“Many of my compositions have just come out of the blue. I feel it is best to leave compositions without having to define a process,” says Gurugram-based guitarist Susmit Sen. The founding member of Indian rock band Indian Ocean who left in 2013 to pursue a solo career, has since then introduced a range of new mixes as a way of broadening his musical spectrum.
Going beyond genres
Sen’s album, The Sound Company Series—it was released three years ago on YouTube and recently re-released on other streaming platforms—is a compilation of six instrumental pieces that reflect on Sen’s journey as a musician. Composed in collaboration with East Delhi-based drummer (and filmmaker) Nandit Desai and pianist Melanie Hardage from Albany—they perform together as Susmit Sen Trio—this album has tunes that transcend genres. It is a perfect blend of Sen’s Indian guitar techniques, Hardage’s soulful piano compositions, and Desai’s progressive rock and metal-inspired beats. “In a way, the six songs represent the first iteration of our collaboration,” shares Hardage.
The formation of the Trio had been an organic one. Sen shares how Hardage had previously been unaware of his music style but decided to collaborate with him after listening to his pieces. “She wanted to see what it would be like to introduce the Western piano to these guitar-heavy tunes, and we started jamming together,” says Sen. Therefore, although a number of Sen’s pieces such as Depths of the Ocean and Iceberg Project were composed earlier, through this new collaboration, they gave these compositions—as Sen mentions—a refreshing touch. “Working with Melanie has been inspirational. I had never thought that the piano would be able to complement my guitar tunes so well,” shares Sen. Hardage adds, “Like any [artistic] connection, one finds both common and uncommon ground. There is real beauty in taking from both sides to create something unique.”
With the introduction of Desai’s drums—they blend his Hindustani tabla training with metal and progressive rock influences during his adult years—the Trio’s music offers an eclectic mix of Indian folk with Western influences. Speaking of the Iceberg Project that was re-recorded along with drums, Desai shares, “I had to rethink the entire piece. It wasn’t easy but that was probably why it was the most interesting to record and add my own musical sensibilities to Susmit’s tunes.”
A treat for all
With Hardage currently in New York, the Trio has introduced Sudheer Rikhari—founder of the Delhi-based performing arts company, The Trialogue Company—as their third member. Following a performance on May 28, the Trio will be back tonight with a new set at the Trialogue Studio. Sen shares, “The intimacy of the small gathering makes the concert very special.
The audience plays an equal part. The energy that flows is cyclical and only grows.” When asked what one can expect from the show, Desai concludes, “Expect the unexpected! Playing with Susmit is always a treat because he keeps you on your toes. If we as musicians don’t know what to expect while performing with him, the audience is definitely in for a treat.”