Saturday, December 26, 2009

RIP, Asheem

Asheem Chakravarty of the band Indian Ocean died yesterday of a heart attack. Obituary here (and elsewhere).

Though not formally trained, he and his bandmates defined a new sound that combined elements of Indian folk and classical with Western rock. Asheem played tabla, and sang, often simultaneously. The combination of his tabla, the acoustic guitar of Sushmit Sen, the bass of Rahul Ram and drums of Amit Kilam combined to unique effect. In the early days, the band played largely instrumental music, but as time went on, the somewhat classical-sounding vocal of Asheem and the somewhat more raucous, folk-inspired singing of Rahul Ram dominated their music more and more. After struggling with college-festival gigs for nearly 10 years, the band achieved considerable success with their album Kandisa in 2000, and in recent years have been touring heavily around the world.

Asheem had a heart attack in October, in Doha airport on the way back from a tour of the US. He had been in a poor condition since then. While Indian Ocean have continued to honour their recent concert commitments with fill-in players, it is hard to imagine them without Asheem. I hope the band finds a way to go on. And my condolences to Asheem's family, and to the band: though he was taken away early, he enriched many lives.

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