Friday, May 06, 2011

Mixed Feelings

For the first time since I started this blog, a whole month has gone by without my posting a single time. So April 2011 has no entries under it - strange, because it was a highly significant time. But रहिमन बात अघम की, कहन सुनन की नाही... it doesn't matter.

Exciting times for lovers of music. Coke Studio is coming to India and I'm all a' tremble with anticipation and anxiety. I blogged about Coke Studio when I first discovered it, here and here. I said then that I couldn't think of an Indian musician/producer who could produce the series or a channel that would be willing to do that. When I racked my brains about it, I came up with AR Rahman, who of all musicians, has the musical maturity to straddle all of India's versatility. But what of people management, and the ability to compose, work in constrained studio circumstances?

But here they are after all - in no small part due to the raging success Coke Studio Pakistan has been. Leslie Lewis is the man they've appointed to do what the wonderful Rohail Hyatt did for CS-P, and MTV is the channel that's seeking to break this new ground (and resurrect itself, while it is at it). A unofficial list of artists is out and it looks very interesting.

I am nervous about the task in front of them. CS-P began in relative anonymity and they had nothing to guide them but their own immense enthusiasm and inherent high standards. They also had the luxury of a sense of play. Coke Studio is now a huge brand - even the makers, I imagine, are struggling with how serious and earnest it has become.

How will they deal with that here? This is not Pakistan where tasawwuf and a certain kind of spiritual purity still holds sway; this is India - television in India - where the gods of success are placed higher than the ideals of integrity or good work. Where the audience becomes VERY important, more important than it should. I am afraid that Coke Studio at MTV wants to succeed more than it wants to create good music.

Evidently, I am not alone in my fears. The programme's facebook page is full of entreaties not to dilute the essence of the original show. They're promising not to but do they realise the essence isn't in the details, but in the approach?

I will be ecstatic if these concerns prove foolish. Just think of the potential in India - classical ragas, Carnatic voices, Vedic chants, the possibilities of folk, the revival of 'samuha gaan', choirs perhaps, desert voices, hill voices... good luck, Leslie Lewis. 


Edited to add:
While on CS, read this by Rashmi Vasudeva, who is also addicted.

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