As founder-member of the popular fusion-rock band Indian Ocean, Susmit Sen is recognised as one of India’s most innovative guitarists. Along with the classic line-up of Rahul Ram on bass and vocals, the late Asheem Chakraborty on tabla and vocals and Amit Kilam on drums, he worked on hugely popular albums like the self-titled debut, Desert Rain, Kandisa, Jhini and Black Friday.
Sen left Indian Ocean in 2013, to concentrate on solo efforts. His latest venture, released recently, is a 15-minute video called The Iceberg Project. It’s the eighth part of a series of videos done in association with The Big Band Theory, an initiative by Akshay Ahuja to promote innovative Indian music and create new sounds.
The first few parts of The Iceberg Project featured Sen on solo guitar. Eventually, he involved other musicians, and the latest episode features Tapan Malik on cello, Nishant Agarwal on second guitar and Varun Gupta on tabla and percussion instrument, cajon.
According to Sen, the idea is to use a series of videos and recordings to describe how a composition evolves. "I have known Akshay of Big Band Theory for some time, and we began ideating. I soon hit upon this concept. The composition is a projection of today’s darkness and how it is transformed into a positive world," he says.
The initial part of the composition questions every aspect of human existence and the latter focuses on how to change the same by diverting attention to the beauty that surrounds us. Sen says various elements and aspects have been used, and thus different instruments have been incorporated to accompany his guitar.
A highlight of the eighth part is the use of the cello and second guitar. Sen says, "Because of Varun’s cello, it lends a completely new sound compared to my earlier work. As for guitarist Nishant, he's just 21 and brilliant. He perfectly balances my style with his rhythm, counterpart and harmonies."
The Iceberg Project will be promoted through YouTube, other Internet platforms and word of mouth. "I eventually plan to extend it in a chamber orchestra format, so that it can be played in a live setting," he shares.
Sen began his solo projects even while with Indian Ocean. In 2011, he released a collaborative album, Depths of the Ocean, with Shubha Mudgal, Papon, Asheem Chakraborty and rock band Parikrama’s Nitin Malik. After quitting the band, he released Ocean to Ocean with Susmit Sen Chronicles last year. It features Bernie Mardsen, former guitarist of the rock group Whitesnake, with whom he has played live in concert.
The guitarist shares that another interesting project was the theme song composed for Vinod Kapri’s film Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho. "I do film projects if I find them interesting and challenging," he says. How have his style and approach changed after he quit Indian Ocean? he replies, "Well, I can’t run away from myself. I have developed a guitaring style over the years, so my playing pattern is the same. What’s different is the kind of compositions I create. Each time, I try to vary and even experiment with concepts."
That’s perhaps what makes The Iceberg Project so special.