Nitika Kurian was sick of all the pining-for-lost-love songs. What is the polite way of saying “screw you”? she wondered.
All that angst found its way into the 19-year-old’s debut song, ‘Phoenix’, a smooth R&B-soul track, which was released last month… and Nitika is still slightly dazed by its success — the track has garnered 16,000 Spotify streams so far. “I wrote the song exactly one year ago, when I was in class,” says the Architecture student at Measi Academy Of Architecture, “I was getting over a bad breakup and all the songs on the radio revolved around sad cliches about exes. It infuriated me, and made me want to write a song that would help get rid of that negativity.”
“Thanks to you, I never thought that I’d be this tough,” sings Nitika in the song produced by Michael Timothy, with Elvis Gabriel on the guitar. Reminiscent of 90s R&B, her melodic voice swings between hurt and rebellion.
“You were a blessing in the worst disguise,” she ends an unexpected rap interlude with just a touch of condescension, before letting the guitar conclude the show.
The cover art shows Nitika’s gorgeous Medusa curls being lifted in the air by a chopstick. “The song is not just an answer to my ex, but to anyone who has hurt me in the past,” she says, revealing how she had always been bullied in school because of her unruly hair. “I remember once in VIII grade, it got so bad that I came back from class and chopped it all off. Ever since then, I started straightening my hair everyday.” Today, being on the cover of her debut original, with her messy hair is, for her, a manner of acceptance and pride.
She has been playing the piano since she was six; she learnt in Puducherry, “where you could hear the waves as you played,” and now also plays the guitar and bass.
“R&B, jazz, and blues are in my blood,” she says, citing Usher, Ed Sheeran and Daniel Caesar as her influences. However, she adds that she doesn’t want to stick to a single genre. “I would like to experiment as much as possible, maybe collaborate with a few of the rappers in the city,” she says.
Nitika started gigging a year ago — incidentally, her first one was at ‘Phoenix’ Marketcity — and she says it is all thanks to open mics and Instagram. Though not very active on her YouTube channel, Nitika regularly posts one-minute cover videos on Instagram (@nitikakurianmusic). “Because that’s how short attention spans these days are,” she says — nobody has time to listen to your whole work at the first go, you have to hook them in.
With ‘Phoenix’ out, does she worry about the numbers: hits, streams and downloads? “That’s what my parents do. Every morning, they’ll tell me, ‘Oh, Nitika, you have gone up by so and so views’.” But for her, the most important thing right now is to put more music out, including the very first song that she wrote when she was 11. “I’ve got songs tucked under my mattress, I’ll have to bring them out from there,” she laughs.
‘Phoenix’ is available on Nitika’s YouTube channel, Spotify and Apple Music.