Indian Ocean makes waves

Rahul Ram is a lively presence on stage as he awes the audience with his performance on the bass guitar. Indian Ocean is a pioneer in the classical-rock fusion genre. (credit: Aayush Kumar | Advertising Manager) Rahul Ram is a lively presence on stage as he awes the audience with his performance on the bass guitar. Indian Ocean is a pioneer in the classical-rock fusion genre. (credit: Aayush Kumar | Advertising Manager)

The Antonian Theatre at Carlow University attracted a large crowd last Saturday night. Fans of an incredible and electrifying genre of music, classical-rock fusion, were present to see a leading band that has made this fusion their trademark — Indian Ocean.

Indian Ocean is a unique band. With songs in over 30 different languages, their music is about the characteristics of a human being and the journey through life. The band members: Susmit Sen (lead guitar), Asheem Chakravarty (tabla, tarang, vocals), Rahul Ram (bass guitar, vocals), and Amit Kilam (drums, flute, gabgubi, vocals) are a group of very talented individuals who combine their skills to produce some of the most inspiring music out there today.

With five highly successful albums released so far and having performed in more countries than they can remember, including a show at Trafalgar Square in London, they truly are a band that is here to stay.

Sitting in the audience, watching them perform songs ranging from one about the journey of a bird titled “Bhor” to a Syrian prayer hymn titled “Kandisa,” I couldn’t help but notice the trance everyone around me was in. People were dancing in the aisles, clapping their hands in unison to the beat, and shouting out their requests — it was a sight worth watching. Fortunately for me, I also got a chance to interview one of the band members and co-founders of the band, Sen, and here are some excerpts from the interview:

The Tartan: How did you decide on the name “Indian Ocean?”

Sen: We went through quite a lot of options, but in the end it was my father that gave us the name “Indian Ocean” to reflect how we drift between different cultures and traditions.

The Tartan: How was the band formed?

Sen: I met Asheem at a concert in 1984 and we began doing duo sessions together. In 1990, Rahul joined us replacing Anirban [a previous member] on bass. In 1994, Amit joined us and the band has stayed the same ever since then. There was a lot of initial struggle as no music label wanted to invest in instrumental music, but slowly we found our place in the industry, and here we are today.

The Tartan: Your music is of a very different make. What are the major influences behind this form of music?

Sen: Well, there is no major influence as such. Since childhood, we have learned to keep our eyes and ears open to what’s happening around us, and it results in the way we think about our music. We usually don’t write our own lyrics. They are written by Sufi poets or other budding writers and we give those lyrics a sound that resonates its meaning. So essentially there is no major influence as such. If we like what we see, then we try and use our creative talents as artists to give it a form that can be heard by many others.

The Tartan: What do you do in your spare time?

Sen: All of us quit our jobs way back and made the band our sole career. I have a lot of other interests besides music. I love painting; I am an ardent photographer; I also love cooking and experimenting with food. My biggest passion besides the guitar is probably wildlife, especially ornithology. I also enjoy watching and playing sports, especially cricket and soccer.

The Tartan: What are the future plans for the band?

Sen: Currently, we are on a 15-concert tour of the United States. You can visit www.indianoceanmusic.com to see our schedule. We have composed the soundtrack of one Bollywood movie so far, called Black Friday, and are in the process of composing music for a film called Shoonya.

At the end of the concert, Indian Ocean held a unique auction, asking audience members to bid for two songs that they wanted the band to play, and successfully raised around $1900 for Association for India’s Development (AID) Pittsburgh, the charity the concert benefited. Go to www.aidindia.org to learn more about their work.