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An Indo-Rock Band

















Indian Ocean is an Indian rock band formed in New Delhi in 1990 by Susmit Sen and Asheem Chakravarty. They are known for being the pioneers of fusion rock genre in India. Indian Ocean Band now comprises of five members – Rahul Ram (vocals and bass), Sushmit Sen (guitars), Himanshu Joshi (vocals), Amit Kilam (drums and flute) and Tuheen Chakravorty (percussionist). It is an experimental genre, fusing raga (traditional Indian tunes) with rock music, guitars and drums, sometimes using Indian folk songs. The band has also been described by some music critics as “Indo-rock fusion with jazz-spiced rhythms that integrate shlokas, sufism, environmentalism, mythology and revolution”. Indian Ocean stands by their own brand of music and always have firmly believed that they would play only music composed by them and never do ‘covers’ – no matter how extra-ordinary the track may be. And the genre of their music, which is inspired from Classical Hindustani Music, is their USP and sets them apart from the others. Also I am very much interested in Hindustani classical music and when I listened to Indian Ocean, for the first time, I was immediately in love with them. That is why I chose Indian Ocean as my publication topic.


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Susmit Sen aka Rana was born in Patna on 23 April 1962. His family moved to Delhi in 1966. His father gifted him his first guitar when he was 14. Talking about music, Susmit says, “Somehow I got introduced to Indian classical music and that is the time I got to know what it feels to be transported into a completely different world by just hearing music. Since I never got any kind of a training I tried to similate that meditative quality.” Susmit Sen is an Indian guitarist formerly part of Indian Ocean, an Indian fusion rock band, which he co-founded with lead vocalist Asheem Chakravarty in 1990. Susmit’s single-mindedness would be the band’s guiding force in the fragile early days. Handpicking every member, he would keep the band together with a fierc belief. Those early years of persistance would lay the foundation for music that refuses to date. About the band he says, “We call it frock as a joke. It’s folk plus rock. We play western instruments but we don’t necessarily play the in western style.”

Somehow I got introduced to Indian classical music and that is the time I got to know what it feels to be transported into a completely different world by just hearing music.

Indian Ocean Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band

susmit SEN

Indian Ocean Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band


Talking about his life, Asheem says, earlier I used to work with a Bengali band called Niharika but I left the band. Then in 1984/85, long time back, Susmit and I had met at a friend’s house, then he asked me to come over his place and he told me that let’s see if we can jam together. He had some compostions. I heard him playing at that time. Very raw obviously. Almost as if he didn’t know how to play well. But his style of playing I quite liked. He had an ambition where as I didn’t. So in early days, he composed the basic melodies and I contributed rhythm. There were no vocals. Our first performance as a duo was at Roorkee in 1986.The whole auditorium was packed. And whoever came to perform, no matter how good he/she was, they were booed out of the stage. So I told Susmit, see I don’t think that the music we do is going to survive a minute here. We didn’t know what was going to it us finally. The curtains came down and we went on stage. I was panicking. I never felt paranoid on stage ever. I figured within a minute the audience would want to throw us out. So we started with our track- Euphoria. 15 sec, 20 sec, people are not moving. Pin drop silence, because probably people had not heard that sound. We couldn’t understand. What the hell is going on but this is something new, we haven’t heard this before was the in general reaction. You wont believe the kind of applause we got after our first compostion. We were supposed to play for an hour, we ended up playing for 2 hours. We thought that whatever we are making, we are liking it and so many people are appreciating it so kuch to baat hogi! And then the band was officially formed in 1990. Susmit’s father suggested the name ‘Indian Ocean’.

It was a high time. I quit my job and I decided to completely focus on music. I told my wife, abhi nahi toh kabhi nahi.



Indian Ocean Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band

Indian Ocean Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band


Initially there were seven members in the band.


“Whole lot of people said that look you are taking a huge risk. If you do not play covers people wouln’d know what you are playing and you will be hooted out.”


“We wanted to show the world what we were capable of.”


