Tag Archives: Amit Kilam

Indian Ocean at American Embassy School, New Delhi

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Nilakkhya Dutta

Nilakkhya Dutta is a Delhi based photographer who loves to tell tales through his photographs, be it a wedding, a rock concert, portfolios or travel! Check out his work on https://www.facebook.com/niandniphotography

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Indian Ocean: Ebbing away from the mainstream

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A rather exuberant fan from the land of Punjab wearing his newly bought shirt that screamed Indian Ocean was humming the Bengali lyrics and eventually came out flashing his devil horns when the ensemble played a song that talked about Lord Buddha’s journey.

Contrasting sensibilities or just defying odds? Indian Ocean’s journey, that spans more than two decades, has been about the duel between the two with latter being the worthy champion. Starting off at a time with a dearth of ears for “band music” leave alone semi-classical instrumentals, Indian Ocean has come a long way from defying the gravest of odds to be the cornerstone of India’s indigenous independent artistes.

In heart of upscale Gurgaon at Club Zygo, the band made their fans wait for long to take the stage. And when they did eventually, one “not-so-political” fan yelled in a desperate exhortation, “Dikha do ki abbhi Jawaan ho.” Tuhin Chakravarty- the Tabla player, with plenty of age on his side, was the unarguably the first one to retort back, “Jawaan toh hain yaar”, while Susmit just wore a childish grin that barely deserted his countenance throughout the show and others just followed the suit.

Dodgy stage sound and feedback were the price they paid for the late start as they hurriedly started off with ‘Khajuraho’. A long thirst of good music when quenched with a song having unmatched lyrics, it’s often worth the wait. ‘Darte Ho’ was the next and is a song of varied emotions. Powerful vocals of Himanshu Joshi and reverberating bass lines of Rahul Ram sets a darker tone, while Susmit’s wonderful work on the guitar, Amit’s harmonies and the brilliant lyrics serves inspiration.

The crowd were still shuffling with their martinis, and requests started flowing in with the shouts of ‘Jhini’ and ‘Bhor’. They didn’t dampen the spirits and ‘Jhini’ was aptly chosen. A song that pivots around the vocals of Asheem- the band’s late vocalist cum percussionist and better known as “the man with a golden voice” – that might have been rendered unimaginable without his presence for an Indian Ocean loyalist. But Himanshu Joshi dispels any biases and churns out a heart-touching rendition of the song that neither evokes a strong response in an Asheem fan nor makes him miss much. The biggest feat Himanshu manages is to make the song sound like a “Himanshu Joshi song” and not an Asheem one.

Meanwhile the bass’ string came undone but music went on undeterred, as Amit broke into an impromptu drum solo. Tuhin joined in and so did Susmit with his adept strumming. After putting the pieces together, Rahul’s bass was the latest entrant to the jamming session that suddenly started taking the shape of ‘Bol Weevil’. If that was an impromptu or pre-planned, the band’s chemistry on the stage refuses to reveal. The resonating bass riff forms the backbone of this song and along with melodic semi-classical scales on guitar; this one’s a true masterpiece. Tuhin, though was in no mood to be left out as he took the centerstage to much surprise and immediately stole the limelight with terrific jugalbandis. First, with the audience and then stunned everybody with his tapping on Rahul’s bass. In a reminder or maybe a tribute to Asheem’s exploits on the bass in a concert many years back- a video still available on YouTube- he had cast a spell on the crowd as everyone stood in a state of shock, awe and disbelief.

As the evening stretched, their improvisations went from terrific to stupendous to fantabulous, they belted out their beloved songs- ‘Nyam Myo Ho’, ‘Chand’, ‘Bula Raha’, while Himanshu Joshi’s Bengali accent barely slipped in ‘Bondhu’. 

The clock struck midnight and Amit Kilam took out his gabgubi. Gab..what? An instrument with its roots in the Bauls of Bengal has long been patronised by the man during the course of years. Not only does he use it as percussion, he does a gabgubi solo too in ‘Maa Rewa’ – unprecedented even amongst the bauls. Amit is a multitalented and never constrains himself to his energetic drumming and percussions. Be it the harmonies, the gabgubi or the clarinet, he does it all. The next song had a rather sombre and solemn start with Amit’s clarinet that set up the mood for the most Grand of the Finales- ‘Kandisa’. Susmit’s guitar solo, that’s only heard in their live performances is a class act and distinctly different from the one on the record.

