Music Features

Here Are 6 Punjabi Songs That Support India's Farmers

Want to know what's going on with India's controversial farming laws? Here are six Punjabi songs that tell you exactly what millions of farmers think about the new laws.

Punjabi Singer Diljit Dosanjh sits with fellow singers and protesters at New Delhi's border.

In 2020, India's grassroots agricultural movement blossomed to become the largest protest in human history — and it's still going on.

Singhs And Singers: Support The Punjabi Singers Taking It To The Streets www.youtube.com

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MUSIC

India's Pop Diva: An Interview With Ananya Birla

The pop singer's always striving to be a better version of herself.

Pop star Ananya Birla recently burst into the limelight, becoming the first native artist to go platinum in India.

In fact, her last five singles all went platinum. Signed to Universal Music, her songs have amassed over 150 million streams. She's collaborated with Afrojack, Jim Beanz, and Mood Melodies, and she's performed at Global Citizen, Oktoberfest, and Sunburn, the largest music festival in Asia.

Since her new EP, Fingerprint, drops today, Popdust decided to sit down with Ananya and find out more about her trip to stardom.

Ananya Birla - Blackout (Lyric Video) ft. WurlD, Vector youtu.be

How would you describe yourself?

An ambitious singer-songwriter always striving to be a better version of herself, unapologetically. I'm hugely lucky: I wake up every day and get to do the thing I love most in this world and to work with some of my favorite people. I hope that with every single moment, I continue to evolve, grow, and most importantly make good music that people can connect with.

What's your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?

A cheesy one for sure: "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri.

Who is your favorite music artist?

That's super hard…At the moment I'm listening to a lot of Post Malone, Khalid, SZA, and Rita Ora. Growing up, Eminem was my favorite for sure–sometimes that surprises people. But he has this amazing rawness and vulnerability underneath all that front, which means his music can resonate with anyone, no matter where they are from. That is my ultimate goal whenever I step into the studio.

How did you get started in music? What's the backstory there?

Music was my first love, hands down–I grew up in a very musical household, and it's been an obsession for as long as I can remember. I picked up my first instrument, the santoor, when I was nine, and playing it was my favorite thing to do. Then, as a teenager, I taught myself the guitar on YouTube so I could compose to it.

By the time I got to uni in the UK, I was writing my own music and performing whenever and wherever I could–low-key bars, random open-mic nights, coffee shops–literally anywhere. Music was my constant, and it had become clear to me that I wanted to dedicate my life to it. In what was otherwise a pretty tough period of my life, being on stage really gave me a sense of belonging. Finding the confidence to turn my back on a "conventional" career took a while, but eventually, my passion for making music became bigger than my fear of putting myself out there.

What musicians influenced you the most?

I learned so much from Kurt Cobain and Eminem. They are really different artists, but they both showed that vulnerability can be a strength. That vulnerability is so important for connecting with people.

Your latest single features Sean Kingston. How did you connect with him?

Sean was touring in India, and I was asked if I could open for him at one of his shows. I was so excited because I had always been a big fan of his, ever since he did "Beautiful Girls" back in the day. We stayed in touch and agreed to catch up when I was next in LA. So, on my next trip, we spent a couple of days in the studio, and it all came together really nicely. He was great to work with, such an awesome guy–and we really vibe together in the studio.

Pop music is exploding in India. What changed to bring this about?

I've always believed that music is the ultimate global language. Just look at the way that K-pop and Latin music have blown up over the last few years. "Foreign music" isn't really a thing anymore. Digital platforms like Spotify have made it so much easier for people around the world to hear music they wouldn't have come across before.

In the past, domestic and film music really dominated the industry in India, but that's all changing. There are now these awesome independent artists coming up who are working on more international sounds, and audiences are really embracing them. I hope that the positive response I've been getting back home encourages other musicians in India to be less afraid of taking chances and to think internationally when they're working on new projects.

Is the music industry in India embracing female artists? Or does it still view them as interlopers?

Okay, so–there's obviously a long way to go. But in terms of visibility, at least, things have really changed for the better recently. International artists like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, [and] Ariana Grande are all dominating the charts back home, and there are some great up-and-coming local female artists, too. It's beginning to become all about the music–if people like your music, they will appreciate you as an artist, no matter your gender.

You're an advocate for mental health, working with MPower. What's the goal of MPower?

