Indian Ocean was formed at a time when Indian rock bands were not just extremely rare, but was also viewed suspiciously — an imitation at best, social suicide at worst.
“Singing apart, what else do you do?” was a question percussionist and vocalist Asheem Chakravarty often encountered after he first formed the band with guitarist Susmit Sen in 1984.
Indian Ocean recorded their first album in 1992.
Their next, Desert Rain, was a live concert recording — the first live album ever released by an Indian band. But it was Kandisa, released in 2000, that propelled them to stardom.
A blend of rock, jazz and Hindustani classical, their music has been nothing but honest, and true to its roots.
“We bring to this band our own experiences,” says bass guitarist Rahul Ram, who is also enthused by folk music.
Asheem grew up around the doyens of Hindustani classical music — his mother Ranu is a noted folk singer.
Susmit and Amit Kilam, the other two band members, are gifted musicians too. Susmit’s forte is the guitar, which he plays more as an Indian than a western instrument.
Amit, the drummer and flautist, is influenced more by traditional rhythmic structures than conventional metre.
“We need more bands singing about India,” says Rahul. This sentiment saw songs like ‘Ma Rewa’ and ‘Hille Re’, backed by a strong folk tradition, became a part of their oeuvre.
Commending Hindustan Times on its World Music Day celebrations, Rahul said the band felt privileged to close the festival.
Everybody plays a love song. Nobody sings about the weather or the rivers, says Rahul. Well, tonight they will, and so will Mumbai.
And if it rains, we’ll just call it poetic license.