Mr Aakar Patel’s article of June 10, in this newspaper, “Coke Studio’s Indian mystery”, has highlighted a number of issues concerning the failure of “Coke Studio @ MTV” — the Indian version of the show. Being a Pakistani music journalist, I feel it is my duty to clear some misconceptions that he seemed to have regarding Pakistani music, “Coke Studio” and “Coke Studio @ MTV”.
Firstly, the reason for the lack of popularity of “Coke Studio @ MTV” compared with its Pakistani version is not a mystery. I believe that the Indian version can easily do better and the solution is simple: remove Leslie Lewis as the programme’s producer. I fail to understand why Mr Lewis was handed the reins of the programme when there are countless talented musicians in India that could have done a much better job.
Mr Patel discussed the Mekaal Hasan Band’s (MHB) music in some detail and I agree with him that the band’s music is great, but did it pioneer that genre of music in Pakistan? Certainly not. Who came up with the idea, which Mr Patel has described as “traditional Hindustani music made palatable for ears accustomed to listening to more popular music” is a question that is difficult to answer. I saw this happening years ago when Aamir Zaki introduced the now well-known Shafqat Amanat Ali, who did what the MHB does today, in an event that took place in the mid-1990s and whose coverage is present on Youtube.
Let us draw a fine line between what Mr Patel calls ‘traditional Indian music’ and what we call folk music, or to be specific, ‘Pakistani’ folk music. I believe that the most popular songs that have been featured in “Coke Studio” cannot be clubbed under the genre of traditional Indian music. Instead, they can safely be termed as contemporary takes on folk melodies. One might identify some shades of traditional Indian music in them but that is not the same as classifying them under that genre. In fact, in the case of a song like “Peere Pawande Saan”, which is a Sufi kalaam by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, you cannot exactly do much in terms of giving it a “popular interpretation” as Mr Patel calls it because Bhittai’s kalaams can only be sung in specific surs, as instructed by the great mystic himself. It should also be noted that similar attempts at giving a contemporary touch to folk melodies have happened long before “Coke Studio” came on the scene — Mohammad Ali Shaiki and Allan Faqeer’s “Teray Ishq Main” instantly come to mind.
Mr Patel’s point about Pakistanis not willing to pay for music is certainly valid and quite sad. At the same time, I do not think that having a corporate entity like Coca Cola putting up some money for the Pakistani music industry’s benefit is a bad thing. But what depresses me is when a similar venture fails in culturally-rich India.
I feel that brilliant Indian musicians, even if they are given a chance to produce music for such a venture, won’t opt for it because this requires creating an entirely new formula of music, different from the usual Bollywood item numbers. By following pre-determined formulas, Indian musicians are depriving the Indian audience of enjoying diverse forms of music. This may not hurt the Indian music industry financially, but it does mean that the industry is far from a versatile and diverse one.
It is cruel to say this but it is true.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2012.
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I think the current episodes of Coke studio India is quite good.Some numbers from Piyush Misra,Master Saleem etc. are terrific. But I agree with the author, Indian coke studio can and should do better.
Very true what "An indian muslim" has written. There is huge huge diversity of music in almost all Indian languages. In fact, economic rise of India in last 2 decades has contributed tremendously to many music genre that were not popular in recent decades. But with economic rise, many such genre has been reinvented, became more popular. Internet, you tube etc are creating more interest among today's youth about music of the past.
Just look at the Soptify- it has 100s of different types of Bengali music, often rare songs by top artists of the past which present generation cant find find otherwise. I guess, same way, Spotify has huge collection of songs in other Indian languages.
@observer: for you to come and see in Pakistan there are about four to five music channels in Pakistan and more fashion channels including MTV Pakistan and Fashion TV Pakistan ..look on youtube if you can come out of your shell...
if you dont get to see these channels in India is because your government does not want you to see ..for their own Political reasons and misguide you with ProPaganda for their own interests....
