Indian Ocean bass guitarist Rahul Ram tells Harshini Vakkalanka the band has evolved to putting more thought into one note.
“We have a new guitar player who is interesting because he has a few Carnatic touches. We don’t often get the chance do thoughtful, quieter, contemplative pieces and we expect the audience at the Friday Review November Fest to be a little different. So this concert may be a little unusual because we will be playing complex pieces that we normally don’t play,” says Rahul Ram, bass guitarist and one of the band’s oldest members since their inception in the 90s.
Indian Ocean, has over five albums to their credit, Desert Rain (1997), Kandisa (2000), Jhini (2004), and 16/330 Khajoor Road (2010), and have also composed for films such as Black Friday and Peepli Live. These albums have featured other band members, artistes such as Asheem Chakravarthy and Susmit Sen alongside Amit Kilam and Rahul Ram, who also perform globally.
The band now features Nikhil Rao on the guitars, Amit Kilam on drums, vocals, gabgubi, recorder and clarinet, Himanshu Joshi on the vocals and Tuheen Chakravorty on tabla and percussion along with Rahul.
One of the pieces that the band will be playing, ‘From The Ruins’, has never been recorded in the studio. “The lyrics are in Sanskrit and the song is about renewal. It’s about going from a bad place into a better one. We will also be playing ‘Nam Myo Ho’, a song from our fourth album Jhini, which speaks of the night Gautam Buddha decided to leave his house, his wife and child. The song has chants from the Soka Gakkai Buddhists, with lyrics in Hindi and Bhilali which is the language of the Bhilala tribals in the Narmada valley.”
And complex pieces, according to Rahul, are those that are not easy to do on stage because they require attention. Everybody does the harmony and chorus. ‘From the ruins’ is a complex piece for the guitar player yet it requires everybody’s attention. It’s not something you can just get up and sing.”
Over the decades, what the band has learnt it is not about speed or complexity; but about learning to give more in less. “As you grow up, you start thinking more and the tendency is to play less because you realize that it’s about making things simple. It is about putting more thought in every note. And I have become more at ease with the instrument and the stage, which makes it more fun.”
Indian Ocean is known for their music that explores spirituality and the environment. “Different people have different interests. Asheem, for instance, was interested in spirituality. It’s all things that we feel naturally that express themselves.”
Their music-making is equally spontaneous. “We just sit in a circle and jam, new ideas come from there and we just follow them, whether they come from the guitar, bass, vocals, drums or tabla. Nothing is thought out.” And they spend time following the idea until they are happy with it. “There are some songs which we haven’t found an end to yet. But we know it will happen someday.”
Indian Ocean have not yet found a definition for the music they make, it’s not rock or fusion or rock fusion. “We haven’t found a name for kind of music, we leave it to whomever to call it whatever they want. It’s unusual music so people all over the world like it. We performed for an audience of 1,000 people, with four Indians in Russia and they loved the music. We performed for 2,000 kids in Vietnam, they did not speak English and they loved it. We seem to strike a chord with people wherever we play.”
As of now the band is looking forward to see how people will respond to their music with the new guitarist. “Since Nikhil joined the band, we have been going through all our material again, doing songs we stopped doing. Over the years, we have seen a lot of change and it makes life interesting for us. Hopefully the audience will feel this too.”
Venue: The Music Academy
Date and Time: November 16, 7.30 p.m.
November 15: Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia with Pt. Birju Maharaj & Kaushiki Chakrabarty
November 16: Indian Ocean
November 17: Vikku Vinayakaram, Vidya Shah & the Manganiyars
November 18: Mandolin Rajesh, Jayateerth Mevundi, Rakesh Chourasia & Trichur Brothers
November 19: Coco's Lunch
November 20: Monsorate Brothers
All tickets can be purchased online at www.thehindu.com/frnf2013
Facebook at Friday Review November Fest