Clinton Cerejo. The man who heralded Coke Studio at MTV’s turn around after a widely panned first season with that super-hit opening episode of Season 2 – his Madari going on to be one of the biggest songs from the season. The man therefore had set the bar pretty high for himself in season 3, and the first two episodes haven’t helped bring that any lower. Happened to catch the episode slightly late, and here are my thoughts.
Pir Jalani – Fusion in its most definitive form, this song is a superb mélange of contrasting styles. The arrangement has some brilliant guitars and horns (arranged by Rhys Sebastian, who also arranged the brass section for Indiva’s debut album) interspersed with the folk sounds of gabgubi and khartaal and morchang and dholaks (that second interlude with the morchang solo by Rais Khan followed by the khartaal-dholak-guitar-horns conversation is one of the highlights of the song). And on vocals we have Manga Khan’s earthiness juxtaposed with Clinton Cerejo’s polished rendition that again makes for an interesting contrast. After the Mangniyars last year, kudos to Clinton for employing another folk group (again from Rajasthan incidentally), Barmer Boys, on the show this time around.
Aisi Bani – Three of the top singers from Clinton’s last season show – Vijay Prakash, Sonu Kakkar and Bianca Gomez – join the composer-singer to render the lines Manoj Yadav puts together based on Kabir’s doha. And it is in the vocals that this song surprisingly falls short; the song is right down Vijay and Sonu’s alley and they ace it, but Bianca sounds out of place in her solo portions. The sinister arrangement is super otherwise, the strings – guitars by Clinton, Warren Mendonsa & Nyzel D’lima, Tapas Roy (the same man who played dotara and mandolin last week) on saaz and Lindsay D’Mello’s drums being the highlight.
Kalapi – Clinton is once again at his imaginative best with the arrangement here, employing a reggae base for a Bhojpuri song penned again by Manoj. Rhys’ horns section is spot on, as is that guitar solo by Nyzel. Kailash Kher’s rendition is nuanced albeit riddled with familiar tropes, but he carries off that dialect with an ease and naturality that few others can. And he is supported very well by the chorus, particularly towards the end.
Marghat – One of the songs I have been most looking forward to in this episode; been a big fan of Sidharth Basrur’s singing in the past, and his combination with Clinton would be nothing short of promising. The track starts off living upto that promise too, Clinton building up a hair-raising prelude with the help of Aman Mahajan’s keys and Nyzel, Warren, himself and Rushad Mistry on guitars. What follows however isn’t as exciting; strangely enough, Basrur’s singing in particular didn’t quite cut it for me – don’t know if it was hearing him sing Hindi for the first time.
Pinjra – Clinton gets Jonita Gandhi and Sanam Puri, singers of that superhit youtube cover of Tum Hi Ho, to sing this one. And they do an equally wonderful job here too, assisted well by Clinton and the chorus. The arrangement however isn’t anything particularly special here, and gets daunting after some time, the only standout being Warren Mendonsa’s solo in the second interlude.
Baina – The episode ends on a high, with the best song from Clinton’s set that also features the maximum number of artists and instruments. And most of them are beautifully utilized, right from the cello (P S Ramachandran) and double bass (Lavine De Costa) that ominously begin the song to the kanjira by Rajesh Srinivasan. Particularly well-placed among them are the manjiras and the veena by Rajesh Vaidya. Amidst all this is the singing by Clinton Cerejo and Vijay Prakash; Vijay especially nails the nuanced rendition of the malkauns/hindolam-based piece as expected. It is only with the qawwals that I expected a little more on the lines of regular qawwali rendition, but that is in no way to understate their contribution as a chorus around that title hook. That grand ending in itself is worth playing on a loop. Fabulous fusion song all in all!
So not as awesome an episode as I expected from Clinton Cerejo, although it helps reascertain the amazing talent the man possesses as an arranger.
Top Recos: Baina, Pir Jalani, Kalapi