Monday, October 06, 2008

Indian Ocean rocks (Concert for AID India, at MIT Cambridge)

Indian Ocean provided an enthralling evening of fusion music to an audience that was constantly in raptures. The two guitars strummed Eastern melodies and Western symphonies in tandem, while the drummer and tabla player displayed both skill and maturity in their percussion. The idea of raising money for development projects is a commendable one in itself. By roping in a band that creates a music based on poems that are meaningful and socially conscious is a masterstroke from AID India. I will write about AID India some other day, for now, let me just say a few things about the performance.

Indian Ocean is best known for songs from their much loved album Kandisa., and they did perform a few songs from their highly acclaimed album. Susmit Sen on guitar produced sounds that brought the melody of Indian string instruments: sitar and santoor alive. His partner from the time of inception of the band, Asheem, sat surrounded by half a dozen tablas. While his percussion was immaculate, his vocal cords seem to have an Aseem (unbounded or limitless) range. Amit Kilam on drums was good but when he stepped away to play a tribal instrument for the song Ma Rewa, his performance was spell-binding. Throughout the evening the artists jammed with each other, showing why they have the reputation of fusing jazz, rock, folk and Indian classical into a dynamic sound of their own. Throughout the show, Rahul did most of the talking. His humor was spot on, and so was his hand on guitar, his vocals and his jamming with his partners in crime. (I later searched and found that he has a PhD in environmental toxicology from Cornell, which explains why he was talking about insecta and weevils and anthropods: all of which surprised and amused the audience!). Together the band provided a high energy, fast paced, sometime foot-tapping, sometime heart-stopping, sometime lilting rendition.

When Lorca spoke about finding duende as an artist, he used the example of gypsy singers who use both the range of their vocal cords and heart-strung melodies to enrapture the audience. When the band renders song after song in high pitched melodies, backed by the stories that associate these with social movements and movies, the effect is bound to be potent and poignant. The band performed three songs that are used in movies: one from Black Friday, another from Swaraj and the third one, was an unreleased song from a movie that is still under production. These movies and themes of their songs involve Hindu-Muslim riots, bribery and corruption, Independence movement, Kabir's message as the backdrop. Yet the message is somewhat hidden, it is subtle, it is buried beneath the grand slam of strings and drumbeats, it mellowed by the dramatic interludes of humor, it is sung in lyrics written in dialects not familiar to the audience. The rhythm was of the rock stars, the rhyme was of sufi singers, the melody was Indian and the performance, in general was as professional and as jazzy as of a Rock band can be. When I watched Indian Ocean perform, about a decade back, I left the hall somewhat disenchanted. I discovered today that they have found their voice, they have found their zone, they have found the duende!


Vivek Sharma said...

Comments from sulkeha

Vivek Sharma posted 1 min ago

So true peterlampshade,
It was good to see how charged the whole performance was. I can see why they have made only 30 songs in 18 years: it is a labor of love. What could be more wonderful than planning your life around an activity that is capable of providing you so much fun and entertainment? The best thing about the performance was that I could see that the band is pushing itself by choosing to play songs that demand more from themselves. To be a rock band from India that manages to bring its own flavor to things is an accomplishment by all means.

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paperlampshade posted 22 mins ago

These "lufis" can really play some good music; the concert was awesome! Melancholic Ecstasy and Bhor (the Sufi bird) were the best, also the superbly energetic song Resistance- which alchemized into music the story of an ordinary man fighting corruption.

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Abhilasha said...

Hi Vivek! first things first...ur exp of d concert was like manna for a diehard indian ocean fan..:).....Boston bhartiya rocks...cliched as it might sound but hv to say it is a bful blend of d east n west...dont even realise where d two merge n emerge as a boston bhartiya..........hmm.what else ''kabhi fursat se milenge'' shows d signs of bcmg a classic u knw...the lines kind of remained with me long after i read them....
extremely interested in d capitalism -communism debate ..but more on that later...maybe when time is not at such a premium...(btw punctuation seems to have gone for a toss)
hv to end my first comment with these lines kaviraj...(can only try them out here u knw..:)))

vo kaun hain jinhein taubaa kii mil gaii fursat
hamein gunaah karane ko bii zindagii kam hai
kp those random thoughts coming...