“What exited me was the concept that we could do something Indian with western instruments.”


Indian Ocean Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band


“It was one of those things I did as a hobby and so I said no studies first.”


“Had I taken up the lead, I wouldn’t have fit in into Indian Ocean’s set up. So I thought that I should restrain myself to bass playing.”


“When Indian Ocean was starting off they were not afraid of experimenting at all.”

ANIRBAN ROY also played bass.

Three of these original band members left within a year.

Indian Ocean Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band



Indian Ocean Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band

So the first ever recording was done in HMV’s Dumdum studio in Calcutta. It was a purely instrumental album with only 42 secs of vocal. And that to the first note was off. The tracks in that album are Village Damsel, Out Of The Blues, Melancholic Ecstacy, Going To ITO, Torrent, No Comebacks, Brisk Lonely Walk. The album was just called ‘Indian Ocean’. But we did not get any kind of a breakthrough. During sound check, we saw a DAT tape and we thought that let’s try recording on that tape. So we bought the DAT tape from Palika Bazaar. And around 199596, we had also started some commercial

work and that exposed us to the idea of recording. Earlier we used to record for our own purpose. We had done one more concert by then and we realised that the quality was really good. And one friend of ours wanted that recording. So we gave him that tape and he said its really good and you should release it. So Susmit took that tape and went to his friend in Palika Bazaar who was a distributor and he said that he will distribute it. And he sold 40,000 copies in one year, the highest selling record by any Indian band at the time. And we just got really lucky with that recording.



Desert Rain Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band

Rahul got an M.Sc. in Chemistry from IIT Kanpur after getting the bachelor’s degree in Chemistry at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. Prior to that, he completed his schooling at St. Xavier’s School, Delhi. Following a Ph.D. (1986–90) in Environmental Toxicology from Cornell University, which he attended on an Andrew White scholarship, he became an activist with the Narmada Bachao Andolan (1990–95). Later, Rahul Ram went to America to learn to play the Alto saxophone, which he intends to bring to the Indian Ocean band’s music. About music he says, “I started learning guitar when I was probably in class 9. I used to play in college bands where I got intoduced to a variety of music and different bands. Then, in 1991, Susmit met Rahul Ram, a former classmate of his at St Xavier’s School, and persuaded him to join replacing Anirban Roy on bass.” Rahul’s bass playing moves smoothly – 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 Ocean’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.

In 1990, I joined the Narmada Bachao Aandolan. In the Narmada Valley, I lost myself in an altogather different world. I was learning all the time. It taught me a lot of things.

rahul RAM

Desert Rain Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band


In 1994, drummer Shaleen Sharma left the band. He was replaced by Amit Kilam who was much younger than the other band members. Barely out of his teens, he was still taking his college exams. Shaleen Sharma decided to leave the band because of financial issues and he also thought that the band won’t be a big thing. Amit was actually a guitar player but for some school competition he had to play drums. This line-up with Susmit Sen, Asheem Chakravarty, Rahul Ram and Amit Kilam became the most recognisable and the most successful in the band’s timeline so far. There was a point where Amit was playing drums for Euphoria band and Indian Ocean at the same time. And he made it very clear that if ever he has to choose between Euphoria and Indian Ocean, he would always pick Indian Ocean beacuse he had joined Indian Ocean before he had joined Euphoria. And now he does not regret the decision. Amit’s drumming is a happy balance between the conventional and unconventional. His playing always adds to the composition rather than overpowering it. He incorporates longer Indian rhythm cycles into his drumming, moving in cycles of 6 ,8, 12 etc rather than the standard 4/4 or ¾. An instinctive musician with a great ability to make tunes, Amit plays almost any instrument he picks up. On stage he plays the gabgubi, the recorder and the clarinet, but we know him as a keyboard, guitar and bass player as well. His vocals have an exciting texture that is being heard more often on our compositions of late.


