Celebrating the Life of Nitin Rajan

Nitin Rajan was a vocalist and music business professional, who passed away on November 17, 2020 after a long battle with cancer. This piece is a tribute to Nitin’s life, his dedication to music, and the fun person he always was. 

Nitin’s band Primitiv live at BlackBlood 18. Image courtesy Shubham Sharma

An Introduction to the Dinosaur!

I’ve known Nitin personally since 2012 or so. I first met him outside Mumbai musician and Keto food genius Sahil Makhija’s house. Sahil is the front-man of Mumbai metal band Demonic Resurrection, and we were playing an ‘All Stars’ gig, which featured different vocalists and musicians playing Demonic Resurrection songs. He was featured on their song ‘When Dreams and Darkness Unite’ at the show. I was in a metal band back then, and we were in our vocal duo phase. Nitin was a completely new face to me, even though he was the oldest person there – age and experience-wise, in music. His voice was so heavy, I started calling him ‘Dinosaur’! Sahil then introduced us, and he turned out to be the vocalist of one of India’s first extreme metal bands, Morticide. As I recall him saying, Morticide covered songs by death metal legends Cannibal Corpse back in 1999! This caught everyone’s attention from all around at the band rehearsal. We had someone who was deeply involved in the early phases of extreme metal in India.

Domination – The Deathfest

Nitin then went on to co-found Domination – The Deathfest, along with Roshan Kumar (bass/vocals) and Hitesh Ghelani (drums) of Morticide. Deathfest was the first heavy metal gig series that solely showcased metal bands. Nothing like it existed before 2000, and there was only the occasional rock or metal band you’d see playing at a college festival. What Deathfest did was bring new bands to Mumbai, and later it also turned into the first extreme music gig series that traveled to different cities until it stopped in 2004.

The crowd at Razz Lawns during Domination – The Deathfest back in 2000. Photo received from Nitin in 2014.

When researching about the gig a few years ago, I had spoken to Nolan Lewis (Kryptos), Premik Jolly (Threinody) and Sahil (Demonic Resurrection) about their experience playing at Domination – The Deathfest’s first edition at Razzberry Rhinoceros, aka Razz Rhino in Mumbai. They spoke about how they were young, and how early Deathfest gigs had such a huge impact on them and the scene at large. Many people spoke about it even years later. Deathfest was then revived in 2013 by Nitin and his then new bandmate Riju Dasgupta, with whom he formed metal band Primitiv. Riju and I both met Nitin at the same Demonic Resurrection All Stars rehearsals earlier that year! There was another edition of Deathfest in 2014 in Mumbai, along with the last leg of the festival in New Delhi in August 2017. Nitin was also always very supportive and encouraged younger artists, and gig organizers. You can read more in detail about the artists and the history of the fest here.

Professional Career at Radio City

DDF was not the extent of Nitin’s legacy. It was surely a very important phase for underground music and Indian metal in general. I had the pleasure of working with this multi-faceted person beyond heavy metal too. Nitin worked hard to achieve what he did, and he tried to make a space for underground or indie music beyond that. He was the former Vice President and Digital Media Head of Radio City, one of India’s biggest FM Radio Stations. He joined Radio City in April 2007, left in the April of 2009, but joined back in November 2009 until he resigned in August 2020 this year. 

From the friends I made in my time working with 4/4 Experiences and subsequently Radio City as a client, I know how much the team valued Nitin. They always had a great learning experience, as Nitin was always curious and passionate about innovation and technological advancements that improved the way marketing and sales worked in the digital space. Digital Media was his field of interest, and he was always ahead of the curve. He headed the content, marketing and revenue departments, which were all aspects of digital media. He pioneered music through work too, and one of the most important initiatives under him was Radio City Freedom. In a country like India dominated by Bollywood film music, RC Freedom was the statement pushing indie music to heights. He was involved in establishing four new online radio channels through Planet Radio City in 2017 – Radio City Hip hop, Freedom, Metal and Electronica. These 24/7 online Indie radio stations were a property by one of India’s oldest FM Radio Stations, dedicated exclusively to music in these genres from across India! The team at Radio City had won an award for this initiative too – for Best Digital/Web Streaming by a Radio/Network for Radio City Hip Hop at the Golden Mikes (Bronze) Broadcasters’ Category.

Nitin and the Radio City team at the Golden Mikes Awards in 2019.

