BY SAMIHA FAROOQI//
Continuing my quest to discover the true meaning of the indie genre, this week we’re exploring the world of Jelani Aryeh—a musician who is often said to produce music that doesn’t quite fit into any particular genre. With (currently) 861,566 monthly listeners on Spotify and 13,167,910 streams on his single “Stella Brown,” Aryeh is a fairly popular artist, to say the least. He helped create a music collective, called Raised by the Internet, but continues to release music as a solo artist. What is especially striking about Aryeh (for my purposes, at least) is that while he is signed to a relatively unknown record label, No Matter, that doesn’t seem to be the only reason why Aryeh’s music is often classified as indie and placed on playlists like “Ultimate Indie” on Spotify. While that may be a factor, Aryeh is often described as indie-pop, and how he often blends several different genres together in his music—from R&B, and rock as well. Dare I say, his status as indie has little to do with his label and everything to do with his discography. It’s his sound—namely, on tracks like “Stella Brown.”
That may have been simply stating the obvious, but this is a major shift from what was considered indie in the 60s or 70s—instead of simply being contracted with a record label discluding the Big Four (EMI, Universal, Sony, and Warner), indie has seemingly transformed itself into its own sound. Perhaps this has more to do with the fact that I’m an amateur music columnist, but there is seemingly no description that can completely capture the indie sound. In the most simplest terms, I think, indie has the earworm catchiness of pop fused with the specialized riffs and background drums found in alternative and rock. And many of Aryeh’s perfectly encapsulate just that, and more. In “Where We Go,” a sampled riff from Declan McKenna’s “Brazil,” paired with Aryeh’s own mellowed out lyrics and a basic background beat. And the same goes for other tracks like “Angels,” and “Daunt.”
Jelani Aryeh is just one of countless other artists producing music what we know today as indie. That sound that’s so familiar to many of us now was slowly created, seemingly out of thin air in the last decade or so. All this considered, I believe the most natural progression is to delve into the past! Because, really, how did we even get here? Is there any one artist in particular that shaped the general indie sound? What actually differentiates it from pop or alternative rock?