Once synonymous with Indian fusion band, Indian Ocean, guitarist Susmit Sen’s new set-up, Susmit Sen Chronicles, is ready with its debut album. He speaks to Deepali Dhingra about compositions, collaborations and why comparisons with his former band don’t bother him
When Susmit Sen left Indian Ocean in 2013, 23 years after forming it with Asheem Chakravarty, fans of the Indian fusion band were left wondering about the prolific guitarist’s next move.
Although in 2011, they did get an inkling of what was going on in the musician’s mind when he came out with his solo album, Depths of the Ocean, it was when Sen officially quit the band he had formed, that they knew that he’s onto greater things.
Back row (L-R): Varun Gupta, Susmit Sen, Sudhir Rikhari; Front row (L-R): Nikhil Vasudevan, Amit Sharma and Anirban Ghosh
Susmit Sen Chronicles — the new set-up he formed in 2012 — has been around for two years, doing gigs and concerts in a number of cities. Featuring Varun Gupta (tabla), Anirban Ghosh (bass guitars), Nikhil Vasudevan (percussions), Amit Sharma (vocals) and Sudhir Rikhari (vocals), apart from Sen (guitar), the band has already garnered rave reviews from critics and the response from the live audience, according to Sen, has been really heartwarming. “Wherever we have performed, the response to the band and its sound has been really good,” says the musician.
Two years after they were formed, the band is ready with their debut album — Ocean to Ocean — that features seven tracks and collaborations with global musicians such as Bernie Marsden and Hungarian accordion Orosz Zoltan. While Sen’s signature guitar work is, undoubtedly, the highlight of the album, it is also the band as a whole, whose contribution is evident in the compositions. Sen sounds excited when we ask him about his latest venture. “The plan is to reach out to everyone and make people hear the album,” he tells us. While all seven tracks feature the band, Ocean to Ocean, is a collaboration between Sen and ex-Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden.
The other collaboration, with Hungarian accordion Orosz Zoltan, happened by chance. “When Zoltan heard the songs, he, too, wanted to be a part of the album. I was delighted, but by then, all of the tracks were almost complete. So when he said he wants to be a part of the song Bongingon, I did not have the space to give him more space. But whatever little he has done, has taken the composition to a different level altogether,” Sen explains.
While fans of Sen’s guitar work will always be faithful to him, wherever he goes, there are bound to be comparisons between Indian Ocean and his new band. Does he find that irksome? “No, why should comparisons bother me? Even if I want to run away from the fact, I can’t. I was with Indian Ocean for 23 years, so the link will always be there. The comparisons are natural,” he says. We can’t help but ask him whether he makes a conscious effort to make Susmit Sen Chronicles sound different than Indian Ocean. His reply, is simple — “I do not make a conscious effort to sound a certain way. What comes naturally, comes naturally. For me, every composition is different. If the compositions start sounding similar, then I think I should retire,” the artiste answers. Long way from that, we say!