I co-founded MPower to help stamp out stigma around mental illness and spread the message that it is okay not to be okay. People from every country and every social background suffer from their mental health. There is nothing shameful in seeking help for mental illnesses. Only if we alleviate the stigma associated with mental illness can we seek help and not exacerbate the illness by leaving it unaddressed. We're working towards fostering awareness and education, as well as providing expertise and care to those who need it most.

What's next for you, musically?

Things have been going really well in India, and my last 5 tracks have gone platinum, which has been amazing. Now I've got my eye on the international market. In the UK, I now have Island Records as my home label, and with them, we are going to be doing a lot more outside of India, both collaborations and live performances.

My debut EP is out on the 17th which is unbelievably exciting! It's called Fingerprint because it's like sharing part of my identity with the world. The whole thing is drawn straight from personal experience, and it's mostly about love–the beautiful bits and the challenges, too. Each song explores love from a different perspective and looks at the diversity of emotions that we experience in relationships, the good times, and the bad.

Follow Ananya Birla Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.


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MUSIC

ash.ØK Talks About Darkness and Vulnerability

The gravitational pull of gritty, dark sounds.

Photo Courtesy ash.OK

Ashok Kailath, also known as ash.ØK, is a Philadelphia-based producer, whose debut album, The Unraveled, makes an immediate impact on listeners.

His unique sound amalgamates trap elements, elegiac melodic patterns, and electro-pop influences, along with dark lyrics revealing fragmented relationships. All these components coalesce on the music video for "We'll Waste Away," featuring Indian percussionist Jomy George and singer-songwriter Robyn Cage.

Because of his innovative approach to music and his attention to detail, Popdust sat down with ash.ØK to explore the source of his remarkable creativity.


ash.ØK - "We'll Waste Away" featuring Robyn Cage and Jomy George - OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO youtu.be


How would you describe yourself?

Restless when I have an idea. It can be hard to turn off when I have something I want in my scope.

What's your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?

Lauryn Hill's breakdown in "Killing Me Softly," of course.

How did you get started in music? What's the backstory there?

When I was a kid, my parents bought me an old Casio keyboard, the type that had half-size keys and a few stock sounds. I fell in love with it and then eventually moved up to something that could actually record a tiny bit. I'd have this Yamaha keyboard set up by our radio and literally try to recreate every song that came on. Eventually, in high school, I saved up enough money to go to a recording studio. The place was built underground and meant for heavy and Goth metal bands – it could handle only a few tracks deep and recorded analog to reel. The album I made back then totally sucked and I cringe anytime I hear that tape now, but I fell in love with the whole production process. I've been hooked since.

What musicians influenced you the most?

So, so many…the first album I really remember having a massive impact on me was ATLiens from Outkast. There was a somberness to that album that really hit me at that time. Most boom bap artists like the Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, were staples for me growing up and had a major influence. On the flip side, I also soaked up some of my parent's music like Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, etc. I was also a huge fan of a lot of music that came out in the 80s, especially Prince and Michael Jackson.

How, if at all, do your musical influences shape and impact your music?

I gravitate towards gritty and darker sounds and I think that's a direct influence of listening to some of these artists. Storytelling is also a major component of music for me – all the best music that sits with me had something unique in terms of storyline, emotion and composition, even if it's an instrumental. I try to carry that over into what I do, to make something that isn't disposable after the first few listens.

What is your songwriting process? Do the lyrics come first, or the music?

It can go either way, but for the most part, it's an emotion that drives the instrumental which will ultimately drive the lyrics and story.

Your sound is hard to categorize because it encompasses a variety of elements. How would you describe your sound?

Layered and interwoven.With the music I produce, the one consistent response I get back from fans is that they hear some new element on each repeat – not typically on the first or second listen, but a few plays in and there's a different melody line or instrument that they didn't realize was there.

Generally speaking, much of your music features dark lyrics riding over somber music. Why all the darkness?

This album was built on the true story of a close friend who attempted suicide. Her relationships, career, family, etc. were falling apart and she was on the brink of taking her own life. At the last moment, right before swallowing a fistful of pills, she snapped back and didn't go through with it. The Unraveled, both the single and the full album, was predicated on her story – ultimately, it's an amazing and happy ending, but that path went through hell. I wanted the music to reflect that, hence the darkness.

Your new music video "We'll Waste Away" delivers a dark, electro-pop vibe. What was the inspiration for the video?

