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Coke Studio@MTV

Episode 1 – Shankar Mahadevan – 24th June 2011

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1) Allah – He-Rahem – Featuring Shankar Mahadevan – Watch Video
Shankar Mahadevan Shankar is a very versatile singer to say the least. I had decided in conjunction with Red Chillies & Mtv that each episodic mascot artist (who would be headlining the episode) should be allowed to sing one solo song of their choice. Possibly a bollywood hit from one of their movies or maybe something else they would like to experiment with.

Shankar chose to sing this song because it is a devotional song from his movie My Name Is Khan. Originally sung by Ustad Rashid Khan, (who also features on Coke Studio @ Mtv) Shankar felt this was a very good composition that had not been exposed a lot, so Coke Studio @ Mtv would be a great place to feature it! On my end I thought that a different funk groove and bass line in the ‘mukhda’ would offset it from the typical tabla groove that is inherent to this kind of song. Liyaquat Ali Khan is an exponent on the dying art of the Sarangi ( a Rajhasthani bowed instrument) Being an ace Sarangi player, I wanted to expose the feel of the instrument played by a master as only he can. So just a simple base for the song and Shankar Mahadevan let loose!! And he killed it! Enjoy

2) Meherma Ve – Featuring Akriti Kakar & Shankar Mahadevan – Watch Video
Akriti Kakar  & Shankar MahadevanAkriti had come to meet me many years ago before she hit the bollywood scene. Young, passionate about her music and a good singer. So her making it in bollywood was not a surprise to me. I asked Shankar if there was anyone in particular he wanted to feature with.

( as I generally like the artist to feel comfortable with whom they perform with) Akriti Kakar was his prompt reply .. so here it is. A song that Shankar had composed for her album but completely remoulded by me, I told Akriti: Pretty Girl-Pretty Sound- Pretty Voice .. that’s the way I was going to treat this song.A beautiful romantic vibe offset by the bossanova beat when Shankar’s voice comes in. I decided to use a harmonium riff to give a nice Indian vibe to it. So here it is: Shankar Mahadevan jamming along with Akriti Kakar: Pretty girl – Pretty sound – Pretty voice! Simple Indian romance bordering on a Lain vibe.

3) Pat Kay Pare Hoi – Featuring Khogen Gogoi – Watch Video
Khogen Gogoi I met Khogen Gogoi in Guwahati (Assam) when I was there recording for Pankhi’s solo album. He was related to my then sound engineer Dhyanjyoti Borah. I was amazed at the earthiness of his voice – the sound of the soil! He is one of Assam’s respected folk singers. At that time he had sung me a ‘Bihu’ song (a style of song sung during the spring season) which caught my attention instantly.

Unfortunately I did not get to use it in those sessions, but when I got him to perform on Coke Studio @ Mtv I reminded him of that tune! ‘Bihu’ songs of today are a far cry from the old traditional Bihu songs. Most of them have an ‘item number’ feel to them and the lyrics are quite lewd. This song on the other hand is the traditional ‘Bihu’ song sung only by a few singers in Assam and Khogen Gogoi is one of them. Mythology has it that (correct me if I’m wrong) Once there was a princess in the northeast who was a beautiful singer. One night she dreamed of a prince. Her friend who was a fine artist, drew the face in her dream and realized that he was none other than the son of Krishna- king of Dwarka! So the princess had him abducted and brought him to the northeast, but when her ‘Rakshas’ father heard of what his daughter had done he was pretty upset.

So the couple (who had obviously fallen in love-despite the abduction) ran off to Gujarat and lived there happily ever after! This brings me to the point of my story – that I have always felt a connect with the music of Gujarat and Assam .. Strange as it may seem, geographically worlds apart but something about the music seem similar.. If you listen to my popular song ‘Pari Hoon Mai’ you will notice it there too .. Apparently, the princess taught the people of Gujarat all the Assamese melodies (being a good singer) and so those melodies have filtered down the ages to blend with the music of Gujarat!! Strange na? So you may notice my marriage of Assam to Gujarat where the Assamese Flute jams along with the Gujarati Dhol !! just love the way the two musical cultures rock!

4) Dheere Dheere – Featuring Megha Dalton – Watch Video
Megha DaltonMegha Dalton ( from Daltonganj in Jharkhand) was introduced to me by Babul who is the Technical Director of Coke Studio @ Mtv. She is a theatre singer and so sings entire from her heart! (and a lot of lung power too ? She has that real village voice, rustic but yet communicative in her expression. Not used to music technology she had a bit of a steep learning curve using headphones etc! But- her sing pretty much makes up for all that! Bringing the countryside of Bihar (now Jharkhand) right into our studios! I chose to showcase a wider variety of songs from that area so did a medley of 3 songs: The first part deals with how the women have to deal with the pain & sadness in their life, so a meloncholy start.

The next part is a song which is sung in the fields during harvest times and so flirtatious happiness & romance. The third part is in my opinion a ‘modern‘ folk song as it says that the fashion for education has taken over and all the women are getting educated while the men have all the tensions of elections. When the men come home, in the older days, the women would be waiting for them, but not anymore as the rug is being pulled under their feet when they realize that the women are now educated and are going their own way- (jaaney maaney ka faison) – Education ka Fasion. Power to the women and power to Megha Dalton!

5) Tip Top – Featuring Khogen Gogoi & Shankar Mahadevan – Watch Video
Shankar Mahadevan and Khogen GogoiKhogenda and I met when i was recording Pankhis album in Guwahati. He was introduced to me as one of Assam’s prominent folk singers. There is something about his voice that being a lover of folk music attracted me instantly. The very easy going and happy style he sings Tip Top made me want to fuse it with something in Marathi.

I spoke to Shankar about this as i know he sings in many languages.

” Wallao Re Nakhva ” is an old Koli Geet { fisher folk in its origin} but composed by Hridenath Mangeshkar and sung by Lataji. I grew up with this song as its very popular in Maharashtra. So Shankar’s suggestion of this song was spot on and I loved the way Shankar makes his entry half way into the song. I wanted to create a space where 2 singers who had never met each other could on a musical platform spark off each other and create magic.

But just singing 2 songs together cannot create magic especially when they are cultures apart. So making it into one seamless music is important. you may notice the delta Mississippi blues riff that is the glue in the song. Instead of using the Marathi Dholkhi I decided to use the Assamese Dhol featuring Somnath who is also very prominent in Assam.

6) Mere Piya Tere Bina – Featuring Shankar Mahadevan and All Stars – Watch Video
Shankar MahadevanOriginal Composition by Lesle Lewis

Lyrics: Raajesh Johri

This is a song I composed keeping Shankar Mahadevan in mind but all the artists from the other songs in the episode would join in and sing along with him. In this concept, all the singers from all the songs in the episode join together with the main artist, In this case, Shankar Mahadevan. The basic idea was that no matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ the artist is, everyone is on the same platform when it comes to music – all are equal!
I tried to keep the composition focused around Shankar’s style so that when he sang it, it would sound very naturally him! When he heard it for the first time, he pretty much fell in love with the song and put his heart into making this into a ‘Shankar’ song in a way only he can! I on the other hand played Acoustic Guitar with him. The guitar is the main energy in the song along with the voice and it is the strumming of the guitar from gentle & soothing to trashing & wild that leads the song to rise and ebb as the different artists join Shankar.