Desert Rain Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band



I still think that I am a guitarist at heart and a drummer by profession.

amit KILAM

Desert Rain Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band


The next album was ‘Desert Rain’. It was recorded completely by accident. It was a live recording at annual SAHMAT show at Mandi House in Delhi for Safdar Hashmi who was a communist playwright and director, and was killed by some political party. The band performed on the day he was attacked. After waiting 7 hours to get on stage, we played an inspired concert that was well received by the crowd. Quite fortuitously, we noticed a DAT recorder, bought a tape and recorded the concert. No major record label was willing to take the risk of releasing a live album, and so a record company label called ‘Independent Music’ was formed to release the album. Naresh Bhatia was the person instrumental behind the release of Desert Rain. And for which A whole new music company has to be created to release the album because


Desert Rain Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band

established record companies believed that Indian bands cannot make successful live albums. It was recorded and mixed live by sound engineer Vikram Mishra on that DAT tape. The quality was so impressive that almost a decade later, it still continues to sell. Released on cassettes and CDs, Desert Rain was a landmark album for its time and even today. Ten years later, in 2007, Desert Rain is on the UK iTunes charts at number 2 in the fusion genre. The album was released as a limited-edition copy in 1997 for circulation around Delhi. It was re-released in 2002 given the increasingly massive popularity of the band. The songs, Desert Rain, Euphoria, Going to ITO, Village Damsel, From The Ruins, Boll Weevil, Melancholic Ecstacy, all are loved by the audience.


Then Kandisa released and it became one of our most successful albums. There are seven songs- Kya Maloom, Maa Rewa, Leaving Home, Hille Re, Khajuraho, Kaun, Kandisa. Maa Rewa is a song that Rahul learnt when he was working in Narmada Valley. ‘Rewa’ is another name of Narmada River. It a tribal song of Madhya Pradesh. Kandisa is also a song which Rahul learnt from his friend who was a teacher in Himalayas and used to sing it when he was drunk. Kandisa is a prayer in Aramaic language. It is around 300 years old. Many people ask us that how do you end up picking these songs as they are very different and unheard of. So we just come and play or jam aimlesly. There is no set target as such. The only aim is that at sometime something will become a song. Similar thing happened with Kandisa. For Kandisa, we had made something else altogather. There was no vocal. And we played that version in Delhi at a concert. And one day while jamming we started improvising more and Rahul added his own lyrics and we realised that this sounds better. So that’s how that bit got left out and this became the song. And then Kandisa was reborn. In 1999, during the making of album Kandisa, khajuraho was turned a 1000 years old. So there was a millenium celebration. And we had asked us to make a composition


Kandisa Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band

for that. So it was a commissioned project of government. And that led to a beautiful thing that we found our lyricist Sanjeev Sharma. We loved his style and we asked him to write for us.And after that project he still writes for us. This was also a chance where we did many abroad shows. Our first ever abroad show was in London which was not well organized at all. They had given us only three mics. And we had to run and arrange everything. That was followed by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where we played 18 concerts in 14 days. And in 2002, we performed across four continents: Australia and New Zealand, USA, UK, Indonesia, Singapore and we did 40 concerts in six months. But our favourite abroad concert is when we performed in Japan and Indonesia. nearly 5000 people were there and most of them were foreigners. And when someone from outside your culture gives you validation, that makes you feel good. By this time, there was a huge fad of music videos in India. many people were making videos and we also thought that we should also make a music video because it is a great opportunity to reach a large number of audience but we did not have money at that time so we could not make the video. and over the period of time, we realised that just us playing live is probably the best video we can have!

JHINI 2003

Himanshu Joshi is a singer, music composer, poet, writer, photographer and filmmaker. Greatly influenced by his uncle Mohan Upreti - a folk theatre and music legend - Himanshu started training in Hindustani classical music at a very young age. He is a part of Indian Ocean now. Himanshu is also an avid poet and short-story writer, choosing Hindi as his language of creative expression. An alumnus of MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, he coowns MIME TV Pvt Ltd, a film production outfit that produces corporate films, chat shows, game shows, news & current affairs programs and documentaries. Himanshu has been singing with Indian Ocean since October 2009 and it has been an exhilarating experience. But it all happened very accidently. After the untimely demise of band’s founder band member, the extremely talented Asheem Chakravorty, Himanshu was asked to jam with the band by Susmit Sen. The initial experiment worked and Himanshu has been with the band ever since. Himanshu now balances two careers – music and filmmaking.

