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Indian Ocean – For the Love of Music

We’re back in Delhi people! This time to take a plunge in the Indian Ocean. Indian Ocean is often regarded as one of the pioneers of Indie Music Scene in India. Formed back in 1984 as a couple of musicians, it soon evolved into a four member band comprising Susmit Sen (Guitar), late Asheem Chakravarty (Tabla, Drums, Vocals), Rahul Ram (Bass Guitar, Vocals) and Amit Kilam (Vocals, Percussion).

The bands featured on Indie Rhythms thus far, have largely sung in English. Indian Ocean on the other hand, is a fusion band that aims to bring together a whole range of music genres that accompany the desi Hindi language.


Amidst their numerous gigs, recordings and tours; Rahul Ram of Indian Ocean managed to share with us a little about Indian Ocean…

Usha: How does a regular creative session go? It’d be cool to know how you guys work in creating magic.

IO: We guys sit about in a rough circle facing each other and then we jam.  This usually results in nothing great, but every now and then something emerges (Could be a rhythm structure, a guitar riff, a bass line a vocal line, anything), which we all say “Ah” to and try and take forward, teasing it about, playing with it, going here, there, everywhere, and something MAY emerge.  Sometimes the bare bones of a new piece may emerge in half an hour, sometimes the idea may float for years before it becomes something, or an idea may just die or fade away.

Once a basic idea is formed, we can develop it over days, weeks, months, years, honing it till we are finally halfway pleased with it.  Then we play versions of it at concerts and further refine it. It’s an infinite process.  This does not stop even after we record a song, it keeps evolving slowly at live concerts, witness ‘Jhini’ or ‘Kandisa’ on the CD versus on the live DVD.

Usha: How does it feel to have a movie made about Indian Ocean? Does it reflect the real Indian Ocean?

IO: It feels great! Obviously! And that too, the first movie made on an Indian band to get released on the big screen!

The “Real” Indian Ocean is something that no one movie can possibly show completely. How do you tell a story over twenty years in the making, in a 110 minute film? The filmmaker gets snapshots at a certain time, perhaps a film shot ten years back would have told a somewhat different story.  Plus, notice that the shot selection, shots themselves, and very importantly, the editing is all in the hands of the filmmaker.

This is NOT a film that was commissioned by us, neither did we have any say in the way the story was presented, so it’s HIS (Jaideep Varma, the director) version of the Indian Ocean story.  If you had shot the film, it would have been different.  And, as all you Rashomon fans know, “Reality” is a construct, and everyone’s is different!

Usha: When the band was first formed in the 90s, what was Indian Ocean working towards achieving? After releasing several albums, touring both in India and Abroad, what is Indian Ocean working towards now?

IO: I don’t think we had an aim when the band was formed, apart from making music and doing some concerts. Then perhaps only Susmit had an ambition to do something more, something different, and he managed to get us an album deal with HMV in 1992. Even post that, the band seemed to exist more in drift mode: making new music, playing a few concerts.  Things picked up in the mid-90s when we started playing a lot more concerts and touring all over India.

Today: We are releasing a new album in July. It’s called 16/330 Khajoor Road and will be given away free on the net one song a month. We have also completed two songs for a film called Peepli Live (Aamir Khan Productions) that will be released in July as well and a tour of the USA, Canada, China and Indonesia in August-October. Yes, I see you’re in Shanghai, so we shall most probably be playing there last week of September. (At this juncture, you ought to imagine Usha grinning oh so widely.)

But these are not aims or goals, just milestones. Our aim remains the same: to make more music that we like and to play it to people all over the world.  We may start collaborating with other musicians a lot more than we’ve done in the past. And we are also in the process of looking for a singer and a percussionist since our Asheem passed away last December.

Usha: Which song from your released albums would you recommend for someone who hasn’t heard of Indian Ocean before?

