Meeting ‘Indian Ocean’ Band

Posted: December 23, 2009 in Published Articles
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Indian Ocean music rocks the West Coast –

My Interview with the group for Indian Express-West coast edition

 

Prathyush Tiwari a graduate student at Caltech was speeding down the highway from Pasadena, a 120 mile drive, to make it in time to watch his all time favorite band the Indian Ocean in Mandeville Auditorium of UCSD, San Diego. “I listened to them the first time and they walked into my heart. I loved their song ‘hillele” and was so impressed with them that I have been a hard core fan ever since,” he said.  He was one among the several die-hard fans who had gathered to watch the show. Ramesh Chandrashekar and Zeenat were equally enthusiastic, “We never miss their show and we have all their albums. We love the group,” they added. The show was hosted by Raag and Taal Academy, a San-Diego based non-profit performing arts organization, whose primary aim is to foster cultural awareness and promote Indian music and dance.

The group Indian Ocean is one of India’s finest and most loved bands with a very unique music that is a blend of ‘Indo-rock with jazz-spiced rhythms,’ according to music critics. The band comprises of four very talented musicians, Susmit Sen, Asheem Chakravarthy, Rahul Ram and Amit Kilam. Their album ‘Kandisa’ released in 2000 became one of the best loved albums of contemporary music, becoming a hit among the college circuits and in the international scene too.

Asheem said “I would like to call our music ‘Indian Ocean music’ since it is difficult to pigeon hole music or break it down to any particular kind, though people call our band by different names. We just enjoy blending Indian folk songs, classical, slokas, sufi, baul and contemporary melodies with instruments, all into one package.”

Their Desert rain an album with only instrumental is melodious. Subsequently their album Jhini released in 2001 won the AVMax Award for best produced album. Their foray in Bollywood was through the feature film ‘Black Friday’. The soundtrack for the film was released in 2005 and was widely acclaimed. The song ‘Bandeh’ from the album with lyrics by Piyush Mishra reached the second spot in the charts. They also went on to make more music for the film ‘Shoonya’ in 2007. The group is currently composing seven compositions for the movie Bhoomi with Abhik Mukhopadhyay, director of the movie which will also be their next album. Also in the cans are songs for ‘Mumbai cutting’ a series of ten-minute films, by the director of Black Friday Anurag Kashyap.

“The passion for music and having fun with it is what drives our band, learning everything academically is boring, so we like our unconventional, free form of music and we want the audience to enjoy it as much as us. We like the stage and prefer being performers, money has never been the motivation for us,” said Asheem.

The group members are very down-to-earth, fun loving people and it reflects on the stage with constant ribbing each other and joking around. They engaged the crowd and had them in splits often with their humor and commentary but when they played their numbers, the music just seeped into the pulse and before long the audience was foot-tapping and clapping joining along or silently engrossed in their works. The powerful vocals from Asheem who plays an assortment of tablas and Rahul who plays the bass guitar add to the talented ensemble, with Amit on the drums and Susmit on the acoustic guitar. Their songs are in multiple languages, deftly crafted bound to awe the listener and turn him into a dedicated fan for ever. Their intricate percussion, pulsating vocals and energy were contagious and they often switched to soulful alaaps drowning the audience in its melody.

Susmit, Amit and Rahul have played with the well-known violinist Pandit L.Subramaniam. Asheem has accompanied legendary American folk singer Pete Seeger. The band has jammed with Japanese trumpeter Terumasa Hino in Delhi and played with top jazz musicians. Rahul and Amit have also played with Vikoo Vinayakram and his son Selva Ganesh.

The group enthralled the audience by playing kya maloom about the Kargill war and songs from Jhinni, Bhoomi, and Bandeh but it was hille le which brought everyone to their feet screaming ‘once more please’. The band has played abroad in across four continents and continuing to spread their music around the world. “It’s not for money but for the music we do it,” says Asheem. The four of them quit their jobs to pursue their dreams and have come a long way singing their way into everyone’s hearts.

Anupam Talapatra and Ravi Manjithaya who along with all other volunteers of the Raag and Taal Academy were excited with the response are hoping to promote and present several talented Indian artists to the community. Raag and Taal is committed to inviting the finest, internationally acclaimed performing artistes, US along with arranging lecture-demonstrations and workshops to promote art and education. A part of their proceeds go towards charitable organizations. Indian Ocean is currently touring all over the US with their next destination being New York.

 

Photo: Indian Ocean Band.

 Left to right: Rahul Ram, Amit Kilam, Susmit Sen and Asheem Chakravarty

 



From the movie Black Friday

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Article was published in Indian Express-West Coast edition

Phots: My personal collection

 

 

 

 

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