Saturday, May 28, 2011

My experience at Coke Studio @ MTV

What a lucky guy I had been! The last week was full of awesomeness since I got the opportunity to witness a revolution. A revolution that is soon going to change the face of music and the way we listen to it (at least that’s what I hope for). Coke Studio has garnered immense popularity in Pakistan, and despite not being aired in India, its spill over popularity in India has taken a huge shape. So much so, that now some music enthusiasts have teamed up to produce the same show in India. Yes, an Indian Coke Studio featuring Indian Talents and singers from diverse backgrounds. The aim of the show is to delve into the deep ocean of Indian music and dig out the shining pearls of folk, indie and popular music rehashed with modern music production and present it to the much deserving Indian audience, many of whom had been silently praying for the existence of such a show, ever since they had been watching the Pakistani version on the net.

Just remember, how much had we cursed the music industry of our country, how much had we cursed Bollywood and how much have we cursed Munni, Sheila and their masters for not allowing a music scene to develop in this country that would bring a show like Coke Studio to life. But fortunately, the end of all that bashing and trashing has come and Coke Studio in India is a reality. And yes, I myself in flesh and bones had the rare chance to watch that reality unfold in front of my eyes.

In India, Coke Studio will be known as Coke Studio @ MTV. Why not Coke Studio India?-some would argue. I think that the reason behind not keeping it Coke Studio India is that, in none of the countries where it has taken place (Brazil, Pakistan, India and Philippines), it is known by the name of that country, for example Coke Studio in Pakistan is not “Coke Studio Pakistan”. And moreover, CS represents music in its purest form which is free from boundaries. But watchers in India who keep an eye on both the Pakistani show and the soon to happen Indian one, would rather be confused if the name of the Indian version is kept same. More so, because the 4th season of the Pakistani version is supposed to come about the same time as the first season of the Indian one. Hence the Indian version will be known as .Coke Studio @ MTV, simple. Since the MTV people are making a hell lot of efforts in creating this show, their association with the brand name of the show is fairly justified.

I know, when it comes to MTV, we are aware that there are so many among us who have hated MTV so far, for dropping music from its airtime, for promoting shows like Roadies and Splitsvilla which have got nothing to do with music apart from being very rude and raw, for reducing itself to a promotional-wing of Bollywood and all. But seldom do we look into the other side which is us, the viewers. The fact of the matter is that it is us, the viewers, who have broken their relation with quality music. Any channel (and for that matter even MTV) needs TRPs to grow and survive, and we the listeners have not been able to provide that oxygen to these music channels for so long. Whom to blame? Bollywood- which has completely corrupted our minds and reduced our taste in music to trash, or is it we the listeners who do not have even a slightest aptitude to explore and look for new music?

Enough said, let me tell you about my Coke Studio @MTV experience. Unlike all the other guys who won the chance to be present at the live recordings, I was perhaps the only one who was not from Mumbai and got the opportunity to be present at, not one but two shows. Many of you who have been longing to be at the shoot, wished to go there so that you can listen to some cool live music. If that was your objective then it’s good that you could not make it since the live recording was not at all a good acoustic or listening experience as such. Please forgive me if you're thinking that I'm being over critical. Coke Studio is supposed to be a “Live Recording” show and not a “Live Show” per se. There's a big difference between the two since most of the sound from the vocals and instruments were being fed into a mixer, and not loud speakers. There was indeed a console kept in front which had head-phone plugs through which you could listen the live recordings but then again, what you hear through the headphones was clashing with the sound outside (especially the drums) and the overall listening experience was not perfect. Coke Studio is meant for TV (and YouTube) and I am sure that it is going to unfold its best sound there itself. I am eagerly waiting for that.

Not having a syrupy listening experience is not at all a waste of purpose of being present there. You’ll get to know about so many things that others would probably never. There is so much more than what we see on TV and you’d be surprised to see the drilling efforts of so many people which is required to produce each episode. The show is shot using eight cameras. The most important being one on the Jib which needs a lot of effort and coordination to operate. There were two other cameras on circular tracks, and the rest being either hand held, on tripods or on wheeled-tripods. We often get carried away by the videography that is done in these shows, but do you know what a mammoth effort does it require to record a live video which is breezy and without any jerk. The video producer has to keep an eye on all the eight cameras, set each of the frames and guide the cameramen’s motion before capturing the visuals. And this needs a lot of voice-breaking commanding which the Hitler-some director was giving to the cameramen. Since I am in FTII and I had the chance to shoot a multicam exercise, I can partly understand what a heck it is to instruct multiple cameras. In my case, I was going nuts with three cameras, and this guy was instructing eight. The use of lensing is so superb, that you will be fooled into believing that the studio setup is very large (especially from the JIB camera). In fact the studio is quite compact and at places, not so spic-n-span. But it is the camera work which brings out the gorgeousness of the studio and lighting. The lighting was sparkling and we all know, nothing uplifts the mood of live music, other than proper lighting. At Coke Studio @ MTV, they have been able to create the same magic through lighting, which is the signature style of Coke Studio (Paksitan). I must applaud the efforts put by the camera and lighting team since in a shoot they are the ones who do the maximum physical work and by wide and far, their efforts are anything but successful. I only had the chance to watch the raw live takes. I am just dying to see the show post production.

The MTV team which received us at the shoot was very humble and cooperative, nothing of the sorts that we see during Roadies audition. Nikhil Taneja (from MTV) made it sure that we the fans, have the experience for which we had gone there. The freedom that we were give to roam around, take autographs and snap shots only tells how much willing they are to share this experience with ourselves (ordinary viewers). I even got my Colonial Cousins CD autographed by Leslie. On the first day, there was a bit of rush for the headphones and many of us had to share the same earplugs. On the second day, people from Coke had come and they willingly gave up the headphones for us, since they cared for what the fans want. What an unearthly humbleness. I am moved.

Having said so much, you might be thinking – what about the music? Well I can say that I was lucky enough to see Colonial Cousins, Kavita Seth, Benny Dayal and Suzane singing together with Praful Dave rendering beautiful folk tunes in between. On the second day, KK and Ramya Iyer Mathangi performed. I am not going to tell which songs did they perform or how did I find the performance. This is because I don’t want to spill any beans and take away the “surprise quotient” of the show, neither do I wish that my liking or disliking create any pre-assumptions about the performance. Coke Studio @MTV is all about exploration. As artists they have done their part by exploring folk, popular and indie music and amalgamating them into beautifully fused live sessions. As viewers, now the onus is on us, to explore the music that Coke Studio @MTV brings to us, with an honest heart and without any speculation or pre-conceived notions (although I have to accept, the success of the Pakistani version has already propelled our expectations to peaks). After all, for whom is this show being organized? It is for US- the music lovers!


  1. Very nice. But can you correct the spelling please, it's 'Experience' not 'Experice' (in the headline). Thanks.

  2. what a hawk's eye you have!!!! done as said

  3. . Very nice. KK sang with Mathangi and not Ramya Iyer. PL correct that.

  4. @loretta
    Nikhil on the sets told that her name was ramya iyer! anyways changed it a/c to you

  5. Guess NIkhil got it wrong. Like your piece... alot of good info and casual style of writing. Sometimes people use elaborate language just for the sake of it. And they loose the plot!!!

  6. When it is going to be aired..?

  7. chk the official fb page of CS @ MTV. I think its Friday 17 june 7 pm