Artists (clockwise from top left) Akshay Nandakumar, Ash Lune (previously Kovsky), Roikhik, Sabu and Rushaki. Photos: Courtesy of the artists; Ronit Sarkar (Sabu)

World Mental Health Day, observed on October 10th each year, is a global initiative aimed at raising awareness about mental health issues and promoting emotional well-being. It serves as a reminder that mental health is just as important as physical health and should not be stigmatized or ignored. This day encourages open conversations about mental health, offers support to those in need, and advocates for improved access to mental health services worldwide. By recognizing World Mental Health Day, we take a step towards a more compassionate and understanding society where everyone’s mental health is valued and prioritized. This World Mental Health Day we’ve compiled a list of Indian artists that address mental health through their music. Listen below.

Sabu – Sabu

Mumbai singer-songwriter Andrew Sabu (who goes by his last name) released his debut EP Sabu in 2019 and the record addresses mental health. Sabu who was diagnosed with depression explained in an earlier interview with Rolling Stone India that it altered the course of his life. He said, “I wanted people to know that they are not alone in their journeys and that it’s okay to feel what they’re feeling and deal with it in their own ways.” Throughout the record, Sabu is at his most vulnerable while sonically the EP features a more melancholic acoustic sound.

Ash Lune (formerly Kovsky), Soft Nylon – “Lonely”

Mumbai-bred singer-songwriter Ash Lune (previously known as Kovsky) addressed both substance abuse and mental health issues through her 2020 single “Lonely.” Produced by Australian artist Soft Nylon, the track also pays homage to the TV show Euphoria. In an earlier interview with Rolling Stone India, the singer said, “If you take the whole song literally, then you could think of it as a love letter to a person, but it isn’t about a person.” The artist explains that the song is penned from an addict’s point of view and talks about how it’s easy to resort to substances if it makes you feel a “little bit less lonely.” She added, “It speaks about the euphoria and the power you experience doing something that is detrimental to your well-being and surviving it for a second.”

Rushaki – She Speaks

Mumbai/Pune artist Rushaki’s 2022 debut album She Speaks includes songs that deal with her own struggles with anxiety and mental health issues. She said in an earlier interview with Rolling Stone India, “The voices in the head are not literal voices, but the never-ending contrasting thoughts that come as a part of being an overthinker, period.” Songs such as “Easy,” “Devil Kid,” “Wait Till Tomorrow,” and “Breathe Again” are about “the same arguments and the push and pull of those personas.” She Speaks kicks off with a melancholic sound after shifting gears to a more energetic lift midway through the record. 

Roikhik – Milkshakes and Antidepressants

Dehradun-based hip-hop artist Roikhik pours his heart out on his 2022 15-track debut album Milkshakes and Antidepressants. According to Roikhik, his main reason for writing music is to speak about mental health; and that’s exactly what he delivers through Milkshakes and Antidepressants. “For me, I want everyone out there who can reach out through my music to know that they are not alone,” he said in an earlier interview with Rolling Stone India. The opening song “Breathe” is about a teenager who feels like society has given up on him while “Bas Gaya” tells a story about how the protagonist has lost a friend and wishes to keep him in his heart forever. Other songs on the record such as “The Book,” “Money of Streets” and “610 Freeverse” speak about how a bullied teenager indulges in treacherous activities, only to change his ways later in life.

Akshay Nandakumar – “Chhoti Si Baat”

Bengaluru-based musician and designer Akshay Nandakumar kicked off 2023 with a melancholic pop-driven single called “Chhoti Si Baat” which includes heartfelt lyrics he penned for the track as well as tells the story of the mental health issues he’s faced in his life. In an earlier interview with Rolling Stone India, Nandakumar said, “I started writing the song thinking about my own body image issues, constantly feeling like, ‘I’m not enough.’ I’ve often relied on a song to hopelessly cry or lift my mood. I feel this song can have a similar effect on those who have faced mental health issues.”

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