Fusion and Roots – an exclusive conversation with Indian Ocean Band

When it comes to fusion music, the band from the Indian Ocean needs no introduction. They have entered their 33rd year of performing fusion music, making them one of the oldest fusion groups in India. Pioneers of the Fusion Rock genre in India, the group consists of Sushmit Sen, Asheem Chakravarty, Rahul Ram, Himanshu Joshi and Tuheen Chakravorty. They have also performed several times at the Sacred Festival of Pushkar and have represented the country to the world.

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Indian Ocean Band has an experimental genre that fuses raga – traditional Indian tunes with rock music, guitars and percussion. They also use Indian folk songs balanced with the sholaks, hymns, Sufism and mythology, among others. They have given their voice in many movies such as Masan, Black Friday, Halla, Bhoomi, Peepli Live, Mumbai Cutting, Gulal, Ye Mera Ye Tera, Kanpuriye and more. A documentary was also produced about their life as Leaving Home – Life and Music of Indian Ocean.

Following the departure of founding member Sushmit sen in 2013, Rahul Ram is the only founding member to appear on the band’s debut album, The Indian Ocean. He is an activist and also a member of the socio-political satire group ‘Aisi Taisi Democracy. Rahul ram is the bassist and vocalist, Amit Kilam plays drums and is also vocalist, Himanshu Joshi is vocalist, Nikhil Rao is guitarist and Tuheen Chakrwarty plays tabla.

Recently, Indian Ocean performed live at Kalrav – a series of cultural festivals held in Greater Noida from 7th May 2022. Cityspidey was lucky enough to meet the band at Samrat Mihir Bhoj Park on the evening of the May 7, 2022, before the performance. and have a quality conversation with the group.

Being from Delhi, how do you all feel playing in NCR?

Indian Ocean Band lead guitarist Nikhil Rao says, “This is our first performance in Greater Noida, and it’s a great audience. Everyone in the group attended colleges in Delhi. We have lived our lives here and it is a great pleasure to play in NCR. Playing here is like being in our comfort zone. We arrive in the afternoon, do the installation, play in the evening and at night we can be at home. It’s a great feeling to play in front of our people. “Kuch bhi keh lo, apne pitch by home ground batting karne ka alag maza hota hai. he smiles.

The fusion of classical Hindustani with rock is certainly a new genre for India. Tell us more

Nikhil Rao says, “When we started, there were a lot of bands that just copied famous covers. Contemporary bands only sang songs in English and served Western music, even though they wrote their songs, it was also in English. wanted to play original music in our band and communicate in a single language. We had a mutual firm idea that we will only serve our audience in their native language. That’s why we use Indian classical music, Raags, thumri to do the most part.”

Nikhil Rao
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According to reports, the Indian Ocean strip was created in 1990, but some reports also say that it was created much earlier, in 1986. What is the correct year of its launch?

Nikhil Rao, guitarist, says: “We weren’t in the band at that time. Roshan Chakarwarty and Sushmit Sen were the founding members. They worked as a two-piece band. They were playing Indian fusion music and Indian folk music in 1986 such as performing at university festivals and traveling for music performances for university festivals like BITS Pilani and IIT Delhi. Gradually more and more people came forward to join the band, Rahul Ram joined in 1991 and Amit Kilam in 1994. 1993 to 2005, was the golden period for the Indian Ocean Band, which s turned out to be very productive. The longest classic range.

We spoke to member and composer Rahul Ram who composed globally acclaimed songs such as Arey ruk ja re bande and Kandisa. How do you feel after this widespread enthusiasm?

Rahul Ram says, “Kandisa is not our song. It’s a hymn, I heard my friend hum it in a church in Kerala. I learned from him and will forget this friend forever. I feel happy without a doubt for all the love we have been receiving for years. We don’t measure our music by its success. No one can predict this. Some songs that should have been hit failed. And sometimes the song that wasn’t supposed to be a hit becomes a blockbuster. It can be a marketing gimmick.

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What is the atmosphere during rehearsals?

Tabla player Tuheen Chakravarty says, “We learn, laugh and have a lot of fun together. We have this question yaari dosti wala. Nobody is big or small among us, we are all friends and we accompany each other through thick and thin.

Tuheen Chakravarty
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The Indian Ocean band is said to be against contract negotiations with music companies. And they don’t sign with the labels. Does this affect band revenue generation?

Amit Kilam, the band’s drummer and vocalist says, “We’re not against contract negotiations with companies or contracts. We sometimes do, and sometimes we don’t. We look for the best option for everyone in the group without exploiting our values.”

Amit Kilam
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How does it feel playing Greater Noida?

On this Tabla player, Tuheen Chakravarty says, “The feeling is like the name of the room ‘Greater’! Tuheen Chakravarty who joined the group in 2009 says it’s always a good feeling to explore new places and meet new people.”

He continues, “Everyone has a different style and genre and we’re lucky to have a natural following of fans. If today you say we’re touched, I’d say it’s probably because we are connected to our roots. We are not going with musical trends. If at present there is a fashion of Punjabi music, it does not mean that we would start composing lyrics or notes in Punjabi. 1997, there was a trend where everyone created patriotic songs. In between, Sufism prevailed. Everyone ran behind this genre to sing Sufi songs. Where are they now?”

One of the band members, Asheem Chakravarty, lost his life in 2009 which had a huge impact on the Indian Ocean band. How did the band overcome this loss?

Amit Kilam says, “When you’ve been living with someone, be it a friendship, a partnership, a courtship or even in your family for more than 15-16 years, it’s not very easy to fill that space. Asheem was an irreplaceable person, but that’s what life is, it teaches us to move on and embrace change. Himanshu was a very good stand-in and did wonders adding sparks with his voice and music.

We have the chance to communicate with Himanshu Joshi, the guy who replaces Asheem. We asked him what it feels like when people unwittingly compare him to Asheem?

Himanshu Joshi
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He says, “There is no comparison between us. People ask me what it’s like to be in Ashim’s shoes? I don’t pay much attention to this question because everyone has a separate identity. We cannot judge the music, nor compare. There are different sizes of shoes and feet, people have to remember that.”

What is your message to Indian youth?

Singer Rahul Ram says: “The message for young people is to stay connected to the roots, to stay wherever you are but just to stay in touch with your family, your friends and your nation. Do not lose your originality in the face of Westernization and globalization. Just listen to what your heart says and follow it. In the end, nothing else matters but being yourself.

Rahul Ram
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I finally asked about the band’s future, and they said, “UNITED WE ARE and we will be united forever, this band will be Indian forever and we will keep playing forever.”

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