More saying that only coke studio is and was the source of music in Pakistan you need to observe and think more mr observer....coke studio only invite PeoPle on its Platform who are and were famous long before coke studio haPPened ....
try and tell me that Jal, Junoon , strings, Ali Zafar, Atif Aslam, nusrat Fateh Ali, Rahat Fateh Ali, Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam ali, shafqat amaanat ali, Arif Lohar and many more..did they all started their career in coke studio ??? or they have been there in Pakistan and been surviving in Pakistan and were already became famous in Pakistan and in the world and after that bollywood started inviting them to sing in their movies and do the concert in india ....obsever....so if they were already surviving and were famous in Pakistan logically means that there were enough concerts, festivals, music channels, entertainment channels, .radio stations that made them become famous and survive...long before coke stdio haPPened they were already doing concerts all over the world..the Problem is that since you dont have teh access to these channels .most of the time you dont even know that a certain song is sung nby a Pakistani singer or its a Pakistani song,....to helP you ..you can go to this website .... www.koolmuzone.Pk .... and you can get all the latest haPPenings in entertainment industry in Pakistan ......or more you can see on youtube the recent lux style awards 2012
If you leave aside the Naats on various channels, the only source of music from/ in Pakistan was / is the Coke Studio.
For Indians it is Channels and Music Schools and Music Festivals galore. Coke Studio naturally could not/ can not have the monopoly on music/ musicians/ audiences that it had/ has in Pakistan.
In Pakistan coke studio is the main show. In India it is even smaller than a small sideshow. There is too much music in India. It would take an entire page to even list all the genres of music currently in india. Not to mention that some of these genres have thousands of years of history. And music events (such as thyagaraja aradhana) happen continuously for centuries, not a few tv seasons. People in Pakistan don't have a clue on the depth and diversity of the rest of the indian subcontinent, having destroyed that cultural diversity in their own backyard in the name of religion.
Typo is corrected: Now, he pretends to be an expert and start writing on Indian Music. People shd believe them at their own peril. Facts are far more different.
Author has very little idea abt diversity of Indian Music. Neither Aakar Patel or Delhi/Mumbai centric Indians have any idea. There is huge world outside Hindustani (Hindi/Urdu) music. I can say, Bengali Music has much more diversity than Hindi Music. In fact, most successful Music directors took from regional music of Bengal, North Eastern India, Assam, Punjab, South. Like SD Burman, Bhupen Hazarika, Gulzar, Salil Choudhury, Ilayaraja et al are examples of how rich Indian Music is and they primarily took from regional music and gave to Hindi Music.
Today, the problem in India is, we have people writing in English media of say Delhi, Mumbai, who have very little idea of how rich, diverse Bengali Music is. But s/he is aware of latest Western pop. Now, he pretends to be an expert and start writing on Indian Muslim. People shd believe them at their own peril. Facts are far more different.
It seems to be a Third World War out here between Indians and Pakistanis!!!
Common guys Wake Up!!!
Just enjoy and appreciate good music wherever it orginates from.
Like most of Rafay's other articles, this too is half baked and frankly redundant, with nothing new to offer
I like Pakistani music based on folk and old traditional songs. The pop , rock music from Pakistan is the worst, cacophonous thing I have ever heard. I just don't understand, why can't Pakistan produce melodious new music ?
@cosmo : and then you clear my point again.. just because Ali azmat is now a mullah, you will stop listening to his songs.. cmon man, thats narrow-mindedness.. even though he is one of those conspiracy guys now.. he still produces the best songs in the world.. and his songs are popular for a longer time than sheela or munni..
@cosmo dude : Please read my post again... i did not say indian music is not diversified, indians made wrong decisions in coke studio.. just that.. i did praise kailash kher.. he was the one who saved that song.. so broaden your own mind first and call others narrow-minded.. and stop being typical stereotypes.. you can do better..
Pakistan has far more superior pop, rock, sufi, traditional, and folk music than India. India only has film music and that too is fading with Item numbers. Gone are the days of Nadeem Shravan.
Err... What is Coke Studio?
It is so much fun to read all these irritated responses from Indians ;) Come on guys, let go. We Pakistanis have a tradition in (great) pop/folk/Sufi music and you Indians in film music.
"Kolaveridi" had already become a rave and millions of copies downloaded by the time I came across it. It is a meaningless song as per the lyricist/singer himself, and according to me a Coke. At least thousand Coke Studios needed to match the popularity of this one Kola. There is a lot of competition in southern music industry to produce such Kola veridis. So, if Pakistan has Coke, South India has Kola, Kingfisher, Bacardi, Johny Walker many cocktails and beverages.
While talking about the quality of music, both authors miss one point, musical videos. Indian musical videos rely heavily on glamour, so much that a rubbish song can get away with a real guady video. In Pakistan, due to cultural reasons, the videos are simple, so musicians have to rely on music only. Take the example of Atif Aslams super hit song yakeen.
