I stumbled upon Coke Studio relatively recently on YouTube, and I was immediately hooked. Coke Studio, as a branded concept (brilliant marketing by Coke), originated in Brazil, which, given its polyglot and polyrhythmic musical traditions, was undoubtedly a feast for the ears. But it’s Coke Studio Pakistan that caught my fancy (and that of many other transplanted desis).
You see, I’m a ‘half-life Indian’: I have lived half my life in the US. My own musical-tastes were set in the Bombay in the ’80s, in St Xavier’s College, where I was weaned on a de rigueur diet of Pink Floyd, Santana, The Doors, and other such classic rock. Even then, though I sought out less well-known musicians, and was needled for listening to artists that none of my friends had heard of. Indian music was not an active part of my life, other than peer-group sanctioned events such as the college’s annual Indian Music Group’s classical music festival.
When I moved to the US, I suddenly had access to an amazing selection of music. Albums I had to request foreign-returned friends and family to bring me were suddenly available right there. I soon came to appreciate not just the genius of Jazz giants like John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Bill Evans, but also the indie musicians toiling in small hole-in-the-wall clubs, creating music that was often more accomplished and interesting than that of the famous names. As my tastes evolved, I discovered the astonishing diversity of popular world music, encompassing Brazilian samba, Irish jigs and reels, South African township music, West African music, Afro-Cuban music, Latin American salsa and merengue, Algerian rai, and much, much more.
The MTV series ‘Unplugged’ is worth noting at this point: Rock musicians re-interpreting their songs using only acoustic instruments. A crisp, clean sound emerged, where every instrument and every note is heard and the musicianship takes centre-stage. Remember Eric Clapton’s ‘Unplugged’ from 1992 with the stripped-down versions of ‘Layla’ and ‘Tears in Heaven’ that re-energised and revived his sagging career? In recent years, the great West African musicians Youssou N’Dour and Salif Keita have turned to this more organic sound, combining traditional instruments with modern studio-craft, creating albums that are their finest yet. In the US, we were treated to ‘Live from Abbey Road,’ where established and emerging musicians performed stripped-down versions of their songs at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London.
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(This story appears in the 01 July, 2011 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)
Sanjay,finally read this article -most enjoyable. Sadly coke studio India doesn\'t measure up, though with large doses of carnatic music it might be comparable with the best of coke studio pakistan.on Aug 8, 2013
@Straighttalk - Thanks for the comment, but the prior part of that sentence reads \"independent of\" \"....the religious system being invoked\" which was precisely my point, i.e., the musical form is drawn from cultural, not religious, commonality.on May 30, 2012
Instead of writing \"the religious belief-system being invoked\" you can just write \"Islam\". The Indian readership is mature enough to handle it. Sadly reminiscent of some reviews of artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Ali Farka Toure in the western press where the writer ties themselves in knots to avoid referring to the specific spiritual component of the music.on May 29, 2012
I had hoped CS India would prove its critics wrong. I am sad to report it hasn't fully :-( It has to still let go of its commercialism ego.on Jun 22, 2011
A witty and discerning review. Music is our universal language, and we need such reminders that, as Monie elegantly writes: 'remind us of the shared cultural heritage that predates our religious differences.on Jun 18, 2011