PREVIEW: Coke Studio@MTV Season 2 Premiers Tonight
What you can expect in the second edition of the televised jam show’s Indian editionFeatures July 07, 2012
When Coke Studio@MTV Season 2 went on floors in May, the channel made it clear that unlike its first season, this year, the show would steer clear of everything Bollywood. After watching a preview copy of their first episode, we wished they had. The show may not feature Hindi film songs, but it’s tough to keep the sound free of Hindi film music influences especially when it’s a Hindi film producer or composer driving an episode.
Bollywood producer Clinton Cerejo (for Omkara, Ishqiya among others) is at the helm of the first episode of Coke Studio@MTV that opens with a spotlight on Maganiyar singer Sawan Khan. But instead of the khamaycha or the dholak leading Khan’s vocal intro into the track titled “Saathi Salaam,” jangling guitar riffs and a noisy drum section accompany the Rajasthani folk singer. Soon, a full string section and a jazz piano join in, turning what we hoped would be a rousing folk song into a full blown pop rock number that could fit right into one of Cerejo’s soundtracks for a Hindi film.
By the end of the track, the episode has turned into a Clinton Cerejo show. Over six songs, Cerejo showcases his entire range of skills as a music producer, choir singer, film score arranger and a guitarist. With Rushad Mistry (Indus Creed) on bass, Lindsay D’Mello on drums, Shon Pinto on guitars and Jake Charky on cello, Cerejo put together a band that, we think, hoped to make Indian folk music more palatable for a mainstream audience. Vishal Dadlani, Sonu Kakkar, Master Saleem, qawwali singers Shadab and Altmash Faridi, Vijay Prakash, Nandini Srikar and Mumbai-based church choir, the Salvation Singers, Khan and Cerejo himself step in on vocal duties. In this one-hour jam with Cerejo as its music director, all roads seem to be leading to one sound – Rajasthani, qawwali, Punjabi folk, sufi and Carnatic music – all forms of music turn into gospel rock anthems. The fact that an Indian percussion accompaniment is missing is only highlighted by the diminished beat of two dholkis throughout the show.
In Cerejo’s inherent attempt lies its core weakness. Fusion is an ambiguous music trick not many can master. In Cerejo’s case it’s a hit and miss. Certain songs like “Madari,” featuring Dadlani and Kakkar, are clear crowd pleasers and “Chadd De,” which highlights Punjabi folk singer Master Saleem’s vocal skills, hit the spot. But they do so because both songs follow the traditional chorus/verse/bridge structure with a string section thrown in here and there along with folk or Sufi verses – a formula that has already generated several hits for Bollywood soundtracks.
When Cerejo sets up a gospel rock/Manganiyar synthesis in “Dungar,” the show completely fails to inspire. Cringing at Sawan Khan struggling to keep time while the Salvation Singers break into Christian music singer Paul Baloche’s “Lead Me to The Rock,” doesn’t make for great weekend or even weekday viewing. But “Dungar” was just a build-up for more cringing. Watching jazz singer Bianca Gomes trying to match her vocal style with qawwal singers Shadaab and Altmash Faridi’s wasn’t a pleasing experience either. The forced east/west ensemble also leaves you feeling perplexed at the need for these 10-minute plus sonic productions.
If the other episodes of season 2 are anything like the first one, we’re in for a big let down. But if any of these experimental jam sessions manage to bring together various influences seamlessly, then we’re sure that it won’t be as challenging for the show to gain a following.
Coke Studio @ MTV Season 2 premiers tonight at MTV, 7 pm
Watch the first song on the episode, “Saathi Salaam” here