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Indian Ocean 2.0

After more than 25 years of playing with Indian Ocean,founder member and guitarist Susmit Sen moves on to find a new musical identity for himself; filling his large shoes is 26-year-old Nikhil Rao

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Chandigarh | Published: June 14, 2013 4:48 am

Back in the ’90s,the concept of a band was only rearing its head in India and Aramaic wasn’t a language those wearing Woodstock blinkers knew. But the moment four folk rockers,who called themselves Indian Ocean,walked in with their song,Kandisa,at a college concert in the Capital,five thousand-odd homebodies with limbs pounding and hearts chanting gave the song a cult status.

Indian Ocean would go on to become one of India’s most creative acts. At the helm of affairs were founder members Susmit Sen on the guitars,and vocalist and percussionist Asheem Chakravarty. The other two were bassist Rahul Ram and percussionist Amit Kilam. Be it Sen’s signature sax riffs,Ram’s energetic vocals,Chakravarty’s mellifluous voice or Kilam’s devastating drumming,the four musicians gave the nation a band that sang what people understood.

Now,after more than 25 years,Sen has decided to call it quits. “I want to continue with my creative process. I am brimming with more compositions,more music — but in a grammar and style that is different from Indian Ocean. One has to move forward in life. I have been wanting to concentrate more on my solo projects apart from a host of other production projects and of course,my other band Susmit Sen Chronicles,” says Sen,who se solo album Depths of the Ocean,released in 2011.

Contemporary Indian music and Indian Ocean seem to have lost a bit of soul after Chakravarty passed away. As for their fans,Sen’s exit is likely to garner mixed reviews. “Every band as old as us goes through the classic trap of doing well,getting popular and not being able to break out later. We all have spent some great times together. But at the same time,it’s a welcome change. It is a good decision for Susmit,” says Kilam. Ram,however,feels that Sen stopped enjoying playing with the band long ago. “It’s good that it has happened because I believe in enjoying music. Then of course,he did not want to travel as much for concerts. So we had known this for a while,” says Ram.

Among the crowds that attended regular Indian gigs in the past decade was also an aspiring musician,Nikhil Rao — a trained Hindustani and Carnatic vocalist,who liked playing the guitar. After he heard Kandisa,he took almost a year to master every riff that resonated from Sen’s guitar. Rao has now been roped in to fill in the large shoes of Sen. “I was more than weary of taking up this opportunity. The expectations that come with being the lead guitarist of a two-decade-old band is massive. They are known for their signature sound. But no two guitarists can sound the same. I hope I will be appreciated,” says 26-year-old Rao. “Nikhil has been Susmit’s understudy for a while and is extremely promising,” says Ram.

As for Sen,he will be a part of Indian Ocean’s tour which will take place around the release of the band’s coffee table book. “My moving on will benefit both Indian Ocean and my creative expression,” says Sen.

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