Indian music isn’t just about Bollywood tracks, even if that’s what the charts tell you. On Saturday, you have the chance to become acquainted with contemporary Indian sounds when Indian rock band Indian Ocean perform their mix of jazz and sufi rhythms.
The Delhi trio — Rahul Ram on vocals/bass guitar, drummer Amit Kilam and Sushmit Sen on guitar — play at White X Beach Lounge, Rixos, Palm Jumeirah.
tabloid! caught up with Ram, who aside from being in a band, has a PhD in Environmental Toxicology from Cornell University in New York and plenty of attitude.
“Come up with an open mind.”
Our music is non-Bollywood but has contemporary Indian sounds. We may play guitars and drums, but our rhythm patterns have an Indian influence. We sing our own composition and we don’t play covers. So music fans in Dubai should prepare themselves for sounds that they have never heard before. We have played to audiences across the world where there may not be many Indians in the crowd, but we have been appreciated and understood. Our music has a universal appeal.
“Bollywood has it easy.”
They set aside lots of money in promoting a song from a Bollywood film. Their PR machinery works overtime to play a particular song 50 times in a week. So they become automatically popular. We have no such back-up. We rely on word of mouth. For our last album [16/330 Khajoor Road], we didn’t even bother selling our songs because young people in India have stopped buying music.
“Live shows sustain us.”
That’s how we keep ourselves relevant and that’s why we enjoy playing in front of a live audience so much. We are here today because of those hit live shows.
“Playing the Tabla in Hollywood films is economics and not a cultural phenomenon.”
Everybody now wants to sell their s*** in India. It’s become a big market. For instance, Bhangra is big in the West and people say it’s cool. Look at A R Rahman’s Jai Ho, it’s one of the crappiest songs but why did the West love it? Because they have never heard Bollywood sounds and it’s a new sound for them. The call it: “fresh, original and different”. In my opinion, Rahman deserves Oscars and Grammys for other work that they have no idea about.
“Stop seeking external approval.”
Why is it that Indians seeks external approval? I don’t care if my music is approved by the rest of the world. But let me tell you that it’s very tough to survive in this music field. This field is not a job with a pension fund.
“Stick to your guns.”
Our secret is that we stayed true to our unique sounds. We sing the poems of Kabir in our concerts but we intersperse with contemporary sounds. Earlier, Indian bands used to blatantly copy international hits and were known to look down on everything Indian. But we found that bizarre. How can you shut the world around you? In my head, everything should influence your music. Plus we have become confident in our culture.