As the night drew close, Indian Ocean might have ebbed away from the stage, but did the music? The thunderous bass riffs, invigorating and energetic percussions, the fluid guitar lines with a touch of Hindustani classical music, the powerful vocals echoes aloud in one’s head long after the amplifiers were plugged out. This is a kind of music without any ephemeral shelf-life. It’s just timeless and perpetual. Jazz, Rock, Blues, Fusion, Sufi, Classical or Folk- it encompasses everything including sheer amount of honesty in it. If at all one were to describe music that’s “organic, deep rooted to Indian ethos and ingeniously indigenous”, this is it!

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Shubhodeep Datta

Shubhodeep is home to a lunatic in his head, who is on his own with no direction home. Tell him about his grammatical errors! Follow him on Twitter @datta_shubho

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Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

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The Mad Festival sprinted into its first few hours, admitting a respectable amount of people into the sprawling venue on a beautiful Thursday morning; at this point, there was only a hint of rain on the horizon with people (rather than the sky) rumbling warnings of possible rains.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Post the invocation, things kicked off at the smaller Callaloo stage with Vayali, a bamboo orchestra. Comprising a number of bamboo drums and flutes, one expected some good energy from these musicians from Kerala. However, their choice of songs wasn’t the most inspiring, and having the sparse crowd right at the beginning of the festival didn’t help matters either. We would’ve loved to see some more traditional stuff from these guys instead of picking up common, run of the mill material, as well as some more energy with the bamboo.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Across the venue, past the Mad Bazaar, old-school metallers Kryptos had the misfortune of opening the festival at the Blubaloo stage to a very limited audience. The sparse crowd, which had certain members from Indian Ocean in their midst, were treated to an unsurprising setlist consisting of concert favourites such as ‘Heretic Supreme’, ‘Revenant’, ‘Mask of Anubis’ and a few other tracks from their latest album Coils of Apollyon. Kryptos are no doubt accustomed to playing to packed crowds at Kyra but they did a fairly good job of trying to keep the energy levels high. Nolan was mostly tongue-in-cheek on stage as they launched into their closing number – ‘Descension’. Unfortunately, they slightly messed up their signature number – though you couldn’t really blame them for exhibiting some lethargy on stage.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Over at the Callaloo stage, Groove No. 3 took the stage right after Vayali, and showcased a brand of funk that one has come to associate exclusively with Chennai. Featuring some stellar vocals courtesy Benny Dayal, these guys pulled off some nice grooves, with some tight drum and bass playing. The crowd, sparse at the beginning, built up through the show. Save for Benny though, the stage presence was lacking. A funk band should not have their bassist sitting down for the duration of their set, especially with bass lines and music with as much groove as these guys. ‘Nowhere to Run’ was a clear stand-out, although their set was a tad disappointing on account of the number of covers in it. Among the covers though, the funky rendition of ‘Summertime’ stood out. The next time round, an all original set would be a welcome change.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

