Surya Sen was a key figure in India’s independence movement in the 1930s who led uprisings against British rule. Fast-forward a century and his namesake – a north London-based musician who prefers to remain anonymous – feels like a radical presence in UK music: a British-Bengali producer/rapper whose bumping and pristinely constructed club music finds the sweet spot between hip-hop and house, spanning purring, deep Detroit flavours, frisky French touch, slick garage and sampledelic boom-bap.
Last year’s CU Later set out his stall – the playful pop sensibility of California’s Channel Tres, but with Sen’s low-pitched, distinctly London vocals – and got him signed to Skint Records, which has been re-establishing itself as a hub of dynamic dance talent since its 90s big beat days. Then came recent single Jessica, a hip-house come-on that sounds like Masters at Work cruising around Enfield on a Saturday night, while Sen brings the confidence of a grime MC as he raps about “peng” girls and Hennessy. Next up is two-punch single release Here We Go Again/So I Just, ahead of his debut mixtape pencilled for March 2022 – lemon-fresh house tracks with Chemical Brothers samples and sultry vocals that belong on primetime Radio 1.
When he was growing up, Sen has said, it felt to him like being Asian wasn’t synonymous with being in “urban music”; now the 26-year-old is part of the next generation of south Asian artists – including DJ Yung Singh and the crucial new collective Daytimers – shaking up club sounds.