I wanted to tell the story of someone who decided to take the courageous step of breaking tradition and societal expectations. Although this particular storyline is set in India, it's a universal theme that I think so many of us can relate to, regardless of our own individual situation. In this video, we watch a woman stand up against her attackers and break away from an attempted rape by two off-duty police officers. She escapes and speaks to no one about what happened that night – in a culture that is heavily male-dominated, her words are almost powerless, and she's forced to keep this violence silent. Days pass, and we see her brother try to set her up for marriage with one of his friends (which is a common practice in India, almost like a blind date here in the US). She reluctantly obliges to meet him and when they're introduced, she immediately recognizes this suitor as the man who had tried raping her. Thoroughly enraged and fed up with her circumstances and the narrow options for her here, she calmly makes her escape and eventually runs away to a convent. She takes refuge with the sisters there and decides to finally dictate her own choices.

The video was filmed in India. Does shooting in India present any difficulties, or is it a seamless process?

The entire process was definitely challenging since we were working with a very limited window to complete the shoot. I flew to Kerala, India and met with the production team and we basically had to film most of this within a day or two window. The landscape in India for guerilla videography isn't super friendly, so we had to be careful with how we went about getting footage. The convent scenes were the easiest (my aunt is actually the nun you see in this film), although this still took about a full day to shoot those few scenes because of the convent's prayer schedules and the amount of content we were trying to get. We shipped the raw footage back home (which in itself was a hell of an undertaking getting the physical hard drive from India to Philly) and the final cut came together here in the US.

How did you hook up with Robyn Cage and Jomy George?

Robyn is an incredible artist in her own right and I started following her work about a year before we recorded "We'll Waste Away." We had a chance to connect in LA at an industry event and she was super-excited to collab on a track together for this project. On the plane ride back to Philly, listening to pre-production instrumentals for the album, it hit me how perfectly suited Robyn's voice was for this particular song. I sent her my material and what she sent back had me floored. Her voice is just full of raw emotion and energy; it has a cadence and tone that pushes the entire track forward. Jomy George is also someone who I'd been following online – he has a fairly rabid fan base on YouTube and has some remarkable tabla performances. I knew I wanted live Indian percussive elements on this track and I knew it had to be Jomy playing it. Luckily, he's also a Philly artist and my cousin happened to be close friends with him and got us connected. Jomy sent me back like five different takes over the track with multiple native instruments. It was a pretty seamless collaboration.

What's the story behind the title of your 2018 debut album, The Unraveled?

The title track, which has the same name as the album, goes into the story of a person slowly becoming undone. This became the catalyst for the entire project – I wanted to explore the different ways someone could fall apart, especially in terms of relationships and societal expectations being the main drivers.

Have any major labels approached you about signing with them? Or do you prefer to remain independent?

No major labels yet – it's not a goal for me and I don't think it's a necessity anymore with the number of outlets and channels available to indie musicians. Get me connected to amazing musicians and artists, and I'm good, label or no label.

What's next for you musically?

In addition to continuing to promote this album, I'm working on finalizing my next video as well as my next album. I'm also working on production and co-writing for a few indie artists that I've been able to link up with over the past year. One project I'm thrilled about is for a NY-based artist, Rianjali. She's an unbelievably brilliant vocalist and songwriter and we've been working heavy over the past year on her upcoming EP, due out in the next couple of months. There's a ton happening and I'm just hyped for the year to really kick into gear to get this stuff out.

Follow ash.ØK Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.

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MUSIC

PREMIERE | Abhi the Nomad drops new single "Planes"

10 cities, 8 states, 4 countries, 1 Abhi.

Jonathan Swecker

A man with no place.

Abhi the Nomad has lived in 10 different cities, in 8 different states, and in 4 different countries since leaving his native Madras, India. His new LP Marbled out February 9th tells the story of his journey. His journey doesn't sound unfamiliar to others who immigrated to the US. In fact, it sounds a lot like many of my international friends and colleagues I went to school with. Part of Abhi's journey was being denied another visa after college due to immigration laws. Abhi was torn from his job, girlfriend, and friends and forced back to India due to this hitch in the road. He quickly relocated to France and was able to come back to the US thanks to acceptance into a graduate program. Though frustrating and isolating, Abhi has always had music to turn to throughout these tumultuous times and Marbled is a product of that.

f4.bcbits.com

Abhi is no stranger to having to up and move at a moment's notice. He didn't add the modifier "The Nomad" to his name in this latest case of relocating but when he was very young. From a young age because of his father's job, Abhi has had to reluctantly move 8 times over the course of 18 years. From Madras, India to Beijing, to Hong Kong, to New Delhi, to the Fiji Islands, to New Delhi again, then finally in Thousand Oaks, California where he finished high school. Throughout these years, he's been writing songs that eventually became the outline to Marbled.