As far as music is concerned i feel that some formal training is important. It helps you open your range.


Jhini Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band

himanshu JOSHI

Jhini Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band


Tuheen’s fantastic sense of percussion manifested itself when he was just a toddler. Tabla, the instrument he was trained in, remains his first love, but he’s very much at home on the cajón, dholak, kanjira… you name it! Unlike the rest of the band, Tuheen has performed with an enormous range of musicians over the last twenty odd years, and experienced a bewildering variety of situations. Tuheen’s powerful voice can increasingly be heard in our chorus parts.In December 2009, we suffered the demise of founding member Asheem Chakravarty for whom we haven’t yet found a permanent replacement. There were no auditions for these replacements. But then we found Gyan Singh who a great Tabla player. And then the concerts which Gyan cound not come for, Tuheen played with us as per Gyan’s suggestion. But eventually we fixed Tuheen as our member. Nothing to take away from Gyan but Gyan was a Tabla player and Tuheen is a Percussionist and is much younger. And we needed that kind of a versatility and passion. And that is how Tuheen became a permanent member of Indian Ocean.


Jhini Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band

I play a lot of instruments like Tabla, Dholak, Kanjira, Drums, etc. But Tabla is my first love.


Jhini Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band


We made our name with indie Hindi music, but the big world of Bollywood soon took notice. Not quite Bollywood, Bollywood though. Indie filmmaker Anurag Kashyap was the first to be intrigued by our kind of music, and signed the band for his movie Black Friday. and when Anurag approached us for our music, we were given complete freedom to compose it. In recent years, background music in movies has changed drastically and finally it's getting its due. Musicians usually compose the background music for a film within a week, but we took over three months with Black Friday and the response was amazing. And Black Friday became our biggest hit. Bandeh was the most successful song ever. We got more attention because of this song. We went on to sing two songs for actor

and filmmaker Aamir Khan's Peepli Live! also, one of which, Des Mera, was an adaptation of a song from the album Jhini. We used the basic melody and chorus of that song, because that was what Anusha Rizvi, the director of the film, wanted. And Sanjeev Sharma and Swanand Kirkire added some lyrics. Later we also composed for films like Satyagraha, Powerless, Mumbai Cutting, Gulaal, Masaan, etc. And we also have a film about ourselves. Well, a documentary. It is called Leaving Home - the Life and Music of Indian Ocean, charts the journey of the band in its first 20 years. Produced and directed by Jaideep Verma, the film showcases our journey through concerts, stage performances, casual performances and rehearsals in 16/330 Khajoor Road, a house where we jam in Delhi.

Tragedy struck in 2009. En route back from shows abroad that September, Asheem went into a coma at Qatar airport. Asheem was hospitalised in Doha for a brief period, but was recovering well. And Qatar autorities were very cooperative. We are grateful to them. In a way, Asheem was the glue that held you together. He was this incredibily funny guy. When he passed whatever clashes we had amongst us were pretty visible and then the band was also about to split but then we were also very devastated at that time. But we still had to perform. Also we had to continue the projects which Asheem was part of. We had many shows coming up and we also had to think about his wife and kid. So there was ablsolutely no time for grieve. by the time he died we had done some 10 shows in 2 and a half months. And then we brought Asheem back to Delhi. He died after being in coma for nearl two and a half months in New Delhi in the afternoon on 25 December 2009.


Jhini Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band

16/330 KHAJOOR ROAD 2012

I still feel I am a starry-eyed fan of the Indian Ocean, jamming with them and can’t get enough of the band.


