Indian Ocean is one of India’s most successful bands. They combine Indian folk music, jazz rythms, hard-hitting, socially relevant lyrics and earthy tunes to produce a unique style of music.
Indian Ocean started off as an instrumental duo consisting of Susmit Sen and Asheem Chakravarthy in 1984. They would jam frequently, playing the college festival circuit, learning from each other and exploring a new sound that they had envisioned.
In 1990, with the dream of cutting a record, Susmit sold his electric guitar to raise money to record a demo tape. At the suggestion of his father they adopted the name Indian Ocean. Along with Shaleen Sharma on drums and Indrajeet Dutta and Anirban Roy on bass, they recorded the demo that led to an offer from HMV. In 1991, Anirban Roy was replaced by Rahul Ram, Susmit’s school classmate. Their self-titled, almost completely instrumental album, “Indian Ocean” was released after a frustrating year of recording on shoddy equipment and half-hearted marketing by the label. The album went on to sell 40,000 copies but did not have any impact on their musical career. Amit Kilam, barely out of college at that time, replaced Shaleen in 1994, resulting in the band’s longest running line-up - Susmit, Asheem, Rahul and Amit.
The band struggled for the next few years. Despite few concert offers, they practised a lot together, experimented by adding vocals and tightened their sound as a band. One concert was all they needed to turn their obscurity to fame. The band decided to record a concert on New Year’s day in 1997 at Mandi House, Delhi, to assess if they were making any mistakes. The recording turned out to be of such high quality that they pitched it to a number of music labels, only to be turned down by all of them. Unwilling to let go, they released their second album, “Desert Rain”, on their own. “Desert Rain” became wildly popular and finally got Indian Ocean the attention it deserved.
They started getting called for concerts all over India, composed new songs and improved their sound. They released their next album, “Kandisa”, through Times Music in 2000, gaining new fans, critical appreciation and concerts in international venues.
“Jhini”, their fourth album, was released in 2003. Their cross-over to Bollywood came about in 2004 with Anurag Kashyap’s “Black Friday”. Powerfully sung by Rahul Ram, “Bandeh” quickly rose up the charts reaching the number two spot.
Indian Ocean’s success story was rudely interrupted when Asheem Chakravarthy died after suffering multiple cardiac arrests on December 25, 2009.
With Asheem’s passing away, Himanshu Joshi and Tuheen Chakravarty fill in for vocals and tabla respectively. The band’s next musical work was for another movie, “Peepli Live” (2010). Their next album, “16/330 Khajoor Road”, was released as a series of singles over a few months, till the entire album became available in early 2011. The quirky album title is the address of their rehearsal space in Delhi - a sprawling 100 year old bungalow - since 1997.
In 2008, the Indian Ocean story was recorded by Jaideep Verma in a feature length documentary - “Leaving Home - The Life and Music of Indian Ocean”.