The music of per­cus­sion­ist, com­poser, pro­du­cer and multi-instru­ment­al­ist RENU (Renu Hossain) is a tour de force of exper­i­ment­a­tion from a maes­tro crafts­wo­man informed by dec­ades of prac­tice and study by way of the Queer Brit­ish Asi­an exper­i­ence. RENU’s work is skill­fully tex­tured and son­ic­ally var­ied with each new addi­tion to the oeuvre a pleas­ant sur­prise and an unex­pec­ted yet exhil­ar­at­ing turn into a chasm of cos­mic cre­ativ­ity. The latest single ‘Tum obhoi (You are fear­less)’ looks to the past in a bold and defi­ant leap into the future.

2021 marks 50 years of inde­pend­ence for Bangladesh. 2021 also marks 21 years of RENU who began her music­al jour­ney in the year 2000. RENU cut her teeth as a per­cus­sion­ist for the likes of Grace Jones, State of Bengal and oth­er major artists. RENU’s mes­sage, is some­what dif­fer­ent to male identi­fy­ing elec­tron­ic artists — It is Femme, it is Queer, it is POC & it is elec­tron­ica that is like water — you nev­er know what form it will take on.

As a child RENU atten­ded Bengali Sunday school and was encour­aged to get into Indi­an Clas­sic­al music by her moth­er. RENU picked up the Tabla at a young age but it was in her later life that she redis­covered it play­ing it as part of live per­cus­sion for Asi­an Under­ground out­fits such as State of Bengal, Fun Da Men­tal and Charged.

RENU stud­ies the Tabla and is the dis­ciple of Sri Chir­anjit Mukher­jee in the tra­di­tion­al ‘Guru shisha para­m­para’ or Mas­ter Stu­dent Jour­ney’ meth­od. Her quest for mas­tery of the instru­ment and oth­er per­cuss­ive instru­ments (Cajon & Lat­in per­cus­sion) has also led her to tra­verse the world and study under mas­ters based in India, Cuba, Brazil & Spain. RENU has also per­formed as a per­cus­sion­ist for major Con­tem­por­ary Dance insti­tutes as well as along­side con­tem­por­ary and clas­sic­al orches­tras, for example Chineke! Orches­tra (Europe’s first major­ity Black and eth­nic­ally diverse orches­tra). Her work there­fore tran­scends con­ven­tion­al cat­egor­isa­tions of Pop, Dance, Elec­tron­ic and the Orches­tral. Her fierce com­mit­ment to exper­i­ment­a­tion based on a pos­i­tion of study & prac­tice has lead to some of the most son­ic­ally excit­ing and prin­cip­ally innov­at­ive tracks this writer has heard this century.

RENU released her first self-pro­duced album Love from Lon­don in 2010, it was a move away from per­cus­sion and was RENU’s explor­a­tion of being a Music­al dir­ect­or, arranger, gui­tar­ist and song­writer. The album fea­tured a nine piece band includ­ing an opera sing­er and harp­ist. The blend of the­at­rics with live music came from RENU’s club nights, spe­cific­ally the Holykuti Records Night at Jam­bor­ee, Lon­don. These nights often fea­tured opera sing­ers as well as poets, dan­cers and per­formers. The album was fol­lowed in 2011 by the Lon­don Rev­el­lers EP that con­tin­ued with same themes. 2012 saw the release of Mid­night Radio which explored RENU’s South Amer­ic­an influences.

Bol­ly­wood soundtrack music also had an influ­ence on Mid­night Radio, espe­cially the music from RD Bur­man. Like many second gen­er­a­tion Brit­ish Asi­ans, RENU was exposed to Bol­ly­wood in her child­hood and was spe­cific­ally fond of the Bur­man pro­duced song Mehbooba Mehbooba from the 1975 film Sholay. Watch­ing Sholay is a rite of pas­sage for Brit­ish Asi­ans, like many Bol­ly­wood films being passed down from par­ents to chil­dren. A test­a­ment to this is the amount of times that Mehbooba Mehbooba has been sampled, remixed and covered by many Asi­an Under­ground and Bhangra artists. It is also a staple for Brit­ish Asi­an Bol­ly­wood singers.

RENU’s fath­er passed away in in 2012 lead­ing to a pause in RENU’s prac­tice and out­put and a cre­at­ive block.

The EP & album Threshold and Plasma were released in 2014 and 2016 respect­ively and were RENU’s first dips into elec­tron­ic music and as opposed to her pre­vi­ous albums, these two fea­tured no extern­al musi­cians. In isol­a­tion RENU explored her per­cus­sion on a much deep­er level and worked with Logic Pro. Both EP & album were com­mis­sioned for dance per­form­ances and RENU would revis­it this world in later years. Threshold was ulti­mately based on Chris­ti­an cos­mo­logy and spir­itu­al­ism, and these themes would resur­face in the fol­low up album They Dance in the Dark.

RENU relo­cated to Ber­lin in 2015 and much like Bowie who recor­ded in the Ber­lin between 1977 and 1979, things took a more elec­tron­ic turn. RENU dis­covered Ableton and released They Dance in the Dark in late 2017. They Dance in the Dark received great crit­ic­al acclaim (BBC Radio 6, BBC Late Junc­tion, The Quietus, Art For­um Magazine)  with crit­ics mak­ing com­par­is­ons to The Orb, Massive Attack and Daphne Oram, as well as laud­ing the more intric­ate and del­ic­ate sound which one does not nor­mally asso­ci­ate with “Dance Music”.

