Indian Ocean Radio
Back in 1984, before most Indian Ocean fans in college concerts were even born, Susmit met Asheemâ€¦during a concert. He was a fan of Niharika â€“ a Bengali band Asheem played tabla for. They hit it off right away. Asheem was taken up by Susmitâ€™s guitar-playing and his vision to evolve a new sound. Susmit, in turn, learnt the nuances of rhythm from Asheem – not the basic 4/4 beat, but the mysteries of chhand and jhonk and taal.
For the next 3 years, every now and then, they jammed as a duo, Susmit on guitar and Asheem on tabla and drums â€“ no vocals anywhere in sight. After a memorable debut concert at Roorkee, there was only the occasional stray performance.
In 1990, Susmit sold his electric guitar to raise money for a demo recording of their band, by now called Indian Ocean (Susmitâ€™s dad suggested the name). With Shaleen Sharma on drums, and Indrajit Dutta and Anirban Roy on bass, they recorded the demo, taping an incredible 45 minutes and 7 songs in 1 day. Despite the rushed recording, the quality of the demo tape impressed HMV enough to offer them an album deal.
In 1991, Rahul Ram, a schoolmate of Susmitâ€™s, joined the band, replacing Anirban on bass.
Indian Ocean, the album, was recorded in Calcutta and, despite the crummy mikes and sozzled sound recordist, the band was on a high. They had recorded an original album, almost entirely instrumental, rare outside the world of Indian classical music. The future looked boundless; anything was possible.
But, much to the bandâ€™s frustration, the album took a year to get released. But when it did come out, it sold over 40,000 copies within a year of its release â€“ at that time, the highest selling record by any Indian band ever. However, this had no immediate results â€“ in concerts, contracts or money or anything.
In 1994, drummer Shaleen left the band. Amit Kilam, barely out of his teens and, in fact, still taking his college exams, took his place. This has been the line-up since then: Susmit, Asheem, Rahul and Amit.
Money was tight and there werenâ€™t many opportunities to play. But somehow the band believed in themselves and in their music. They kept at it â€“ composing, practicing, playing for themselves, getting better, tighter, more together. Vocals began to be used more and more, and they brought a new dimension to the sound.
Susmit and Asheem left their jobs to be in the band full-time, and kept at it even after they had kids to support. Rahul and Amit did not have salaried jobs either. All four kept afloat by taking on various musical assignments â€“ odd jobs composing music for serials, ads and documentaries.Â
New Yearâ€™s Day 1997. The SAHMAT concert at Mandi House, Delhi. After waiting 7 hours to get on stage, Indian Ocean played an inspired concert that had the crowd rising to its feet, roaring for more. Quite fortuitously, the band noticed a DAT recorder, bought a tape and recorded the concert. True to their unfailing lack of vision, no music company wanted to release a live album of an Indian band, so a label called Independent Music was formed to release this.Â Desert Rainwas a landmark album for its time and today, almost a decade later, still continues to sell (Much to the bandâ€™s surprise and pleasure, in 2006, it was no. 2 on the iTunes UK world music charts!).Â
Meanwhile, the media started getting interested in the album and this â€˜newâ€™ band. Radio, TV and press coverage increased. From relative obscurity and a modest group of enthusiastic fans, the band began to be known around the country. First, the gigs began to fall into place â€“ Delhi, of course, but also Ahmedabad, Calcutta and Mumbai. Money began to trickle in. More importantly, new material became more honed, and the playing tightened with every show.Â
Times Music signed on Indian Ocean in 1998 and, the next year, the band went to Mumbai to record a new album. Recorded in the hi-tech studio Western Outdoor, and released in March 2000,Â KandisaÂ went on to acquire cult status, becoming one of the most important, best-loved albums of contemporary Indian music.Â