16/330 Khajoor Road Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band

nikhil RAO

A couple of months ago when an offer to join the band came his way, Nikhil was of the idea that the popular band wanted to function like a duo-guitarist band. Nikhil Rao is a Telugu who replaces Susmit Sen after Susmit decided to leave the band and continue work on his project. Nikhil formally met the band in Singapore when he was studying. He recollects, “I jammed with them for a while and felt so good about it. This was the first time I had met Susmit. He is a sweet guy and invited me over to his studio to jam whenever I was in town. After that jamming session I didn’t know I would be a part of the band one fine day. What a band it is; I am still amazed at the kind of music they churn out almost spontaneously.” However, for this engineer, music was not in his sphere of thoughts of a career option. For Nikhil, music was more of a passion and something that was played as a stress buster. “I am a self-taught musician, so music didn’t fit into my ideology of eking out a living. But since I was interested in Indian music, I took a few basic lessons in Hindustani music. I would play almost every day, all by myself, so that I do not lose the connect,” says Nikhil. Nikhil’s first tasted Indian Ocean’s music when he was in college. Having heard of the Indian band and their music, Nikhil didn’t want to miss an opportunity to see and hear them play, “but we had our exam the following day and no one was willing to travel 40 km one way to reach the concert venue. Finally I made it and I am glad I did. I also wrote my exams the following day,” he laughs. As one from the band, Nikhil say Rahul and Amit are hilarious and intelligent at the same time. Right now, Nikhil doesn’t have the time to think of anything else besides his full-time commitment to Indian Ocean. 16/330 Khajoor Road Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band


Susmit decided to quit the group. Susmit- "Right now, I am at my creative best. Indian Ocean is a sound and style we created. After more than 27 years of playing, I feel that I am brimming with more compositions, more music - but in a grammar and style that is different from Indian Ocean. So I feel restricted now, as I am sure must be the case with the others as well. I strongly believe that my moving on will be beneficial for both Indian Ocean and my creative expression as well I have already come out with an individual album, ‘Depths of the Ocean’, which has compositions bearing my signature style of guitar playing. I am collaborating with a bunch of musicians namely Anirban Ghosh, Nikhil Vasudevan, Amit Sharma, Sudhir Rikhari, Rajiv Raja and old friend Gyaan Singh (of Mrigya fame) and creating music with them as ‘The Susmit Sen Chronicles’.” Young guitarist Nikhil Rao will take over the task of carrying on Susmit's legacy in Indian Ocean along with vocalist


Rahul Ram, drummer Amit Kilam and Tuheen and Himanshu. “Nikhil Rao is a promising young guitar player with a lot of Indian-ness in his playing. He will be able to give a lot of impetus to Indian Ocean as he will not only add value to concerts but will also be able to create new music with the band in their signature style.”, says Susmit. Rahul says, “And everyone is pleased. Susmit is pleased because he’s doing what he wants. We are pleased because we’re back to being the band that practises all the time. Nikhil has Carnatic chops, and he likes jazz, in addition to playing the kind of stuff that Susmit plays. Himanshu and Tuheen had never seen Indian Ocean practise. We’re revisiting all the old songs, trying to reinterpret them. Let’s see what happens. I’m sure there will be enough people who will say, without the founders, I won’t listen to Indian Ocean. But I think there will be enough people who say let’s see what it is. And there are enough people who don’t know who the hell we are.”

16/330 Khajoor Road Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band


This is the first Indian Ocean album after both Susmit (left the band in 2013) and Asheem (Chakravarty, passed away in 2009) are no longer there. On the last album, 16/330 Khajoor Road, Asheem sang essentially on all songs. He was a big part of that album. Our new guitar player Nikhil Rao has a style which is very different from that of Susmit’s. Nikhil enjoys Carnatic music and jazz, and he started off as a heavy metal guitarist. So Tandanu has aspects of the Indian Ocean sound but it’s a different Indian Ocean. We don’t want anyone to clone the Indian Ocean sound. We didn’t want a guitarist who would play like Susmit. Amit (Kilam) recommended Nikhil and once again he has proved he made the right choice. Tandanu, the band's seventh studio album marking their 25th year of existence. It has seven songs, featuring seven different collaborators admired and respected by the band. They are Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Vishal Dadlani, Selva Ganesh, Karsh Kale, Shankar Mahadevan, Shubha Mudgal and Kumaresh Rajagopalan. One song was released each week on YouTube and MTV Indies through a short film, intended not as a music video, but as the “story of the song”. We have tried to explore new avenues and try out newer ways to make our music available. The idea that we will collaborate with people has been with us for four-five years now but we just could not do it. We wanted to do it in a fairly decent manner.


