Saturday, September 06, 2014

Mukammal jahaan

It is almost time, I hear, for the next season of Coke Studio – the material is ready even if the airing is postponed indefinitely due to the political turmoil in Pakistan.

Mixed feelings. I wish the new team well but I expect, I fear that they cannot match the genius of Rohail Hyatt. Nothing lasts forever and I am happy that the end of CS as propelled by this man tapered down not due to a dilution of music or integrity but other circumstances. So easily it might have happened, as it all too often has, that corruption seeped into the show. It didn’t here and that heartens me considerably.

Anyone who followed and listened to the previous season will know that Hyatt took Season 6 to a new level altogether. Hitherto, these had been studio sessions – not entirely jam sessions – but well-rehearsed, well-constructed pieces that were recorded all together. This brought a remarkable synergy to the music and I was a bit doubtful when Season 6 started with the concept of recording disparate strains in various locations that would be later put together on the console. What would the difference be then between Coke Studio and, say, AR Rahman or any number of Bollywood composers who take this structuralistic approach as well?

I had reckoned without Rohail Hyatt. In Season 5, he had experimented briefly with the idea with Koi labda. With the band Symt laying out the overall mood and theme but leaving preplanned room for an insert, Hyatt had Sanam Marvi record an aside later. This was so neatly integrated with the main recording as to appear seamless. Technicalities apart, the song is sheer pleasure, and one of my enduring favourites.

Season 6 went international. Serbia and Italy provided entire orchestras, and individual musicians from Nepal, Turkey, Bangladesh, Morocco and Norway were roped in for small accents and airs. So then these were songs that were created between some overall controlling vision and the fluidity of so many inputs – the lyric and the tune were the choice of the singer, the basic voice recording was made, sent to the orchestras who then clothed them with sounds of their choosing. (The relish, the delight that coursed through these video conferences was palpable and very contagious.) At the end, I imagine it was Hyatt who put the song together – muting out whole tracks, adding here a touch of flute from the Bangla artiste, here inserting the finishing chords from the heavenly Oud. Inordinate attention seems to have been paid to every sound, every note on these songs – the result is a set of polished pieces that will endure any number of listens. The synergy that I feared would go missing was very much there, but in a different way. What was once smooth was now textured, interpretations were unusual, listeners found something old, something new... Parts of the experience were somehow meta – ‘is this how the Serbian brass section sees this tune?!’

With Rohail Hyatt leaving, he will obviously take this work aesthetic with him – for, unless they are very evolved and supremely devoted to their craft, the new team will want to bring themselves in. They will want to change, assert, leave their stamp. Already the website has been shorn of its archives – I tried to find credits for Season 6 and couldn’t.

Nevertheless I am excited. New energy, a new way of doing things, a new season.

The title is from Nida Fazli's sher:
Kabhi kisi ko mukammal jahaan nahin milta
Kahin zameen toh kahin aasmaan nahin milta

कभी किसी को मुक्कम्मल जहाँ नहीं मिलता
कहीं ज़मीं तो कहीं आसमां नहीं मिलता

No one has ever achieved a complete perfect world,
Here the earth eludes us, there heaven

In Koi labda, Symt uses this as ground, expressing the inadequacies of our lives.


shweta said...

Shorn of its archives? Means what? Available some where else?

Sheetal said...

Means there is nothing but promos and info for the upcoming season. I can't find archives for downloads, credits, lyrics etc. on the official site.