Like all good things, this article must start with a statutory warning, I freely confess that the following opinions will be the most subjective, the most logic defyingly personally biased as anything you’ve read. I understand and fully expect you to think that I am thunderous moron with no sense of music. And that I probably smell bad too.
But I don’t, and the following according to me, are the best songs from Coke Studio@MTV, so far.
Tip Top and Me Dolkar, by Khagen Gogoi and Shankar Mahadevan
Tiptop is a Bihu song about falling in love. Me dolkar is about Koli fishermen from Maharashtra heading out to the open seas. If you’ve grown up in India you’ve probably been haunted by its refrain at some point and wondered what the fuck it is about. It is impossible to harmonize such topical and geographical disparity into a coherent song, right?
Nope, it turns out.
Now Shanker Mahadevan is a pretty awesome dude by his own right, any man who can risk a imminent case of exploding lungs by singing breathless for three odd minutes is, but this show is completely stolen by Khagen Gogoi.
You’ve never heard of him. I haven’t. At the beginning of the episode he spouts a bunch of rubbish about bihu mujik and ‘laaab afaaairs’. But then the man starts singing. And I have never heard anything so heartfelt, so personal. He owns the song like he’s in love with it. He probably is.
Mahadevan comes to his own towards the end with a strong background to Gogoi’s gentle vocals. The final product is musical genius.
So, Bihu+ Marathi= Birathi?
Vethalai, by Kailash Kher and Chinna Ponu
North meets South, Sufi meets Tamil, um Biryani meets Idli Sambar?
This song is a Tamil folk bit and a Sufi bit written by Kailash Kher exclusively for Coke studio.
What I love about this song is the fact that its so street. Chinna amma’s rapid vocals are strangely reminiscent of the immensely popular ghetto songs et la 50 Cent. Fresher, however, and with a strange blend of cheekiness and naiveté.
And nobody hits the high notes like Kailash Kher, but in this song he seems to have let his welloiled hair down with his upbeat lyrics. Apparently he wants to play on somebody’s cot. He infuses the songs with a very energetic, cheerful musicality.
All in all, this song is loved because it is so shamelessly happy. Check out 7:02 with they both drop all pretensions of restraint and go haywire jamming. Is brilliant. Also look at the brilliant percussionist
In summation, Sufi + Tamil= Sumil?
Chadta Suraj, by The Sabri Brothers and KK
A (an?) Qawwali sufi-ish song about the ephemeral nature of youth. Quite somber, actually.
They are Aftab and Hashim Sabri. Saying that they own Qawwali is like saying that Lady Gaga is moderately weird. They have performed at hallowed grounds like the UN and Carnegie Hall. You should’ve known it would be awesome. Shame on you.
KK starts the song with his serious, dirgelike tones lamenting on how rising sun will eventually set. If you can’t believe that a mere astronomical feature could cause him such deep, personal hurt, dorothy, you aint in Kansas anymore.
Here on forth, the Sabri brothers enter with their bass vocals, and what was sombre before become funereal now. The song becomes a dialogue between them, a jugalbandi of sorts, and a queer chill sneaks up and down your spine.
It is this apocalyptic, anthemic nature of the song makes it unforgettable.
In conclusion, I must say Qawwali+Bollywoodish= Qawwaliwoodish?
Honourable Brothers Mention: The Wadali brothers. They would qualify sorely by the virtue of their bitchin’ moustaches, but the ballad with Sunidhi Chauhan is very cool also, if a little sappy.
Ao Na Gale Lag Jao Na, By Parthiv Gohil and Divya Lewis
Comeon you know this one, don’t you? It used to play on every radio channel nineteen times a day when you were a kid. Originally by R. D. Burman and Asha Bhosle. You know you KNOW it.
Or so you think.
Divya Lewis has drawn a lot of flak by appearing on Coke Studio, with internet trolls screaming bloody nepotism. She’s become kind of a Justin Beiber issue since, even if you did like her singing you wouldn’t admit it at a party, would you?
Haters gonna hate, but I absolutely love this rendition of the song. Parthiv Gohil kicks off with his deep baritone, setting up a very hindustani mood.
Then Leslie Lewis strums a few chords on his guitar, and BAM! Enter Divya with her anglicised accent and very western vocals. You are flummoxed, but then quite against your will your feet start tapping to the beat. Maybe you whistle a couple of notes.
It is pop. It is shamelessly pop. Unabashedly pop. Gloriously pop. They take the quintessential indian song and make it a pop anthem.
It is at once irreverent, and the deepest homage ever paid.
Hindustani + pop= Hindustop? eurgh.
O Majhi re, By Saurav Moni And Shaan
Another very famous song, made completely different. Bhatiali is the kind of music that has been sung by the boatmen in Bengal for generations. What makes it special is that both singers in this case are bengali, and their singing from their hearts. The emotion is palpable
It is very difficult for me, to write about this song, primarily because it leaves me absolutely speechless.
According to the editor though, blank space does not make a good article, so I shall persevere.
Saurav Mani’s rustic earthy voice lends this song a feeling of mellowed down indian-ness. Shaan’s singing has been commended and lauded enough through the years. The two of them harmonise to make this song ethereal, sublime even.
That is not all however, somewhere in the middle an electric guitar kicks in. Paras nath’s flute weave through the air hauntingly. It becomes the Stairwaytoheaven of all fusion songs.
Look, it is difficult to discuss songs. Just, listen to it. It is incredible.
p.s. Shruti Pathak is very hot and sings like an angel. Digits, anybody?