Who knew that what started off as harmless guitar dabbing could undergo metamorphosis to give way to something as phenomenal as Indian Ocean? Ever since its genesis in 1990, the band has never ceased to awe people with their compositions. As founder and former lead guitarist of the band, Susmit Sen, likes to put it:
People didn’t know what hit them.
Recently, The Yellow Sparrow had the opportunity to meet up with Susmit Sen and rummage through the various facets of his journey, from bringing together one of India’s most popular bands to releasing his first single, The Iceberg Project. Here we bring to you the most fascinating and inspiring snippets from the same.
As a seventeen year old teenager fascinated by Indian classical music, Susmit Sen cashed in on his talent and started out small, going for college competitions, composing his own music. However, he refused to perform covers and always wanted his compositions to be a reflection of his flair for music. His conviction resulted in the formation of his band Indian Ocean.
In 1994, Susmit gave up his regular job and dedicated his entire time to the band. Within the next 5 years, Indian Ocean had 7 songs to their name and had started making good money. Even during the hard times, the conviction for music and the fear of going back to his old job (says Susmit jokingly) had him going. The band saw many ups and downs over the years but they never gave up and neither did their fans. He believes that patience, perseverance and conviction are what kept him and his band members striding ahead. The band witnessed a continuous growth, not very drastic, though but always a steady one.
Over the next couple of years, the band composed music for UNICEF, several documentaries, Bollywood movies including Road to Ladakh and Karvaan. The band’s biggest Bollywood breakthrough came in when Anurag Kashyap signed them to compose music for his movie Black Friday.
When asked if there is anything in specific that he considers prerequisite for producing good music, Susmit immediately replied:
That’s a question I don’t think anyone has been able to answer. Creativity is something that is unexplained.
What came as a big surprise was when, in 2013, Susmit Sen decided to leave Indian Ocean. Defending his decision, he said,
You live once. Even if it is your creation, to stick to it throughout your life is not the best thing to do. I wanted to experience new things, life in a different way, experience music in a different way, newer artists, and so on and so forth, completely new compositions. A band also has inertia and as time goes by, the inertia grows. There are certain things that you can’t do in a band. When playing as a solo artist or as duo, the freedom is much much more, you do not get bound by the ideas of others.
Susmit believes that there is an English hegemony in this world and we belong in that hegemony. We tend to not notice the art that comes from the non-English speaking sections of the world and we lose out on it in a major way. There is immense amount of expression in other sectors that are often overlooked due to the dichotomy that exists between the English culture and the rest of the world. With his compositions, Susmit hopes that he will be able to consolidate the importance that Indian classical music holds at the global level.
We were curious to know if there was any decision that Susmit would want to change if he could, to which he snapped instantly that there is not a single decision that he regrets making and that each day for him is a new challenge and a fresh start.
Unlike most musicians, Susmit Sen neither took music classes nor guitar classes. He chose to teach these skills to himself as he thinks that taking lessons kills the original spark that we possess as we are bound within the limits of the things that are being taught to us. He owes the idiosyncrasy of his music to his unique style of playing guitar. He believes that it is his flair for guitar that makes his compositions stand out from the rest and helps him compose distinctive sounds.
Music, no doubt, holds great importance in his life. He sees it as a form of expression like any other language. There are several emotions that one cannot possibly portray through words, and therefore there are so many different forms of art. Throughout his journey, he has been able to hone his composition skills to a great extent, even though some of his greatest hits came in during the initial phase of the band.
His experiences in life may not have had a conscious influence on his compositions but he believes that if an artist is true to his art, his composition becomes a reflection of his personality.
The entire journey of the band Indian Ocean has been recorded in a documentary, directed by Jaideep Varma that goes by the name ‘Leaving Home-The Life and Music of Indian Ocean’. Susmit Sen has also written a book called ‘Ocean to Ocean: My Memoirs’ in collaboration with Sehba Imam.
According to Susmit Sen, in order to be a successful artist you should be true to your art and stick to what you want to do and not what the society expects you to do. There is a very fine line between being able to recognize what you actually are striving for and what the society is pushing you towards. The key to success lies in differentiating between the two and choosing the right path thereof.
If you wish to check out Susmit Sen’s latest compositions and give yourself a true and authentic Indian classical music treat then head to his YouTube channel or his Facebook page. You can also watch the documentary Leaving Home-The Life and Music of Indian Ocean and get to know the artist and Indian Ocean up close and personal!