Kandisa changed everything. The band became a keenly awaited presence on the college circuit, with repeat invites from big cities and smaller towns all around the country. The international scene opened up dramatically. From their first concert abroad in London in August 2001, they went on to play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where they played 18 concerts in 14 days, and were nominated the Pick of the Fringe. They returned to the Fringe in 2002 and 2003. In 2002, the band played 37 concerts abroad across four continents: New Zealand, USA, UK, Japan, Australia and Indonesia, and the next year they toured the UK twice, returned to the Australia, went to Germany and then on to Singapore. In 2004 they flew across the â€˜actualâ€™ Indian Ocean, to play on the gorgeous island of Reunion. The next year, they toured the UK three times. Their high point was performing at Trafalgar Square in the heart of London, playing two concerts heard by an audience of thousands. And in 2005-06, they toured the US thrice, playing 26 concerts across thirteen states, and one in Toronto, Canada. Today, as their much-stamped passports attest, they are Indiaâ€™s leading global band.Â
Growing recognition has brought Indian Ocean in touch with some of the greatest musicians in the world. Susmit, Amit and Rahul played with the celebrated violinist Pandit L. Subramaniam. Then, Asheem accompanied the legendary American folk singer Pete Seeger in a packed performance. The whole band jammed with the virtuoso Japanese trumpeter Terumasa Hino in Delhi, and played with top jazz musicians during their Japanese tour in 2002. A year later, Rahul and Amit felt privileged to play with Vikoo Vinayakram and his son Selva Ganesh at a percussion concert in Almora. In 2002, on hearing Indian Ocean play in Washington DC, the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma complimented them for doing to Indian music what he had always wanted to do with Chinese music.Â
Indian Oceanâ€™s fourth albumÂ JhiniÂ was released in 2003, along with the bandâ€™s first music video for the title track. The band was nominated as MTVâ€™s Artists of the Month. The album also won the AVMax Award for the best produced album of 2003.Â
Indian Oceanâ€™s first major foray into Bollywood was the feature filmÂ Black Friday. The soundtrack for the movie was released in 2005 to immediate acclaim. The song â€˜Bandehâ€™, with powerful lyrics by Piyush Mishra, reached no. 2 in the charts and has become a huge popular hit. The music for Black Friday has continued to surge even though the filmâ€™s release was stalled by litigation until late 2006. More film offers have now come their way and the band is currently working on a film calledÂ Shoonya.Â
In November 2006, the band recorded a 3-hour concert for a Live-in-Concert DVD. A full-length documentary feature on the band is also being made and a big-screen release is planned. Both are firsts for an Indian band. So the story continues, towards new horizons, new creative frontiers.Â
The first live album released by any Indian band, ever. A concert played at the annual SAHMAT show at Mandi House on Jan 1, 1997, and recorded completely by accident!! No major record label was willing to take the risk of releasing a live album, and so a record company was created to release Desert Rain, thanks to Naresh Bhatia. Released on cassettes and CDs. Recording Engineer: Vikram Mishra; Remastered by K.J.Singh at Fast Forward Studios, Delhi; Photography: Amit Pasricha; Cover Design: A.V. Graphics Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi. B/W Cover Photograph: Dilip Prakash. The Ghosh family and Silvy allowed us to run amok at M-6 GKII, and kept us plentifully supplied with tea, eats and love for all of three years.
|1. Desert Rain|
|2. Village Damsel|
|3. Boll Weevil|
|4. Going To ITO|
|6. From The Ruins||Â||Â|
|7. Melancholic Ecstasy||Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Recorded at Western Outdoors, one of Indiaâ€™s premier studios, in Mumbai, this is our first â€œproperâ€ studio recording. We were given two weeks for recording and 5 days for the mix, and actually had a producer!! Recording Engineers: K J Singh, Avinash Oak and Daman Sood; Assistant Engineers: Mr Chitre , Tito Dasgupta and Mr Subhash; Producer: K J Singh; Executive Producer: Pramod Shanker (Times Music). Mastered by K J Singh at Satya Studio, Mumbai. Lyrics: Sanjeev Sharma for Khajuraho, Kaun and Kya Maloom. Kandisa and Ma Rewa are traditional. Hille le is based on Gorakh Pandeâ€™s words. Kashmiri lyrics in Kaun by Indira Kilam.Kandisa was made possible thanks to Gurpreet, Orijit and the Sidhus and the wonderful ambience of 16/330 Khajoor Road.