Listen to "Planes."

While Abhi continued to fines and work on Marbled, he released "Floors" and "Underdog" and created a buzz online. He eventually signed with Tommy Boy Records creating the opportunity to release Marbled that has ultimately been a lifetime in the making. Today Abhi the Nomad premieres with us his latest single from the highly anticipated LP. "Planes" has a certain smoothness and swagger to it. It's soothing in a way. The funky, groovy bass-line has a way of saying, "it's going to be alright." I love the instrumentation as a whole. Not only does it work incredibly well in tandem, each individual line takes you by surprise at just the right time. Abhi the Nomad has been compared to Childish Gambino. In ways, he also reminds me of Donnie Trumpet and this particular tracks rapping style gives me hints of the unapologetic delivery of Broadway hit Hamilton.

Listen to "Marbled" here.

If you can't wait for Marbled which Hot New Hip Hop calls, "funky, lyrical, and slightly weird," you can check out some of Abhi's other singles that have been released in anticipation for the album. So far he has released the title song "Marbled", "Sex n' Drugs", and "Mama Bling."

If you love Abhi the Nomad follow him on Facebook | Instagram


Anie Delgado is a contributor to Popdust and is an actress and musician based in NYC. Follow her on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter and check out her music on Spotify. Press inquiries here.


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FILM & TV

BOX OFFICE BREAKDOWN | What's coming to theaters this weekend?

JANUARY 26TH-28TH | More action, horror, and romance as the first month of 2018 draws to a close at the box office.

If you haven't had a chance to stop by the cinema yet this year, this is the weekend to find one of the most diverse selections.

In Popdust's column, Box Office Breakdown, we aim to inform you of the top flicks to check out every weekend depending on what you're in the mood to enjoy. Looking to laugh? What about have your pants scared off? Maybe just need a little love? Whatever the case may be, we have it.

Take a peek at our top picks for this week...

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Top Stories

An Open Apology To Everyone I Texted Between Midnight and 6am, November 9th, 2016

"Sorry for what I said when I thought the world was ending."

[Editor's note: These thoughts are entirely my own – read at your own risk]

If you're reading this, you're probably in the "contacts" list in my phone, which means you probably heard from me between midnight and 6am this morning.

People on this list include but are not limited to:

  • Coworkers
  • Friends
  • My mom
  • That girl whose writing I really respect, even though we've only met like twice in real life
  • The really-cute-but-way-out-of-my-league bartender from my favorite bar, who stood next to me and got me blackout drunk as I watched the world descend into madness
  • Girl from that one really awkward Tinder date, late in 2013
  • Best friend from middle school who now lives in the UK
  • Random followers of my meme pages

If I texted you between the hours of midnight and 6am and caused you any emotion at all aside from the unsettling fear and dread that had, I'm certain, already set in.

My messages were likely words of encouragement or solidarity – "Stand strong" – "Keep fighting the good fight" – "I love you."

I'll be the first to admit my words were unwarranted, but I was panicking. There is no way to describe how I felt last night, and if I caused you any to think less of me by sending you a message when I thought the world was ending.

I'm not apologizing for what I said to you last night, when I thought the world was ending. If I reached out to you, it was because you are someone whose hand I wanted to hold. Someone I wanted to comfort. Maybe someone who I thought could bring me some comfort.

I'm so sorry for what has happened. I'm so sorry that I stood powerlessly by and allowed it to happen. I'm sorry that a candidate openly endorsed by the KKK, a man who is a symbol of vehement oppression, was allowed to get this far. I'm sorry that we lost the fight on climate change. I'm sorry that the American economy may tank. I'm sorry that this is the reality that we all have to live in for the next four years.

I'm not sorry because I texted you last night. I texted you last night, as I watched the world burn itself down, to tell you that I love you. To tell you that you have an ally in me. If I texted you last night, it is because you are near and dear to me, and if the world was ending, I wanted you to know that I love you.

I am at a loss. I don't know what to say to make things better.

I'm sorry I blew up your phone last night when I thought the world was ending – but I'm even more sorry for what we have to endure for the next four years.

Also, if you feel like I should have been blowing up your phone last night, but I didn't, just know I love you too but I know you're busy AF and I respect your sleep schedule. You know who you are.

Love always,

Ben