Indian Ocean completes 30 years

Indian Ocean completes 30 years

Delhi-based band, which performed in Bengaluru recently, explores themes such as Sufism, environmentalism and mythology. They tell Metrolife their story

(From left) Amit Kilam, Himanshu Joshi, Rahul Ram, Tuheen Chakravorty and Nikhil Rao.

It is a name that evokes nostalgia in old-timers and respect in the younger generation. Formed in the early ‘90s, Indian Ocean has been one of the spearheads of the Indian rock scene. Their unique sound of contemporary rock mixed with classical, jazz and fusion have earned them a cult following. The band played recently at Phoenix MarketCity.

Just before the show started, Rajitha Menon managed a quick chat with Himanshu Joshi, Tuheen Chakravorty and Nikhil Rao.

What is the process of creating a song like in your band?

Himanshu: It’s a fairly organic process. Someone will come up with a tune or a riff and then we will keep adding to it. If everyone likes it, it becomes a composition for us. 

Where do you look for inspiration?

Nikhil: A lot of the songs come from our experiences. Only rarely do we make a conscious effort to write a song about a certain issue. And we look to each other for inspiration. Mixing Indian, especially folk, elements with western music has become a thing in film music now...

Tuheen: It’s been there for a long time. People like Salil Choudhary, RD Burman and Shankar Jaikishan used to do this long ago. 

Nikhil: In fact, I would say that Bollywood had India’s original fusion music. In the 1950s, Anglo-Indian jazz musicians were scoring with OP Nayyar. And Salil Choudhary was very good at using western elements.

In the last 20 years, bands have brought in a different kind of western influence but Bollywood always had its ears open. There was this one decade in the 80s where Bollywood was not very creative; the synthesizer era. But generally, all of us in the Indian Ocean are big fans of film music.

Even the music that is being made now?

Himanshu: Why not? There are some great musicians in the field right now. Like Ajay Atul...

Nikhil: Oh yeah! Ajay Atul are my favourite composers in the whole of India right now. 

Himanshu: Yes. And Shankar Ehsaan Loy. And how can you forget Rahman?

Nikhil: Of course, there is a lot of dumb stuff that is designed only to be played in a disco. Many people are doing that and that’s fine. 

Himanshu: It’s like a big buffet. It caters to a lot of tastes. 

Have you tried to maintain the same sound that the band started out with?

Tuheen: There is no conscious decision. Every person has his own sound and style. Even if you want, you can’t copy someone else’s style.

Nikhil: The lineup has changed over the years. We can’t reinvent ourselves every day but the sound has been extended. The new guys brought in elements which we think weren’t there before. 

With the advent of social media, are record labels treating artistes better now?

Himanshu: Record labels are out of the game now. You can come out with a single and become famous. On the flip side, higher number of platforms has led to a lot of trash;  but this is subjective. What I consider trash may be liked by another person. 

Nikhil: The game has changed and it is difficult for me to say whether it is for the better or worse. In the 90s, record labels invested in people like Lucky Ali, Daler Mehendi and Silk Route, who went on to become stars without the influence of films. They promoted them well and made good content. There is no record company who would do that for an artiste right now. Also, nobody has any attention span anymore. Anybody can record something in their bedroom and put it out at zero cost but who is going to listen to it, other than your two friends and your mom?

Tuheen: Unless you put out crap like Dhinchak Pooja or Taher Shah...

What is the band’s favourite song?

Himanshu: Very difficult to say. Each and every composition has its own merits.

Tuheen: We like different songs for different reasons. I like ‘Kaun’ and ‘Bhor’ for their lyrics. There is a track called ‘Longing’ in our last album for which Kumresh ji played violin. It is a beautiful track. 

What bands and artistes are you listening to now in India?

Nikhil: I like Skrat and Kraken. Thaikkudam Bridge is phenomenal too. 

Himanshu: I am very fond of Agam. They are extremely good.