Indian Ocean turns 20 this year. Leaving Home, releasing this April, celebrates the life and journey of one of India’s most iconic bands.
Indian Ocean is one of very few Indian bands as old as its most ardent fans, and it is a band that has defined a generation. Young urban India is as discerning a rock audience as can be found anywhere, and it was bands like Indian Ocean that blazed the trail of homegrown rock. The story that this movie tells is thus not only about the evolution of a band, it is about the evolution of a kind of music that is today taking India by storm.
Equally inspired by rock riffs and Hindustani tradition, Indian Ocean’s music is a medley of instruments, harmonies, and languages. “Kandisa”, for instance, is lifted from an ancient Aramaic prayer of the Syrian Christian community.“Maa Rewa” is a song dedicated to the contested Narmada river and the Narmada Bachao Andolan’s heroic effort to save it, and draws heavily on local folklore, both for lyrics and melody. Indian Ocean is one of India’s most consistently political bands, and their music often reflects this. “Maa Rewa” is equal parts protest and elegy. The band’s willingness to stand by their convictions is exemplified by their decision to score Black Friday, a controversial 2004 movie about the 1993 Bombay riots.
“Bandeh”, the album’s chartbuster, is an angry, passionate lament about the folly of communal violence. It was perhaps the strongest condemnation of riots to emerge from the nascent rock scene, reaffirming the old compact between rock music and uncomfortable truths.