Ocean to Ocean || Susmit Sen & Sehba Imam

Rating : 8/10

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“The difficulty of insisting on originality is that when you create something new, the dominant discourse does not have the language to critique it and the human mind has a tendency to dismiss or criticise anything that is unfamiliar.”

“..but if you have faith in your idea, or in your art, the thing to do is to sustain it – follow it, make it grow, allow it to exist. With familiarity comes acceptance and with acceptance emerges a language to define it. It is only then that people are able to give a mindful critique – this could come in the form of constructive criticism or pure appreciation. ..What one has to watch out for and weather out is the initial dismissal. Only your inner conviction in yourself and your work can help you sustain a new idea long enough for it to find acceptance.”

“..We found our audience slowly, and they found a way to describe our music with time.”

In this India of Entrepreneurs, there could be no better advice, coming from one of the most distinguished musicians of contemporary India.

I have yet to see a man who can consistently look so satisfied. While playing his (modified) guitar, he always has this Happiness which brings a smile to your face as well, a smile which respects and understands.

The Book:

Interesting thing about memoirs is that the reader mostly waits for the point from where the ‘known’ really starts, until and unless the initial part of the life of the story teller is theatrical. It happens here as well, one has to wait till page 70 for the real story to start, when he starts talking about the second of his two pursuits in life. Aseem.

“he quickly became the voice that so many Indian Ocean listeners identify with…when Aseem sang a song, it seemed that no one could shave sung it better.”

The book talks about his experiments with guitars, his idols and his philosophy.

“I learned very early in my musical joinery that there are four kinds of appreciation… The first one is remembrance – we grow up listening to a particular sound, make an emotional connection..it stays as something one listens to and hums along. The second kind comes from peer pressure. We learn to appreciate what is considered the ‘in thing’ by our peers or those we aspire to be like. The third kind is cereal appreciation, which comes from a slightly more studied reaction. People with technical knowledge of music can appreciate the notes, scales, finesse of a raga etc.

But for me the the highest form of appreciation is when you feel the music. It’s an explosion that takes place within you. Real enjoyment in anything – comes from feeling it. You have to feel with a primal instinct, without cerebralization or deliberation..”

Leaving Home :

It’s surprising that he doesn’t mention the documentary anywhere. It is the best (and maybe the only one) Band Documentaries ever made in India, Leaving Home by Jaideep Varma. It outlines the life and times of the band. It was clear even in the conversations in the movie that it’s Aseem who could win over Susmit vs Rahul + Amit. He was the reason of them being together.

INDIANOCEAN POSTER FINAL

The Split

Susmit started Indian Ocean and Aseem ended it, with his death in 2009. Susmit puts the reasons in the book. He wanted no lyrics – they preferred songs, he wanted a select audience – they wanted all.

“Finally, on the day the band began to play ‘Nani teri morni ko choir le gaye’ and ‘Old MacDonald had a farm’ to an enthralled audience, everything fell into place in my head.”

Personally I think a band like this can never recovered from Aseem’s death and never will. Their separation is a way to counter the grief. Like a father would divorce a wife after their only child’s death. Their music is about them now, it’s not Indian Ocean :

Submit Sen Chronicles is a reaction. I am not sure if Bondhu, Desert Rain, Melancholic Ecstasy, Bula Raha Hai could be compared to this :

Sushmit Sen Chronicles to me, an Indian Ocean fan, sounds boring. It doesn’t matter if its more difficult to play the riff he is playing, but it’s not at level 4.

The book though is honest and thorough. If you ignore the first few chapters, it’s a great read. A must have for all fans of contemporary Indian music.

Indian Ocean defines modern India in some ways and Susmit Sen is the genius who started it.

Buy it here (I’m sure it will run out of print)

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