We are really excited about the release of India Ocean’s movie, Leaving Home: The Life and Music of Indian Ocean, tomorrow. We had a chance to talk to the band’s drummer, Amit Kilam, on behalf of the band. Do hear them on their official website. Here’s what he had to say:
TTS: Indian Ocean is one of India’s oldest rock bands that have come a really long way. How did it start?
AK: The band started in 1984 with Asheem and Susmit as a duo, after meeting at a concert. In 1990, more people joined, namely Anirban Roy, Shaleen Sharma and Indrajit Dutta. In 1991, Rahul Ram replaced Anirban as the bassist. In 1994, I joined it. By then, it had moved from being a duo to a proper band. And now finally, after Asheem’s unfortunate demise last December, the band comprises of Rahul, Susmit and me on a more or less permanent basis.
TTS: You are now an International band having performed in USA, United Kingdom, Japan, etc. How does it feel having elevated to this status as a band? Was it something you had envisioned for the band in its early days?
AK: It feels really good. We are primarily a live band and our performances are always aimed to reach the ears of as many listeners as is possible. We had always wanted more listeners because we were all very dedicated to the band, and knew that it would go far and that the listeners would appreciate the music.
TTS: Leaving Home: The Life and Music of Indian Ocean is the feature film that will release across India on 2nd April and is much awaited by all your fans. It shows the struggles, challenges, and achievements of four men making music together in contemporary India inspiring others to follow their footsteps. Personally, what are your thoughts about the film? How do you think the audiences will receive it?
AK: People who will go to watch the movie will like it and will not be disappointed. It should not and will not be taken as a Bollywood flick that is trying to compete with other films that are released with it. It should be seen as a documentary as it explores the genre of filmmaking very well. It is India’s first non-fiction film about a band, but it is not one that will only be liked by Indian Ocean fans. Cinemagoers who enjoy different genres would appreciate it. Hopefully.
TTS: What are the main influences for your music individually, and for the band as a whole?
AK: I don’t think we have a collective influence as such. I’m influenced by mostly rock and folk music, whereas Ram likes jazz and rock. Asheem was a lover of classical music. We are influenced by life, as we know it-from living, from meeting people, from growing up.
TTS: It is interesting that the band members do not write the song lyrics and that many of them are actually taken from traditional folk songs, which is culturally enriching for your listeners. Could you please throw some light on why this is done?
AK: There is a simple reason as to why this is done. When we started as a band, we were an instrumental band and didn’t write lyrics to the songs. Slowly, we started getting inspired by shlokas and folk music in different regions in India. So what the process became was to make the music first and then put lyrics to it. The songs are mostly written by a friend of ours, Sanjeev Sharma.
TTS: In the recent past, there has been an increase of technology in the music recording processes. As a band, do you go the modern way and use such software to get a more professional sound or stick to the conventional method of recording without such alterations?
AK: Like I said earlier, we are a band that plays live mainly. Technology is used to work the sounds of specific instruments like the keyboard. But other than this, we are unaffected by this technology. However, there are easier methods of recording available now, which allow bands to record at home or in the practice place instead of the studio. This is actually helpful and recently, we have recorded 2 songs in our jamming place.
TTS: During this journey of almost two decades, what changes, if any, have you seen in the perception of Indian audiences to bands performing non stream genres like rock, fusion, and the like?
AK: Indian audiences have become much more open to listen to different genres now. People do not expect upcoming bands to only play covers of other bands but actually appreciate originals too. Also, the fact that many more people are making this a profession in the true sense of the word, it shows that people like it and that is why it is possible to do so. The audiences are younger than for other genres, and this is why there is more adaptability.
TTS: After the death of the band’s lead singer, Asheem Chakravarty, you have now started performing with a new singer. How is this working out for the band?
AK: Since Asheem’s death, we have 4 friends who keep helping the band with our gigs by accompanying us on the tabla and by singing. But we are not sure if they are permanently in the band or not. We will decide this later. Right now, the passion for music is what drives all of us.
TTS: Your OST album for Black Friday, which is based on the 1993 Bombay blasts, has seen the band become more mainstream. Do you feel there has been a change in the band pre-Black Friday and post it?
AK: I will put it simply—the reach of Bollywood cannot be messed with. Our audiences have grown tremendously after we played in a mainstream film. The best part is that we lend our original sound to a full-fledged Bollywood film.
TTS: Indian Ocean gave a great performance at Baajaa Gaajaa’10, Pune recently. How was your experience there?
AK: It was good! Shubha ji is a well-respected musician in our circle and it has been an excellent initiative taken by her. I hope it becomes larger and that this takes place every year, giving friends of hers to help in the cause. Besides, I love playing for Pune. The people are very warm and affectionate as audiences.
TTS: What are your upcoming projects?
AK: We’re releasing a new album in July called 16/330 Khajur Lane. The music in this album will be distributed online for free by us because we just want our music to reach out to people, and financial constraints should not be a barrier in doing so. Also, we are doing 2 tracks in an upcoming Aamir Khan production-Peepli Live.
TTS: 5 albums, and one movie on the band coming out in another day. In one word, please describe how you feel when you look back at your life and its achievements every night before sleeping?
AK: More than happy with what I have achieved. I am not one to set goals in life and try to reach them. It is an ongoing process for me and I can’t even say that I have reached my goals. But, I know that I will make music and pursue this goal for as long as it keeps my happy.
TTS: Thank you for your time! We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
Interviewed by Rohini Kejriwal