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Limitless Passion: Asheem Chakravarty [1957 - 2009]

"If you are enjoying it, don't call it a struggle". - our tribute to the amazingly inspirational Asheem Chakravarty of Indian Ocean. He and Indian Ocean made us believe that indie-fusion was possible.

What you’re reading now is not an outpouring of grief at the passing of Asheem Chakravarty, Indian Ocean’s intrepid percussionist and vocalist, or an expression of helpless rage at the prospect of never ever hearing his full-throated voice powering India’s finest band.

This is a tribute to the sheer magnitude of inspiration he has been for Swarathma, and we’re sure, for many an aspiring Indian band.

It was a chilly winter morning in Delhi when Swarathma showed up at NDTV Studios where we were to be interviewed on a talk show along with some other bands about what it is like to be in a band in India. The grand-daddies of the show were Indian Ocean, of course.

In the waiting area before we went on air, hungry band-wallahs were attacking plates of cookies and cups of coffee when Asheem joined us. His easy charm and maniacal intensity set us strangely at ease, as we spoke about how much of a struggle it was to take up music as a full-time career. That’s when he said something we’ll never forget, “We guys are enjoying what we’re doing… if you’re enjoying it, don’t call it a struggle!

Later in the program we listened with rapt attention as he talk about how it was with Indian Ocean in the early days, the courage behind the conviction it took to walk the path that they have for the past decade. “Fusion needs to happen in the mind first!” he declared. “It is only then you can do justice to it with music.

[Photo] A rare picture: Indian Ocean, Parikrama, Swarathma, BodhiTree and Between the Covers jamming together. Pic: NDTV

As one of the Indian Ocean’s pioneering members, Asheem inspires Vasu and Pavan, who started Swarathma in Mysore in 2002. The fierce and uncompromising, even obstinate way of sticking to an ideology (musical or otherwise) that the early Indian Ocean displayed by NOT playing covers, by carving a musical identity out of thin air, by giving birth to a whole new genre of music in the nation gives us solace and a sense of purpose at the same time.

At the end of the recording of our debut album in New Delhi in the autumn of 2008, Swarathma paid a visit to the hallowed Indian Ocean jam-pad in Karol Bagh; producer Amit Kilam (drums) decided to take us there to meet the rest of the band. We sat, in awed silence the band we’ve idolized since the day we started rehearsed their set before their impending US tour. Asheem and Sushmit engaged in heated debate over a seemingly trivial matter and we caught ourselves glancing at each other – wow, even they fight!

Asheem-da, we’ll miss you. Every step of our way.

Text: Jishnu Dasgupta

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