A new wave in the Ocean

Indian Ocean on their new album “Tandanu” where they have collaborated with artistes they admire

Updated - May 26, 2014 01:18 pm IST

Published - May 25, 2014 04:39 pm IST - new delhi

Over more than two decades of its existence, Indian Ocean has collaborated with several people on stage – “spontaneously and randomly without any preparation,” as Rahul Ram says. But a studio album comprising collaborations breaks new ground in Indian Ocean territory.

Tandanu, the band's seventh studio album, 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 is being 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”.

“The idea that we will collaborate with people has been with us for four-five years now but we just could not do it,” says Amit Kilam. “We wanted to do it in a fairly decent manner. 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.”

After the death of Asheem Chakravarty, a founding member of Indian Ocean and its percussionist and vocalist, there was a lull in the productivity of the band. The members were meeting less frequently, and there was a feeling that the band was marking time, explains Ram.

With the departure of Susmit Sen, and the coming in of his replacement Nikhil Rao last year, Indian Ocean could revitalise itself. The band, which now comprises Ram on bass guitar and vocals, Kilam on drums and vocals, Himanshu Joshi on vocals, Tuheen Chakravarty on tabla and Rao on guitar, started rehearsing in April 2013 and work on the album got going in October.

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.

Talking about “Roday”, a song about displacement performed in collaboration with Vishal Dadlani, Kilam says, “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. “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,” they say.

“Tandanu”, featuring Shankar Mahadevan, is a folk song from the Belur-Halebid 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,” Kilam says.

Talking about why this was chosen as the name of the album, Rahul says, “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 sounded like it had something to do with music,” says Kilam. “If you Google it you won’t get anything except this,” Tuheen chips in, as others murmur their approval. ‘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.

Ram offers an explanation. “At that time who the hell knew that we’d be here, man.”

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