Strains of hope

Strains of hope

fusion of music

Strains of hope

jamming Renditions, full of heart and soul.

It was 2008. Kabhi kabhi Aditi and Singh is king had turned into anthems for the country. And while people couldn’t get enough of Behka main behka and Shut up and bounce, I was transfixed by music of a different kind. Listening to strains of Aankhon ke saagar by Shafqat Amanat Ali and Jo Meray by Noori, I couldn’t get enough of Coke Studio (CS). My love affair with this pathbreaking musical format was destined. I was hooked to YouTube and was in awe of the magic music can create; how it has the power to suck you into its world and leave you wanting for more.

Like when Ali Azmat and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan rendered the powerful Garaj Baras or when Ali Zafar warmed my heart with Dastaan. And while I never like Atif Aslam donning shiny suits and singing O jaane ja dono jahaan in a music video, I was floored by his voice when he so delicately sang Woh jalpari on CS.

CS originated as a concept in Brazil but it was Pakistan where it was nurtured by brilliant musicians. First produced by Rohail Hyatt from the band Vital Signs, CS featured a fusion of diverse music — classical tunes, folk music interspersed with western and popular music influences. This television series, now into its fourth season in Pakistan, has artists from all genres of music, jamming together in live studio recording sessions. Now, we need not wait endlessly for the next video to be uploaded on the Coke Studio website or scout for them on YouTube. No inhibitions, no borders, no film producer ranting to make a song sound more ‘filmi’ or ‘item number ishtyle’, Coke Studio is music brimming with passion, and it’s here, in India, for us to savour, on MTV from June 17. 

It’s where words laced with haunting voices and soulful music warmly envelop you. Every episode of CS will have musical sessions between established maestros, upcoming artists and folk legends. So, be ready to be mesmerised by the likes of Kailash Kher, Shankar Mahadevan, KK, Bombay Jayshri, upcoming singers like Shruti Pathak, Akriti Kakkar and Benny Dayal, classical singers like Sabri Brothers, Wadali Brothers and folk artists like Khagen Gogoi, Angaraag Mahanta and Chinna Ponnu. Renowned musician-singer, Leslie Lewis, will be the mentor and musical director of Coke Studio.

The official Coke Studio fan page on Facebook already has 1,86,307 (and counting) fans; the anticipation and build up is huge. It will be quite a challenge for CS India to live up to the Pakistani version, which has a cult following here. Says Wasim Basir, director, integrated marketing communications, Coca-Cola India, “The idea is to create music that brings people together. And no, CS India won’t be just about Bollywood music. Although we have a Shankar Mahadevan and KK, we also have great folk and classical artists like Khagen Gogoi and Sabri Brothers. The idea is to create music that will resonate with music lovers for a long time.”

The beauty about this concept is that it introduces us, Bollywood or popular music fans, to so much more. It makes us realise that there is a lot more to listen to beyond Sheila ki jawaani, Munni badnaam hui or classics like Dum maaro dum, which are foolishly concocted in the name of ‘new-age music’. It will be such a joy to know more about singers, for instance, brothers Naresh and Paresh Kamath, who are part of the band Kailasa, and play bass and guitar for pop-rock band Hipnotribe; watch Shankar Mahadevan trying to learn the dholak from Khagen Gogoi and his group.

Qawwali greats like Sabri Brothers, who will be collaborating with Shankar Mahadevan, KK and will also sing solo, feel that mere traces of qawwali are alive in popular music today, “but a platform like Coke Studio will help introduce qawwali to a lot more people, especially youngsters, who have very little idea about this form of music. We do not oppose secularisation of qawwali, which is why we have created fusion sounds with KK and Mahadevan for this format. We are especially excited about our effort to revive the qawwali classic, hume to loot liye milke husn walo ne,” says Amin Sabri. 

Akriti Kakkar, who has sung memorable tracks in films like Johnny Gaddar and Namastey London among others, can’t cap her excitement. She proudly proclaims that she is part of Coke Studio’s first season in India. “I have been the biggest fan of Coke Studio Pakistan. Watching folk artists like Arif Lohar sing and Zeb and Haniya render Paimona, I always yearned to be a part of such a format,” she says. Akriti has sung a solo song, Meherma re from her debut non-film album, but in a whole new style. “I also jammed with Shankar Mahadevan, Khagen Gogoi and Megha on a fresh composition. This divine experience has helped me discover a whole new side of myself as a singer,” she avers.

Well, it is all about discovery, isn’t it? When singers themselves push boundaries and do not have to churn ‘popularly accepted’ music and when we are fortunate enough to listen to established singers and embrace lesser know talents like Chinna Ponnu, Mathanga and bands like Advaita, we must feel enriched. It is these little treasures that make for good television. No hosts trying to grab all the attention, no reality show drama or tamasha, no judges or SMS voting. Just pure music.

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