Indian Ocean Talk Lockdown Blues, New Song ‘Akhiyan Udeek Diyan’
The fusion/rock stalwarts picked a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan song, marking the first of more songs to be released from their eighth album
From the comfort of their respective homes in Delhi NCR, Indian Ocean’s Amit Kilam, Himanshu Joshi, Nikhil Rao and Tuheen Chakraborty are speaking about what it would be like when live gigs eventually resume and the fusion heavyweights get back on stage. “It will be full of mistakes, bro,” Kilam confidently assures over the video conference call, lounging.
The virtual meeting room erupts in laughter, indicating that even with their decades of experience, Indian Ocean are always as real as they come. Even though bassist-vocalist Rahul Ram wasn’t on the call, there’s plenty of banter. Rao says he can handle all cooking duties now and Chakraborty immediately says he needs to get a taste when all this is done. Elsewhere during the 30-minute chat, when Kilam praises both Chakraborty and Rao for their singing and how they’ll also own mic duties for Indian Ocean, Chakraborty says, “Iss baat ke liye aapko mere taraf se party baadmein (you get a party from me for saying this).”
The band are currently promoting their first song in a while, a new single “Akhiyan Udeek Diyan” which adapts singing legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s composition into a sprawling, progressive rock-leaning hypnotic track. The 11-minute song has been in the works since late 2016 or early 2017, according to guitarist Rao, who is credited by Kilam for coming up with the main riff that led the band down the route of reimagining the song. Vocalist Joshi mentions that they had a couple of other Nusrat songs in mind, but he and Kilam (being the longtime fans) picked “Akhiyan Udeek Diyan” even though they knew at this point reworking any song by the qawwali legend would come with its fair share of pressures. Kilam says, “when we took on this project, we had serious apprehensions. I remember speaking with Nikhil and thinking, ‘Why do we need to touch an iconic song from an iconic artist?’ It always will have its divisions – you’re set up for comparison from day one.”
Listen to “Akhiyan Udeek Diyan” below.
After one false start in the creation process, Rao’s guitar riff in a 12-beat pattern immediately started Kilam off on a six-beat pattern he’d been holding on to for more than a decade. “That got my mind working and how we can change it completely and give it a new spin,” the drummer-vocalist says. Joshi, for his part, took only part of the lyrics from the original song and even introduced poetry from 12th century Sufi mystic Baba Farid. With three voices amongst Joshi, Ram and Kilam, Indian Ocean divided their parts based on what suited each member’s style. Joshi says, “While the song’s being made, one can kind of figure out which parts sound better in Amit’s voice or Rahul’s voice or my voice. With this particular song, that’s how the parts came into being – we decided.” Rao adds that the presence of three voices is what he enjoys thoroughly about writing with Indian Ocean. “This felt like the song in which Himanshu Joshi would have to do bulk of the heavy lifting. Amit and Rahul add their spices wherever required.”
“Akhiyan Udeek Diyan” is part of Indian Ocean’s upcoming eighth album and Kilam says they plan to release it song by song. Five compositions – including a Kabir bhajan led by Ram – are already recorded and will see release in the coming months. “There is no set and specific plan to when each song will be released, we’ll go along as and when we’re ready,” Kilam says. He adds there will be CD and LP formats once the album’s songs are completely released, “just to bring out happiness to ourselves that we have this in physical form.”
Rao adds that the songs always take a while with Indian Ocean but it’s never a concern.“It’s true that every song’s gestation period is high, but usually we’ve never been in a hurry because it never feels like, ‘Let’s release an album this year.’ It takes however long it does. We’re quite comfortable working in this mode,” he says.