Born in 2020 with the aim to put Indian-created electronic music on the map globally, Krunk Kulture is well on its way to exceeding its ambitions. Having released singles, albums, and compilations from a wide range of electronic and dance music producers from India and the subcontinent, the label shows that its output is cutting-edge, distinguishable and coherent in identity. “We want to be the sound of the future,” explains founder, Sohail Arora, aka Rafiki. “By that I mean, we want to champion fresh sounds that are setting the precedent for electronic music. But, we want each release to still have Indian roots attached to it.”
Showing off Indian roots comes in a plethora of ways, according to the label. Preconceptions of what Indian music is often already exist among outsiders, but Sohail maintains that “just containing a sitar or tabla” is not the only way to highlight South Asian origins. “People have perceptions [about India]. It’s largely based on what they think they know, and they often don’t know about how much we have. I know that it’s hard to change misconceptions, but the label wants to act as a starting point to understanding the huge amount of talent we have in this country.”
The label doesn’t limit itself in genre output either; rather, it welcomes a vast range of styles that fall within the electronic sphere, from ambient to electro, techno, drum & bass, experimental synth music, and everything in between. The artist roster is evidence of this, having platformed the likes of Baalti, YNZN.P, Gandhar, Randolph Correia (AKA FUNC), and Moebius, all of whom push boundaries with their sound design, beat curation and musical choices. While other labels are successfully pushing dance music sounds from India, including Qilla Records and boxout.fm Recordings, Krunk Kulture’s lack of genre definition is what is “filling the gap”, according to Sohail.
Keeping the output broad in style was a choice made out of necessity, he explains. “I don’t think India is in a place where we can go super niche with the sound. It’s a lot less evolved if you have to look at the history of the sound. We have a strong history of things like disco and Bollywood, but beyond that, newer genres have only started becoming more commonplace in recent decades.”
Krunk Kulture has branched out from events company Krunk, which aims to bring exciting talent from around the world to Indian audiences. Krunk was founded in 2009, and the label was created during lockdown — a time when there was a need to keep the scene going, while being able to do everything from home. “We always felt like that outlet was needed,” says Sohail, who explains that the idea for a label had existed for a few years prior to its launch. Despite being associated, Krunk Kulture and Krunk are kept as separate brands, each with a distinct purpose.
“Obviously with Krunk, events being the prime focus needed lots of time and energy. But in Covid, a lot of people evaluated life just generally. People had the time to self-reflect and see what they really want to do and work on new projects. People had to be adaptive to do things that relied on being able to do it themselves and being able to do it at home. So I think Covid gave us this chance to let the music be heard from outside of India, and that’s why we wanted to set up a separate brand.”
One way the label ensures the music is heard further afield is by releasing style-led ‘Flavours Of The East’ compilations. These include ‘Ganga Jamuna’, which focuses on jungle and bass music, ‘Jaljeera’, which features breaks and electro, and the more chilled and ambient music-focused ‘Thandai’. By releasing compilations that push certain sounds, the team hope to get the tracks noticed by international DJs with similar personal tastes. “It’s the best seeing our artists’ music getting played by DJs from around the world!” says Sohail.
The release of their first compilation ‘Kaala Khatta’ when the label was formed was an important moment, and it was supported by producers of Indian descent across the rest of the world, including SUCHI and Nikki Nair. “I think the first compilation will always be very, very special because it was the first time we went through the whole process and everyone was very supportive,” says Sohail.
“It was featured on the Bandcamp homepage, and a lot of things happened for the first time for us. There was a lot of thought behind the artwork and the messaging behind this. Coordinating with 16 artists was interesting, but it was very special. It was like a school exam for me!”
Krunk Kulture currently has a Rinse FM residency, with a show airing on the first Tuesday of the month, and was previously a resident on Worldwide FM. On these shows, artists who are featured on the label were invited to do guest mixes and speak about their creations, giving them an opportunity to have their stories told on an international scale.
The outlet’s pursuit of global recognition is already going successfully, with DJ Mag branding it a label to watch in 2021. However, it’s also having to keep up with the fast-changing landscape of digital music promotion and consumption. “We’re having to adapt to new challenges created by things such as streaming services. It’s a new world with them around — and it’s good for labels to not rely on one platform. You know, they’re seen as the new gatekeepers of music!
“Because of algorithms and other things, sometimes it’s hard to get a song noticed if others are being pushed ahead of it, or sometimes we see certain songs do really well digitally because of algorithms. So we’re having to adapt and learn about how these things work. We’re having to make connections and try to push for our music to be on editorial playlists and pre-curated lists as well, but this is a new challenge that we’re taking on as a label.”
As it stands, the crew are proud of what they have achieved over the past three years, and are ready to take on new ventures by collaborating with more labels, artwork creators and radio stations, hopefully enhancing Krunk Kulture’s digital presence in the process. Recently, they’ve been doing sync deals with films and TV shows, which has helped to get the music out there, while also making money for the label and artists.
They’ve recently collaborated with UK garage label Steppers Club, believing that as the world becomes more globalised and artforms are less separated by style, now is the time for new alliances. They’re looking for fresh talent who offer a unique spin on electronic music as we know it. Currently, around 30-40% of the label’s output has come from demos that have been sent in by artists, and the team strongly encourages new artists who are creating the sounds of 2023 and 2024 to get in touch. “The focus of the label is good music making and getting it heard,” Sohail reiterates.
Synths Back ‘Ocean Express ft Aki Spadaro’
adL x kly ‘Vivid Drmz’
OX7GEN, Schlick ‘Searching’
Gandhar ‘Butter Naan’
OX7GEN, Schlick ‘June Moon’
Hamza Rahimtula ‘One Take Funk’
SUCHI ‘Took A Minute’
Noni Mouse ‘Down On The Metal’
Asvajit, Nigel Perera ‘Soothe’
Oceantied ‘We're Going Away’
Rafiki ‘Walk The Talk’
Moebius, Zefer ‘Once In A Lifetime’ [Krunk Kulture x Steppers Club]
Blurry Slur ‘First Time Lucky’
Mutable Mercury ‘sys.cmd’
YNZN.P ‘Better Check Yourself (Oceantied Remix)’
Nikki Nair ‘Eating Flowers’
Daisuke Tanabe ‘Tablasuke’
Monophonik x Trafficc ‘Do U Want It’
Rafiki ‘Nu Funk’
Inspector Maal ‘ANIMIST’
YNZN.P ‘Against Tomorrow’
YNZN.P, Kaisui ‘Crux’ [Krunk Kulture x Steppers Club]
FUNC (The Night) ‘Fucked’
EZ Riser ‘The Revolution Song’
Kohra ‘The Introspector’
BAVLOW ‘Soup Or Salad’