Indian Ocean: A genre of their own4 min read
Manipal: “I don’t think we are pioneers in anything. It’s all a lie!” retorted Rahul Ram of fusion rock band Indian Ocean when told that they are considered pioneers in their genre – a genre they christened ‘Indian Ocean’ for the lack of a better term. Though far removed from pomposity, even this bass guitarist and vocalist cannot deny that since its inception in the early 90s, the band has been obsessed with music that sounds ‘new’ to the ear.
Complete with tribal lyrics, ethnic musical instruments and a conscious thought process, Indian Ocean has released five albums so far, the latest being 16/330 Khajoor Road – named after the address of their jam pad in New Delhi. Without any formal training, Susmit Sen, with his innovative acoustic guitar; Asheem Chakravarty, who played the tabla while singing; Amit Kilam, a young guitarist turned drummer and Rahul Ram, an environmentalist by education, came together to form the band. After Asheem’s death in 2009, the trio played together for a long time before Himanshu Joshi and Tuhin Chakrabarty joined the line-up. Their remarkable journey is captured in a documentary film, Leaving Home, released in April last year.
After turning down invitations for nine years, they played their first show in Manipal for a fundraiser, Sparsh, organised by Volunteer Services Organisation of Manipal University.
Excerpts from the interview:
On why their genre is ‘Indian Ocean’:
Genre is increasingly becoming little bit of a loose net. There are more and more different types of music which fall into their own categories. For example: If someone asks you to define pop, how do you define pop? You will probably be able to give a few examples. We don’t know what defines us. So, that’s why we say, ‘Indian Ocean’.
On the new album and the decision to give it away for free:
The latest album (16/330 Khajoor Road) has two series. The main series which we gave out for free on the internet is music that we composed for few films and is basically, an assortment of different things we did for different films. And the other part of the album is basically some track recordings from our practise sessions with Asheem. These were the last recordings with him.
On how the documentary film, Leaving Home, brings context to their music:
The director Jaideep Verma thought he could make a film on us. We gave him a free hand but he was sensitive enough not to intrude into our personal lives. And whatever Indian Ocean is, musically, he portrayed it beautifully. Yes, context is fun but we do not want to tell anything to people other than what’s in the documentary.
On working for Bollywood:
When Bollywood comes to us, they want our music. But if we incline towards Bollywood then we would lose our identity. So, it is better that we stick to ourselves.
On their creative process:
Susmit: Indian Ocean as a band has seen a change in its creative process. When we started, it was my idea, so only my concepts dominated. Then the whole concept of creativity within the band came through workshops. However, the dynamics of the workshop are impossible to articulate. We would sit down together, somebody would come up with a particular tune, some other person would appreciate it, improvise on it. See, creative process does not limit to an individual. If you could explain how creativity happens then we would have seen far more creative elements in our society. Hence, it is very difficult to teach or talk about what is the creative process. But each Indian Ocean song develops from a thought process.
On their concerts:
When we perform on stage, the beginnings and ends are by and large all planned. The rest is improvised as we go. Sometimes the audience thinks you have done a great job but at the same time you know you have not done a great job. Sometimes it works well. In the first five years of Indian Ocean, we had only seven concerts. Nobody in the band made any money. We spent more on going to and returning from concerts than we made from our music. Most bands at that stage would have said, “Leave it.”
Sub-edited by Priyanka Sharma