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"Music is what keeps us going” Interview with Indian Ocean, Pioneer & the Soul of Indo-Rock Fusion

© Indian Ocean

Indian Ocean started their journey from New Delhi in the early ‘90s . They are the true legend and the soul of the fusion rock genre in India. The musical style of the band can be at best classified as folk and fusion music. It is an experimental genre, fusing raga(traditional Indian tunes) with rock music, guitars and drums, sometimes using Indian folk songs. It has also been described by some music critics as "Indo-rock fusion with jazz-spiced rhythms that integrates shlokas, sufism, environmentalism, mythology and revolution".
© Indian Ocean

RK : First of all, thank you for accepting our invitation for an interview. Congratulations on completing 29 years of musical journey. How does it feel to have been active for so long?

Indian Ocean : It's been an amazing roller coaster ride for us, we would happily do it all over again.

RK : Indian Ocean has started their journey in 1990. Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? How did you all first meet each other? Has anything surprised you about it all far?

Indian Ocean : In the early 1980s, Asheem Chakravarty played tabla for a Bengali band 'Niharika'. In 1984, Susmit Sen, a fan of Niharika, met him during a concert. Chakravarty was impressed by Sen's guitar-playing and his vision to evolve a new sound, while Sen, learned the nuances of rhythm from Chakravarty.

For the next 3 years, with Sen as the guitarist and Chakravarty on tabla and drums, they experimented with their music without writing original lyrics. The name Indian Ocean was suggested by Sen's father in 1990. In 1991, Rahul Ram who was Sen's schoolmate at St. Xaviers, Delhi, joined the band replacing Anirban Roy on bass and started working on their first album and the eponymous debut album came out in 1993. In 1994, drummer Shaleen Sharma left the band and I (Amit Kilam) had joined the band. In December 2009 we had lost Asheem Chakravarty. Then Himanshu Joshi joined the band to fill in for Chakravarty's vocals and Tuheen Chakravarty joined for table. Nikhil Rao replaced Susmit Sen as lead guitarist in 2013.

© Indian Ocean

RK : How have you managed to keep the band intact these past 29 years without splitting up? Do you have tough days?

Indian Ocean : Music is what keeps us going, we definitely have tough days but music brings us together and keeps us going. Also we must respect the difference in opinion that we may have with others and agree that disagreement may happen sometimes. If the larger goal is to make music then all this can be handled .

RK : From 'Swaraj' to 'Masaan', Indian Ocean have been working in Bollywood movies successfully for more than 16 years. How’s the experience and what’s the personal favorite track of Indian Ocean so far?

Indian Ocean : It's been an enriching experience working in the industry where we had make music when somebody else told us to make a song about a situation and direct us through it. All of us have different favorite songs but we all love Bandey from Black Friday and Mann Kasturi from Masaan.

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RK : How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?

Indian Ocean : We don't see too much of a difference in the two terms. Improvisation is a big part of how we compose songs. But if you mean in terms of the stage then the skeleton of every song is composed and then we improvise on some songs and improvise some more on other songs. We always have a skeleton of the song in our head which we put together with a lot practice before we take the song to the stage.

RK : What was the concept behind your album “Tandanu” which has already been a massive hit and for which Indian Ocean has been nominated for ‘GIMA Award’ in best fusion album category?

Indian Ocean : We had been wanting to collaborate with many artists for a long time and the essence of tandanu lies in collaboration. All the artists we looked up to and admired were reached out to and they were kind and humble to join hands with us. Tandanu was our 7th Album. So our idea for Tandanu was, 7th album, 7songs and 7 collaborations.

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RK : Since you are on the scene for quite a long time we are sure you went through many challenges. Do you think in India perusing music professionally specially in band circuit is still not a preferable option for all?

Indian Ocean : In India the competition at the moment is very fierce with all the young talent coming up. Live shows is the best way for band to be relevant and make some money.

RK : Where do you think you are all happiest: In the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?

Indian Ocean : Performing live on stage makes us the happiest.

© Indian Ocean

RK : Any other Indian bands that you appreciate?

Indian Ocean : Ohh we appreciate a lot Indian bands such as Kabir Cafe, Swarathma , Agam etc are making great music.

RK : Who are some of your favorite artists right now? Who would you love to work with in the future? What would be a dream collaboration for Indian Ocean?

Indian Ocean : Favorite artist keeps on changing since we indulge in a lot of music, but for me (Amit) I can say if I like an artist he stays my favorite for a long time since I don't consume music like today's generation, "use and throw".

We would love to collaborate with folk artists from different countries all over the world as we feel folk music comes from deep within and is really beautiful.

© Indian Ocean

RK : If you had all the money and time in the world, what song either yours or someone else’s would you love to re-create?

Indian Ocean : You don’t need money to recreate or create music.. as of now, I would not recreate any song, because we just did one for our latest album. It is an old classic by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

© Indian Ocean

RK : Any current plans for future releases?

Indian Ocean : Oh yes!! We planning on releasing new songs by the end of this year. Stay Tuned!!!

RK : What advice Indian Ocean would give to fellow bands when picking up a studio?

Indian Ocean : Firstly you need to decide whether you are carrying your own engineer or not, whether you like somebody's work or not and then let that engineer decide the flow of action. If you have drums in the band you need to check if the studio is capable of recording it. Does it have good mics?? The recording process is extremely important since that is the base of song. If it's been recorded well then you can always enhance it and achieve a great final result.

© Indian Ocean


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