I’m not too sure about the other stations, but when the Metal radio began, he got in touch with some prominent people in Metal music and got them to host a one-hour slot on the radio station called the Radio City Metal Takeover. I had the pleasure of hosting an episode as RJ PEP once back in 2015, talking about life and my favorite selection of Indian and international metal songs. You’d hear Nitin’s heavy voice in the promo running on the channel – ‘Radio City Metal, Sounds from the Indian Metal Underground!’ The show honestly got some pretty great live viewership at the time, over two to three thousand people tuned in from across the country! Again, just like with Domination – The Deathfest, so many people were exposed to new metal bands, but this time breaching the gap through digital media. He was also actively a part of the Radio City Freedom Awards, dedicated to celebrating the best of independent music released in that year.

Nitin Rajan with the microphone, holding the cheque for Best Metal category at the Radio City Freedom Awards 6. Photo courtesy @Focusmonk

Music in Recent Years

We mainly knew Nitin as one of the first death metal vocalists in India with Morticide. Nitin also briefly played with Hyderabad-based outfit Sledge. He featured briefly with Reptilian Death, and on a track with Hindi progressive rock band Paradigm Shift on song Saraansh from their second album Sammukh. He was a founding member of Killibrium too, but he is mostly known for his work with one of the country’s favorite bands Primitiv. They were slow, heavy, with Nitin’s heavy vocals filling every empty low frequency!

A line they used on stage was ‘Other bands are old school, we are FUCKING PRIMITIV!’ It was catchy as hell, and metalheads recalled it every time Primitv went on stage! The band was formed in 2013, and they released their powerful debut album Immortal and Vile in February 2016. The album features songs such as Lords of Primitiv, Taurus, Lake Rancid and more. Nitin won the Best Vocalist award at the Rolling Stone Metal Awards that year. They also started playing many new songs live. They were in the middle of completing their second album when the news of his demise took everyone by surprise.


A Tribute

On hearing the news, social media was filled with posts of people expressing their grief, losing an important figure in Indian metal and the indie scene in general. The first to share the news was Primitiv, followed by innumerable messages celebrating his life and appreciating the person he was. 

Not many, or as good as no one knew he was suffering from cancer. He always put on such a positive attitude and approach, started taking his health and fitness seriously in the past two years too. We’d meet him at gigs and every time he’d always be in such a sporting mood! He’d even played a gig in December last year, and I think that was the last time we met in person. One of the most inspiring things about him was, he never let anything bring him down. 

I want to end this article in fond memory of Nitin. Remember to always celebrate his music and the good things he did. See you on the other side, friend! Thank you for being around, encouraging and supporting everyone. 

Here are some screenshots of posts from his friends, and a couple of quotes from his colleagues at Radio City. There were hundreds, but I just picked a few by people who knew him at different times in his life.

Rachna Kanwar – COO – Digital Media, Radio City & Mid-Day at Jagran Prakashan
My journey with Nitin has been a long and beautiful one, of almost 13 years. There are so many milestones and happy moments that flash by when I think of him; when we launched the website, then Web Radio and finally an IP that he was so proud of, Radio City Freedom Awards. Obviously, I will miss him for all his qualities as a professional, his disciplined approach towards his work, his being a level-headed creative guy, his fabulous team-management skills, but equally, I will miss our long conversations, his brilliant insights into varied subjects and his dry sense of humor. 

At office functions, Nitin was a man of few words. I guess he saved most of his oration for when he was on stage doing something he loved the most with his band mates or when he was chilling with friends. Mostly viewed as a serious guy, he could pull some seriously crazy pranks and impromptu jokes on you. This combined with a controlled, unfazed, confident demeanor, Nitin was a natural leader, someone that people trusted and loved instantly. 

Nitin considered Radio City his home and he was family to us. His loss is irreplaceable to all of us at Radiocity and we miss him sorely every day.

Shalin Choksi – Former Senior Manager – Digital, Radio City
The first time I met Nitin was back in 2008 for a job. He not only hired me but also helped tremendously in making the work easier. Our mutual love for Metal formed a friendship which later led us to playing in the same band. He brought out the best in me and always motivated to give my best. Nitin will always remain an inspirational figure in my life who gave me freedom, aspiration, and the will to conquer it all. He will always be missed.


Friends and the Indian Metal Scene

Jimmy Bhore, vocalist of Mumbai metal veterans Zygnema, and owner of the Jimi’s Burger chain of restaurants

Kiron Kumar, guitarist of Nitin’s band Primitiv

BlackBlood India, a gig metal gig series in Mumbai, India

Anjani Kumar, Nitin’s ex-bandmate from Sledge

Padmanabhan NS, Head of A&R at Spotify India

Singer and performer 2Blue


Cover Image of Nitin Rajan, photographed originally by Swaraj Sriwastav

Additional information gathered with help from Riju Dasgupta, Sahil Makhija, his metalhead friends and the Radio City team.

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