Vyakul Jiyara – The man who has been consistently awesome across the two seasons of Coke Studio at MTV doubles up as producer in this (predominantly) bageshri raag-based piece penned by Manoj Yadav. And Vijay Prakash picks up some of the best artists from across episodes to support him here – Sanjoy Das and Nyzel D’Lima on guitars, Mohini Dey on bass, Lindsey D’Mello on drums, Vinayak Netke on tabla – and helping him with the additional arrangements is keyboardist Aditya Paudwal (son of Anuradha, I presume). Coming back to the song, very neatly arranged fusion piece this. And Vijay delivers as brilliantly as expected on the vocals too with some lovely improvs, very nicely supported by chorus (again featuring a lot of names from previous episodes). Even the cameo by Hamsika Iyer where she renders Subramania Bharati’s verses (raga sounded like neelaambari) goes very well with the overall composition.
Qalandar– Aditya Balani and Suhail Yusuf Khan produce a classical-rock fusion piece (jog raga based it would seem) in collaboration with Tarun and Gaurav Balani (all of whom have previously come out with the album Sacred World under the name Tarun Balani Collective and one song of which was part of our latest mixtape). And the band does feature a groovy arrangement like they did in Sacred World too – complete with that sarangi cameo by Suhail. What is not so much in their favor is the tune that works only in parts. Suhail’s singing is not without its flaws either, but he just about manages to hold his end up.
Paagal – Winit Tikoo Band is the group that got on the show by winning Coke Studio’s LeapFrog contest. But the man who steals the show here is the sarangi player Shahrukhh Khan who is beautifully utilized almost all through the song. Unfortunately for Winit Tikoo, he is not as good a singer as he is an arranger or a guitar player, so the best part of the song is its second half since most of it is taken up by instrumental solos – first by Winit on the guitar, which he carries off brilliantly, and then by Shahrukhh. So that is the part you might want to watch out for in this song.
Naash – Orange Street, the most experienced group on the episode. Well at least by name, only the frontman Anirban Chakraborty remains from the original lineup (it was Anirban along with the current guitarist Donn Bhatt who did two songs for Vicky Donor as Donn & Bann). So the band here presents a not so different version of their (mishra jog raag-based, as per singer Imran Khan) fusion piece from the album Dharma. The only place where I noticed a difference was in the harmony element contributed very nicely by Sneha Suresh and Sharmishtha Chatterji. There is a lot of individual brilliance in display here – Bann is exuberant with his rap, the classical segments are superb, the dhol by Sajid Khawra makes for a nice combo with the rock elements. The sum total of these parts doesn’t seem to work that smoothly as a fusion piece, however.
Anth Bahar – Rajasthan Roots get on stage here, with their folk paraphernalia – bhapang (very close to gabgubi in sound), khartaal, morchang, manjira, dotara, flute – to produce a fusion song based on Bulleh Shah’s lines,along with Func. (of Shaair & Func). Func. plays guitar too in this song, producing some super solos particularly towards the end. Once again the individual parts are awesome, the combination not so. Kutle Khan, Bismila Khan and Aditya Bhasin handle the folk part of vocals quite well. Nancy Aren Ao has a voice that would suit the western style very well as is evident from some of her solos, but she doesn’t sound as comfortable when singing alongside the folk powerhouses.
Man Manam – A serene piece from Sonam Kalra & the Sufi Gospel Project to end the episode, Sonam and Ahsan Ali imparting ghazal-based flavor to a traditional Persian poem. The arrangement is lovely here, particularly the sarangi by Ahsan and mandola/banjo by Amar Sangam, and Amaan Ali’s tabla. Sonam’s singing isn’t exactly top drawer but I liked some touches she gives, like that yodel effect towards the end.
A mixed bag from the six producers, this episode.
Top Recos: Vyakul Jiyara, Man Manam, Qalandar