Indian Ocean bass guitarist Rahul Ram: We don't make typical Bollywood music
Today's popular Indian rock and fusion artistes must have been in kindergarten when Indian Ocean started rocking the stage in 1990. Inarguably the pioneers of fusion rock and fusion folk genres, the five-member band (it started with four) has a huge fan following. Here, the founding member of Indian Ocean, bass guitarist Rahul Ram, talks about the journey, their recent fusion act with Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt at Taalbelia (a music fest held in Rajasthan), and taking on limited Bollywood projects.
How do you think fusion folk has evolved over the years?
Folk fusion has come of age in India. There are several bands that use elements of folk in their music, including Swarathma, The Raghu Dixit Project, Agam, Kabir Cafe and Hari Sukhmani. It's interesting that people incorporate their influences and varied sensibilities along with folk elements to create something that is identifiable and familiar, and yet, is fresh.
How was the experience of sharing the stage with Pt Bhatt?
It's always fun collaborating with greats such as Pt Bhatt. Apart from being a phenomenal musician, he is also a warm and funny person. He is unlike what you expect a classical musician to be.
Indian Ocean with Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
So far, Indian Ocean has only composed music for offbeat Bollywood films like Black Friday (2007), Peepli Live (2010) and Masaan (2015). Why?
It isn't a conscious decision. The reason we feel this happens (us scoring for unconventional films) is because we don't make typical Bollywood music. We have a unique sound and are approached for that. Filmmakers who come to us expect us to sound like ourselves. We don't have Bollywood sensibilities, and people we collaborate with
are also not typical B-Town filmmakers.
You have been around for 27 years. Has surviving, as a band, ever been difficult?
Definitely, when we started in 1990, we were told, "You don't play English covers?", "Yeh music toh kisi ko samajh nahin aayega", "You guys wont survive", etc. But we had firm belief in the music we were attempting. That focus helped us tide over some difficult times. For the first two years, we performed only seven shows. We didn't start out to become super successful or rich. We play music because it enriches our souls, and that is still the mantra.
Any upcoming projects?
We are currently working on a film that should release by the end of this year or early 2018. We are also in the process of writing a new album. This will be the first standalone Indian Ocean album with the new line-up of band members, so that's exciting. Also, we have, for the first time, attempted a cover. A music company is putting out a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan tribute album, and we are re-interpreting one of his classics.