Circa 2009: Indie-band Indian Ocean loses its founding member and vocalist Asheem Chakravorty to a heart problem. The band members -- Rahul Ram (bass guitar and vocals), Amit Kilam (drums, percussion and vocals) and Susmit Sen (guitar) -- struggle with this loss and move on, adding Tuheen Chakravorty (tabla) and Himanshu Joshi (vocals) to their group. After Asheem’s death, the remaining band included this line on their website -- ‘It seems quite probable that the sound of the band shall change with the departure of Asheem, but it is impossible to predict what direction the band will go in.
So the band goes on, hoping to continue making good music!’ Four years later, the band has been confronted with another loss -- this time, it’s Susmit, the second founding member, who’s quit the band and formed another. But unlike in 2009, when the band was unprepared for Asheem’s death, this time, they knew it was coming. As Rahul puts it, it was more a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. Even as Susmit officially declared his departure from the band in June this year, guitarist Nikhil Rao quietly made his entry in April. Since then, the current line-up has been busy with rehearsals and corporate shows, and are waiting for the concert season to kickstart, to see the public reaction to their music.
Sounds of change
It was Asheem’s rich voice and Susmit’s innovative style of guitar-playing that formed the foundation of Indian Ocean band, when they started in 1990. With these two important elements gone, the remaining original band members admit, that the band will sound different. “There will be a slight change for sure,” says Rahul, “Himanshu’s voice is very different from Asheem’s. But when Himanshu started singing for us, it didn’t translate into people not listening to us anymore.
It did translate into a new audience, people who had never heard Asheem live on stage. The same thing is going to happen with Nikhil now.” In fact, adds Amit, he is actually hoping that the band sounds a bit different, though not drastically. “I wouldn’t be happy if it remains the same because then it would mean that other three guys haven’t contributed anything,” he says.
The musician believes that it’s not just the way the band sounds, but also the way they think of the content that makes theband what it is. “I don’t think the content of the songs will change so much. Rahul and I are still there, and the other guys don’t seem to be away in terms of thought. But playing styles may differ and that’s where the newness will enter the band,” he adds.
Miles to go
When as a 24-year-old, Tuheen joined the band, he knew there would be lot of expectations from him. “But the rest of the members made me feel absolutely comfortable. I have made a lot of mistakes on stage, and I’m constantly learning from them,” he says. Vocalist Himanshu too recalls the initial days of his joining. “There were apprehensions of course, even from the band’s side. But I was gradually accepted, after a couple of shows,” he says. Comparisons, with those who’ve left the band, will naturally abound, but 29-year-old Nikhil, the newest member of the band believes it’s a futile effort. “It would be foolish to compare me to Susmit. I know people will do it. I remember when Slash left Guns N Roses, I thought the new guy will never be as good. So I can understand why people will feel like that,” he says. Nikhil recalls Amit and Rahul telling him that they didn’t want anybody rehashing Susmit’s style and that’s the reason they chose him. As Himanshu puts it, “It’s like you’re running a restaurant which has a signature dish, and the chef changes. The dish will remain the same, but the flavours might change a bit.” The best part, he says, is that band has been rehearsing every single day and are happy with the way they sound. He adds, “We have already done a few corporate shows and have been fairly well-appreciated. In essence, things have changed, but there’s miles to go before we sleep.” So just as it was four years back, this time too, the idea is to continue bringing out good music. With Indian Ocean, we expect nothing less.