Swept-off my feet by the magic of ‘Indian Ocean’
Just a mere mention of Indian Rock is enough to bring forth the saccharine memories of one of the oldest Rock bands of India – ‘Indian Ocean’. For Rock buffs across the globe, ‘Indian Ocean’ is one of the most respected and critically acclaimed Delhi-based bands that has amassed huge fan base in India and abroad.
Debuting way back in the early 90s, ‘Indian Ocean’ intertwines Rock, Jazz, Fusion and rich Indian Classical sounds of ‘shlokas,’ fables and Sufism in a magical fashion of mythical proportions!
Formed by guitarist Susmit Sen and tabla player, late Asheem Chakravarty (1957-2009), and later joined by Amit Kilam on drums and Rahul Ram on base (the guy is a PhD scholar!), ‘Indian Ocean’ was fired with a passion of charting a never trodden territory in its search for newer and rich sound space.
‘Indian Ocean’ never met instant success as the band has its own ‘rags to riches’ story. With just a handful concerts and major financial crunches, ‘Indian Ocean’ kept together despite all odds for its love for music.
The 1997 ‘Sahmat’ concert at Mandi House, New Delhi was the first breakthrough moment for ‘Indian Ocean’, a concert that brought an overnight change in its fortune. It was with this concert that ‘Indian Ocean’ came into limelight and found both critical acclaim and commercial success.
Over the years, ‘Indian Ocean’ apart from doing a Bollywood project, released four studio albums (‘Indian Ocean’, ‘Desert Rain,’ ‘Kandisa,’ ‘Jhini’ and background score for ‘Black Friday’) while extensively touring India and overseas with hundreds of successful gigs, thereby enjoying a cult status from ‘once upon a time’ grim obscurity.
Asheem Chakravarty was one of the rare breed of musicians from ‘Indian Ocean’, who was daubed as “the man with the golden voice.” Whether it was his vocals or magical fingers at the tabla, Asheem’s musical sensibilities contributed to a large part of the band’s signature sound. Hugely inspired by the Indian Classical and Folk, Asheem’s compositions inspired one and all.
Remembering the late musical prodigy, Subir Malik, the keyboardist and manager of ‘Parikrama’ said, “Asheem was not only a brilliant musician, but a really down to earth person. We had a great respect for each other and each other’s bands. Both the bands felt that the best LIVE combo, for the audience and all of us, were when ‘Indian Ocean’ and ‘Parikrama’ played together. We all would immensely miss him.”
At Spicezee, we pay glorious tribute to the late Asheem Chakravarty and make a humble attempt to review ‘Indian Ocean’ discography. I must admit that laying my hands upon the band’s albums was quite a feat. After almost a month of scouting music stores and constantly pestering my college friends, I must confess that I am yet to find ‘Indian Ocean’ (1993) - the first album of the legendry band as I finally managed to get hold of ‘Desert Rain’ (1997), ‘Kandisa’ (2000), ‘Jhini’ (2004) and ‘Black Friday’ (2004). (Well, no hard feelings either as ‘Indian Ocean’ shares quite a few tracks with ‘Desert Rain’!)
Let’s begin the ‘Indian Ocean’ experience with the band’s second and the only live album Desert Rain’s first number ‘Desert Rain’ - a Hindustani Classical number festooned with smooth Rock/Jazz intonations. ‘Desert Rain’ is a highly mellifluous number that becomes all the more alluring with its soft lyrics.
‘Village Damsel’ is a Bangla number and a personal favourite, for the song works like magic! ‘Village Damsel’ is like the rhythmic gait of a village beauty that carries a pitcher full of water on her slender waist. The song has perfect pace and style that adds to its grace.
The third song is a jazzy number ‘Boll Weevil.’ The song starts off with a breezy bass riff, coupled with drums, tabla and guitar notes. ‘Boll Weevil’ is a brilliant fusion of Indo-Rock that enmeshes rich sounds complementing each other.
‘Going to ITO’ is played on a brisk place with multi-layered guitar, bass and percussion effects. Mostly an instrumental number, ‘Going to ITO’ is easy on the ear and has instant soothing effect on the listener.
‘Euphoria’ opens with a feisty guitar work with a classic ‘jugalbandi’ of ragas on drums, tabla and bass. The song leaves you with an ecstatic experience with its colourful palette of rich tunes.
‘From The Ruins’ starts off with a hauntingly desolate melody that suddenly breaks into summoning the mysticism through religious ‘chants’ and ‘mantras.’ One finds a spiritual connect with the ‘shlokas’ of the song ‘From the Ruins.’
‘Melancholic Ecstasy’ is again an instrumental piece that slowly catches its tempo and from a melancholic lilt while ending up as a delightful and breezy track that will make Jazz aficionados fall in love!
