When music came calling


Indian Ocean: Live in Concert

Last weekend, Guwahatians woke up to a concert of a lifetime as Indian Ocean performed live in the city’s premier Racquets and Billiards (R&B) club. For the uninitiated, Indian Ocean is the oldest band of the country, as also the most well-known, having taken Indian sounds to the globe through performances all over. Given the band’s illustrious career and the number of chartbuster hits they have to their credit, it was not surprising to see Guwahati’s music-loving crowd get all heated up as news of their arrival did the rounds. In fact, my phone hardly stopped ringing towards the fag end of last week as enthusiastic fans kept calling at regular intervals to find out if I could somehow manage a ticket or pass for them!

A band renowned for its member’s penchant for experimentation and originality, Indian Ocean has, over the years, evolved a sound of its own – something which cannot be classified under any of the conventional and established genres, and which critics have left under the broad spectrum of ‘Hindustani-rock with jazz-spiced rhythms’. Notwithstanding the genre its music belongs to, the band’s skillful blending of Indian folk songs, classical music, slokas, Sufi, Baul and contemporary melodies with modern instruments has mesmerized people the world over.

The band, however, is no stranger to the Northeast, having performed here on four different occasions throughout their 20-year old existence. Though their performances in the city also include venues like IIT (Guwahati), I particularly remember their performance in Diphu a few years back when they had shared the stage with Karbi fusion band Warklung, which was led by Phuninding – our very own rocker Sadhu. Coming back to their performance in Guwahati last weekend, I was truly amazed to see the growth of the band’s fan club, which has risen by epic proportions. Racquets and Billiards club – the venue for the concert – was packed to the brim that Saturday evening, even as the crowd swayed in a mystic stupor to the quaint chords being strung on stage.

Though I have been following Indian Ocean’s music for quite some time now, I looked forward to their performance this time for a number of reasons; the first being the fact that this was the first time I would be watching them perform as a band after the demise of their founder member and ace percussionist Asheem Chakraborty. Indian Ocean’s very genesis can be traced back to the focused jamming sessions between Asheem and Sushmit, and I wanted to see whether the former’s demise has had any impact on their music. This issue had also come up during the band’s exclusive interaction with The Sentinel earlier in the day when Sushmit had said, “Asheem was the man and face behind many aspects of the band. It is impossible to fill the void left after his demise; he cannot be replaced. We all have to look at a new direction now. Each one of us have our own identities; we have to see whether out own individual identities, when combined, can help give a new dimension to our music.” The band’s line-up consists of Susmit Sen on the guitars, Rahul Ram on the bass, Amit Kilam on the drums and Tushar – the new replacement tablist in place of Asheem.

But all my doubts about any new dimension to their music were put to rest as the band members of Indian Ocean began with a highly spirited rendition of one of their hit tracks, Pau jamin pein aur aasman pe najar. Be it the on-screen chemistry between the members or bassist Rahul Ram’s on stage histrionics – the band simply dazzled throughout their performance that day with the trademark Indian Ocean sound, representing the improvisational depths of Indian classical music and the invigorating intensity of rock. The band was also joined by Papon for a duet in one of their compositions Ma Reva, a eulogy to the Narmada river. The composition is based on a tune Rahul had learnt from local communities on the banks of the river who were engaged in the struggle for self determination against the large, ecologically unfriendly Sardar Sarovar dam. I especially like the jugalbandi towards the end between Rahul, Amit and Tushar, and the same brought everyone to its feet. Bandeh, the song from Black Friday which rode the popularity charts and marked Indian Ocean’s foray into Bollywood, also expectedly struck a fancy with the crowd. The evening ended with the band performing their famous Syrian prayer song Kandisa. Now listening to this song is always special for the same is a rehash of an Aramaic prayer – a 3,000-year old Semitic language believed to have been spoken during the time of Jesus Christ. Knowing that I am listening to a practically “dead song” gives me a real kick, no matter how many times I listen to it. Watching the song being performed live is an altogether different trip in itself.

All in all, a brilliant concert that is bound to remain in our hearts and minds for a long time to come. My heartfelt thanks to the organizers and also R&B Club for creating the perfect ambience for an evening of music.

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Posted on May 18, 2010, in Concerts/ Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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