While Groove No. 3 occupied the smaller stage, Yodhakaa – a 7 piece-band that blend contemporary rock with Carnatic classical music – were initially scheduled to open the festival but their late arrival bumped Kryptos to the top of the schedule. They played after Kryptos instead and their set included the ‘Jnyaanam’, a song with a really groovy bassline that is arguably the band’s best. What really makes the song is the male-female vocal harmony throughout the track. They also performed ‘Shwetambaram’, which is another track from their eponymous debut album. The song moves from a sombre piece featuring slide guitar to a more upbeat one dominated by a classical guitar solo. Yodhakaa were extremely tight during their entire performance even on their new song- ‘Adhrijhadam’ – which featured a Cajon solo. Their music perfectly complimented the signature 2 p.m. Ooty weather. They closed out their set with ‘Jataa Kataa’, a song from the Ramayana that was sung by Ravana. Bandleader Darbuka Siva is a multi-instrumentalist and musical genius when it comes to songwriting. Their music (on the album and live) is crisp, catchy and rich and they deserve to be heard more. A hurried walk to the Callaloo stage takes us just in time to catch the much-touted Motherjane.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Motherjane has never really been the same since longtime vocalist Suraj Mani and guitarist Baiju departed the band. They’ve soldiered on nevertheless, with new vocalist Vivek who manages to sound exactly like Suraj. Their setlist played out like a greatest hits record but with the fizz taken out. Their performance was quite flat and it got monotonous very soon. New guitarist Santosh can really shred and his classical piece on the ‘Maktub’ intro was fantastic but his solos seemed little rushed. It also didn’t help that almost every Motherjane song follows a similar verse-chorus-verse-guitar-solo-chorus format. ‘Broken’ and ‘Mindstreet’ got some sort of response from the crowd more due to familiarity than any sort of energy from the band on stage. ‘Soul Corporation’, ‘Maya’, ‘Fields of Sound’, ‘Walk On’ etc. were few of the songs they mechanically played before finishing off their set with ‘Karmic Steps’ and ‘Shhh..Listen’. Ironically, not too many people did.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Swarathma played at what must be an unusual time slot for them, bang in the middle of the afternoon. Kicking off with what has become a crowd favourite, ‘Ee Bhoomi’, the energy one is so used to seeing at a Swarathma gig was missing somewhat, Vasu Dixit’s vocals not at their exuberant best. The first couple of songs had something off on the mix on the PA, with the bass drum too high, the guitar levels too low. ‘Ghum’ was executed well and ‘Topiwalleh’ brought some of the energy back, the levels seemed much better than before, and despite a major glitch with the PA, including a couple of seconds of shutdown, the band began to draw some more energy out of the still sparse crowd. ‘Koorane’, featured some Huli Kunitha (Tiger Dance), costumed actors, who seemed to take away from Swarathma’s already impressive stage act rather than add to it. Swarathma did bring some of their awesome energy back for the end, with ‘Pyaar ke Rang’. The little tete-a-tete between Amit Kilam of Indian Ocean and Vasu Dixit also provided some comic entertainment. The ghodi, so much a part of the Swarathma act, was missed though. All in all, Swarathma didn’t disappoint but didn’t exactly blow people away either.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

What followed was a close to two hour delay thanks to an incessant pitter patter of the rain. While organizers rushed around, mainly trying to keep things dry and, well, organized, people huddled near the food stalls and other forms of shelter; several even braved a stall with a magician in it! The stall kept the small crowd thoroughly entertained (and dry) and the magician watched with unabashed amusement as they tried to make sense of his various magical paraphernalia and failed repeatedly to the steady stream of self-conscious giggling.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Two hours seemed to pass quickly though, and World Music aficionados Moon Arra were finally taking to the Blubaloo stage. As the cameras hovered around importantly like lumbering giants in the twilight haze, members of the audience who’d run for cover to dignified (the Fern Hills palace) and undignified (Mad signboards serving as makeshift umbrellas) places returned to the eaves of the stage to the ever-welcoming MoonArra (“We don’t mind the rain if you don’t!” said a hardly phased Madhuri). While it strikes us as unfortunate every time we see them live that Moon Arra’s stage presence leaves something to be desired, they never disappoint by way of their music. Madhuri’s vocals are the perfect juxtaposition to the clean, smooth lines that Prakash and Jagadeesh carve with their respective instruments. After a few songs from their album Indian Accent, we realize that this is the perfect segue back into full-fledged performances at the festival after the rains. As a fan for life of Mr. Sontakke’s pitch perfect genius, we bristled when a passerby casually opined – “This Skinney Arra is not bad, man”. Persevering against the urge to strike said passerby, we focused instead on the meager compliment in that statement and re-immersed myself in the dulcet tones of the vocalist. The band didn’t have much of an audience to play to, with pockets of people watching from various angles – but it was borderline acceptable what with the rain pouring a damper on events.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Skinny Alley, over on the Calaloo stage, was quite the interesting act, clearly intent on keeping with the times. Fans of their earlier releases, such as 2003’s ‘˜Escape the Roar’, were treated to a wholly different rendition of some of their signature tunes. Gyan Singh’s basslines, a heavy dose of electronic embellishment, combined with Jayashree Singh’s vocals, layered at times with a harmonizer, figured prominently throughout their set. A big draw for several Skinny Alley fans is Amyt Datta’s guitar playing, and the audience at the Mad festival weren’t left too disappointed with some great albeit very different sounds coming out of his guitar. We would’ve liked to see some actual harmonies though. Highlights from their set including their opening track, were ‘Woman Who Is Me’ and ‘Used to Be Mine’. Skinny Alley managed to surprise a good portion of the audience, pleasantly and otherwise with their current sound. The visuals in the backdrop, however, at times seemed out of place with the music being played.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