|1. Kya Maloom|
|2. Ma Rewa|
|3. Leaving Home||Â|
|4. Hille Le||Â|
We took fairly long to record Jhini. The Sylvan surroundings of the Kosmic Music Studios in Varadepalyam probably contributed to this, where we would laze in swings hung from mango trees, listen to the jackals at night and gaze at the Milky Way. Manoj was our sound engineer, extremely low-key and hard working. The album won the AVMax award for the best produced album in 2003.
|4. Nam Myo Ho|
|5. Let Me Speak|
|6. Des Mera|
|7. After the War|
Black Friday is our first full-length Bollywood film. Recorded over three months in Delhi and Mumbai, with KJ of Kandisa returning as co-producer and sound engineer. This album is quite different from our other albums as it features, in addition to three songs, six instrumentals with extensive use of brass, woodwinds and digital sounds. The song “Bandeh” reached a peak position of #2 on the film charts.
|2. Badshah in Jail|
|3. Bharam Bhap Ke|
|4. Opening / Pre Blast|
|5. Bomb Planting|
|6. Memon House|
The bandâ€™s first album, recorded in just 10 days at HMVâ€™s Dumdum studio, Calcutta, in December 92. Shaleen Sharma played the drums on this album. Released only on cassette. Recording Engineer: Raja Mukherjee; Cover concept: Manas Chakrabarti; Graphic Design: Navin Shiromani. The Durgapal family gave us all their time, patience and space while we prepared for this recording.
|1. Village Damsel|
|2. No Comebacks|
|3. Going To ITO|
|4. Brisk Lonely Walk||-||Â|
|6. Out of the Blues||-||Â|
|7. Melancholic Ecstasy|
Performing all over india for the past 15 years, the band has played at several of the country’s most prestigious venues including the Red Fort, the Gateway of India, Vasanthabba (Bangalore) and the Temples of Khajuraho. Indian Ocean is a hot favorite at college venues, having performed at almost all the IITs and IIMs. Their concerts typically last over two hours , with audiences refusing to allow them to leave the stage.Â
The band first played outside india in 2001 in London and then at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a city returned to thrice in 2002 and 2003. They played at the New Zealand Arts Festival in 2002, at the Melbourne Arts Festival in 2002, the Smithsonian FolkLife Festival ( Washington DC) in 2002, Tokyo in 2002, Indonesia again in 2002, the Golden Jubilee Year of the Perth Arts Festival in 2003, Germany in 2003, Singapore in 2001 and 2003 and the Festival ArtKenciel in Reunion in 2004.Â
In 2005 , Indian Ocean is slated to play in Glasgow, London, Birmingham, Italy, Dubai and return to Reunion.
Date:Â Friday, March 13th 2009Â
City:Â New Delhi
Venue:Â British Council, Kasturba Gandhi Marg
Tickets:Â Contact British Council
Susmit has virtually invented a new style of playing the guitar â€“ an uncannily Indian sound where purity of scale reigns, strong melodic lines woven around the drone of open strings. This guitar sound forms the basis of Indian Oceanâ€™s unique sound. Not very fond of verse-chorus formats, Susmitâ€™s personal vision is towards finding a new vocabulary for his music. His virtuoso talent never overshadows the big picture, but serves the song immaculately, strengthening it, embellishing it, giving it a distinct character. His demeanour on stage â€“ lips pursed in fierce concentration, enigmatic smile half-forming, a look of utter contentment flashing in and out â€“ gives him a stage presence focused entirely on the music coming from his direction.
Pretty much a militant atheist, Susmit is convinced that destiny is created on earth, not written in heaven or hell. Self-motivation and direction make lives, according to him, and he has certainly lived as per this dictum so far. Entirely a self-taught musician, he believes music springs directly from experience, so all experiences are pretty much grist for the mill as far as heâ€™s concerned. So heâ€™s a foodie, chef, wilderness junkie, ornithology and dog breeds enthusiast, football fanâ€¦and lots else. He is an accomplished athlete and was into swimming, football and cricket. Classical music interests him more than jazz or rock.
