Coke Studio At MTV – Season 2 Episode 2. Review.

So it was the turn of composer Hitesh Sonik yesterday on Coke Studio @ MTV to take off from where Clinton Cerejo left it last week. A composer as under rated as (perhaps more than) Clinton, I am happy MTV decided to bring him on the show. For those who know of Hitesh only because of his recent marriage to Sunidhi Chauhan (I am sure that is a fair number of people), the man has been assisting Vishal Bhardwaj from his Maachis days, and debuted as composer last year with Stanley Ka Dabba, and also guest-composed in Pyaar Ka Punchnama and My Friend Pinto. Back to the show then. Hitesh brings with him a team that I guess is entirely different from last week (save for Vijay Prakash in one song). Here is what I thought of the episode.

Song no. 1 Allah Hoo has on vocals the Nooran sisters, Jyoti & Sultana, who shot to fame with the opening episode of MTV Sound Trippin’. And the song is their show all the way, barring when Paras Nath plays that sparkling flute solo in the second interlude.  The power the siblings pack in their voice is amazing, as they cruise through the (madhyamavathi raga-based?) composition with trained ease. The lines would seem to be by Bulleh Shah. And I know that the Allah Hoo motif at the end comes from the Nusrat Fateh Ali qawwali, not sure if the rest of the song is also an adaptation. Another standout element in the arrangement is the harmonium-playing by Gaurav Vaswani; I was happy to see Balabhaskar in the credits section, but his role turned out to be pretty minimal.

And then comes the song of the episode, THE Piyush Mishra with his Husna. Coke Studio’s site says that Hitesh heard Piyush sing the song 15 years back. Hats off to him for having remembered it and decided to use it on the show. There is an inexplicably irresistible charm about Piyush rendering his own lines (Raga shivaranjani in this case), I had that with Duniya in Gulaal and then with Ik Bagal in GoW, and Husna belongs right up there. And Hitesh does very well with the arrangement, starting off on a minimal acoustic-led note and gradually picking intensity as it goes. Once again Paras Nath is exceptional with the flute.

Do Gallan: For the first time in the season a fumble in the choice of vocalist – Alisha Batth. The composer sets a lovely guitar-led arrangement for the song, all to be undone by the lady’s singing. And one has to go through three and a half minutes of her stumbling along before Vijay Prakash makes his salvage entry with a Darbari raga-based improv (with Kannada lines!). Though he goes a bit overboard with some sargams, his portion is a refreshing change. Had the choice of female vocalist been different this song might have worked wonders, but alas..

Vari Jaun: While in episode 1 there was Sawan Khan Mangniyar, this time we have Moora Lala strumming on his tanpura and singing away without a care in the world, it is particularly heartening to see someone sing like that. In stark contrast is Suman Sridhar’s rendition that follows, wherein the composer throws in jazz elements. The percussion-led climactic finish has Balabhaskar displaying some of his famed violin skills (latter part of which gets muted by the percussion). The problem with the song though is that portions by Suman and Moora stand as two separate entities – there is basically an intermission in Moora’s rendition where Suman comes in, and once that is done Moora comes back and finishes it off – there is no conversation as such between the two artists. This could as well have been a Moora Lala solo and it might have sounded just as good, possibly better since that break wouldn’t have been there.

One of the few artists from Season 1 to make it to this season, Harshdeep Kaur takes the stage with the Meera poem Hey Ri. Having specialized in the sufi genre, the singer has little difficulty in expressing the pain that Meera tries to convey through the lines. The sinisterness added by the rock-based arrangement goes well with the mood of the song. The shift from the distortion guitars to Omkar’s shehnai is also smooth. Neat work.

Final song, Lamh Tera. With a minimal acoustic background to Raghubir Yadav’s earthy rendition of the folk piece from Madhya Pradesh, the effect is quite soothing. The chorus does well to match his style in the latter half when the arrangement  shifts gears. Nice track to close the episode.

Not quite on par with what I had expected going by Hitesh Sonik’s repute, but Husna is definitely making it to the best of the season. There seemed to be problems with the sound that weren’t there last week, some instruments and at times vocals getting drowned out by the dominant sounds. This was an issue last year; hope yesterday’s was just a one-off occurrence for this season.

Top Recos: Husna, Lamh Tera, Allah Hoo

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VIP says:

Dont know man.. The ad lib by Suman at the end seemed forced. Repeatedly tripping on Allah Hoo and Husna though, more on Allah Hoo coz that is more cheerful. Husna, though awesome, has depressing effects.

Chunni Babu says:

I enjoyed Hitesh’s episode – all songs were very different and well thought out. I totally agree with you about Moora of the most awesome singers I have heard lately..his voice is mesmerizing. I even liked the digression starting with some reggae that eventually blended into jazz on the keys (awesome stuff there), leading to a crescendo where Moora joined back (oooh what a moment that was) and Suman’s part at the end was great too…