The music industry in New Zealand is getting richer with diversity, and talents, of two Indian-origin musicians Shantini and Shalina Sandran who are trying to find their feet in the industry.

With their passion and resilience, these twin sisters are all set to make their place in the music industry in New Zealand and in the process are also busting myths about the identity of their music and culture.

The 22-year-old musician duo with Indian roots is producing music that is fresh and unique and has the feel of both their Indian and western roots.

In a conversation with The Indian Weekender, the young and creative musicians shared more.

IWK: What is Tal? Why and how did you choose this name?

Shantini: Tal is the name we create music under. It’s a Sanskrit word for rhythm, or the clapping of a hand to keep in time. It is also an acronym for “Tini and Lina”, which is what our close friends and family call us by.

IWK: What's your style of music and who/what is it inspired by?

Shalina: We grew up listening to a multitude of genres, so naturally this comes out in the music we make. We’re both particularly inspired by the human condition, so our music comes from a very honest place. Our sound can be described as a blend of electro-folk and Indian classical music.

IWK: When and how did your musical journey start?

Shantini: We started learning our first instrument (violin) at age seven. Over the years we accumulated a whole lot more but didn’t start writing our own material together until we were about 17. It was around this time that I began learning tabla and Shalina, the sitar, which initiated our Hindustani musical journey. This became a significant influence on the music we were to produce.

IWK: Out of you two, who was more passionate about music? What do you specialise in?

Shalina: To make a career out of this, one has to be very passionate, resilient and driven, so I can say that we’re both equally dedicated to our music and the goals that we are trying to achieve. The music we make is all written, recorded and produced ourselves.

IWK: Tell us about your roots and Indian connection? How, if at all, do you think this connection has influenced your music?

Shantini: We are half Pakeha and half Malaysian-Indian. Our great-grandparents came from Kerala, in the south of India. There is a common misconception that being of two cultures makes you a watered-down version of each of them, which is pretty absurd. Our Indian background is a big part of our identity, and we feel extremely grateful that we get to share it with others through our music. Our fascination with Indian music stems from a very young age. Growing up, our father played old Hindi and Tamil records in the house, and we were always so fascinated watching the thavil and nadaswaram players at the temple. Including such Indian sounds in our music is a way for us to transfer that love and appreciation to new listeners.

IWK: How hard or easy is it to make a mark for yourself in the music industry in New Zealand?

Shalina: We’ve been really lucky in the sense that the support we have here is strong. However, we have a considerable amount of listeners in the UK, U.S., and India. We’ve been fortunate to be featured in prominent platforms such as Rolling Stone India, and NY- based Kajal Magazine, but we’ve noticed that same weight of support hasn’t been reciprocated in our own country. Getting a response from popular New Zealand platforms can be quite challenging (considering we don’t have management or a label) but I guess that might the harsh reality of living in a small country.

IWK: What struggles have you faced (or still face) in this industry?

Shantini: We’ve had plenty of gig opportunities here which is amazing, but I’d say our biggest issue is probably trying to grow our social media presence. In this era, your online image can form a big part of your identity as an artist, and in most cases, your following can determine whether or not you get a feature on a popular platform. What usually happens to music showcasing non-western sounds is that it gets filed under the “world” music category, so our goal is to be placed alongside all the other popular music that’s out there. We would hate for popular music platforms in New Zealand to read “Indian Classical music” in our bio and automatically decide that we don’t fit their criteria.

IWK: What interests you two apart from music?

Shalina: I studied communication design at university and Shantini studied architecture, but we’ve put these careers on hold to pursue music while we have the opportunity to do so. We both enjoy travel; we recently spent five months in Europe, which made a significant impact on the final stages of mastering our debut EP TAL. We’re both creative people so we’re always making and cultivating.

IWK: What do you see yourself doing 5 years down the line?

Shantini: Life is so unpredictable so that’s a hard one to answer. But ideally, we’d love to have an album out and be touring and playing festivals. We’re both working hard to make this happen, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

IWK: Where can we listen to your EP? Where can listeners reach you?

Shalina: TAL EP is out now on Spotify, iTunes, and SoundCloud. You can listen on smarturl.it/talduo, and find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @talduo