Mixtapes, Audio + Visual

THE MASALA MIX: Desi Ladies Making Music

Be it pop, hip hop, electronic, or punk, the Desi diaspora's presence in modern music demands our attention.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Because of the South Asian fixation on film production, it has allowed its once-flourishing music industry to slowly wither away. Desi music production in the homeland has become limited to movie soundtracks, playback singers, or American rappers sampling our classic tracks.

Thankfully, the Desi diaspora has picked up the slack, with many talented South Asian women going into the music industry and creating work that fuses together the two worlds. Be it pop, hip hop, electronic, or even punk, Desi women have shown us that their presence in modern music demands our attention. Here’s what we’ve got lined up for you.

1. “Queen” || Horsepowar

noisey.vice.com
noisey.vice.com

This 23 year old producer and rapper is not afraid to let everyone know who’s queen in her album, “Bollywoes.” Fierce, fresh, and deliciously addictive, “Queen” delivers a concept combining Jasleen Powar’s love for hip hop while showcasing her Desi roots.

2. “I Call You Up” || The Tuts

thegirlsrare.com
thegirlsrare.com

Mellow vocals balanced out with jamming band instruments, you’ll find yourself in nostalgia for hits from the 2000s with a single listen. This album may be called Time to Move On, ironically, but we’re willing to bet, you won’t want to!

3. “Jimmy” || M.I.A.

blackballad.co.uk
blackballad.co.uk

Strangely alluring, this upbeat track will have you swaying your body almost impulsively with its unique infusion of ‘70s disco, ‘80s Bollywood, and electronic beats joined by hypnotizing vocals. M.I.A.’s diverse genres and constant experimentation never fail to impress!

4. “Shattered” || Doe Eye

zimbio.com
zimbio.com

Have yet to recover from our spooky Halloween playlist? Worry not, our horror-loving ones, Doe Eye will satisfy your hunger, with her chillingly haunting voice. Close your eyes for this one, you’ll find yourself floating through an untold dream. Doe eye’s smooth and steady vocals are sure to win over fans of Lana del Rey or Marina & the Diamonds.

5. “Traces Of You” || Anoushka Shankar (feat. Norah Jones)

traquenart.ca
traquenart.ca

Beginning with traditional instrumental, this track maintains a consistent simplicity – yet at the same time, an elegance that will keep you captivated throughout. Anoushka and Norah’s voices are heartfelt and raw; perfect for those yoga sessions or late night reminiscences.

6. “Waiting for Godot” || Janina Gavankar

bustle.com
bustle.com

You’ll be in wanderlust and taken to another dimension with this track’s brilliantly thought-out lyrics and enchanting harmonies that will leave shivers up your spine. Absolutely stunning.

7. “California Dreaming” || Usha Uthup and The Ronnie Menezes Quartet

outlooktraveller.com
outlooktraveller.com

Bollywood songstress Usha Uthrup’s voice itself could be considered a classic with her melodious tone; try not to be in awe as you take a listen to her cover of the Mamas and Papas song California Dreaming, a song, perhaps for those nice lengthy highway drives.

 8. “Must Be The Love” || Arty, Nadia Ali, & BT

guessthesinger.wordpress.com
guessthesinger.wordpress.com

Simply breathtaking and electric. Nadia Ali, Arty, & BT successfully create a mystical vibe with their integration of compelling vocals, electronic pop music, and touching lyrics. This one is sure to be on repeat for a while.

9. “No Bounds” || Harleen Singh

kaurista.com
kaurista.com

Try and keep up with this fast-paced and irresistible tune combined with catchy lyrics. Harleen Singh’s voice will have you up and dancing in no time!

10. “Tujhe Yaad Kiya” || Annie Khalid (feat. Rischi Rich)

hotstarz.info
hotstarz.info

English-Pakistani pop princess Annie Khalid decided one language just wasn’t enough to convey her emotions; expect the unpredictable as you listen to a track that initiates as romantic and slow but quickly builds up to an upbeat and funky tune…all while Khalid effortlessly switches between English and Punjabi with the bat of an eyelash.

We’re all about highlighting the best of music that you don’t really hear on the radio: music by underrepresented voices, tunes by your best friend you believe really needs to be out there, what you’re convinced will be the next big underground hit (or maybe it’ll be above ground – we don’t discriminate!). If you’re musically inclined and want to see your suggestion maybe featured in a future mixtape, we want you to throw your song(s) in the hat. All suggestions go – except for shitty top 40 music, stuff that makes the neighbors vomit over how lame it is, or music that’s just hateful against a group of people (unless they’re oppressive, in which case it’s a little different).

So, throw it in. Right here. Super easy. 

Because we love you, we compiled all your new favorite songs in one playlist. Enjoy!

  1. Queen Horsepowar 3:17
  2. I Call You Up The Tuts Buy 2:06
  3. Jimmy M.I.A. Buy 3:29
  4. Shattered DOE EYE Buy 3:58
  5. Traces of You (feat. Norah Jones) Anoushka Shankar Buy 3:47
  6. Waiting for Godot Janina Gavankar Buy 4:39
  7. California Dreaming (The Mamas and the Papas Cover) Usha Uthup and The Ronnie Menezes Quartet 4:45
  8. Must Be the Love Arty, Nadia Ali, & BT Buy 4:58
  9. No Bounds Harleen Singh 2:25
  10. Tujhe Yaad Kiya (feat. Rishi Rich) Annie Khalid 4:00

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Shayan Farooq

Shayan Farooq

Shayan was creating mini documentaries profiling Pacific Asian artists for the USC Pacific Asia Museum of Pasadena. You can follow her on Twitter, but not in real life.

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