Coke Studio @ MTV, Season 3, Episode 7 (Music review) – Hitesh Sonik

Sukhwinder Singh lords over Chan kitthan like only he can, with Hitesh creating a Punjabi power-ballad! Tapas Roy’s mandolin replaces the usually expected iktara, even as the backing vocalists – Fateh Shergil, Akram Khan, Nazam Khan, Neha Khosla, Aman Khan, Shipra Goel, Anu Chauhan, Sandeep Kaur and Alamgir Khan – offer fantastic support, till they are expected to follow Sukhwinder in the rather complex free-slowing portions where he leaves them behind and they seem to be occasionally struggling to stay in sync.

In comparison, Sukhwinder’s other song – Maajhi – is significantly less impressive… may be because of the fairly standard tune. Hitesh’s production is top-notch, as is the funky, extended ending, but the basic tune is middling.

Ghar is very, very Piyush Mishra – in every way, whether it is the almost-Gulzar’ish lyrics, or the mysteriously rising tune. Rushad Mistry jazzy bass is a wonderful support all through, while everyone else pitches in to great effect – right from the guitars, by Hitesh, Warren and Kalyan, and the uncredited flute. Piyush seems to have become and auteur of sorts with such songs – it is so easily identifiable with him (he did it brilliantly well in Anurag Kashyap’s Gulal, one heck of a soundtrack!). However, it also seems a bit limiting in terms of range – I, for one, would love to see more variety from him.

In Moh, Pandit Sanjeev Abhyankar brilliantly handles Kabir’s bhajan, in its serene and simple avatar. The uncredited Harmonium lends beautiful support, as much as Vianayak Netke’s tabla. It’s only when Nikhil D’Souza joins in that the otherwise pious bhajan turns into an awkward Western fusion that does’t quite vibe.

Hitesh’s only other original composition (besides Maajhi), Ramaiyya, is the episode’s best! Hitesh creates a fresh tune for the Meera bhajan that already has well known tunes by people like Anil Biswas (sung by the vastly underrated Rajkumari Dubey) and Hridaynath Mangeshkar (sung by none other than Lata Mangeshkar) – his imagination is fresh, modern and captivating, without losing the essence of the bhajan. Much of the credit would go to Hitesh’s wife, the bloody talented Sunidhi Chauhan, who makes full use of the opportunity to produce a cracker!

Haal ve rabba is Hans Raj Hans show all the way, though Shruti Pathak makes a strong pitch too! Hitesh loads the traditional tune with enough pizzaz, courtesy the backing vocals, Tapas Roy’s bouzouki and Gino Banks drums, in particular. But yes, it is Hans who is the star here with his authentic Punjabi vocals that soar with the catchy music that Hitesh encapsulates it in!

Haal ve rabba and, of course, Ramaiyya remains my favorite in this episode by Hitesh.