In his 30th year with Indian Ocean — one of India’s oldest bands, vocalist and bass guitarist Rahul Ram feels that over the past three decades, the band has become the centerpiece of his life. Remembering that in the early days, they hardly managed to get any shows, with only a total of seven in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994; and earning a grand total of maybe Rs 95,000, he smiles, “So clearly we were doing it for love, and not money. Anywhere we played, people always asked for more. I think that is what has kept us going — people’s admiration and the kind of fun we have been having.”
Considering that some very fine independent bands have not been able to survive beyond a few years, Ram says that the reason Indian Ocean has is partly because the members were already adults when they came together.
“Most bands break up because of ego, because the guys just cannot get along with each other anymore. Even those who turn professional after playing together in college rarely make it through more than 10 years. Of course bands like ‘Parikrama’,’Euphoria’ and a few others are an exception. So I think, the age factor made a lot of difference, and the fact that we loved what we were doing — experimenting and creating new sounds.”
Talk to him how the digital revolution has made albums a thing of the past, and the musician says that the same has ensured that the the hold of the music companies over artists has gone. “They have no relevance now. With the advances in technology, you don’t need big studios, and can do a lot of stuff yourself at home with SoundCloud and so on. Of course, this has also meant a lot of crowd in this space as anyone can cut an album now. Considering we have longevity on our side in the sense that people already know about us, so we don’t have to fight. But even Western musicians say, that to survive the contemporary model, you have to be healthy and touring and performing in order to make money. Downloads just do not make money,considering the fact Indians are used to a diet of paying for nothing. Playing live is essentially our only source of revenue. Apart from that, doing music for a film etc.,” says the member of Indian Ocean, which was recently a part of HCL Digital Concerts.
Talking about how very few corpoates in India, unlike their counterparts in the west contribute towards art and culture, Ram has an interesting take, “Of course, as a musician, I will always say that they should do more, but don’t you think even we should see what they are getting out of it? It’s two-way traffic, no?
Ram, who is also a part of ‘Aisi Taisi Democracy’, along with Stand- up comedian Sanjay Rajoura and writer-lyricist Varun Grover remembers that the moment he saw Rajoura’s first performance, he started imagining the Hindi songs that could illustrate what he was talking about. “It has been a great ride for six years and we are having loads of fun. It is a part of me that I cannot do in Indian Ocean.. In the band, I am switched on from the time we get on stage till we get off stage, fully. And in Aisi Taisi , the duration of the songs are less, so I can actually sit back and relax and enjoy the whole thing a lot more.”
Talking about his experience in Bollywood, with movies like ‘Black Friday’, ‘Peepli Live’, and ‘Masaan’, Ram says that though they have enjoyed being part of these and some other films, he has no desire to become a full-time Bollywood person. “That’s a swamp I want to keep away from,” he signs off.