Coke Studio at MTV – Season 2 Episode 1. Thoughts.

June 17. That was the day Coke Studio India kicked off last year. I still remember the fanfare leading up to the event, how the expectations got built up, and how as the show started off the massive edifice they had made started breaking down. Instances after instances of comparison with the Pakistani edition, and how MTV had failed to match up. And yes, I do agree, there were many things that were lacking, but there was also some good music that created in the process, something that got lost in all the negativity. Anyway, the show got over, and MTV’s musical resurgence didn’t stop with that. They followed it up with Roots, Unplugged and most recently Sound Trippin’, each of which produced its share of wonderful music. And after a full circle, it was time for Season 2 of Coke Studio. A few things changed this time. Instead of one composer for the whole show (Lesle Lewis last year), this season it is eight composers for eight episodes – Ehsaan & Loy, Amit Trivedi, Shantanu Moitra, Karsh Kale, Nitin Sawhney, Clinton Cerejo, Hitesh Sonik and an eighth surprise composer. And the choice of singers. Yes, there is Bollywood this time too, but the numbers seem less this time, and even within Bollywood the focus seems to be around the artists who are into classical/fusion music – Nandini Srikar, Vijay Prakash, Kaushiki Chakraborty, Shriram Iyer, Shilpa Rao to name a few.
So, the show began yesterday, with music producer-arranger-composer-singer Clinton Cerejo at the helm. A man I have been a major fan of for his repertoire, of which a major part is sadly unknown to many (plugging off an old interview of Clinton at this point to help a bit with familiarizing!). And hence I was eager to see how this would turn out. After having seen it online, here are my thoughts on the episode. You may click on the song title to watch the song.
The first song, that got released a day before the episode got aired, was an adaptation of the Mangniyar folk song extolling God, Saathi Salaam. Haven’t heard a lot of Mangniyars, just Mame Khan courtesy Amit Trivedi, but have loved what I have heard. And with this song I have one more Mangniyar to keep track of, Sawan Khan. Raw voice, amazing range. And with a contrastingly polished voice of Clinton joining in from the end, Saathi Salaam makes for an interesting listen. The track in fact gets better as it goes on, ending in a sinister crescendo.

Song no. 2: Banjara. Lyrics by the talented Manoj Yadav, and vocals by two among the most classically proficient singers in Bollywood today, Vijay Prakash and Nandini Srikar. Vijay owns most of first half with his brilliant alaap (Shubhapanthuvarali raga), post which the song changes tone (to Abheri raga, I think) as Nandini joins in. The breeziness of the pop-based arrangement conveys the figurative wandering of man quite well, and gels with the nuanced singing by the duo. The song ends in a nice jugalbandhi between the singers.

Chhad De Moorakh has Master Saleem behind the mic. Thanks to this song I now know how he looks, have always loved his singing. Lovely lines by Manoj and Saleem delivers them well, peppering it with some beautiful classical elements. Highlight of the song is the cello solo towards the end (the cello almost sounds like a violin in places, interestingly). Wonder who the cellist is Thanks to Nandini, I now know that the cellist’s name is Jake Charkey. The only problem, the track sounds oddly buoyant at times for words so devoid of hope.

Madari gets off to an excellent start – I have been in love with that guitar/mandolin hook ever since I heard it in teasers. But the rest of the song, the vocal portion especially, unfortunately didn’t work that well for me. Not a fault of the singers though, Vishal Dadlani and Sonu Kakkar do their part well, Sonu particularly spectacular doing that alaap in between. The arrangement is pretty groovy too, but the whole package didn’t rate for me as high the previous three songs. I am seriously considering putting that hook as ringtone though.

Mauje Naina. My least fav track of the episode. About the quality of singers there is no doubt in this case either, Bianca Gomez at the lead, and Shadab and Altamash supporting her are all impressive. Shadab was there in Unplugged as well I think, he is another singer with a strong classical footing. But the song didn’t impress me.

And the last song of the episode was Dungar. Clinton knows his gospel music fairly well. He infused gospel music into Ekla Cholo to fabulous effect in Kahaani, and he is even planning on a gospel album with his better half and singer Dominique Cerejo. And here when a 31 member gospel choir fuses their style with the earthy singing by Sawan Khan Mangniyar, the result is quite something! Total winner, this track!

So, a neat start to Season 2, and if this is anything to go by I would say MTV has indeed learnt from the mistakes they made in the opening season. But I shall wait to see how it unfolds. Of course, assuming that people don’t hold the absence of free download (ya, sadly one of the things that didn’t change from last season) much against them!

Top Recos: Dungar, Banjara, Saathi Salaam

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VIP says:

Aah.. Long time no comments. 🙂 And yes, lovely episode. I guess I am one of the very few for whom Madari didn’t work that well. Except for that opening hook of course.

Chunni Babu says:

I am feasting on coke studio for the last 2 weeks. Music from India hasn’t ever been this good for me. Clinton’s songs started out OK with me but eventually grew on me and I eventually bought the iphone and now mostly have it in replay. All songs are great. Sawan Khan’s raw powerful voice totally rocks the two songs he sang. And Dungar is such a beautiful experiment with an unthinkable fusion of gospel and sindhi folk! Loved Sonu Kakkar’s vocals in Madari and really the song is infectious and hard to get out of the head once you hear it.