The Raghu Dixit Project trundled onto stage and was one of the few bands who had a sizeable audience already gathered during sound check, pushing and shoving for prime place near the barricade. During any of his shows, it’s mandatory to show some love or Raghu makes sure he points you out and jocularly shames you into having some fun. His shouts of “Puma! Too cool to dance?” or “Madam! You can send sms to your boyfriend later” into the crowd did just that. Turns out that heckling the crowd makes them, (even people further back from the stage, far from the singer’s eagle eye) begin bouncing in real or faked enjoyment. Such is this band’s infectious enthusiasm and Raghu’s powers of persuasion. ‘Masti ki Basti’ (particularly loved the flautist’s section on this song) and a brand new Kannada song – the melody to which sounded suspiciously familiar – warmed the crowd up for their last couple of songs ‘Lokada Kalaji’ and ‘Mysore Se Aayi’. Raghu made sure to mention that the band was playing in front of the queen (you know which one!) later this month, which was met with the appropriate amount of cheering and smiles of national pride.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

It has to be mentioned that the crew from Cobalt were thorough professionals and utterly immovable when it came to the timing allotted to bands, big or small, after the downpour that affected the scheduling for the day. It’s a testament to their will that they persevered and said no to crazed TRDP fans screaming “One more” repeatedly. Once again, we tip our hats to the people behind the scenes!

And so we move on – with Raghu Dixit’s surprisingly nullified by the distance between the stages, Soulmate came on at the Callaloo stage in their usual sedate, unfussy manner, with Tipriti looking spiffy in a vested shirt ensemble. The air was now carrying a slight nip that made the atmosphere crackle with electricity – mostly static, thanks to the woolens being whipped out. The weather and the general mood would have turned been elevated into a higher experience if the band had decided to play ‘Sier Lapalang’, their usual opening number. But the audience was more than happy to settle for ‘Smile at Me’. Barring the slight over register of guitars that was fixed post haste, the band had a flawless run. Rudy’s slide on the intro to ‘Sunshine’ and his solo later gave the song amazing punch, outdone only by his laidback, easygoing vocals. What was an absolute shocker (that really shouldn’t have really been a shocker considering the talent this band has) was the fact that Tipriti’s voice sounded shot to hell when she spoke into the microphone between songs. But, we’d have betted unrealistic amounts of money that no one could tell from her singing voice that she had any trouble at all. She made it through the entire set like a trooper, hitting those high, loud notes and even maintaining that dreamy guttural quality that is so typically hers now. Soulmate’s lyrics aren’t a complicated battlefield of metaphors and hidden meaning but then that begs the question, why do they seem so gosh darned perfect? Our song pick of the set was definitely ‘Set Me Free’. They’ve got the performance of this song right down to an art form.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

At the Blubaloo stage, the lull in the wake of the boisterous Raghu Dixit welcomed The Electric Konark Band, which was quite frankly an unknown quantity for this reviewer. While the band as a whole didn’t strike a bell, the individual members were illustrious enough to generate the right amount of interest in the right amount of people. Their tagline – “Going Electric with integrity” served to remind us of reading about the genuine feeling of regret from fans and some in the musical community of the 60s at the tumultuous switch from acoustic to electric, this while the latter genre was still in its infancy. The band inaugurated the set with a meaty guitar-driven melody (thanks to the immensely talented Konarak Reddy) – notes bent to Indian classical that were merged into a Western scale backdrop. When the tabla and the bass (Rzhude David) came in and sparred through the mid-section of the song, we knew what we were about to experience was one of a kind. The first song ‘Mango Ripples’ was a masterpiece in timing, precision and technicality. Unfortunately, due to the rain-related delays, a visibly (and audibly) peeved Konarak Reddy groused that the band had only five more minutes to play and didn’t waste any more time on talking.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

