ravings, rantings and ramblings
Despite all the negative responses to Coke Studio at MTV (India), I was holding up a flag in favour of it. How could the formula go wrong? It was done earlier. The talent pool was renowned and respected for their craft. It looked formidable enough. I was also holding off all comparisons to the fore-runner (Coke Studio Pakistan) despite being a huge admirer of it. The former being in its fourth season, CS India needed to take off and ‘grease in’ in the mind of its audiences.
I have always felt that Bollywood is a blessing and a bane for us Indians. It might have gotten us noticed worldwide, but it has also seeped into many pure art forms. Dance and music, now had one culmination point – Bollywood. And so I felt that we were being a bit harsh on CS India as we knew all the artists, and they had contributed to Bollywood, in someway or the other. As opposed to its predecessor, where most artists might not have been well-known or known to us, for that matter. CS India needed some time to grow on its home audience.
I thoroughly enjoyed the episode where Richa Sharma, Ustad Rashid Khan and Bombay Jayashree performed. Save a few moments, I had awarded the episode almost 4 stars out of 5. I had the songs downloaded and have listened to them while driving. Yet, the public opinion was swaying over to the other side. I kept looking for more episodes on the ‘tube’ and started a patient study of CS India.
The signs I showed, while watching them, worried me. I wanted to watch CS India on a fast forward mode. I was a little impatient with well-known artists whilst I was more than patient with the counterparts on the other side of the border. I did not think much of Shaan’s rendition of (yet) another Kishore Kumar number. Aakriti Kakkar’s rendition of a Shankar Mahadevan composition seemed rather drab till Shankar held the helm of affairs, a rather long 7 minutes later.
And then came the final blow when I saw the episode featuring Shafqat Amanat Ali.
Those who know me, know of my undying love and dedication to Shafqat. And bias is not without reason. Shafqat has demonstrated a range and vocal quality that appeals to all, in particular, to the new generation. He chooses his songs with care. He probably is the only one who has popularised Aamir Khusrau and Bulle Shah to generation i-pad. He made audiences groove as he simplified Farida Khanum’s legendary “Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo”. Shafqat was already one Coke Studio old and probably a rare artist to be featured in the same show format across borders. And this one time, I felt that CS India’s series music director Leslie ‘Lezz’ Lewis got it all wrong.
Leslie could have bolstered the image of Coke Studio India by using a talent like that of Shafqat to some good use. Instead, he just squandered it all away with some ‘god-awful’ music arrangement and rough collaboration. Why would one assign a Shruti Pathak with Shafqat, as she attempted a tough composition “Kya Haal Sunaawa”? Even to the music-untrained, she went off-key twice. It almost felt that Shafqat was coaxing her to sing! And if that was not enough, what doomed it was “Akhiyaan“.
A horrendous reggae groove to the song that was released when Shafqat (in short hair) was the lead singer of Fuzon. And on top of that, the ‘sitar’ was added to it too. I am pained beyond imagination as Shafqat sang the song that got Fuzon noticed but did nothing this time around. The three girls backing him up annoyed me no-end as they coo-ed ‘Ankhiyaan’, and I realise that too, should be credited to Leslie Lewis. How??? How could such a glorious song be reduced to such a deplorable state that there is no redemption?
The angry hate-comments, on You Tube, directed towards Lezz comforted me. The comparisons to Coke Studio Pakistan still seemed unjust.