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Shadow & Light: Amping Up Indie Music In India & Beyond

A vocalist trained in Hindustani Classical and Carnatic music. A keyboardist with roots established in R&B and Fusion. A prospect of producing a vocal demo. A cold November afternoon in 2012 brought together vocalist Pavithra Chari and keyboardist Anindo Bose. Inspiration struck and the zeal to create original music surfaced, transpiring the genesis of Shadow and Light. Releasing their third album Sabar on February 28, 2018, the duo have gone from strength to strength. Catching up with the ace artists, we bring you the colours of their discography which transcends genres and languages.

“We didn’t plan on creating a band or a live performing outfit,” shares Bose reminiscing the early days. Pleased by the no-pressure, no-stress process of writing music solely when inspired, it was the accumulation of original songs that led to the release of their eponymous album, and the first gig at Lodi. “We never wanted to forcefully bring out new material and allowed the project to grow organically with time,” they add. Honest to the process, the duo still remains unwilling to fall into the rat race of releases and strives only to create “words suspended in melody”. The 18 months invested in their album Sabar is testament to this dedication.

Bringing to forefront emotions that aren’t always readily accepted, Sabar talks about resentment, perseverance, grief, contemplation, and gratitude. “It took a lot of patience and introspection to pen this album,” proclaims the lady certified as an expressive arts therapist. Beginning the journey soon after their second album, Elements, it was the song, Samandar that laid the foundation for this Artist Originals (Saavn’s in-house record label for independent musicians). Talking about the collaboration with Saavn, Bose says, “They have been very hands-on in making us feel comfortable in every aspect of the release.” With wide distribution aiding their growth and rocketing appreciation value, the diligence put in by Shadow and Light prevailed. Touring across America, the indie duo performed 15 shows, one of which was graced by the revered sitar player and composer, Anoushka Shankar. “It’s been a dream run, and we got offered a lot more gigs and concerts than we’d thought we would,” share the musicians. Collaborating with Karsh Kale and Berklee Indian Ensemble during the #SabarTourUSA, Chari declares, “A lot of work and sleepless nights have gone into making it happen!”

Pavithra Chari and Anindo Bose; Image: Ishani Das

With “contrasts, honesty, and emotional drive” qualifying as the core of Shadow and Light, we get talking about their journey of growth. “It has been a slow and gradual climb, but one filled with support and appreciation from the industry,” they state. However, every passage has its obstacles. “To present wholly original music in a country that largely appreciates Bollywood music is not always easy,” opines the gent featured on Coke Studio and MTV Unplugged. Carving a niche in the brimming indie music industry, the duo credit the achievement to their ardour for the craft, “We spend months ensuring that we are completely satisfied with each song, both personally and as collaborators.” Fusing the classical with the contemporary, melodies and emotions remain the essence of their compositions that have been written in Hindi, English, and Tamil. “Our focus on melodies helps us maintain a balance, allowing the song to develop on its own — not centered around genre or language” they share. With experience spanning over a decade in arrangement and production, founding member of Advaita, Bose brings with him varied influences from contemporary music. Whilst trainee under Shri Satya Narayan Maharana and Smt. Shubha Mudgal, Chari brings with her influences from soulful classical symphonies. “Our different roots help in keeping the songwriting fresh,” adds Chari, also a doodling enthusiast. In addition, the duo is known to break monotony with experiences that serve as inspiration and assist in motivating them for the next chapter.

Donning multiple hats, as artists, managers, marketing agents, and promoters, Chari and Bose propound how releasing an album is no longer equivalent only to creating tunes. “There are so many roles and tasks you have to take on and complete in order to release independent work,” share the Radio City Freedom Awards Best Pop Artist 2016 awardees. As their own crusaders since inception, the duo share, “All bands require dedicated push and strategies for sustenance. Finding someone who shares a common vision and can execute these strategies the way you’d like is a frustrating process, one we’d rather not wait around for.” Putting in copious amounts of time, commitment, and inspiration in each project, the duo share that these jobs, whilst key, lie peripheral to songwriting. “Time crushes and the fire to achieve goals is always there, but every song is a representation of what we feel at the time, thereby, we do not allow anything to interfere with the process of creating compositions,” add the pizza aficionados.  

Shadow and Light Sabar Launch Tour with drummer Aveleon Vaz and bassist Steve Peter; Image: Dhruv Kalra

Talking about the contrasts that lie in the music landscape across the ocean, the runner-ups of Sennheiser Top 50 bands of India 2015 share, “There is tremendous respect for art and artists across America. Be it small cafes or large concert halls, each audience member pays attention and listens to your performance.” Lamenting about the gaps in India’s music scene, they say, “There are several opportunities but it all seems far too scattered and without a purpose.” However, a booming number of artists penning original music in the home country has them optimistic, “We hope to witness a growth in the number of spaces dedicated to live performances as most venues today are not acoustically conducive.”

As July rains take over our conversation, we fire up the DSSC Rapid Fire to bring you Shadow and Light, unfiltered.


Favourite city to perform in?

San Francisco.

Three artists who never cease to inspire you?

Pink Floyd, Anoushka Shankar, Snarky Puppy.

Favourite space for live performances in Delhi?

Depot 48.

One pro tip for up & coming musicians?

Keep practicing and make yourself completely deserving of all the great things you aspire for.


Featured Image Courtesy: Ishani Das