On a side note, while it was apparent that we were in the presence of some seriously talented artists, one wonders how long the attention span of an (and stress on this) average listener would have to be for him to be able to be completely immersed for the duration of a ten-minute, non-vocal song. Some members of the audience were soaking in the music at the very front while others allowed themselves to be distracted by conversation, clearly taking a breather, in the wake of an energetic Raghu Dixit performance. Either way, it was a true pleasure to watch the maestros play off each other and genuinely enjoy their time on stage.

The Kabir Project, an eclectic bunch of musicians that take inspiration from the works of Kabir, was a breath of fresh air. While the crowd watching wasn’t particularly significant in number, those who did stay back to catch this eclectic act who performed after Soulmate were treated to some delightful interpretations of the 15th century poet they take their name and inspiration from. There were some nice harmonies incorporated as well, mixing nicely into the set up they had. Thanks to the rain earlier that day and the subsequent scheduling constraints their set was curtailed into a short, albeit, refreshing one.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

The last act of the evening was Indian Ocean on the Blubaloo stage. Despite a reduced set time and a plethora of sound issues including the rain earlier in the day ruining the mixer settings and their sound check, Indian Ocean sounded brilliant on the PA. Their setlist was short, crisp and rather energetic. ‘Bondhu’, from 16/330 Khajoor Road, their last album with late singer, tabla player and percussionist Asheem Chakravarty, a poignant track, drenched with emotion was probably the pick of the night for this writer. Evocative, the track showcased Indian Ocean at their melodic best. ‘Maa Rewa’, ‘Bandhe’ and especially ‘Kandisa’ got the crowd singing along and completely involved with the act, and displayed exactly why Indian Ocean are so revered in the independent music scene in the country. If we had to pick a crib, it would be that the band tends to stick to the staple crowd pleasers at the festivals. All in all, a thoroughly engrossing performance, that highlighted Indian Ocean’s professionalism despite the major glitches with the sound, and one that brought the first day’s action to a rousing close.

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

Day 1 at The Mad Festival at Fern Hills Palace, Ooty

The chilly Ooty air did nothing to deter large groups of people from lingering at the lawns near the Blubaloo stage as they soaked in the after-effects of a smashing day filled with too many good acts to pick from. After all manner of cat calls and one liners being screamed into the night (from “We want more!” to “Free smokes!”) in vain, the remnants of the audience began their journey home, leaving the warm glow of Fern Hill Palace to stand guard over a venue that had in its first day been branded indelibly into our memory.

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Sharanya Nair

Sharanya is a 'writer' and an 'editor'. You know the type. She loves her music too much to share.

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Interview with Indian Ocean

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Indian Ocean is a contemporary fusion music band from Delhi. Some music critics describe its music as “Indo-rock fusion with jazz-spiced rhythms that integrates shlokas, sufism, environmentalism, mythology and revolution!” WTS had the chance to have an in depth conversation with the band and here’s what they had to say...

WTS: Your first album sold over 40,000 copies within a year of its release – at that time, the highest selling record by any Indian band ever. Did success come too early? How did it feel to know that your songs were a rage soon after their release?

Amit: The truth is success didn’t come at all! (loud laughter)

Susmit: We were very happy but we really thought we’d get a bunch of shows but nothing really happened. It was released in December 1993, we got our first show in March 1994 and there were no shows till November 1994! Our drummer back then left because he had to make a living and there was nothing happening. It was not success by any chance! (laughs)

WTS: What do you think was the reason for this?

Rahul: We don’t know! It’s new music, people take time to adjust to that; at that time they didn’t even know how to get in touch with us. This was the pre-internet, pre-cable, pre everything era – there was only Doordarshan.

Amit: The basic means of communication back then were chitthi and normal phones.