Tandanu Indian Ocean, An Indo- Rock Band

We just didn’t want to record one song one fine day and then wait for luck to take us to another guy to make another song after five months...We wanted it to be one complete project. Each of the musicians we have worked with is truly awesome and has contributed immensely to each song. They have taken the tracks to a different level and have actually worked together with us to create the song, rather than just featuring in it. All of the collaborators in the album are people whom we have really admired over many many years and have wanted to work with together. The seven songs in the album range from classical explorations to protest anthems and folk songs. While some songs are a departure from everything we’ve come to associate them with, others are steeped in the band’s past. There are also socio-political referances in these, songs. Talking about “Roday”, a song about displacement performed in collaboration with Vishal Dadlani, it is the most verbose song Indian Ocean ever...It is the first song where there are more lyrics than music. Otherwise we always have 70 per cent music, 30 per cent lyrics. This is the absolute opposite of that. “Cheetu”, for which the percussionist V. Selvaganesh collaborated, is a song Rahul learnt almost 20 years ago when he was an activist with Narmada Bachao Andolan in Madhya Pradesh.

“Gar Ho Sakey”, featuring Shubha Mudgal, is an old-Left anthem of unknown provenance that is still popular with activist groups in North-India. Since this was a song which was known to all of us, the challenge for us was how to turn the whole feel of the song around and how differently could we present it. And we must say we are very happy with the final outcome. “Tandanu”, featuring Shankar Mahadevan, is a folk song from the BelurHalebid region of Karnataka which Rahul first heard from his aunt when he was a kid. It is a song that was made when Asheem and Susmit were in the band, so it’s been with us for a long time. Talking about why this was chosen as the name of the album, we had a huge discussion; it could have been ‘Tandanu’, it could have been ‘Cheetu’ or ‘Roday’...It came down to these three because we like having a name that is instantly separate... Tandanu is just a rhythmic word and has no intrinsic meaning. We quite liked the sound of it, which we feel is very catchy and unique. Tandanu sounded like it had something to do with music. If you Google it you won’t get anything except this. ‘Jhini’, ‘Desert Rain’, ‘Kandisa’ and ‘16/330 Khajoor Road’ would all appear to conform to this logic, but their first, titled ‘Indian Ocean’ (whose subtitle “A musical voyage with no frontiers” is still a great source of mirth for the band), sticks out like a sore thumb.





Village Damsel Out Of The Blues Melancholic Ecstasy Going To ITO Torrent No Comebacks Brisk Lonely Walk

Desert Rain Euphoria Going To ITO Village Damsel From The Ruins Boll Weevil Melancholic Ecstacy







Kya Maloom Maa Rewa Leaving Home Hille Re Khajuraho Kaun Kandisa

Bhor Torrent Jhini Nam Myo Ho Let Me Spesk Des Mera After The War



Chand Shoonya Bondhu Sone Ki Nagri Bula Rahe Darte Ho Jogiya

Gar Ho Sake Behne Do Tandanu Longing Charkha Cheetu Roday




Designed and Edited by Mrunal Kulkarni Guide Prof. J. Menon

Indian ocean  

A publication project done on a band called 'Indian Ocean'. It is a Delhi-based Indo-rock band formed in 1990 by Asheem Chakraborty and Susm...

Indian ocean  

A publication project done on a band called 'Indian Ocean'. It is a Delhi-based Indo-rock band formed in 1990 by Asheem Chakraborty and Susm...