‘Kandisa’ is the third album and one of the most critically acclaimed albums of ‘Indian Ocean’. The album opens with ‘Kya Maloom,’ a song that begins with an invocation to Lord Shiva and ends with a spirited ‘jugalbandi’. ‘Kya Maloom’ is a rich blend of both Indian and Western musical influences.
‘Maa Rewa’ is a Folk number presented in a refreshingly new fashion. The song worships river Rewa, popularly known as Narmada and blesses it for its bounty.
‘Leaving Home’ is mostly an instrumental song that starts with a cheerful rhythm and a synchronized sweet melody.
‘Hille Re’ opens with a gust of energy that celebrates the free spirited society sans any rule and boundaries. The song boats the rule of common men rather than bullies.
‘Khajuraho’ starts with ‘sholakas’ and breaks into ‘jugalbandi’ of Hindi lyrics that celebrates the figurine beauty of Khajuraho that throbs with life.
‘Kaun’ has an intriguing bass and guitar riffs played over highly philosophical lyrics that ask one to move beyond fears and to reach towards the unknown. The song addresses the Prime Mover and the higher forces that have a sway on one and all. The song is a timeless number that forces you to think about futility of life and asks us to get in touch with the higher purpose of life. The song is a moving plea for ‘moksha,’ nirvana and deliverance.
The song ‘Kandisa’ is penned by drummer Amit Kilam’s mother in Aramaic language. The song has a hummable tone and catchy lyrics while it is infused with myriad Indian Classical tones.
‘Jhini’ is the fourth and one of the most successful albums of ‘Indian Ocean’. Amalgamation of vibrant sounds from Indian, the songs of ‘Jhini’ are an ode to the bounty of Mother Nature.
The album opens with ‘Bhor,’ a song celebrating the early morning. The song has a positive inflection that fills your heart with warmth. On the whole, the song is a resplendent ode to morning glory.
‘Torrent’ opens with a sweet and melodious guitar riffs accompanied by soul stirring vocals. Full of emotions, ‘Torrent’ touches in many ways as it is a hugely soulful number with lots of feel in it.
Song ‘Jhini’ is Folk number high on spirituality and wisdom. A beautifully crafted song that is rich in mythology, ‘Jhini’ is truly a masterpiece by ‘Indian Ocean’.
‘Nam Myo Ho’ is another beautiful number that is indulgent in lore and Sufism. A more mature song, ‘Nam Myo Ho’ is high on aesthetics and has every ingredient that makes it a beautiful song.
‘Let Me Speak’ is a wealthy blend of exquisite guitar, bass and percussion works with a dash of ‘ragas’ and Rock that transports you in a mystical sound space.
‘Des Mera’ celebrates the spirit of India – the land of unity in diversity; the song is a glorious tribute to the nation that is unlike any place in the world. ‘Des Mera’ uses a lot of traditional Folk instruments that augment the beautiful lyrics of this wonderful song.
‘After The War’ paints a grim picture of a desolate world. The song is multilingual, opening in English with a few Hindi lyrics and finally ending with ‘shlokas’ invoking ‘Om’ and ‘Shanti’. ‘After The War’ questions the futility of war, lust for blood and annihilation of humanity.
The music for Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Black Friday’ is a seminal work in the opus of ‘Indian Ocean’ as it marks the first full-length soundtrack given by the band for any Bollywood project. Recorded over a period of three months in Mumbai and Delhi, the music of ‘Black Friday’ was a huge hit and chart topper.
The album opens with one of its most popular number ‘Bandeh.’ Sung by Rahul Ram in his inimitable style, the song is a cry for peace and humanity. Blessed with touching lyrics, the song addresses the monstrous appetite of mankind for destruction. ‘Bandeh’ essentially is an anthem of harmony and compassion that hits a crescendo with amazing guitar solos in the end.
‘Badshah in Jail’ is a soulful number that touches upon the basic lessons of life that one tends to forget amidst routine existence. The song is a moving plea that addresses tenets of humanity.
‘Bharam Bhaap Ke’ is full of mythology and profound lyrics that are interwoven with some heavy philosophy. The song is best understood if one relates to its finer nuances that speak on various plane of consciousness.
‘Opening-Pre Blast,’ ‘Bomb Planting,’ ‘Memon House,’ ‘RDX’ and ‘Training’ are purely instrumental numbers that are high on intensity. Full of vigour, these numbers add new dynamism to the sound space with a sense of lurking premonition.
The final number of ‘Black Friday’ ‘Chase’ opens with an intense ‘jugalbandi’ accompanied by heavy percussions and bass effects. The song has a creepy intensity as it portrays a chase in an effective manner.
In totality, ‘Indian Ocean’ leaves you almost hypnotize with its refreshingly enthralling songs where each number relives its own story as it weaves an incredible magic over the listener.
(Dedicated to the loving memory of ‘Indian Ocean’ band mate Asheem Chakravarty, who is now no more with us)