Interview with Indian Ocean

WTS: New Year’s Day 1997. During your concert, the band noticed a DAT recorder, bought a tape and recorded the concert. No music company wanted to release a live album of an Indian band, so a label called Independent Music was formed to release this. Desert Rain almost a decade later, still continues to sell (no. 2 on the iTunes UK world music charts!) what does the band have to say about this?

Rahul: What we feel now is that it proves our decision about 16/330 Khajoor Road right, even more… than ever! Music companies know f***-all about what sells and what doesn’t.

Susmit: Absolutely. That’s the reason we’ve gone completely independent. The thing is, what sells and what has future in music or any other art form, nobody can tell. There are a bunch of management guys out there who think they know everything. In fact, they’d written us off. They said that the first album was a fluke, the second would be a flop!

Rahul: We weren’t hanging around in order to do well. We were enjoying the music we were making and playing. That was what was important. We didn’t sit around feeling sad about it. We actually felt, “Oho! These company guys are a little…you know…” (smiles impishly)

Interview with Indian Ocean

WTS: Black Friday was your first full-length album for a Bollywood film, which also helped you reach to a larger audience. How was it different from recording a regular album?

Susmit: There are differences and then there aren’t. When we make music, we don’t think about situations, moods etc. We go haywire and it beautifully takes its own shape. But here we are given situations and moods. How it is not different is that filmmakers come to us to get music done by us, which will sound like us – ultimately we do our own thing. Many a times we already had certain compos. Once we were doing music for dancer Sonal Mansingh, and she said we’ll sit down, she’ll explain the situation and then we’ll compose music and that we’ll meet again when she’d tell us what changes are to be made. The first time she said the mood is such and such – we looked at each other and started off. The same thing followed the second time and with the third and fourth compo. Then she looked at us and said, “Is this a joke? My musicians take days and weeks and months and you’ve already done four compositions one after the other!” In the same way there are many compositions we came up with at that point of time.  But there are times when we compose something completely – ‘Bande’ was composed completely.

Rahul: But there are many things people don’t know about Black Friday. Black Friday has three songs but has seven pieces of music which were background scores and that’s a different phase in time where we got to see a lot of new things – Amit’s ability to program music and for the first time there was programmed music which sounded like something else but still sounded like it came from us. That’s an interesting facet of Indian Ocean that people have no clue about. People only know ‘Bande,’they don’t know the other stuff. In fact it’s so weird, a really close friend of mine called me up 2 weeks ago and said “I was just listening to Black Friday, and the rest of the music is fantastic!” and I said, “Yeah! We always knew it!” (laughs)

Interview with Indian Ocean

WTS: Tell us about your new album 16/330 Khajoor Road. We hear it has been named after the space you have been rehearsing at since May 1997?

Rahul: It’s a 100 year old Bungalow in Karolbagh!

Susmit: We have experimented a little bit in this album. There’s one song where we’ve played the saxophone and the clarinet, and in two more songs – one with a Rajasthani vocalist and the other with a Bangladeshi vocalist.

Amit: And one in which Susmit has played the electric guitar!

WTS: It’s the first Indian album to be given away completely free as mp3 downloads from our website. What prompted this decision?

Rahul: What people are not cognizant of is that royalty payments are close to nothing. Money from CD sales profits the company, not us. Most Indian artistes make their money playing live concerts. By giving away our songs as mp3 downloads, fans get to listen to our music for free, and if the songs become popular we will get more concerts in turn and get paid more – we stand to make whatever we’d make through a music company without the hassle of contracts and copyrights. They live in an era of the past which is why I’m glad they are going to flounder and fall because they still think that we will do all the intellectual work and just because they are signing us, they’ll take away our copyrights. I hope we’re starting a trend. Many bands are watching keenly. We were the first to come out with a live album, live DVD, giving it away for free, first band on which a full-fledged film has been made.

Interview with Indian Ocean

Amit: I think it’s time to do something second! (sniggers)

Susmit: We would like to hold the rights to our songs; it’s terrible when somebody else has the rights and is not doing anything with it…

Rahul: …doing bad things with it! You know why? Take for example Kandisa – Times Music retains the copyright to it. They put songs from it into anything and everything! Sufi Lounge mein ‘Ma RewaMa Rewa kahaan se Sufi hai mereko ye batao. Kuch bhi kahin bhi thop dete hain!

