At the beginning of this year, I wrote a piece on Coke Studio (CS). Well, as you can guess, not many were aware what CS was all about until lately. But since then, it has infiltrated musical aficionados’ psyche like anything. On a personal level, I don’t even remember when CS replaced Suprabhatam at my place without making a sound (no pun intended). It’d be fair to say that Coke Studio is the best thing to have ever come out of Pakistan. After Nusrat Saab.
For the freshers, Coke Studio is a musical extravagance which has its origin in Brazil but the entire concept developed in Pakistan under Rohail Hyatt. The idea was to infuse music from diverse regions of Pakistan and provide them a common platform to showcase their talent. Top-notch is an adjective that comes to mind whenever I think of all the episodes I’ve watched. Yes, listening isn’t enough. If it’s CS, you better watch because there is so much to experience visually. The synchronization of lyrics and music isn’t something we, the hoi polloi, are often privy to. On a side note, the ignoramus among us (yes, Indians) can’t help but be amazed by the variety Pakistan has to offer in musical scenario; be it Sufi, western, devotional, tribal, folk or Qawwali.
So far, so good.
And then, Coke Studio decides to come to India courtesy MTV. As expected, we were thrilled – and still are – about the endless possibilities that lie ahead of it. The very first episode gave us a hint of how things will look like throughout the season. Seven performances took place in that segment which featured songs in 8 languages including Assamese, Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil and Urdu. In simpler words, folk and regional music will get their long-awaited due but not without Bollywood’s crooning escorts.
To be very frank, the inaugural episode garnered mixed review. To be very, very frank, the reviews weren’t too positive. Many viewers expressed their utter disappointment with poor sound engineering and production as well as presentation (dull video panning). There were moments in the show when noise completely dominated fusion. House band were haphazard. Also looking at the chorus girls, what were they up to? What’s the point in having them seated there with no active contribution to a particular performance?
We can’t blame people for not liking CS (though they are more than 200,000 likes on CS’s Facebook homepage). It’s a personal choice but still dissing it without substantial sagacity is quite stupid. The very comparison with Pakistan’s CS makes the argument one-sided. After all, Pak’s CS has been around for three seasons now and is into its fourth year running whereas we are nascent and just one episode old. And we shouldn’t forget that Pak CS wasn’t a runaway hit either. It took time to gain momentum and with patience and precision, it did and how!
Personally, I feel negativity is good as it shall ensure improvisation. Also, we need to give Leslie Lewis credit for putting up a show in such a short notice, though on the down side, the unpreparedness was rather visible in patches in the first episode itself. But Coke Studio is all about evolution. It is like a musical journey through varied phases. And I am pretty confident they’ll pull this off.
Also, India being diverse and rich with umpteen languages, it is but obviously natural that all Indians won’t be able to comprehend every single song. For instance, a Punjabi is not expected to understand Tamil or Kannada per se and similarly a Manipuri or Naga from North-East may not have the knowledge of Marathi or Gujarati. And to be honest, those facing Coke Studio's language barrier must ask themselves whether they can discern their favorite English songs without online lyrics. Ergo, Coke Studio should provide translations from the regional languages to both English and Hindi on their home site.
Anyway for now, we need to sit back, give our consumeristic hypocrisy a break and relax to enjoy the show’s first season!