Ever since Susmit Sen parted ways with Indian Ocean, the first music band that he founded in 1990, he has put together two bands, first, the `Chronicles’ and now the `Project’. Recently he has held the Project’s debut show in Gurgaon, near Delhi. Post his successful performance, Susmit looks cheerful sitting in his modestly done up `pad’ as he calls it, in an upscale South Delhi colony (he lives in Gurgaon).
The new band, the seven member `Project’ he has started has charged up the audience the same way as he had done earlier, playing out his compositions one after another, and if the newspaper reports are anything to go by, the experience of the crowd has been electrifying. It has been a fulfilling experience for the guitarist once more.
“It was a good start,” says Susmit. “The `Project’ has been formed as I found musicians and singers who were busy moonlighting, and come together as a band only before a performance on stage. The complete dedication to the band is missing. `Chronicle’ didn’t stay together long.”
Having dedicated a major part of his life to Indian Ocean, the hugely talented guitarist is not ready to deviate from his original idea of a rock band. Indian Ocean is the first home grown music band presenting original music, a combination of Indian classical, folk and jazz and it became widely popular. His father had christened the band that resonated with the depth of the music his son composed. Susmit separated from the band after 23 years of performance together, a long journey by any standard.
Why did he leave Indian Ocean in the first place? After all, it has been one of the most popular bands that rocked the Indian music scene in the 1990s and performed on international stage too. According to Susmit, “Twenty three years was a long time. Slowly there was a kind of inertia that was growing and I had to change the direction. The band followed a certain format that appealed to the masses. It was difficult to change that trend. It had gathered so much momentum by then that all of us were expected to follow the line.”
Playing popular music again and again can be suffocating, especially when he couldn’t stall the steady attraction of Bollywood music. Hence, he quit. It was not an overnight decision though. There was a long period of deliberation. “I had been thinking of leaving even before Asheem passed away ( Asheem Chakravarty, another founder member passed away in 2009)”, says he. Perhaps his first solo album Depths of the Ocean that came out in 2011, before this parting of ways was the beginning of this separation process.
Susmit has been a self taught musician, picking up his guitar at the early age of 13, and as he grew up listening to both Indian classical and western music, his passion for music deepened. He created his own genre, mixed with his own experience and style. His compositions are much acclaimed as fusion; but it is much more than that in essence. His compositions marked the signature style of Indian Ocean. He has been deeply influenced by Indian Classical repertoire of greats like Nikhil Banerji, Ali Akbar Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Mallikarjun Mansur and Amir Khan Saheb. “Even now if I want to go to another depth of music I listen to Indian Classical music,” he says. Alongside there were Pink Floyd, Beatles and others from the Western world that have influenced the stylization and nuances of his art form. His compositions developed the meditative melodies of the great masters of Indian music with a touch of western aesthetics. The soul of his work is Indian, and his medium of expression is guitar.
“Indian music is very individualistic,” elaborates Susmit as he explains the nuances of his work. “Traditionally, there has been no band in India, there is no history of singing in a group, apart from the Qawali singers. So the concept of forming a band is very Western.”
After the successful performance of the `Project’, what is next? Creating more music of course, though Susmit is ready to take a vacation, and his guitar will be with him all the time. “If you are passionate about music, you enjoy doing your kind of music,” he says. “I am always thinking about music, I can’t help it.”The sound of music is always a steady companion as he moves ahead leaving behind the days of the Indian Ocean.
Written bySumita Sengupta
The writer is a Delhi, India based journalist. Her work has been published in many mainstream magazines and newspapers including the Times of India and publications of Magna Publishing, the house of Stardust, Savvy, and Society etc. where she worked for 10 years. She loves to watch good movies and read good books that connect to history, biography and new places. She also loves to write, so if you have an interesting story to tell and don’t know how to begin, you can contact her.