An ocean of experience

Updated: Apr 15, 2020, 09:40 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

After completing three decades in the music industry this year, Indian Ocean is launching a fresh new track in two days

An ocean of experience
An ocean of experience

Cool fact: During its nascent phase in the early '90s, pioneering rock-fusion band Indian Ocean briefly had a female keyboardist, Sawan Dutta. She is the same woman who now runs The Metronome, a popular vlogging diary that parodies Bengali culture through music.

Not-so-cool fact: Back then, female instrumentalists were almost unheard of on the Indian indie circuit. And Rahul Ram, Indian Ocean's bassist, reveals that when he joined the act, he saw the sort of objectified hostility that Dutta faced not just from the outside world, but even from a couple of band members who didn't last long with the outfit.

The episode reeks of the level of gender inequality that was rife in the music industry in the pre-Internet era. But Ram adds that the seismic shift in attitude required in that direction is yet to come. Sure, there are more female artistes playing in the musical field than 25 years ago. "But tell me, if you go for a festival like NH7 Weekender, how many women will you find performing on stage?" he asks, adding that the lack of numbers is shocking to say the least.

These are the sort of musings that the veteran artiste reflects upon when we catch up with him over the phone, now that the band has completed 30 years in 2020. He talks about how life took them from playing just seven concerts between 1990 and 1994 when they each earned R5,000 annually — not even enough to cover travel for practice sessions — to their breakthrough moment in 2000 when they launched Kandisa, a landmark album. Then came the track Bandeh from the soundtrack of Black Friday. That gave them a boost of Bollywood energy and suddenly, Indian Ocean were hot property. They were a band that filled frenzied venues from Ahmedabad in the west to Jalpaiguri in the east.

That momentum continues as Indian Ocean readies to launch a single that's their version of a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan song, two days from now. But what about the longer future? How will the independent music industry change its tune based on the chorus of lockdown-related information we are hearing? "I think we need to monetise Internet concerts. People are going to get used to them over the next few months. Amit [Kilam, drummer] and I both did one from different places recently. Lekin kitna free bajaunga? So if after the lockdown, we can find a place for a nice little concert and have people paying five bucks for half an hour, and then maybe five bucks more if they want another half an hour, that's something that all musicians need to explore," Ram feels, begging the question — are we going to see a seismic change, at least in that direction?

Log on to Indian Ocean Official on YouTube

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