Coke Studio at MTV Season 2 Episode 6 (Karsh Kale) – Review

Hallellujah – Like with the Nitin Sawhney episode, the sixth episode of Coke Studio featuring Karsh Kale had three compositions that have made their public appearance before this show, this being the first. I had loved the way Karsh had laid Leonard Cohen’s cult lyrics over Warren Mendonsa’s Ode to a Sunny Day in their original cover. In the Coke Studio version the composer maintains the original framework, and improvises beautifully over it. So while we have Karsh singing some of Cohen’s lines and a scintillating guitar solo from Warren, we also have Shilpa Rao’s rendition of Jhoola fitted snugly in between, along with Ajay Prasanna’s soulful touches on the flute. On repeated listens I have begun to like this better than the earlier cover!

Kajar Bin – Karsh Kale’s tribute to Ustad Sultan Khan, covering a song written by the sarangi maestro and composed by him with Salim Merchant. Wonder if it was ever released, don’t remember coming across it, and hence no idea how the original sounded. This homage though, is fabulously done. Right from the point Sultan Khan’s son Sabir Khan kicks off the song with his sarangi improv, he totally owns the song backed by Karsh’s trademark arrangement (that tabla+drum combo is signature stuff!).  The only weak link is the singing by Salim. He might have done some good renditions in the past, but here his performance is lacklustre. Thankfully this song does not rely heavily upon the vocals so it still makes for a lovely listen.

Peekaboo – The second repeat song of the episode. Peekaboo was part of Karsh’s album Cinema. But while the album had Monica Dogra singing Karsh and Tapan Raj (Midival Punditz)’s English lyrics, the composer totally revamps the song for the show. Here it is Apeksha Dandekar who first sings Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s darbari-based thumri  Aaja Balam Pardesi with trained ease, and later sings some of the English portion from the original with equal elan. Benny Dayal and Mandeep Sethi pull off the rap neatly; Ravi Chary and Ajay Prasanna are brilliant with their cameos. Another winning cover!

Glorious – And we get into electronica fusion, Karsh Kale building on a drums n bass template provided by Jayant Luthra. The two highlights of the song are Shruti Pathak and Ajay Prasanna who go about their respective performances effortlessly traversing the changing scales. But apart from these two, the song didn’t impress a great deal, the alternating scales made it sound complicated, and even Mandeep Sethi’s rap and Benny Dayal’s Arabic singing failed to make an impact.

Shedding Skin – Karsh gets all four female vocalists of the episode – Shilpa Rao, Shruti Pathak, Monali Thakur and Apeksha Dandekar – together for this semiclassical (nalinakanthi and charukesi, to be hazarding a guess) melody, doing a vocal cameo himself towards the end. But more than anything else, the song rides on the beauty of the base tune delivered to the tee by the ladies.

Dil Cheez Kya Hai – The first film song cover of the season. And Monali Thakur is totally up to the task, rendering the Khayyam-Asha Bhonsle-Shaharyar classic with finesse (though at times going overboard with the improvs) and with Karsh going old school on the arrangement front as well, it fairs very well. Until Monali starts singing the English part that is, something that sticks out like a sore thumb in the composition. And from that point on the song lost its charm on me.

After two not-so-impressive episodes, Coke Studio at MTV gets back on track with some exceptional music from Karsh Kale. Hoping that Shantanu Moitra takes it forward at the same level next week, he does seem to have a promising set of artists with him.

Top Recos – Hallellujah, Shedding Skin, Peekaboo

PS: Shoddiness in the song info section on the official site this time. Allusion to a non-existent sitar part by Ravi Chary in Glorious. In Shedding Skin it says Shruti Pathak wrote the lyrics, but the credits have been given to Swanand Kirkire. And some spelling mistakes. Hope someone gets them corrected.

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VIP says:

@Vishal: Was just listening to it again. Not sure about darbari now, but doesnt seem to be Sindhubhairavi either. I still have an inclination towards darbari.

Vishal says:

Are you sure the Aaja balam pardesi thumri bit in Peekaboo is in Darbari? Sounds more like Sindhu Bhairavi.