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Interviews |  23 Jan 2016 18:21 |  By RnMTeam

Neither capable or ambitious to make masala music: Indian Ocean

MUMBAI: A Saturday evening in one of Mumbai’s busiest market entities may not necessarily provide anything unique or offer you reasons to change your plans and consider a visit, unless it involves marketing gimmicks that shout ‘Sale’ or the relaunch of a tried-tested-and-failed food outlet from the West. But on 23 January, Pheonix Market City has ensured the fourth Saturday of the first month of the New Year makes news for reasons beyond shopping.

At Dublin Square, five bands/artists would perform back-to-back throughout the evening, before eventually making way for the headlining act of the night with the pioneers of the fusion-rock genre, Indian Ocean.

No one (or at least no one who connects with their sound) would deny Indian Ocean’s impact and encouraging contribution towards society through song-writing that has upped the benchmark to a level that aspiring musicians can only dream of. Indian Ocean’s last contribution came with the soundtrack of Masaan, a movie partly based on the devilish traits of the caste divisions that continue to suffocate and affect lives in modern India.

Art could be commercial pot-boilers intended to capitalise on its strength or a medium of expression for stories that would go, otherwise, unheard or unseen. Indian Ocean’s art falls in the latter section, and so do the movies that the band had its music associated with. Since its inception, the band’s experimentation of fusing ideas was not limited only to its sound. Known for its social awareness, the band has never focused on political issues and intends to maintain their priorities. Emphasising on the same, the band answered in a joint mail, “We are a socially and politically conscious band, our views and our politics are separate and personal. We don’t necessarily compose songs saying okay let’s make a statement about this issue or that issue. The causes we associate with are usually social and never political, we keep politics out of the music, which is why we have never performed for a religious or a political organization, our intention is to keep it that way. So we haven’t found it difficult as such.”

Indian Ocean’s filmography includes Black Friday, Gulaal, Peepli Live, Bhoomi, Satyagraha, Masaan and few others- the movies that cannot compete with the Bajrangi Bhaijans’ of the world, and the band understands the pattern, in fact, works in their favour. Masaan ran in multiplexes for over five weeks, and the band holds Phantom Production and the audiences responsible for its success at the theatres.

“It is silly to expect that they will do the same amount of business or have the same appeal. I don’t think the director / producers even had that in mind when they made the film,” explains the band, when asked if the success or failure of the movie they have been associated with, affects their future decisions.

“We make music our way, and the film-makers that approach us want us because we sound a certain way and they feel that sound works with the ethos of their film. We are actually incapable of making what you call commercial masala music. So this works for us, we neither have the ambition nor what it takes to make the kind of music commercial cinema needs,” the band further added.

The band has begun work on its next album that would be out once every member is “convinced the tracks are ready”, and the process to achieve the unified satisfaction involves a lot of jamming and practice. ‘Tandanu’ was Indian Ocean’s first work that did not involve Susmit Sen’s guitars or vocal contributions from Asheem Chakravarty (who passed away in 2009). On life after Asheem and Susmit Sen, Indian Ocean credited their replacements that brought not only fresh sound, but ensured that the ideology of the band remains unstirred. Citing Nikhil Rao as an example, the band puts ‘Tandanu’ as an example of how the new sound was welcomed and acknowledged. “We didn’t expect Nikhil to play exactly what Susmit did and he has his own take on the songs. We feel that this has actually helped in evolving the sound of the band. We love the new sound, and honestly, the people seem to love it as well. ‘Tandanu’ as an album has done immensely well.”

The recent developments (or the lack of them) in the socio-political system of the country have made news for all the wrong reasons. The band’s bassist, Rahul Ram believes the only way to deal with the bias and injustice boils down to one factor - rise beyond these accidents of birth and build a future that is devoid of these unnecessary labels. The band collectively believes that the time is overdue to introduce music in academia, an opinion earlier echoed by AR Rahman and Ilaiyaraaja.

Indian Ocean returns to Mumbai with the Daddy’s All Bar Jamm gig at Pheonix Marketcity in Kurla. The other bands and artists include - Bombay Bassment, The Colour Compound, Kanchan Daniel & The Beards, M. Mat and Jehan.