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Melancholic Ecstasy: The Top 10 Indian Ocean Songs

Amanda Sodhi

With two documentary films made about them and their music, and a huge fan-following all over the world, Indian Ocean is one of India’s most cherished bands, and they have a nice eclectic of their own albums as well as Bollywood projects in their repertoire. Here’s taking a look at some of Indian Ocean’s most memorable compositions over the past 21 years.

10. “Khajuraho” from Kandisa

“Khajuraho” from Kandisa starts off sounding almost like a prayer, with Sanskrit sholakas towards the beginning, and later Sanjeev Sharma’s Hindi lyrics exploring the concept of maya. This all makes perfect sense, as “Khajuraho” is dedicated to the town by the same name in Madhya Pradesh, which has an ample amount of medieval Hindu and Jain temples. With plenty of twits and turns and layers, this song definitely makes it to the list of top Indian Ocean compositions. Kandisa is an important album as Times Music helped market Indian Ocean’s music properly for the first time, and following the release of Kandisa, the band toured all over the world.

9. “Melancholic Ecstasy” from Indian Ocean

“Melancholic Ecstasy” from Indian Ocean, the band’s debut album released only on cassette, offers a unique juxtaposition of emotions ranging from melancholy to bliss, the composition moving from a soft, somber, sluggish pace to a faster, jazzier tempo, ending with a bang. 

8. “Jhini” from Jhini

“Jhini” from Jhini, Indian Ocean’s fourth album recorded in the picturesque Varadeipalyam, Andhra Pradesh, is a memorable folk number, with references to Kabir. The incorporation of the tablas along with rustic vocals gives “Jhini” a traditional feel. Also worth a special mention is the angst-ridden “After the War” from the same album, which makes you contemplate the futility of war and bloodshed.

7. “Bhor” from Jhini

“Bhor” from Jhini is a “feel-good” composition celebrating early mornings. “Bhor” is full of rich imagery about birds flying, the beauty of the early hours, and the magic of love. The use of the flute is beautiful and helps create a joyful mood.

6. “Des Mera” from Jhini

“Des Mera” from Jhini is an extremely lively, upbeat composition dedicated to the diversity of India. The vocal percussions are fun to listen to. The composition gained even more popularity when it was re-released as part of the film Peepli Live’s soundtrack.

5. “Bandeh” from Black Friday

“Bandeh” from Anurag Kashyap’s film Black Friday is an extremely important Indian Ocean composition given the fact that it reached number two on film music charts and also increased their fan-following immensely. “Bandeh” is thought-provoking, calling for peace and harmony. The guitar solos towards the end of the composition are brilliant. “Bharam Bhaap Ke,” also from Black Friday, is worth a mention, too, especially for Piyush Mishra’s excellent, deep lyrics.

4. “From the Ruins” from Desert Rain

“From the Ruins” from Desert Rain, Indian Ocean’s second album and first live album released by any Indian band at the time, has a haunting, somber melody, with brief shlokas interspersed. Even though the track is almost eight minutes long, it is an absolutely gorgeous piece and demonstrates that even simple melody can be built upon and developed so it maintains listener interest until the very last moment. An interesting tidbit about Desert Rain is that the live recording happened on New Year’s Day of 1997 at a concert when the band happened to notice a DAT recorder by chance. While no music company wanted to release their live album, and they had to create a label called Independent Music, the album later ended up making it to #2 on the iTunes U.K. world music charts in 2006 – talk about standing the test of time!

3. “Kaun” from Kandisa

“Kaun” from Kandisa is one of Indian Ocean’s strongest compositions with superb Sufi philosophical lyrics by Sanjeev Sharma exploring brotherhood and maya – “Kaun bhalaa kaun buraa, sab mein aks uskaa basaa...Kaun chaddhaaye roz yeh suraj, pawan kaun phoonkey?” (Who is good, who is bad, in everyone is God’s reflection… Who makes the sun crawl up each morning, who gives breath to the wind?). The steady percussion arrangements, soulful vocals, interesting bass and guitar riffs, build-up and release of energy and pace throughout are absolutely rocking and will transport you to a state of musical bliss.

2. “Torrent” from Jhini

Well, well, Jhini sure is a winner, because once more another composition from the album makes it to this list – “Torrent” is an outstanding instrumental track which captivates you from the very start, leaving you mesmerized and breathless ’til the very end with excellent guitar riffs, percussion arrangements and soft humming. The composition is very soothing, and flows smoothly. The perfect song to listen to on sleepless nights!

1. “Subaah Ki Roshni” from Hulla

“Subaah Ki Roshni” from Jaideep Varma’s film Hulla makes it to the top of the list. The lyrics are extremely fresh – “Subaah ki roshni bas ek nayi, baaki sab baasi baasi hai” (Only the morning’s light is new, everything else is stale, simply stale). The song’s tempo and vocal rendition perfectly establishes the emotions of being bored with mundane routine. All elements of the composition come together perfectly. It’s a shame neither “Subaah Ki Roshni” nor “Doob Raha Hai” from Hulla got much coverage or notice due to the marketing of the film and its music.

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