Indian Ocean’s Seventh Album Creates Magic With Seven Collaborations

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As another lazy Friday slipped in during my everlasting vacations, I found myself switching on the seldom watched television set of my home, and immediately skipping to the new music channel that had been on since some time then. Anyone who follows Indian indie music knows that the music channels in India hardly cover the overflowing contemporary indie music being produced.

So, when I heard of this new channel called MTV Indies, I was intrigued with the possibilities that channel could achieve for people of my generation who’ve grown up listening to bands like Indian Ocean, Agnee, Parikrama before we even heard Nirvana or Led Zeppelin, or Pink Floyd. And as I happened to get my eyes on the channel, I saw Indian Ocean recording in a studio, along with Vishal Dadlani. This was followed with around two hours of Youtube watching of all seven 15-16 minutes long episodic recordings of their collaborations with seven different Indian artists, and I was left with a satiating illusion that I hadn’t just wasted my Friday afternoon.

Indian Ocean’s music has always had an ephemeral quality to it, which is to say that along with evolving with time, there is something new that the listener feels every time one listens to it. This is exactly what makes this band so suitable for collaborative music, and they sure know it. What other way could have been perfect, then, but to create a concept out of the celebration of their seventh studio album with seven different collaborations?Not only that, they also popularizedthe album with a Dewarists-like making of each song which got aired exclusively on MTV Indies.

But the stellar quality is what is central to this album, for collaborations with the likes of ShubhaMudgal, Karsh Kale, PanditVishwa Mohan Bhatt or Vishal Dadlani can hardly go wrong. The first song ‘Gar Ho Sake’ (recorded with ShubhaMaudgal) which lead guitaristRahul Ram called a ‘classic lefty (leftist) anthem’ sets the pace for an absolute power-packed album. The collaboration with Shankar Mahadevan is the song that the album takes its name after.

Aptly named and in congruence with the ephemeral quality of their music, Tandanu, the word, is only musical gibberish that doesn’t really mean anything. This is exactly what Indian Ocean has tried to communicate ever since their birth -that music doesn’t necessarily have to appeal to one’s rationale as long as it sounds good. Having been taught to Rahul Ram by his aunt at the age of four, this one almost sounds like something between the chanting of a mantra and Mahadevan’s signature style rap.

Collaborations with Indian-American percussionist and tabla artist, Karsh Kale as well as V. Selvaganesh form the folk and regional tunes in the album. The song recorded with violin virtuoso KumareshRajagopalan is the only instrumental piece which sounds nothing short of sublime in the middle of the album. Adding to the various flavors of music is their collaboration with Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt which creates a suitable mix of Indian classical and folk-rock elements of band’s own music.

The last song featuring Vishal Dadlani, which I heard first, turned out to be my personal favourite. It follows a narrative of displacement of population taking into account Dadlani’s Sindhi and drummer Amit Kilam’s Kashmiri roots. “Begharmeinbhi, beghartubhi” forms the main line of the song that stays with you long after it has ended.

‘Tandanu’ definitely puts forth the 25-year togetherness of the band that revolutionized the Indian music scene in the 90s. It tells you stories in languages and dialects cutting across regions, while formulating a very ‘Indian’ sentimentality.

Samiksha Bhan

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