When it comes to fusion music, the Indian Ocean band needs no introduction. They have entered their 33rd year of performing fusion music, making them one of the oldest fusion bands in India. Pioneers of the Fusion Rock Genre in India, the band consists of Nikhil Rao, Asheem Chakravarty, Rahul Ram, Himanshu Joshi and Tuheen Chakravorty. They have also performed in the Sacred Festival at Pushkar several times and represented the country globally.
Indian Ocean Band has an experimental genre of fusing raga- the traditional Indian tunes with rock music, guitars and drums. They also use Indian folk songs balanced with the Sholaks, Hymns, Sufism and mythology among others. They have given their voices in many movies such as Masan, Black Friday, Halla, Bhoomi, Peepli Live, Mumbai Cutting, Gulal, Ye Mera Ye Tera, Kanpuriye and more. A documentary has also been produced on their lives under the name Leaving Home - Life and Music of Indian Ocean.
After the departure of the Founder Member Sushmit sen in 2013, Rahul Ram is the only founding member who appeared on the band’s debut album the Indian Ocean. He is an activist and also a member of socio-political satire group 'Aisi Taisi Democracy. Rahul ram is the Bass Guitarist and the Vocalist, Amit Kilam plays the drums and is also a vocalist, Himanshu Joshi is a vocalist, Nikhil Rao is a Guitarist and Tuheen Chakrwarty plays the Tabla.
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Recently the Indian Ocean performed live in Kalrav- a series of cultural festivals organized in Greater Noida from May 7, 2022. Cityspidey got the chance to meet the band in the Samrat Mihir Bhoj Park on the evening of May 7, 2022, before the performance and have a quality conversation with the Band.
Being from Delhi, how do you all feel while performing in NCR?
Nikhil Rao, the lead Guitarist of the Indian Ocean Band says, “It is our first performance in Greater Noida, and it's a great crowd. Everybody in the band has attended the colleges in Delhi. We have lived our lives here and it is a great pleasure performing in NCR. Performing here is like being in our comfort zone. We reach in the afternoon, do the setup, perform in the evening, and by night we can be at home. It is a great feeling to perform in front of our people. 'Kuch bhi keh lo, apne pitch par home ground batting karne ka alag maza hota hai.” he smiles.
The fusion of Hindustani classical with Rock is certainly a new genre for India. Tell us more about it
Nikhil Rao says, "At the time we started, there were many bands which were only copying famous covers. Contemporary bands were singing only English songs and were serving western music, even if they were writing their songs, it was also in English. We wanted to play original music in our band and communicate in a unique language. We had a firm mutual thought that we will serve our audience in their native languages only. That is why we use Indian classical music, the Raags, the thumri to make the most of it."
As per the reports, the Indian ocean band was started in the year 1990, but some reports also say that it was started much earlier, in 1986. What is the right year of its commencement?
Nikhil Rao, Guitarist says, “We were not in the band at that time. Roshan Chakarwarty and Sushmit Sen were the founder members. They worked as a two-piece band. They were playing Indian fusion music and Indian folk music in the year 1986, like performing in college festivals and travelling for music shows for college 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 joined in 1994. 1993 to 2005, was the golden period for the Indian Ocean Band, which proved to be very productive. The longest classic lineup.
We talked to member and composer Rahul Ram who has composed globally acclaimed songs such as Arey ruk ja re bande and Kandisa. What are your feelings after this widespread acclaim?
Rahul Ram says, “Kandisa is not our song. It is a hymn, I heard my friend humming it in a church in Kerala. I learned from him and will never forget that friend ever. I feel happy undoubtedly for all the love we are getting for years. We do not gauge our music by its success. No one can predict this. Some songs that should have been hit flopped. And sometimes the song which should not become a hit become blockbusters. It can be a marketing gimmick.
What is the atmosphere during rehearsals?
Tabla player Tuheen Chakravarty says, “We learn, we laugh and have a lot of fun together. We have that yaari dosti wala matter. No one is big or small among us, we all are buddies, and accompany each other through thick and thins.”
It is said that the Indian ocean band, is against the contract negotiations with the music companies. And they do not sign with the labels. Does this affect the revenue generation of the band?
Amit Kilam, the Drumist and Vocalist of the band says, “We are not against contract negotiations with companies or contracts. We do it sometimes, and sometimes we don’t. We look at the best option for everyone in the band without exploiting our values."
How are you feeling performing in Greater Noida?
On this Tabla player Tuheen Chakravarty says," The feeling is as per the venue name 'Greater'! Tuheen Chakravarty who joined the band in 2009 says it is always a good feeling to explore new places and meet new people."
He continues, "Everyone has a different style and genre and we are lucky to have a natural fan following. If today you say we are hit then I would say it is probably because we are connected to our roots. We don’t go with music trends. If at present, there is a fashion of Punjabi music, it doesn't mean we would start composing Punjabi lyrics or notes. Back in 1997, there was a trend where everyone was creating patriotic songs. In between Sufism prevailed. Everyone was running behind this genre to sing Sufi songs. Where are they now?"
One of the band members Asheem Chakravarty lost his life in 2009 which left a huge impact on the Indian Ocean band. How did the band overcome this loss?
Amit Kilam says, “When you live with someone, whether it is friendship, partnership, courtship or even in your family for more than 15-16 years, it is not very easy to fill that space. Asheem was an irreplaceable person, but this is what life is all about, it teaches us to go on and embrace changes. Himanshu has been a very good replacement, and working wonders adding sparkles with his voice and music.”
We get a chance to communicate with Himanshu Joshi, the guy who is a replacement for Asheem. We asked him how it feels like when people unwillingly compare him with Asheem?
He says, “There is no comparison between us. People ask me how it feels like being in Ashim’s shoes? I don't pay much heed to this question as everyone has a separate identity. We can't judge music, nor can we compare. There are different sizes of both shoes and feet, people must remember that."
What is your message to the youth of India?
Vocalist Rahul Ram says, "The message for the youth is to stay connected to the roots, stay wherever you are but simply stay in touch with your family, your friends and your nation. Do not lose your originality in face of westernisation and globalisation. Just hear what your heart says and follow it. In the end, nothing else matters than being yourself."
I finally asked about the future of the band, and they said, "UNITED WE ARE and we will be forever united, this band will be forever Indian and we will keep performing forever."