Susmit: They don’t consult us before doing these things because they have all the rights! Now we can choose where to give our songs and where not to. It’s the easiest way to get across to the market. We’re not relying on the distribution systems of music companies.

Interview with Indian Ocean

WTS: Aamir Khan’s production venture ‘Peepli Live’ – you’ve composed two songs for that. Doesn’t making music for movies limit your creative freedom in many ways?

Rahul: In this movie, absolutely not! We were not even shown the movie. One song already existed in our album Jhini, and a bit of the lyrics was changed – Swanand Kirkire wrote a part of the lyrics. Another was a poem given to us. We were not told anything else but the form was given to us saying “Now you compose.”

WTS: But you still don’t have the final say.

Rahul: Sure, but then this happens otherwise also. For example, during Kandisa Pramodji from Times said I’m happy with all the songs but I have an issue with one song, and ‘Kya Maloom’ evolved out of that. Within two days we came out with a part of it and took it into a completely different direction. It does help when somebody gives critical comments. Somebody says this song is too long and we’re like ‘Okaaay,’ sometimes you get too close to your creations also.

WTS: Rabbi Shergill says that “beyond Indian Ocean, I don’t see anyone… I see brown-wannabe whites”. What do you have to say about musicians still aping westerners instead of looking within and coming out with truly original music?

Rahul: It will change, sometimes it will continue. For example, if an American wants to do Kathakali, why do we feel happy? Why don’t we tell them “Chee chee chee! You’re not being original, go do something American!” There’s always exchange between cultures. Lots of Indians love rock music, I love it too.

Amit: And there are more role models out there. It’s not a crime.

Rahul: It’s not a crime! You can play what you want to play – whatever touches your soul. Big deal! Back then the guys who played in bands tended to be from the rich sections of society who looked to the West. It’s only now that the society has increased confidence in itself, gradually the music will also change.

Susmit: Bands start off with only guitars, bass, keyboard and drums. The number of role models in the West who have been playing this is far more. They grow up listening to them and it’s very difficult to get away.

Interview with Indian Ocean

WTS: Tell us about Leaving Home – how did it feel watching your own story unfold on screen?

Rahul: You want to meet the director? He’s here! (fetches Jaideep Varma)

WTS: Did Leaving Home’s release see any trouble in terms of screening it?

Amit: Rephrase that to ‘Were there any easy moments?’ (laughs)

Jaideep: There were only problems. It was very difficult because nothing like this had happened in India. It only happened because of this person in Big Cinemas who loved their music. Asheem’s death had left everyone in a reflective mood and that also contributed to it. I had been holding out for quite some time, the producers were not getting any money back. The turning point was when Asheem collapsed, that was when I decided I’m not going to be waiting anymore. I was beginning to think it might not release on the big screen. I would’ve released it on DVD or online. At the end of the day, how much can you wait?

WTS: Would you ever attempt something like this again?

Jaideep: I would never do it again. It’s not worth it; it’s just too much. It was worth it only for Asheem – we caught something really special on tape. I’m very proud of this film but it’s not worth trying these kind of projects in India. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.

Susmit: I must say hats off to him. With all odds going against him, he made it happen. In my opinion, there will be a time when it will see a second release.

Amit: 100 percent. Maybe he’ll wait until one of us says tata bye bye! (laughs)

Jaideep: Don’t say that! Don’t even talk like that.

Interview with Indian Ocean

WTS: What do you think will finally shift the focus of people from music from movies to live performances?

Amit: That will happen slowly. I think our entry into Bollywood will change that, how ironic huh?

Susmit: In Bollywood, the advertising strength is so huge – it’s a proper industry. If there’s somebody doing equal promotion for live performances then definitely. Why do you think Black Friday became so popular? It’s the same people!

Rahul: Because of the advertising focus, the media goes gaga over it – they don’t have a mind of their own and only go after TRP. Bollywood has a huge reach, there’s no denying that.

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Priyanka Shetty

Priyanka Shetty is the founder of What's The Scene? Follow Priyanka on Twitter @priyanka_shetty

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