Yep, it’s not clickbait! There are actually South Asian English-speaking musicians other than Zayn Malik that exist and make good music.
Story by Namrata Prakash
Raveena Aurora, more commonly known as her mononym Raveena, is an Indian-American R&B singer from New York. She made waves with her first EP released in 2017, “Shanti,” known for its rich and tranquil vocals and ethereal sound. With hit songs “Sweet Time,” “If Only” and “Honey,” she shows she is not afraid to incorporate her Indian roots as she sings songs about romance and loss. She has currently embarked on the Woman is Holy tour, her first major North American tour, and recently was invited to perform at Camp Flog Gnaw, a music festival curated by Tyler the Creator. She has over 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify, and it’s only her second year with released music!
Shilpa Ray is a seasoned Indian-American artist who specializes in indie and punk rock. Born and raised in Brooklyn, she drifted back and forth between bands Beat the Devil and Her Happy Hookers from 2006 to 2011 before going solo in 2013. She has since released two albums as well as a slew of singles including the angsty “Morning Terrors Nights of Dread,” “Burning Bride” and “Shilpa Ray on Broadway.” Her deep, husky voice coupled with lyrics that don’t shy away from her darkest feelings make her one of the most underrated and unique rock artists of the decade.
Surprise, surprise! Charli XCX, the pop sensation from London, is half-Indian from her mother’s side. Her first album, “True Romance,” received critical acclaim but she catapulted to fame with her hit single “Fancy.”. Since then, she’s released another album as well as several mixtapes and EPs. With electronic and upbeat songs like “Vroom Vroom,” “Boys” and recent single “1999,” Charli XCX makes sure her unique sound is not ignored in the public eye. She just wrapped up on supporting Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour and will not be going anywhere anytime soon.
HOAX is a five-piece indie-pop band that hails from Brooklyn. Their lead vocalist and guitarist is Indian-American Mike Raj, but the group also consists of members Frantz Cesar, Paul Brower, Kevin Lopez and Jacob Lopez. This up-and-coming band has found success in singles such as “Beach House,” “Moon, Moon Baby” and “Grow.” They aim to find healing and empathy through their music than can translate onto the current social landscape, and it is evident through their raw and tender lyricism. Currently, they have released two EPs and are working on a debut album and headlining tour come 2019.
M.I.A., born Mathangi Arulpragasam, is probably one of the biggest and most seasoned South Asian artists in the world. Born in London, M.I.A. originally studied to be a filmmaker and designer, but in 2005 put out her first rap album and has now established herself as one of the most influential rappers of the 21st century. Some of her most notable and catchy works include “Paper Planes,” “Bad Girls,” and “Bring the Noize.” She famously uses classical Indian instruments and styles in her music, and her art is heavy with political references and commentary. Most recently, a documentary called “MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A.” was released following her life and fame, and won the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award at Sundance Film Festival.
Tommy Genesis, born Genesis Yasmine Mohanraj, is a half-Indian, half-Canadian rapper who has found major success over the last two years. A self-proclaimed fetish rapper, the underground artist plays with themes of sex, fame and being carefree. Born into an artistic family, Tommy studied film and sculpture in college and continues to produce the music videos for her albums. She released an EP in 2015 and her debut self-titled album came out in early November. With songs like “Tommy,” “100 Bad” and “Bad Boy,” she has cemented her place in art rap and will be embarking on her first tour, God Is Wild, in 2019.
SAMEER GADHIA, YOUNG THE GIANT
Rock band Young the Giant, formed in Irvine, California in 2004, has received much acclaim and commercial success over the years. Their lead singer, Sameer Gadhia, is Indian-American, and grew up with Indian classical influences in his household. The rock band has released four studio albums since 2010, including this year’s “Mirror Master,” and some of their most popular songs include “Cough Syrup,” “My Body” and “Silvertongue.” Their music explores subjects of heartbreak, lust and loneliness, and they have over 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
Norah Jones is another veteran of the music industry, and daughter of the famous Indian musician and sitarist Ravi Shankar. She came to prominence in 2002 with the release of her debut album “Come Away With Me,” which earned her five Grammy awards. She is known for her smooth vocals and the jazz and folk influences she incorporates into her sound. She recently released a single called “Wintertime,” which is reminiscent of her contemplative work in “Don’t Know Why,” “Come Away With Me” and “Sunrise.”
Last but not least, our Pakistani-British heartthrob Zayn Malik. Although every time he speaks of One Direction a piece of our hearts die, as many of us have grown up listening to his falsettos and effortless vocals as part of our favorite boy band, he’s found much success on his own. His debut album “Mind of Mine” peaked at number one in the US and the UK, and showed more of his R&B side. Highlights include “iT’s YoU,” “dRuNk” and “Sour Diesel.” Most recently he’s released a slew of singles in preparation of his second solo album, and a cover of him singing a popular Bollywood song “Allah Duhai Hai” which left some South Asian fans very emotional.