Indian Ocean have been hailed as the pioneers of fusion rock music in the country. Their unique sound can be termed as a blend of jazz styled rhythms with Indian folk elements from the Hindu Shloks, the mystics of Sufism and a lot of experimental fusion. Their songs speak about environmentalism, mythology and revolution. The cult band is one of the country’s biggest independent/underground music success. The band remains unfazed of limiting their artistic freedom to meet the mainstream formulae. Indian Ocean started in 1984 as an instrumental duo with Susmit Sen on guitars and Asheem Chakravarty on percussion. In 1991, Rahul Ram joined on bass and the band secured its first record deal. Their self-titled album debut was released in 1994 with Shaleen Sharma on drums. The current line-up consists of Nikhil Rao, Amit Kilam, Rahul Ram, Himanshu Joshi and Tuheen Chakraborty.
The bands relevance in the present music scenario bears testament to their versatility as well as adaptive nature. The band has constantly worked towards incorporating new sounds and forming various collaborations to produce music which their fans await for.
“Music does not have a time line set to it. If you relate to it, it rests and makes a permanent space. The people have been kind enough to keep calling us back and singing to our songs” said Ram.
Through the years the band has given their audience a spectrum of songs to listen to. ‘Charkha’ from the album ‘Tandanu’ features renowned Veena player Padma Shri Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt on the vocals along with his slide guitar and the fusion music of Indian Ocean. The song encompasses lesser lyrics and concentrated more on being melodic thus sounding appealing to the listener. One of the bands biggest hit album ‘Jhini’ features ‘Bhor Bhor’, a song which depicts the hardships for survival through the story of a free wandering bird. The song can be termed as an amalgamation of pop inspired by folk music and literature.
When Bollywood came knocking, the band did not disappoint their loyal following. That they would be lured by the mainstream genre of Bollywood was a laughable thought. Their song ‘Aray ruk ja re bande’ was adapted for the movie ‘Black Friday’. Their songs from movies like Masaan, Peepli Live are amongst the popular mainstream songs but have retained the ‘Indian Ocean-ess’ in them.
“Indian Ocean has done lots of work in Bollywood but we have remained true to our spirit. We did not try to carve our music into something else” asserted Nikhil.
All the members are upbeat about the rock folk fusion genre’s future. Newer audience has rapidly lapped up the genre augurs well. The pioneers have inspired loads of rock folk fusion bands. The always approachable members feel mighty pleased when pointed out about this.
“It’s great to see up and coming artists appreciate our work and seek guidance from us” said Amit, adding,
“With music streaming applications on the boom, it will only aid the whole music industry to reach out to a wider audience.”
The band has a simple message for these artistes ‘Keep believing in yourself”.
Indian Ocean’s lyrics have always echoed the socio-political situation, with equal emphasis on the lyrics and the sound. ‘Des Mera’ from the movie ‘Peepli Live’ is a prime example. The song features ‘Gabgubi’, a rare instrument, along with the ‘Tabla’ which adds to the folk essence to it. Their 2014 album ‘Tandanu’ is regarded as their best work to date. The album was a collaboration that features legends like Shubha Mudhgal, Shankar Mahadevan, Selvaganeshan, Kumaresh Rajagopalan and Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. Contemporary musicians like Pentagram’s Vishal Dadhlani and Karsh Kale have also contributed to the album.
True to their essence, the band is “constantly exploring for new sounds since ‘Tandanu’ which was a mural of collaborations. There are wood wind instruments and some santoor work in the music we’re working on.”
From performing on Doordarshan to packed gigs everywhere, the band is no mood to let their feet up. Their journey has been “gradual and slow with a few very important milestones along the way.”
An upcoming milestone for the band would be at their ‘Music Under The Stars’ concert. The concert is scheduled for the 23rd of February 2019 at the stunning campsite Sabharwal Farm, in Khopoli. For the first time ever you get to experience Indian Ocean performing at an amphitheatre in the forest.
“We are very excited about this particular show. So much so that we have chosen it to be the first place where we play our entire new album for the first time” said the band.
Yes, a new Indian Ocean album will be performed for the first time at this beautiful venue. To hear all the six new unheard songs while been besieged by nature is going to be an experience that an Indian Ocean fan should not miss.
See you there!