The album was about mar­gin­al­ized com­munit­ies, the term “They” with its polit­ic­al over­tones was a delib­er­ate choice by RENU, how­ever in a 2017 inter­view RENU stated that this album was more poet­ic­al than hyper polit­ic­al. It was about dan­cing in the dark and being untrammeled. The influ­ence of House music was also a con­scious decision and this was also them­at­ic­ally sig­ni­fic­ant with the Queer POC ori­gins of House music that nowadays, is get­ting a wider acknow­ledge­ment in the music press.

RENU was also influ­enced by 70s Disco (Which was ori­gin­ally pro­duced on ana­logue mix­ing desks.) and wanted that sort of sound for the album, so she hired Guy Stern­berg from Ber­lin to mix and mas­ter the album. Stern­berg had a less aggress­ive and more vel­vety style of mix­ing which RENU sought in order to make the album sound more dif­fi­cult to place, in terms of ‘which age’ it was produced.

The track Badr fea­tured an Islam­ic song known as a Nasheed which had pre­vi­ously only ever been used in a World Music con­text, RENU wanted to use it in an elec­tron­ic con­text. This eth­os would inform RENU’s later work as well as a more know­ledge­able and respect­ful use of non-west­ern ele­ments and instru­ments than what is nor­mally giv­en to them when used in west­ern music. RENU would later com­ment on the shal­low mis­use of the term ‘Baul’ in west­ern music.

RENU’s next album The Hap­pen­ing in 2020 tackled the corona vir­us pan­dem­ic head on. The third track Mary some­what haunt­ingly ends with the sound of breath­ing and a car­di­ac mon­it­or, remin­is­cent of the heart­beat drums from the track Lay Low from They Dance in the Dark. 2020 also marked the start of a flour­ish­ing in RENU’s cre­at­ive out­put, com­pos­ing for cho­reo­graphy and soundtrack­ing an exhib­i­tion com­mis­sioned by Haus der Kul­turen Welt, Ber­lin on the Rani Ghumpa caves in India.

It was dur­ing her recent travels in India that RENU heard about the resur­gence of Fakirs, a col­lect­ive term for many spir­itu­al tra­di­tions. The Fakir’s ori­gin­ate from Bengal and adhere to Nadia, A philo­soph­ic­al premise” which is also the his­tor­ic­al region­al name of the area that the Fakirs are from. The philo­sophy is “…artic­u­lated through power­ful poetry, music and the­at­ric­al per­form­ances priv­ileging oral­ity over lit­er­acy.” The Fakir’s from Nadia fused ele­ments from the Hindu Bhakti (lov­ing devo­tion­al wor­ship) move­ment with ele­ments from Islam­ic spir­itu­al­ism. The spe­cif­ic Bhakti move­ment that the Fakirs claim des­cent from ori­gin­ated in the 15th-16th cen­tury and was known for being Anti-caste, anti-pat­ri­arch­al and anti class” and this has some res­on­ance in RENU’s own music and eth­os. The Bengali tra­di­tion of Baul which refers to “…ritu­al sing­ers and wan­der­ers.” often gets con­flated with Fakirs. It is worth stat­ing that Baul and Fakir are two dis­tinct philosophical/religious tra­di­tions com­pris­ing many beliefs and that these are spir­itu­al move­ments and not just the names for music genres as is some­times under­stood in the west.

May 2021 saw RENU com­mence a series of exper­i­ment­al singles with ‘Stut­ter­step, a track inspired by the BLM move­ment that gained prom­in­ence last year in the after­math of the George Floyd killing

‘You are fear­less’ (Tumi obhoi / তুমি অভয়) is RENU’s latest release (due 15th Novem­ber) and fea­tures Pagla Baul who is a dis­ciple of Lalon Fakir Shah (1774–1890) whose shrine is in Nadia (Spe­cific­ally in Kush­tia in Present day Bangladesh. (

The track is a spir­itu­al tour de force and stands boldly over the many Baul and Fakir inspired tracks that have plagued the world in recent years. The vocals are haunt­ing yet omni­po­tent with dis­tor­ted effects that are power­ful yet reas­sur­ing like being in the pres­ence of a deity. The bal­ance of force and del­ic­acy which has become a hall­mark of RENU’s work is played expertly here and in this writers opin­ion, this track is RENU’s most accom­plished and exper­i­ment­al work to date. It takes inspir­a­tion from the affirm­at­ive cos­mo­logy of Sun Ra but is hotwired for the south Asi­an dia­spora.  RENU describes Tum obhoi as a Baul/Fakir speak­ing to us from the future/space. The track and its fol­low up singles are inspired by the exper­i­ment­al and fusion work of Alice Col­trane and the broad mod­us operandi of the Afro Futur­ist move­ment and whilst these have been present in RENU’s pre­vi­ous work, they come to the fore­front with vehe­mence here.

RENU hopes to col­late this track and the whole series of singles on an EP based upon the Asi­an dia­spora experience.

2022 also brings in a new major album release.

You are fear­less’ (Tumi obhoi / তুমি অভয়) will be released on 15th Novem­ber. All pro­ceeds of the single will go to Pagla Baul as the Cov­id crisis has severely affected musi­cians in Bangladesh.

RENU’s offi­cial web­site —

 Quo­ta­tions from Far­had Mazhar (Nobop­ran Andolon) (2015)

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.


DJ Isuru is a music journ­al­ist and broad­caster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series fea­tur­ing the best in Asi­an Under­ground.


DJ Isuru is a music journalist and broadcaster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series featuring the best in Asian Underground.