Five collaborations that spawned and prospered despite the pandemic

by Anurag Tagat | Independent Music Journalist

It’s been over a year now (and certainly feels like longer) since the pandemic pushed many musicians to rethink a lot of fundamental things about what they do. It didn’t change one essential aspect, though, which was forging ahead with making music itself. Whether it was sharpening their skills, taking to virtual gigs or just diving deeper into understanding the world of digital promotions, artists also quickly realized we’re all in this together. 

Sometimes nudged by labels or out of their own volition, we take a look at how musicians reached out to their own kind and created collaborations which may not have otherwise existed. The music world is certainly richer thanks to collaborations across the board, because they reinstate our ideas of community and togetherness, which we need now more than ever. 

Jungle Mantra | DIVINE, Karan Kanchan feat. Vince Staples and Pusha T

Part of a project that began work during the first lockdown, it seemed like a deal that brought together Mass Appeal India, Netflix and the makers of the book adaptation The White Tiger. A big banner release, the film notched up a theme song by commissioning DIVINE and ace beatsmith Karan Kanchan to work on a track about survival in the concrete jungle and staying true to your principles. Then, the track was taken to the next level with guest verses from rappers Vince Staples and Pusha T. One could argue how hip-hop songs are among the easier remote collaborations – often a beat gets sent over and the rappers have their verse finetuned to fit it – but there’s a cohesiveness present on “Jungle Mantra” that makes it a smasher right from start to finish. 

Sic Semper Tyrannis | Demonstealer feat. Mohini Dey and Gino Banks 

Among the most veteran musicians in the Indian metal space with about 20 years behind him, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Sahil Makhija aka Demonstealer is not new to remote collaborations when it comes to his solo work or with his band, Demonic Resurrection. But in the midst of the pandemic, he reached out to a rhythmic pairing who may have seemed an unlikely call for Demonstealer. “Sic Semper Tyrannis” in all its molten glory, brings together bassist Mohini Dey’s rattling and fluid basslines as well as fist-tight double bass drum madness from Gino Banks. 

Tough Times | Shreyas Iyengar feat. Jayant Sankrityayana, Pallavi Seth and Siya Ragade

Created specifically in regard to the pandemic situation in India, Pune-based multi-instrumentalist Shreyas Iyengar offered up his cinematic jazz album Tough Times as a product of the lockdown in early 2021. It had been in the works for just about less than a year since then, Iyengar actually helms saxophone, drums, guitar and piano but he didn’t hold back from reaching out to guests on the eight-track record. Classical guitar parts and bass come from Jayant Sankrityayana, who came in to record with Iyengar once lockdown restrictions had eased a bit, plus there’s vocal harmonies from Pallavi Seth on the somber “Death March” while flautist Siya Ragade heightens “Never Leaving Home Again”. 

Phoenix Rise | Sunny Jain feat. Marc Cary, Lauren Sevian amongst others

What originally started out as short, social media-aided jams between friends soon snowballed into an album for New York-based Indian-origin drummer and percussionist Sunny Jain. His new album Phoenix Rise – which even had a photo cookbook to go with it – features just over 50 artists spread out over 10 tracks. That’s everyone from vocalist Shilpa Ananth to Snarky Puppy founder Michael League, singer-songwriter Arooj Aftab, pianist Vijay Iyer and more. Offered up as a jazz fusion record that’s more on groove and psychedelic elements, Jain is at the center of it all but also lets his collaborators do their thing. They all brought these remote recordings to life, creating some serious earworms like “Where Is Home” and “Heroes”. 

Nowhere To Stand | Sandunes feat, Sid Sriram, Landslands, Half Waif and Ramya Pothuri 

Among the most recent releases we’re covering in this list belongs to Mumbai-bred producer Sandunes aka Sanaya Ardeshir. Often among the most cerebral yet soulful electronic artists in the country, she gets the help of some exceptionally voiced friends on her latest EP Nowhere To Stand. In the pursuit of working over video calls with artists like Sid Sriram, Landslands, Half Waif and Ramya Pothuri, Sandunes arrives at what can be argued to be her most accessible record yet, but still something that will impress her existing fanbase. 

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