Growing up with Greenday and Linkinpark, which were the fancy Dove soaps of music (which soap do you use? That expensive one), you kinda get used to hearing a certain kind of ‘noise’ when you think of rock. So when you listen to an 80s fusion Indian band for the first time, the first thing you think of is the elevator tunes. But see, that’s not our fault the hospitality industry has reduced classical, carnatic and jazz to that status. And, seriously, why hasn’t anyone tried to stop them?
All that aside, the point is, to understand why these guys are a big deal, if you were born around the time they made their debut, or after, you’ll have to start right at the beginning. It helps if you’ve trained in the traditional forms. Otherwise, you’re a philistine, and welcome to the distinguished land of sense.
Well anyway, after you’ve spent the week listening to all sorts of bands, in an avid attempt to understand the Indian scene, and joined a bunch of forums where you ask really nice people lots of weird questions, you get a general idea. There is this branch of Indian music called fusion rock, but it’s not so much rock as much as it is a mix of Qawwali, old school rock and Indian jazz. And almost all the bands of the genre preferred to emphasize their roots, using only Indian and Hindustani strains and instruments. Mythologies were borrowed from the many religions of our country for lyrics.
Most of them used folk rhymes as their base too. And while it sounded very mellow, it was quite nice. Kind of like a wine high. It worked. Then that age ended, and the lulling melodies ceased over time. And our music is considered crass by the virtuoso, and while the regular eight beat with a lot of screams is groovy, you’d understand when dad says it sounds okay but it’s crap compared to what it used to be.
Indian ocean was one of those maverick bands. They gave the borrowed genre it’s desi uniqueness. When they first debuted, in 1990, with sophisticated club fusion, they owned the place in a week. Lead singer Rahul Ram’s voice gives the band it’s regal standard, his deep baritone holding soulful notes to perfection. The band sounds great, but you’ll have to remember they’re all trained. Which makes it so much cooler when you hear them soft rocking, blessedly non-repetitive. They don’t colour in line.
Asheem Chakravarty, their powerful bassist, is no more. But the legacy he’s left with remains intact. The team comprises of Rahul Ram, Amit Kilam, Himanshu Joshi, and younger members Nikhil Rao and Tuheen Chakravarty.
They’ll be playing, in Pune, at the Classic Rock Coffee Company. Get your tickets and move it.