The Art of Anonymity: A Collective’s Quiet Revolution


Over the past few years, Kolkata has become an unlikely hub for left-field electronic music. The city’s sleepy bylanes, crumbling bungalows and contentious politics have inspired some of the most exciting experimental music to come out of India, whether it’s the harsh-noise-meets-musique-concrete of JESSOP&CO, the ambient modular-synth experiments of Varun Desai, or Hybrid Protokol’s acid-and-breaks indebted live electronica.

But, according to Anupam Sarkar—a photographer, visual artist and musician who performs as TITO+—these acts are just the tip of the iceberg. The city is teeming with bedroom producers and assorted noise-makers, their music buried deep in Soundcloud and Bandcamp rabbit-holes or passed around on Whatsapp groups, secret offerings only accessible to the most dedicated of avant-garde initiates. In 2021, Sarkar—helped by collaborators Revant Dasgupta and Eeshani Mitra—set out to change that with Onno, an independent record label and audiovisual collective situated on the cutting edge of contemporary Indian music.


“I knew so many amazing people who made great music, but they were too wary of putting something out there to properly release it,”

says Sarkar. “I wanted to create this space where I could archive all these currently active experimental musicians from Kolkata and all across this country.”


Onno’s first release was a 2021 compilation called Rough Cuts, which collected 10 tracks that Sarkar had come across on Whatsapp or in Kolkata living rooms. The music ranged from experimental noise to glitched-out synth workouts and Hindustani classical tinged ambient. “It’s like the underground of the underground, music I can’t even find on the web,” says Sarkar, who also had a song of his own on the compilation. “We put it up on bandcamp and donated the proceeds to an NGO providing COVID-19 aid.”


Rough Cuts was followed a year later by Deep Cuts, a tightly curated set of 15 tracks by up-and-coming experimental musicians from across the country that won critical praise from publications like The Quietus and The Wild City. Deep Cuts was also released on cassette, a medium that Sarkar has special love for. The label has also released solo albums by experimental artist Porygon and TITO+ himself. In 2022, the collective launched a new biweekly show on CAMP radio titled Sounds of India with Onno, where they invite the many artists who have become part of the Onno community to take over the airwaves for a one-hour, no-holds-barred live show. 

Sarkar first came up with the name Onno—which means “something different” in Bengali—for a visual arts project before pivoting to music, and in 2023 the collective has returned to that original idea, releasing two zines: a comic anthology and an individual comic book by Revant Dasgupta. Sarkar is currently working on the third Onno compilation—due out in January—and promises bigger and better things in 2024. 


“We’re expanding fully into more tangible forms of what we’ve been doing,” says Sarkar. “There are going to be more zines, there are going to be more tapes, more live shows. And while Onno will remain India-focused, I want to expand the horizon beyond just India, and bring in artists we like from across the subcontinent as well.”

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