Indian audience may wish to see MTV as a complete western channel. They may not also need a ruse to watch the "tabu MTV" by shrouding it with local culture. Further they have also matured not to seek the West as a sole means for recognition. However, complete Indian music ( classical /folk/religious) scene is slowly dying due to excessive commercialization, use of technology, copying, imitating, bollywodisation and westernization. In Pakistan the problem is if any musician to be recognized he has to say "hey look, I am a pop singer of Pakistani classical music". That person may be a genius, but he has to downgrade himself to pop style to be recognized, while the real musicians the unsung heroes are killed by the Taliban in smaller towns.
Insane argument by the Author, I am a South Indian and I don't even listen to the Hindi or Hindustani music as there were more than enough for me to consume in Carnatic and light music of South India. FYI, Oscar winner A.R.Rehman is from Chennai and he doesn't even know Hindi properly. India is not only for Bollywood or Hindustani, it has diverse music culture all across India. Also you can ask to your old country man about Bangla music and poetry, who cares about Coke or Pepsi studio !
The problem with Pakistanis is that they are pompous with lot of hot air but no substance to fall back on (talking about the mainstream under 30 crowd here). Pakistan has no soul or culture at the moment because they deny what's theirs and make miserable attempts to adopt what isn't. So the result is some major confusion and chaos.
The problem with Indians (again the mainstream folks) is that even though they have a solid foundation and good direction to where they are heading. But the foundation is build on a burial ground of misfortunes and blunders - one of which is Pakistan. Their biggest problem is their "deliberate" short term memory. Pakistan did not magically appear and this mess of a country is a part that "THEY" lost few decades go. The mother need to take some responsibility for an abused child that was not meant to be. So there is really no reason to acts surprised on a psychotic teenager in a paranoia that everyone is going to get her. A reaction ALWAYS is a result of an action, that's just basic Physics.
Indian music scene is diverse. Pop/rock is just one genre among many, so attention gets divided. It's not right to judge the popularity of Pakistani Coke Studio by how many "Indian hits" it gets, many more enjoy any given genre in India. Coke Studios don't compare. Neither does Bollywood music, it's "popularity" (which vanishes quickly in thin air) is due to its association with popular films or raunchy videos.
Mysteries are "solved", not "resolved"
@KSU: I believe that @gp65 points out that Coke Studio India may or may not be successful - this has nothing to do with access to or appreciation of diverse Indian music. People who don't like Coke Studio India will not tune in, and their alternate choices could be any of the different kinds of music produced across India, Hindi film music, Western music or even the output from Coke Studio Pakistan. I fail to understand the argument which simultaneously states that eclectic fare is doomed to fail in India and also claims that many Pak Coke Studio viewers are Indian; if Indians cannot have better music because they cannot see beyond Bollywood, why are they watching the Pak version of Coke Studio in such large numbers?
@Fahad Zia: Why are you so narrow minded, just because Indians like Coke Studio Pakistan doesn't mean India lack diversity in music or it has lack of avenues to access music? Coke Studio Pakistan is just one of hundred avenues that Indians access music through. If only Pakistanis like you could broaden the horizon of their view point, a lot of misconception in both countries would disappear.
Talking about Junoon, well people used to like that band but ever since Ali Azmat turned into a mulha and became a spin doctor to formulate Neo-Con based conspiracy theories, no body in India like the Band.
I think its a cultural problem not a aesthetic problem or one of overlooked talent. Sufiana Kalaam is popular through out Pakistan. Up and down the Indus the same themes are sung by baards for centuries. Bhulleh Shah, Shah Farid, Baba Farid, Shah Abdul Latif, Sarmast, Baba Rehman or dozens of others. Before ethno thinking hit the middle class intellectuals the kalaams and poetry of the sufi were celebrated up and down the indus without distinguishing dialects or languages but celelbrating a common spiritual and aesthetic experience be they farmers, nomads, warriors, traders or faqirs.
Though at a political level many Pakistanis want to distinguish themselves through plethora of Ethno political parties, when the music plays it touches nearly all the peoples along the the Indus in a deep and irrational way (whatever their religion).
This is the secret of the of Coke Studios success (together with a great producer and fantastic artists). This India does not have - Bollywood is what reaches most Indians hearts and desires and even beyond. Its a different phenomena and therefore the reaction and understanding towards Coke studious in India and and Pakistan is and will be so different. Even with the talent and the great musicians they will never reach the same broad appeal India.
