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Coke Studio@MTV

Episode 2 – Sunidhi Chauhan – 1st July 2011

  1) Chitthiye – Featuring Sunidhi Chauhan & Wadali Brothers – Watch Video
Sunidhi Chauhan & Wadali Brothers Sunidih I met when she was quite a little girl with this beautiful ability to sing much ahead of her years!! ( Divya at her present age reminds me of her) She has performed from a very young age just about everywhere and she is one of our most experienced live singers.. I say this because when this song was being recorded & shot (‘Live’ in one take, just like the rest of Coke Studio) it was 6:30 in the morning when we started!! She was singing and on the floor from 3 pm the afternoon before.. That made it 15 hrs!! ( I on the other hand had started at 9 am- the morning before she started.. but that’s another story.) So when you hear the quality of her vocal .. focused, intact, and emotional .. at that time of the morning, only someone with her experience and calibre could deliver a performance like this!!

The Wadali Brothers were bringing a more traditional / rustic approach to the song which is characteristic of their sound and so I used them sparingly to offset Sunidhi.

I didn’t want this song to sound typically Punjabi at the same time didn’t want to lose the beauty & soul of the original. So I gave it a folk / world music / celtic (Irish, Scottish, Welsh) vibe .. The lovely backing vocalists and Raj Sodha on concert flute setting up the tone but Sunidhi still retaining the essence if the song while stretching out just a little bit to seamlessly merge with the world music space. You must also realize that the backing vocalists were on the floor from the morning before too so a big hand to them and the entire band & technicians who were now 21 hrs on the floor!!!

Just makes me believe that there is some musical God above.

  2) Aa Mil Yaar – Wadali Brothers – Mausam Gogoi – Bondo – Watch Video
Wadali BrothersWell, Sunidhi was unwell and unable to attend the shoot on this day, so Red Chillies asked me if we could do a ‘Jam’ with the featured astists.

(A ‘jam session’ is where everyone plays spontaneously and improvises and hopefully comes up with some interesting music. Most ‘Jams’ in my opinion sound and feel great when the audience is actually present and the ambience adds a lot of value to the ‘feel’ of the music. But when recorded and played back in another environment, like at home on your system or in the car etc, the ambience changes and you don’t enjoy it as much as when you actually experience it ‘Live’)

So keeping this in mind I decided against a ‘Jam’. I got the Wadali Brothers to go thru some of their material and fleshed out some stuff which could be a base for further improvisation by the other artists. None of the artists had ever worked or played or even heard of each other! So here was a fresh starting ground. So using the Kafi that the Wadali Brothers sang as the base, I got Mausam to improvise using some more ‘Missing’ bihu while Bondo played percussion in a more subtle/musical style.. not too much Hi energy so as to keep everything glued.

The Wadali Brothers had never tried singing against a rockish backdrop which I brought in at the end suddenly. They were not expecting the shift in the musical energy but as they got thrown into it, they just let loose and it was a first time experience for all! So we did manage to get some sort of a ‘Jam’ vibe after all .

  3) Tu Maane Ya Na Maane – Featuring Wadali Brothers – Watch Video
Wadali Brothers Being a lover of Indian folk music over so many years I could not miss these
two giants of Punjabi Sufi who have been so prominent in the cultural music
scene! Besides being very popular, I also had a personal equation with them.

For my Tamil movie ‘Chikku Bukku’ along with Hari I had gone to Amritsar
to record them in Tamil!! Strange as it seems, but then, these have been some
of the musical journeys in my life .. So when they were on board I thought
that if I did something extremely alternate with them, they may get a bit
uncomfortable considering their age and that since this was their solo song,
I didn’t want to experiment too much.

Since the basic thought of Coke Studio
is to do contemporary music while preserving the culture, I thought who
better to do this with than the Wadali Bros.
Since this is such a beautiful
song I thought I’d down tempo it and make it float a bit so as to not have a
heavy beat. Now, they have never ever attempted to do it this way.. so.. they
tried, trusted me, trusted my musical instincts (considering I had done Tamil
with them was a big plus ) When it was done, they smiled and said that this
is the first time they have tried it like this and loved it! So it was a bit of an
experiment for them.. I got Darshan to play the drums with his bare hands so
as to get a different tonality from the drums. Navin on the other hand played
tabla in a more traditional manner so we don’t lose sight of the earthy feel.
My take on this song was to make you feel like you were in a gurudwara but
in a slightly more contemporary space. Same but different

  4) Bichua – Featuring Sunidhi Chauhan, Mausam Gogoi & Bondo ( Tribal Percussionist) – Watch Video
Sunidhi ChauhanWhen Sunidhi came by the studio I suggested she do this song as i envisioned it as a "tribal audio drama". Sunidhis voice interspersed with the " missing bihu style" of Mausam Gogoi & the wild tribal beats of ace percussionist Bondo. All this time the music was in my head so had a bit of difficulty explaining it in "english" as music has its own language. Finally Sunidhi figured out what i wanted to do & was really excited because she wanted to experiment singing in Assamese on the same song. Now we were talking my language.

Mausam & I met in Guwahati when I was working on Pankhis album 3 yrs ago, sort of the similar music that you hear on Coke studio. I was really taken aback by the way he sang these very fluid beautiful melodies in a very high pitch without any effort. I knew i had to present his voice somewhere sometime.!! No better place than Coke studio.

Bondo and I go back to the 80′s when he was a young percussionist and i a budding guitarist. He has always been passionate about his music and so spent a lot of time in Spain & Portugal performing with a lot of international acts there. His constant trips out of the country kept him lying low in India. So this would be the best song to present this great musician.

  5) Jhaki Dil – Original Composition by Lesle Lewis for Sunidhi Chauhan
     on Coke Studio @ Mtv . – Watch Video
Sunidhi ChauhanOriginal Composition by Lesle Lewis
Lyrics by Afshan Ahmed

When I compose a song especially for an artist, I look for the artist’s strength..
and Sunidhi’s strength lies in her always wanting to explore new musical ground.
That is the key to her being pretty much Queen Bee in the Bollywood zone.
So when Sunidhi heard the song I had composed for her, a very out of the box
brazilin feel, she just loved it! So she said ‘Lesle, if you start with just your guitar
and my voice first, and then bring the band in later…’ I stopped her short and
told her that I would not be playing guitar as I would not be on stage. She just
looked at me and said ‘Lesle, It’s your composition right? Then I want you to play
guitar with me.. You have to be on stage with me!! and turned to Red Chilles
and told them ‘ I don’t care, he has to play with me!!’ Thus began the first of my
personal appearances on all my original compositions ,which I created for every
artist on Coke Studio @ Mtv! And I have Sunidhi to thank

Afshan called me out of the blue with no references and said that she wanted
to write lyrics but had never written any song before and that she was a script
writer. I point blank asked here if she would like to write a song for Sunidhi
Chauhan for Coke Studio!! Guess that must have been a shock.. All through Coke
Studio @ Mtv, I have tried to make as many openings as possible for new talent ..
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.. But I do remember that I too needed
that ‘big break’ .. then it was up to me to prove myself..

Also featuring on this composition along with Sunidhi are Mausam Gogoi, Bondo,
Raj Sodha (on concert flute) and Divya Lewis. Must say that Divya is a lucky girl
to get to sing along with Sunidhi on her maiden appearance on television.