therefore, fascinating to see culture and music having equalising and similar effects on each other and the audience but in distinct ways over time.


The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Brief Bulletin.