There is a scene in Jaideep Verma’s documentary on Indian Ocean – Leaving Home – where the motley crew collects on most days in a quiet bungalow in Delhi’s Karol Bagh, lived in earlier by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. In it, Susmit Sen, Asheem Chakravarthy, Rahul Ram and Amit Kilam sit, jam, play the fool, smoke and make music.
That’s where the band formed and composed lesser-known songs like ‘No comebacks’ and ‘Village damsel’, which went on to become popular among Delhi’s cubbyholes, bylanes and colleges. Indian Ocean evoked a common cultural cry – ‘Aalam Aalam’ (from their song Kandisa) – in everyone, from street urchins who swept corridors to campus freshers. “Every time we would play Kandisa, there was this chant in the crowd. More than 12 years later, we get the same reaction the moment we get on stage,” recalls Ram.
A lot has changed with Indian Ocean. The band contributed to the Indian ethos by bringing to its audience contemporary folk music. Looking back, Ram says 20 years after they sat down in Karol Bagh, 2010 was their most successful year. “We played 80 shows across the world and in India; Leaving Home released on the big screen; and we lost Asheem. It was our biggest and saddest year,” Ram says. Even as the band performed their second New Year’s Eve gig in the city last night, and the DVD of Leaving Home hit stores, Ram couldn’t help but dwell on the irony of the moment.
“At one point you celebrate with how far the band has come and think of your brother who has missed it all,” says Ram. Chakravarthy, the percussionist and vocalist, was one of the founding members of the band who passed away on December 25, 2009 following a cardiac arrest while the band was on tour.
After that, Indian Ocean struggled for a while to find replacements, and in early 2010 found accomplices in Himashu Joshi on vocals and Tuheen Chakravarty on percussion. The new Indian Ocean released an anthology of sorts on their recent album 16/330 Khajoor Road, but haven’t gotten around to making new music. “We haven’t had the time really. There was too much that happened this year with the shows and even Peepli (LIVE). But we will sit down and make new music, now that we all understand each other better,” says Ram.
Till then, fans will get to download a new song every month from Khajoor Road and there might be a CD release sometime later this year. “Our fans want physical copies, so we’ve decided to give them that. We are also preparing for our world tour,” adds Ram.