Rooted in a rich, musically-diverse culture, Delhi’s music scene is eclectic and interesting. There’s a wide variety of music schools, concerts and several major radios based in the city, all showcasing and encouraging the city’s formidable talent. Use our guide to point you in the direction of some of Delhi’s gems.
Deep-rooted in Delhi’s cultural tradition are the Nizami Bandhu, a trio of brothers who sing Sufi qawwalis. Their family has been singing at the historical mosque of Hazrat Nizamuddin for generations and also has ties to Hazrat Amir Khusro. They are descended from the court singers of the Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, and keep the legacy and tradition of several centuries alive to this day.
A gentle, melodious voice and exquisite Urdu poetry, these are the hallmarks of Rekha Bhardwaj’s album, ‘Ishqa Ishqa‘. Rekha Bhardwaj was born in Delhi and met her current husband, Vishal Bhardwaj, at her alma mater, Hindu College, Delhi University. Ishqa Ishqa has been composed by Vishal Bhardwaj, with a combination of lyrics by the lauded Gulzar and poetry by the Punjabi Sufi poet Bulleh Shah. Listen to Ishqa Ishqa to be whisked away into a magical, poetry-soaked world.
Known for his distinctively strong voice, Rabbi Shergill’s first album was acclaimed for its appreciation of Sufi poetry. Tempering that with indipop, Shergill was able to achieve a unique concoction of upbeat sounds and soulful poetry. The star of the album is undoubtedly Bullah Ki Jaana. Born in Delhi, Shergill chooses to keep the memory of past poets alive through his music, particularly in his eponymous debut album.
Hailed by many of her contemporaries as the finest playback singer of her generation, this Delhi-born artiste has a wide and varied discography of Hindi movie songs. This compilation includes some of the highlights of her career, such as the sensual “Beedi Jalaile” from Omkara. In order to get a flavour of the modern India movie scene, be sure to give Chauhan’s album a listen.
Combining an ambient sound with relaxed alternative rock, Delhi-based Advaita perfectly captures the essence of global fusion in Indian music. The Silent Sea is their second album, released in February 2012 with EMI records. At GIMA (Global Indian Music Awards), The Silent Sea won best rock album. The band was also voted the Best Fusion Band by PALM EXPO in 2011. Critically acclaimed and musically unusual, Advaita shows the alternative music scene in India.
First discovered by the legendary ghazal singer Talat Aziz, classically-trained Chandan Dass went on to become one of the most popular ghazal singers in recent times. Deewangi was released in 1993, composed by the music director Lalit Sen, and went on to win him the Best Ghazal Singer for that year. Listen to this ghazal album to appreciate the gems of this particular for of poetry is Dass’ mellifluous voice.