Indian Ocean fans call him â€œthe man with the golden voiceâ€. Amazingly, Asheem sings and plays the tabla simultaneously with remarkable clarity and ease, a difficult feat almost never achieved by Indian percussionists. Asheemâ€™s rhythm structures are uniquely his own, contributing in large part to Indian Oceanâ€™s signature sound, while the melodies he creates are wonderfully different. He loves improvising vocal lines on stage. He plays traditional Indian percussion instruments in completely innovative ways. Brought up in an atmosphere of Indian classical, folk and other Indian forms, Asheem showed his rhythmic spark at an extremely early age.
Asheem is Mr Tangent, king of the non-sequitur. Nobody (including Asheem) understands how his brain works, and he’s won many an argument hands-down with his unique brand of logic, and statements such as: â€˜Has Pele ever sold chole bhature? No!â€™ Asheem is the founder and resident guru of the â€œSoch matâ€ (Donâ€™t think) school of thought. Permanently in search of a permanent residence, we’re still trying to decide if he’s incredibly determined or incredibly flaky. He’s into Osho, numerology, astrology, naturopathy, yoga, meditation – you name it; Asheem’s spiritual quest for the truth is as perennial as his quest for a house. His cheerful philosophy is â€˜Sab badmash hainâ€™ (They are all scoundrels). He reads books that nobody else reads â€“ sometimes not even the author.
Rahulâ€™s bass playing moves smoothly â€“ from melodic enmeshing with vocal and guitar lines to the more standard laying of foundations over which the band soars. His riveting stage presence is an essential part of Indian Oceanâ€™s electrifying live concerts. His vocals have a raw power, an uncompromising edge that emphasizes the folk roots of the band. Rahul also ends up doing most of the talking at live shows. His experiences as an activist/supporter with the Narmada Bachao Andolan and during his four years studying in the US have exposed him to a variety of musical styles from all over India and the world, and have strongly influenced his musical expression.
Unlike Asheem, Rahul is the total non-romantic. He is Logic Baba, the guru of rationality, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly – this despite his head-banging extrovert party-animal attitude to life and hair-styles. He has the shortest temper in the band, and is also called gyandev (lord of knowledge) based purely on his own feeling that he knows a lot (Yeah, right!). By far the sloppiest dresser in the band, he wastes inordinate amounts of time reading bad literature and doing sudokus. By training an environmentalist, heâ€™s also into ornithology. He’s an irreverent atheist and a stand-up comic whose addiction to puns has driven others to untimely suicide. Rahul is into jazz, rock and reggae – and sometimes Hindustani classical music, if the melody takes him, as it doesâ€¦ frequently.
Amitâ€™s drumming is a happy balance between the conventional and non-conventional. He believes in layering rhythm rather than heavy drums, and prefers simplicity over technical wizardry. He incorporates Indian rhythms into his drumming in a unique fashion, moving in cycles of 8, 10, 12 14, 16, rather than simple 4/4 or Â¾ styles. He goes easy on the skins, yet his playing is very dynamic. Amit was introduced to music at the age of 4 by his parents, learning the guitar (hawaiian – Indian classical). He is an instinctive musician, picking up all kinds of instruments with ease, and he sings well too!
Amit is into metal machinery. We suspect that his first love affair was actually with his drum kit. He’s into technology in a big way, but also loves traveling, driving, doing jungle-stuff, taking pictures and going to the movies. Heâ€™s an actor and a keen observer of personality quirks and accents. He also knows the price of every make and brand of white goods on the market, as well as the price of every single camera in every single country in the world. Heâ€™s probably the only business-oriented person in the band. Unlike the others, he attends every single religious festival invented, or to be invented. He’s by far (though there’s really no competition here) the best dressed and best-looking guy in the band. For a non-smoking, teetotal, patriotic family man, he’s always surrounded by women (not that we’re jealous or anything). According to Amit himself, he’s “a guitarist by nature and drummer by profession”, but we feel he can pretty much get a tune out of anything that doesn’t move fast enough. Amit loves listening to various kinds of music â€“ Hindi filmi, rock, pop â€“ his favorites are A R Rahman, Trilok Gurtu and Deep Purple.
1224, Sector 37, Faridabad,
Haryana – 121003, INDIA
Phone: 0-9810138921, 0-9811466634
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