THIS is what fans dream of – a chance to go backstage and interact with the stars, in this case members of India’s most popular and oldest fusion rock band, Indian Ocean. It’s exactly what a rock concert looks like backstage — a chaotic system of wires, generators, lights, chairs, crew dressed in black, beefed up bodyguards, local cops with walkie-talkies and some people who aim to look important. Instead of a vanity van, parked on campus of PEC University of Technology was the Red Bull bus which has been travelling across the country, inviting leading musicians to perform on its roof. Since it hit the road in October 2013, the Red Bull Tour Bus has taken music to every corner of the country — from colleges in cities like Indore, Patiala, Mohali, Shillong, Jaipur, Guwahati to music festivals in the metros.
This Saturday saw Indian Ocean perform to a packed house as part of the ongoing PEC Fest. Before they took to the stage, band members had a quick tete-a-tete with journalists inside the bus talking about what makes them such a popular band (they have completed 27 years), the current digital music scene, live shows and more. The current band line-up includes Amit Kilam (drums, percussion and vocals), Rahul Ram (bass guitar and vocals), Himanshu Joshi (vocals), Tuheen Chakravorty (tabla and other percussion) and Nikhil Rao (guitar). “It’s been a couple of years since we performed in Chandigarh but it is always a memorable experience,” mentioned Rahul Ram as he tied his signature red scarf on his head. Formed in 1990, Indian Ocean has been one of the spearheads of the Indian rock scene. But lots changed since then – the digital music space for one. “It has changed things for sure. Back then, we had to go from one music company to another to get a chance to be heard. Now, one can go live from one’s bedroom,” remarked Joshi as Amit added, “It has become very easy to be heard or release an album or song. But at the same time, it is very difficult to stand out.”
Just as Indian Ocean’s unique blend of contemporary rock mixed with classical, folk and jazz have earned them a cult following, the band members believe the key to success will always be originality. “These are times of template music. Once a particular style does well, the market is flooded. We have continued to do what we have always done,” said Joshi. It’s a formula that has worked well for the band and that reflects in the fact that songs from Kandisa, their most selling album till date, are still played out. “Kandisa is an all-time favourite even with those unfamiliar with our work. Even today it sounds new and refreshing,” admits Kilam.
While live shows continue to be their mainstay, including performances overseas, the band members admit that music in films is also changing. Incidentally, at the heart of the award-winning film Masaan was music by the band. “We can’t negate the importance and reach of Bollywood music and one track can help bring in more listeners. But it’s only now that Bollywood has started to experiment with sounds like ours,” said Rao. Now that the Indie music scene is evolving and expanding, does it sound competitive to them? “There is space for everyone and one band’s popularity actually makes room for more bands and audience. It is a win-win situation for all,” summed up Kilam before rushing off for their performance. The band is now working on its new album that should be out in 2017.