Im a huge fan of Coke Studio Pakistan, so when I heard the Indian version was coming out soon, I was over the moon.
Finally, we can get over the tinny hyper sonic flat shapeless talent that rules the commercial Indian music scene. Move over, Sunidhi Chauhan, and all the rest of you. Say hello to some raw, earthy real Indian voices and music from the corners of this country.
Or so I thought, until I scrammed from work at 6 30 on the dot, rushing home and turning on the TV to catch it form the moment go. The beginning showed promise. I have a soft corner for Shaan, so you cant really blame me. But that was that. From then on it was a downward spiral for me. Why does “fusion” always mean over-jazzified over-accompanied, heavily orchestrated jarring music? Why can we never retain the original flavours that make up the wonderful kaleidoscope that is Indian music? Why does blending 2 diverse styles have to sound like noise and induce a mindless headbanging kind of feeling, and fool people into believing it is cool music? If you want to get together a typical Maharashtrial Lawani and an Assamese Bihu folk number, by all means do it. But do it beautifully, in a way that does justice and respects each individual form. Dont dumb it down so much that the end result is a confused mish-mash that sounds like nothing even remotely enjoyable. And that was just the start of the downward spiral.
Everything from then on was planned, mindless cacophony. Catering to the masses that are already over-exposed to mediocre music and cant really tell the difference. Utterly disappointing and grossly underwhelming, given my levels of anticipation and excitement. The glimmer of hope shined through at the very end, when Harshdeep Kaur did 100% justice to a Sufi number. And that piece epitomized what I think is intelligent fusion. Bringing a typically folk/traditional style out by fusing it with touches of popular music. Not in a way that overpowers and suppresses it, but in a way that gently and surprisingly accompanies it, letting the inherent uniqueness of the style come out and shine.
I think it has a lot to do with the level of understanding and sensibilities of the majority of the audiences. As consumers of music and the arts, our standards have dropped. The more we settle for mediocre music, the lower the standards will drop. And shows like Coke Studio will always aim to satisfy that majority, getting away with the kind of crap that passed off as music last night. shameful, if you ask me!
Id like to think some hope still, because I hear the upcoming line up includes the likes of Bombay Jayshree, Papon, KK, Hariharan, Benny Dayal and Shafqat Amanat Ali. There just might be some hope.
In case you watched the launch episode and are in need of some therapy to forget what you heard, here are osme of my favourites from Coke Studio Pakistan: