Hyderabad-bred Nikhil Rao, who replaces Susmit Sen in Indian Ocean, is still in a daze

Nikhil Rao still feels he is a starry-eyed fan of the Indian Ocean, jamming with them and can’t get enough of the band. 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 grew up in the city, at Sitaphalmandi.

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.

His experience at the concert is so fresh in his memory that he turns ecstatic when he says, “In the midst of the concert Amit broke a chord and was taking time to fix it. The other members of the band wanted to jam. And as they were jamming randomly a shaadi-ka-band was passing by. The barati wale band was so loud that they were over powering Indian Ocean’s music; they paused for a while and then started playing along with the band. They were and are simply amazing.”

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.