@Sid: Right and there are so many pop/rock musicians coming out of india that is mind boggling. Lets face it, there may be many musicians in India (and good ones too) but they don't cater to any one other than themselves or people of their state. I agree that Coke Studio (Pakistan) was popular probably because it was the only musical show worth watching. But its failure in India shows a deeper issue than just simplifying it as "people have other sources of music" issue, it is just absurd. The bottom line is, pop/rock music cannot compete with Bollywood/film music in India.
Coke studio Pakistan was popular in India as well, (Proof : Amitabh Bachchan's tweet, coke studio name itself, etc).. So the point that Coke studio India did not get popular because Indians have diversified music, gets nailed. Its just that they did a very mediocre job. One billion people and you get chinna punno against kailash kher. If it was'nt for kailash kher saving it, that song was the worst song in history of music.. Come on Indians.. you can do better than that..
The only reason Coke Studio is popular in Pakistan is because it is THE ONLY decent music program on TV.
Akar Patel and commenters from India state that Coke Studio MTV in India is not successful because there are other outlets as far as Indian music is concerned and people throng to those avenues. This is ironic considering the fact that majority of viewers of Coke Studio hits are from India. Take Jugni (a Coke Studio hit) for example. The song gained a million hits and then some, mainly because of interest across the border, in no time. The same can be said for some of the other hits from Coke Studio. The question arises that if Indians don't tune into Coke Studio India because of other avenues such as Bollywood, how come they are storming youtube to catch the latest from across the border. You get my drift?
Bands such as Junoon have found great commercial success in India. Yet, if the naysayers are to be believed India doesn't care to produce Junoon like entities because Bollywood gives more bang for the buck. It just doesn't make sense. Yes, Bollywood is iconic in how its shaped the culture and music of all of South Asia. But to say that the monetary draw it provides results in the lack of innovation in other facets of Indian music is ludicrous to say the least.
Sometimes its just better to just enjoy the music.
Good Morning!! Leslie Lewis has been by Clinton Cerejo. Do enough research before trying to write an article..
@Questioner: Like you, I am not comparing Pak and Indian Coke studio. My comment is restricted to Indian Coke studio. If Indian coke studio is unable to attract the best talent and produces mediocre music that is a problem the program producers have to solve. It is not a reflection on Indian music industry or its diversity. Thus when the author tries to equate diversity of Indian music to diversity of music relayed in COke [email protected], I just say the two cannot be equated.
@Sid and @gp65 you are mixing two things. Diversity in Indian music (which there is no questions asked) does not justify poor music produced by the Indian Coke Studio. It could be commerce, but if so many Indians are listening and admiring music produced by Pakistani Coke Studio, then it's bad business decision by Indian Coke Studio. I am not saying Pakistani Coke Studio is better than Indian one or Indian music, it's just different, exciting and it's interesting. Yes, Pakistani Coke Studio's experiments are exciting and interesting that's what keeps them apart from the much bigger music producers of the region. Let's not make it into some kind of regional war, it's music, you have it, we have it, lets enjoy it.
Why would Indian film industry bother about "coke studio" ? If they decide to ignore it or find it irrelevant, its their choice. If coke studio is a relative failure in India because coke studio fails to attract the best talent which has much better avenues than what coke has to offer. The problem is for coke studio to fix and does not concern Indian music industry at all. If you open a Restaurant, and people don't come to eat, that does not mean that there is a problem with customers. Its a problem for Restaurant owner to solve. The customers have better choices than coke studio.
@Author: "By following pre-determined formulas, Indian musicians are depriving the Indian audience of enjoying diverse forms of music. This may not hurt the Indian music industry financially, but it does mean that the industry is far from a versatile and diverse one. It is cruel to say this but it is true."
First Coke Studio Pakistan does produce great music , so anything I am about to say is not a reflection on that.
In India there are many channels and outlets for diverse music, so Coke studio is not relied upon for that purpose. Histunani classical vocal and instrumental music, Carnatic classical music, bhajans, ghazals, bhangra, garba, laavani, rabindra sangeet, Rajsthani folk, Bollywood, film music of other regions (Tamil, Bengali, Kannadiga, Telugu), English pop and many more. All of these types of music are commercially viable in India. SO certainly there is no lack of diversity. You may be familiar only with Bollywood music and that is why you are making the statement you are.
Thus I partially agree with you that your statement is cruel but disagree that it is true.