Thu, 20th December 2020
Words: Arusa Qureshi
Photograph: Chris Murray
Future Sounds: Scottish Artists to Watch in 2021
Arusa Qureshi closes out 2020 with sights set firmly on the future. Sharing her tips for 2021, Arusa shines a light on some of the rising stars in the Scottish music scene.
In the year that no one expected and absolutely everyone has hated in some capacity, creatives around the world have kept us occupied, entertained, and in many cases, sane against all odds. Each and every musician that has written, released and/or promoted music in 2020 deserves praise for making the effort to continue for the love of the art, especially in an industry that can often be thankless and in a time when everything feels that little bit more laboured.
In Scotland, the music community has really banded together in a way that is admirable and inspiring, holding close the mentality that no one should be left behind. From the Scottish Album of the Year Award and the Scottish Alternative Music Awards both going virtual, giving everyone something to celebrate at home, to incredible initiatives like Whole Lotta Roadies and the Music Venue Trust’s Save Our Scottish Venues campaign providing a much-needed sense of hope, it’s never been more clear how close-knit and supportive the Scottish music scene really is. On a personal level, I’m grateful to be involved in such a community and wouldn’t have made it through this year without the advice, wisdom and friendship of certain individuals in varying areas of the industry.
As we come to the end of the year, it’s been really strange to not be involved in writing any end of year lists or countdowns, as is usually the norm for me. Instead, I’m going to look ahead to next year and recommend some of the Scottish acts that I’m most excited to hear more from. Though by no means comprehensive, these are just some of the up-and-coming artists that have caught my attention through their unique and ambitious releases in 2020.
Paisley’s Washington is a bold new addition to Scottish hip hop, having released his debut single ‘Pray 4 Me’ earlier this year, plus his six-track EP Rookie in September. His slick flow and musical maturity may be impressive given his age, but more than anything it just signals that we can expect great things from the young rapper. Another new star in Scottish hip hop is (appropriately named) Becca Starr, whose latest single ‘First Step’ is a brilliant merging of styles that shows off Becca’s rapping, storytelling and soulful vocals too.
While not a totally new face on the scene, Glasgow-based Jubemi Iyiku aka Bemz announced his return to Scottish hip hop this year with his new EP Saint of Lost Causes. In six tracks, he highlights how far he has come since earlier releases – in sound, content and overall intention. Alternative rap/rock duo Who Cried Wolf?, consisting of vocalist Deezy and producer RJ Cherry, just released their debut single ‘Used To’ last month and it’s been on pretty heavy rotation. With only one single out in the world so far, I’ll be keeping a close eye on the pair and what they have coming up next.
I’ve said many times this year that I’ve been so impressed by all the recent talent and innovation coming out of Scottish pop and R&B. In particular, I’m a big fan of Kohla, SHEARS and Kleopatra but was introduced to the wonderful AiiTee, Jen Athan and SMUT. this year too. Another new artist that has been on my radar is Dahlia, the moniker of Kerris Duffy, who composes what she describes as “witch house and melancholic pop” – a haunting and stunning mix of melodies.
Elsewhere, performance artist, producer and DJ TAAHLIAH is on a roll after winning two categories (best electronic and best newcomer) at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, being the first artist ever to do so. Her music and art is vivid, politically charged and ardent, and this year she was also announced as one of three winners of the first Jupiter Rising Residency, which supports emerging artists from communities that have been historically underrepresented in the art world.
Glasgow singer-songwriter Lizzie Reid and Elgin-based Emma Miller have both had gloriously lilting and heartfelt singles out recently which foreshadow more good things for them on the horizon, and everything Ruby Gaines has done this year has been well worth taking note of, especially last single ‘Without a Gun’ and its trippy visuals. Sulka, the lo-fi scuzz-rock project of Glasgow’s Lukas Clasen, has been signed to Lost Map, with a debut album due in January. If initial singles ‘Fear It’ and ‘She Cares’ are anything to go by, it’ll be full of 90s indie inspiration and a stripped-back DIY-energy.
Finally, with her SAY Award win in the bag, I can’t wait to see what Nova does next and I am positive that 2021 will be the year of Kapil Seshasayee, with the follow-up to his debut A Sacred Bore imminent.