IO: Nice tough one! Depends on the person actually, and the mood! ‘Kandisa’ works for a lot of people, some love ‘Hille Le’, others find ‘Bhor’ fascinating, and a surprisingly large number of people know of us through ‘Bandeh’.  So take your pick!

Usha: When is the next album releasing?

IO: The next album, actually, comprises of songs we have been composing and recording since 2006-7. In a way, it represents the last few songs that Asheem participated in composing, recording and performing. The last song we managed to record with him before his passing was a song called Darte Ho; which is also part of the Peepli Live album and we’re asking Amir if he will let us add it to our album as well. Which he probably would since he’s basically a very nice guy.

Previous albums…

Their previous albums include Indian Ocean (1992), Desert Rain (1997), Kandisa (2000), Jhini (2004) and Black Friday(2004) -For an Hindi Language film called Black Friday.

The first time I came across Indian Ocean’s music was early last year. I was first introduced to a particular number titled Hay Riya from their 1992 album, Indian Ocean. The stringed instrument accompaniment in it remains my favorite till date.

Another favorite of mine and perhaps one of their widely known compositions would be Bharam Bhap Ke (Black Friday). This particular number starts with a solo instrument with an emo feel to it. It reminded me so much of Evanescence. The manner in which her Hello began and how Bharam Bhap Ke started, they kinda evoked the same emotions. Apart from that, both artistes are drastically different on so many levels!

For their stand alone non-lyrical compositions, the highly recommended ones would be Euphoria and Going to ITO from Desert Rain. The familiar Indian drum beats dancing to the wave of the guitar, was indeed a pleasure to be immersed in. Being a fan of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his likes, I took an instant liking to many of their other songs too. As per all the posts in this series, I have a personal favorite amongst the many songs that came out of this band as well. And that one has been narrowed down to Kaun from Kandisa.

To be on track with Indian Ocean’s upcoming gigs and tour dates; add them on and

One can also listen to their music at their official website: or Or better yet, get down to your nearest HMV equivalent and purchase their album.

Thank You for tuning in!

Note: Image Courtesy of Indian Ocean

Indie Rhythms by Ginger Chai hopes to explore the Indie music scene across India by bringing you information on existing as well as upcoming Indie bands across the nation. Their music, previous albums, upcoming albums, events, and if we are super lucky; we hope to bring you interviews with the respective bands.  Hopefully, after this, you start rendering your ears to their compositions. Only then will Ginger Chai be able to consider this attempt a success.

0 15 June, 2010 Chai Time, Music June 15, 2010

About the author

Born in Singapore and currently pursuing Medicine in China, Usha Amudhan has to her credit Indie Rhythms series in GingerChai. She also dabbles with various other genres of writing. Follow @ushaonthego

View all articles by Usha Amudan


  1. Gyanban

    Brilliant fusion – they almost reached a cult status with Kandisa.
    Their music is just so trance-like. Am a big fan.

    Good to see this review.

  2. Mani padma

    Yayyy! Genie way to go! You simply rock! I wish I could jig here! For all who don’t know who genie is- she is our own genius Usha! A true genius

      1. mani

        “Good to see this review” This were your exact words. So in the end you appreciated your own review? :giggle: Ok! Maybe you should start adding footnotes in your comments too. :giggle:

  3. Swaroop

    Kandisa Alahaye, Kandisa Esana
    Kandisa Alahaye, Kandisa Esana
    Aalam Balam Aalam, Aamenu Aamen
    Sliha Mar Yose, Almaduba Kudisa
    Aangen Dhanusa, Nehave Dukharana

    Thanks for the IO interview. Am a big time fan of them 🙂

  4. Pranjal

    i must confess i was woefully ignorant about this band till now… but after reading this interview i downloaded kandisa and man, it’s wonderful!!
    by the way usha, this interview must have required a lot of hard work… u inspire me!!

  5. Richa

    Nice work, Me and my husband are big fan of Indian Ocean and we even name our daughter “Reva” after listening to their song “Ma Rewa”.

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