Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Coke Studio returns with a renewed approach to put India's musical prodigies in the limelight

Coke Studio Bharat is Coca-Cola's latest attempt to connect with India's diverse audience through curated regional music experiences

Mansvini Kaushik
Published: May 18, 2023 02:20:49 PM IST
Updated: May 19, 2023 12:15:53 PM IST

Coke Studio returns with a renewed approach to put India's musical prodigies in the limelightWith the growing hype and preference for independent music in India, Coke Studio has rebranded itself as Coke Studio Bharat, aiming to shine a spotlight on lesser-known musical prodigies in India. Image: Courtesy Coke Studio Bharat

Coca-Cola's flagship music entity, Coke Studio, has made a comeback in India after an eight-year hiatus. The platform, known for producing independent studio recorded music, was a significant player in diverging from mainstream music that gained popularity. Coke Studio India, which began in 2011, had four seasons and released around 50 tracks. However, operations in India were halted in 2015 due to management and operational changes.
 
With the growing hype and preference for independent music in India, Coke Studio has rebranded itself as Coke Studio Bharat, aiming to shine a spotlight on lesser-known musical prodigies in India. Arnab Roy, vice president, marketing Coca-Cola India and Southwest Asia, says India has a multitude of talented artistes capable of creating exceptional music, “All they need is a platform to be nurtured,” he explains. Recognising India’s market, he adds that close to 60 percent of Coke Studio Pakistan’s audience comes from the northern belt of India. “If Coke Studio Pakistan owes its major audience to India, Coke Studio Bharat that highlights Indian culture will definitely make waves,” he says.  
 

This time around, Coke Studio Bharat has focussed more on emerging indie voices from small towns in India. Roy mentions that the platform aims to uplift brilliant and authentic rising artistes who are often confined to their local circles of influence. “Each song is rooted in the cultural nuance of the regions they represent; for example, the latest drop Taqdeer brings alive the romance of the iconic Heer Ranjha and allure of those sarson ke khet (mustard fields) with a blend of nostalgia and the age-old art form of ‘bait bazi’ deftly woven together with Punjabi beats.”
 
Since February, four tracks have been released across streaming platforms, accumulating over 110 million streams on YouTube alone. Artistes like Rashmeet Kaur, Prabhdeep, and Seedhe Maut have garnered attention through these songs.
 
With each song featuring at least four artistes, the season is an amalgamation of 50 artistes from across the country for a total of 10 tracks that celebrate the roots of ‘Bharat’. Roy emphasises that these talented local artistes have risen to fame through social media, and their appeal extends beyond their voices to their unique stories, backgrounds and identities. The songs are enhanced by the seasoned sounds of traditional musical instruments such as Algozha, Chimta, Duff, Sarod, Sarangi, Tumbi, and Rabaab.
 
While Coke Studio India was previously telecast on MTV from 2011 to 2015, Coke Studio Bharat has adopted a renewed approach. The show now primarily caters to the youth and is available on digital streaming platforms, which has helped expand its reach. Roy states that Gen-Z and Gen Alphas are their key audiences, as they seek authentic ways to express themselves while also longing to connect with their roots. “They want a mix of modernity and culture in their music,” he contends.

Also read: Why Spotify is hitting high notes in India
 
Ankur Tewari, music director and singer-songwriter known for his work on films like Gully Boy and Gehraiyaan, was brought on board to curate this season's lineup. Tiwari collaborated with Kausar Munir, a poet, lyricist and scriptwriter—known for her work in films such as Dear Zindagi, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Pad Man and Qala—and KJ Singh, a sound engineer and music producer, to form a think tank. Together, they scouted for regional artistes. “I love India’s diversity. Our stories and styles of music are abundant and rich in culture. There is yet so much more to discover and showcase,” says Tiwari.
 
The current season features celebrated artistes and musicians along with the unheard voices on a canvas of diversity, says Roy. Some of the prominent names to be heard this season are Diljit Dosanjh, Jasleen Royal, OAFF & Savera, Osho Jain, and Armaan Malik. Featuring artistes also include Amira Gill, Achint, Aditya Gadhvi, Arijit Datta, Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash, Ashima Mahajan, Bombay Brass, Burrah, Charan Raj, Deveshi Sahgal, Dhruv Vishwanath, Donn Bhatt, Hashbass, Kanwar Grewal, Mahan Sehgal, Mansa Pandey, Maithili Thakur & Brothers, Mohammad Muneem, Noor Mohammad, Sakur Khan & Sons, Sanjith Hegde, Shillong Chamber Choir and Tajdar Junaid, among others.
 
Believing in the power of Indian regional music, Roy says the country has the potential to overshadow the likes of Korean music. “K-pop has been a big wave across the globe. India has a hundred times more potential than them. Our artistes just haven’t been marketed well. With Coke Studio as a platform, Indian music can easily overtake K-pop,” he says. With the current lineup, Roy is confident that India would make it to the Grammy’s with its regional music.