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Indian fusion makes waves across the ocean

September 2006
Indian fusion makes waves across the ocean

Describing Indian Ocean as a top-notch fusion band whose music combines "elements of Bengali sangeet, jazz improvisation, rock-laden rhythmic patterns, Hindustani classical music, Sufism and a melodic soul that's immediately recognizable," critic Bhaskar Gupta wonders why it didn't become more widely known for so many years. Well, that seems to be changing. Not only is the band making waves in India and other Asian countries, but it's also made a splash in several Western cities, at least among younger desi audiences. Their most recent tour was in the U.S. last month. Formed in 1990 as an amateur group, Indian Ocean now consists of Sushmit Sen (guitar and vocals), Amit Kilam (drums, percussion, gabgubi, flute and vocals), Rahul Ram (bass guitar and vocals), and Asheem Chakravarty (tabla, tarang, percussion and vocals). Their big breakthrough came with the release of Kandisa in 2000, after which the band played to full houses on four continents. The album's inventive songs, including one ("Khajuraho") that first gained attention during the millennium celebrations in India, incorporate lyrics in Hindi, Kashmiri, Bengali, Armaic and Bhilali. They've also composed music for Black Friday, a film about the '93 bomb blasts in Bombay. Indian Ocean's other CDs include Desert Rain, recorded live at Mandi House in Delhi, and Jhini, recorded at a studio in rural Andhra Pradesh. Speaking of jazz-and-pop inflected Indian fusion, the colorful Asha Puthli is making a comeback of sorts. After impressing the writer Ved Mehta and the late producer Ismail Merchant, among others, with her exuberant vocal skills, Puthli went on to have an erratically successful career in a variety of musical styles, mostly in India and Europe. Then she dropped out of sight for many years. But now, according to The New York Times, "some of Ms. Puthli's most improbable hybrids – the mid-1970s tracks she recorded with a disco pulse, psychedelic guitars and vocals that segue from sultry jazz phrasing to the quavers and slides of Indian music – have been rediscovered by hip-hop and electronica producers." A compilation album titled Space Talk: The Best of Asha Puthli, the CBS Years will be released later this year.

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