The “Indian Ocean” of Revolution in Independent Music of the Nation
Art is what and how you take it to be. It could be a means of political propaganda for some, for others, it could be an escape from the mundane reality, while for others like V, it can change forms from bliss to bafflement! Art with a capital “A” has come to constitute a totally different meaning in the contemporary world. While we reminisce on the idyllic nature of the ethereal presentation of art, it is so dynamic that sometimes its various forms become impossible to gauge.
Music is one of the most potent forms of art, and also one of the most dynamic. Always open to experimentation, this form of art invigorates so many sensations in our body that it is probably the form of art that is most loved. One can listen, feel, imagine, introspect, and see, all that with a rhythm in the backdrop. You must be thinking why are we trying to delve deep into “music”, right? Well, the musical genre we are trying to find an entry point of discussion into is “Independent Music”!
History of Independent Music in India
Analogous to the history of the independence of India, music in India also witnessed evolutions. From being influenced by foreigners to realizing the inner potential, fighting for it and finally gaining independence, India witnessed a long period of struggle. In the case of music also we know that many genres were inspired by Western movements, then realized the indigenous potential, only to creatively amalgamate and give birth to something absolutely brilliant.
The history of independent music in India dates back to the early 1980s when bands like The Human Bondage emerged on the scene. Not many of us are aware of such a band coming into existence and producing “rock” music but they were probably the pioneers in the concept of bands in India. This band and alike were heavily influenced by the punk and post-punk movements in the UK and the US, which were the initial steps towards experimenting with the genre and the instrumentalization. Imagine producing music with tabla, sarangi, and electric guitar!
However, it was not until the 1990s that independent music in India began to gain significant recognition. And that primarily happened due to the formation of the band “Indian Ocean”. The genre of independent music officially came to be recognized as a valid genre that had not only an immense scope of experimentation but also a great form to express one’s opinions in an artistically creative way.
In the early 2000s, a number of indie record labels, such as Virgin Records India, Phat Phish Records, and Blue Frog Records, began to emerge, providing a platform for independent artists to release their music. This led to the emergence of a vibrant indie music scene in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore.
One of the key figures in the Indian independent music scene is musician and composer Vishal Dadlani, who co-founded the independent music label Pentagram Music in 2007. The label has released music by a number of Indian indie artists, including Sulk Station, The Lightyears Explode, and Madboy/Mink.
From FanBoying to FanMaking; Indian Ocean’s Journey as Pioneering Artists
It all started in the early 1980s when Asheem Chakravarty played tabla for a Bengali band called Niharika. Sushmit Sen, was a fan of the band Niharika and met Asheem Da during a concert, only to form the band.
“When we first started playing music together, there was just one thing that kept us going – our music.” – Susmit Sen
Fast forward to 1990, when the band recorded a demo tape that impressed HMV and landed them a record deal. With Rahul Ram replacing Anirban Roy on bass, they released their debut album in 1993, which became the highest-selling record by any Indian band then.
Over the years, the band went through several changes in their lineup but continued to make music that resonated with audiences. However, tragedy struck in 2009 when Asheem Da passed away due to cardiac arrest. The band did not announce a permanent replacement for him but brought in Himanshu Joshi and Tuheen Chakravarty to fill in for vocals and percussion respectively.
Despite the loss of their bandmate, Indian Ocean continued to make music and announced the release of their first studio album after Chakravarty’s death, titled “16/330 Khajoor Road”. The album was released in a two-CD pack and featured a new song added each month on their website.
In 2013, Susmit Sen left the band and was replaced by Nikhil Rao. The band continued to create music and received critical acclaim for their work on the soundtrack of the film “Masaan” in 2015.
The Power of Lyrics and Music
As a band, Indian Ocean is known for its unique sound, which blends Indian classical music with rock and jazz influences and so much beyond that. The band’s music often features socially conscious lyrics that tackle issues such as poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.
Indian Ocean has released several albums over the years, including their self-titled debut album in 1993, “Kandisa” in 2000, and “16/330 Khajoor Road” in 2010. The band has also composed music for several films, including the critically acclaimed “Black Friday” and “Masaan” which led to even wider recognition for their unique music style.
Indian Ocean’s contribution to the genre of Independent music cannot be fathomed in mere words! They are the living forefathers of experimentation in music, be it the instruments, the lyrics, the presentation etc. Indian Ocean is one such band that was founded on certain principles and who kept the values intact even after 34 years into the industry. The value of keep growing the Independent music genre and keep experimenting with various elements to break through boundaries.
Back with a BANG!
Indian Ocean is back with a bang!! They are set to release their new album titled “Tu Hai” on the 5th of May and the music lovers can’t talk enough about it! The single “Jaadu Maaya” broke the internet with 10k views in mere 48 hours of the release of the music video on 14th April, 2023. The album features eminent and veteran artists from across the borders, for which the band has to say “Our next song, ‘Iss Tan Dhan’ is a very special track, featuring the extraordinary Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Grammy Award Winner Pandit Vikku Vinayakram, with lyrics borrowed from Sant Kabir’s timeless poem that’s relevant to this day.”
The illustrious and veteran saxophone player George Brooks will also feature in the single “Jungle” from the album. The entire album is very special for the band as it embodies a very unique concept and style, an epitome of experimentation once could say. The lyrics are ever more powerful with Sant Kabir’s verses and the music even more stronger and macroscopic with the awesome collaborations. Indian Ocean is also touring India to promote their album. You would definitely not want to miss a chance to watch them live. Book your tickets fast for the “Tu Hai India Tour”.
It is a “Rebirth?”
You might be thinking that we are talking about the new album being a metaphor for the Indian Ocean’s rebirth, right? No, we aren’t actually talking about that. If you follow Indian Ocean on social media, you’ll know that Rahul Ram while talking about the release date of the album and the collaborations, ends the video with a mention of a special instrumental version of the title track by Nikhil Rao. The instrumental will have vocals but not the lyrics and they called it a “rebirth”.
So, Varnan is guessing that since Indian Ocean’s entry into the Independent genre of music was experimenting with music and not so much with lyrics, the history is going to repeat itself. As for the song “Jaadu Maaya” the original lyrics were the famous banjara-nama by Nazeer Akbarabad which the band composed for the movie “Masaan”. The music was so powerful that the lyrics were created to suit the thematics of “Tu Hai”. Let’s see if Varnan was able to guess it right or not. Final results shall be updated on 5th May, 2023.
Indian Ocean has also officially inaugurated the “Tu Hai” all India tour and they are coming to your city! Hurry up and grab your tickets before they are gone. Visit the official page of Varnan Films to know the tour details. Till then, enjoy the latest release “Is Tan Dhan” , available on all streaming platforms! Stream it and be crazy, just like Varnan’s feelings right now!!