Interview: Susmit Sen (India) – India’s Jerry Garcia?

Date: September 14, 2011 – Venue: Drom (NY)
Text, interview and video by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi

Last month I got an email from Shampa Chanda inviting me to see her artist, the Indian guitarist Susmit Sen, for whom she had organized a concert at Drom in the Lower East Side. Reading the press kit which described Sen’s music as “…comparable to that of Jerry Garcia and John McLaughlin.” I thought “OK, let’s check the young Ravi Shankar out playing rock music on a guitar instead on his sitar!”
When I entered Drom he had already started his show. Instead of seeing a young Indian rock musician I saw a middle aged “normal” looking guy. No long hair, no leather pants and no R&R attitude, no Marijuana, but a very polite speaking and behaving gentleman.


At the end of the concert something very bizarre happened in myself: when Sen was playing the Indian anthem I imagined my guitar hero Jimi Hendrix playing the US anthem which made me believe that Sen was playing the US anthem. Almost til the end my memory and my consciousness were battling telling me each that I was listening to their referred anthem. Apparently my memory wanted to convince me that Jimi was on stage?! Just ten bars before the end of the song I realized that Jimi wasn’t on stage.



DooBeeDoo has been recently featuring and interviewing all kinds of Indian musicians, traditionalists such as Gauri Guha,Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Jazz musicians such as Vijay Iyer (Tirtha), Satish and Ravish Momin, the electronic table player Talvin Singh and modern folk music/ Baraat musician Sunny Jain. But this time we have a musician, Susmit Sen, who is totally different from all the musicians I just mentioned.



Sen is a leading acoustic guitar player and founder of the most well known Indian band called Indian Ocean’. And he made his first official solo concert appearance in the US at Drom (New York) last month. Apparently his music and guitar playing has influenced the young generation in India. In the interview he told me that he is a self taught musician and invented his own style of guitar playing by adding an “Indian” touch to it. In all his songs you could hear the influence of Indian classical and folk tunes and also his love to rock and blues music. His music was instrumental and modal all the time, playing one scale and applying different rhythm patterns which were played by his tabla player who also switched to the drum

The audience which was half Indian and half locals enjoyed the concert and so did I. I hope he will come back soon, and maybe he should use NY musicians next time who could add more different colors and have the ability to improvise in a way that Sen’s music could go to the next level.

The interview was held in the Drom’s office upstairs backstage. Because of not disturbing the Drom manegement working the interview was held with a lower voice. So please raise the volume of your computer, dear reader!