Tag Archives: Coke studio

Agam and Aks at CounterCulture, Bangalore


When two bands of national acclaim are gathered to play at a popular venue, you can expect the early animated crowd to fill in way before the concert. This night was no different. Each table had an excitable someone telling their friends about the bands that were to perform. One of the most heartening things about the Indian music scene is getting to see fans pointing to band members (who are almost always part of the audience, sipping on their pre-gig drinks) in awe. And so it was that when Aks took the stage, the audience cheered them with a fervour that came from finally not having to mutter their appreciation at dinner-table volume.

Without wasting any time on the soundcheck, Aks played their first song – a track about a traveler moving through life while trusting god with their good graces. The vocals were very slightly off-key at the start, but as the song picked up, the track blossomed into a powerful anthem. The band’s characteristic blending of aalaps towards the end of rugged vocals was reminiscent of their Coke Studio days that were well-favoured by everyone. Audience engagement also started early as the band urged everyone to sing the chorus.

Their next track was called ‘O ji re‘. It had all the undertones of a sweet folk love song, complete with a peppy flute solo. Xavier’s vocal acrobatics on this one did not fail to impress, although his breath control did seem to waver around the high notes. After a bluesy ‘Panchi‘ which was a song about freedom, packed in with a flute and a guitar solo, a deceptively long flute intro led the audience to believe a smooth song was up. What did play was a cover of the Agosh classic ‘Paisa‘. There was a very long drawn-out instrumental section in the middle that wasn’t devoid of technical brilliance at all but seemed patchy in composition. ?

Their next song ‘Baavla‘ was dedicated to the heavy metal band Anvil. It was a smooth number with a catchy acoustic solo. However, much of the rhythm was held together by the flautist. They then played a new track that started with a drum intro and proceeded into becoming the perfect, upbeat final song that ended their set.

The crowd cheered on as they left the stage and their hearts wanting for more. After a short break, Agam took the stage. After a brief soundcheck, they got the ball rolling by playing their usual set opener – ‘Brahma’s Dance‘. Other than a few glitches that were barely noticeable, their set was as good as it gets. They played ‘Dhanashree Thillana‘, ‘Seventh Ocean‘, ‘Ishq Labaa‘, ‘Swans of Saraswati‘, ‘Boat Song‘, a really great version of ‘Dil Se Re‘ followed by a genuinely innovative cover of ‘Aaromale‘, to then end with ‘Malhar Jam‘, which is also the last song on their album – The Inner Self Awakens.

There could not have been a more phenomenal ending to the evening with a long-drawn percussion solo in the middle of ‘Malhar Jam‘, followed by Dappankuthu. The audience really got what they came for, and there was not a single unsmiling face. Their youngest fan was a two year old who caught everyone’s eye as she sat on her father’s shoulders jumping to every beat.
If Aks set the tone for the evening, Agam turned things up a notch higher. A gig well executed, and an evening to remember.

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Swati Nair

Swati is a writer/sub-editor for What'sTheScene. She enjoys most kinds of music and spends all of her time scouting the Internet and re-watching Star Trek and Swat Kats.


Coke Studio at Hard Rock Cafe, Hyderabad

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Trinadh Rakesh

Trinadh Rakesh believes photography is a way of capturing life’s various reflections, which is why he loves to experiment in different genres. His effort is to tell a story with every moment that he captures!


The Inner Self Awakens by Agam


Software engineers by day and musicians by evening or at least over the weekend – such is the story of Agam. Formed in 2006, following a few compositions (which were mere experiments then) by a bunch of friends in an apartment studio, Agam has become a powerful force with their brand of music since then. This Bangalore-based ensemble features Harish on vocals, Praveen on lead guitars, Swamy on keyboards, Vignesh on bass guitar, Jagadish on rhythm guitars, Ganesh on drums and Sivakumar on ethnic percussions.

From winning a musical reality show helmed by maestro A. R. Rahman himself to collaborating with Shreya Ghoshal, the band has had a glorious journey thus far. Though, a performance on the fabled Coke Studio stage has been the talking point for a while now and makes a perfect setting for the release of their debut album. ‘Agam’ literally translates to ‘the inner self’ and hence the album gets the name ‘The Inner Self Awakens’. Each song in the album pivots around a central Raga and is embellished by the elements of progressive rock, which brings into perspective a completely unheard of and unexplored genre – ‘Carnatic Progressive rock’. With the songs quite often delving into religious themes, the cover art of the album has been aptly chosen to depict the Keralite festival of Theyyam.

‘Bramha’s Dance’ starts off with a vedic chant accompanied by war-field percussions and roaring bass-lines that provide a worthy build up to this terrific album – almost as if calling out to awaken the enormous beast from its Carnatic foregrounds. Harish’s violin is subtle but adds the most mellifluous of touches to the song. The appropriate use of cymbals, the ghatam and Praveen’s electric guitar are in complete sync with the vocals as the song goes through a plethora of moods and tempos.

‘Dhanashree Thillana’ is the progressive rock rendition of a Swathi Thirunal composition based on the Dhanashree Raga and is perhaps one of the finest tracks in the entire album. This one kicks off as a typical rock ballad but gradually transcends into melodic taranaas moving over an entertaining rhythm structure. The guitar sounds magnificent and the jugalbandi with Harish’s vocals leads to a perfect finish.

Inherently violent in nature and composition, ‘Rudra’ fits the bill for Tandava or what the more mainstream metal-heads call it – ‘head-banging’. Like any regular metal song, it is loud, noisy and all about the heavy guitar lines and percussions. But a funky and rather jazzy bass solo, high-pitched melodies and the wonderful usage of the conch towards the end, for me, stole the show.

Justifying the moniker, ‘Boat Song’ is for vallamkalli or the Boat Race during Onam. The song has got an extremely happy ring to it and you won’t be alone in thinking that the song sounds like something out of a Malayalam movie. But that’s only till Praveen churns out a breath-taking guitar solo that dispels all clichés.

The start to the song ‘Swans of Saraswati’ is an incoherent feature here and perhaps a tad overdone for the sake of rock. Though, it soon takes shape in a beautiful guitar solo, like any other song in the album, this song relies predominantly on Harish’s vocals and his numerous alaaps. This enormously brave endeavour to give Thyagaraja’s ‘Bantureethi’ a rock makeover is an absolute stunner. It’s unbelievable how Rock gets weaved into Carnatic Classical music with such ease – as if they weren’t ever different entities, just like a perfect marriage.

‘Malhar Jam’ is the most refreshing, energetic and undoubtedly the best composition on this album. This song also featured in a multi-producer episode of Coke studio, though a very different rendition of it. This one has got no israj in it and the flute segment by Annada Prasanna Patnaik (who does a cameo here too) is subtle and barely forms the highlight. This one’s got more room for Swamy’s wonderful work on the keyboard, taranaas and Vignesh’s heavy bass lines. The song forms a grandstand finish to this magnificent thirty-eight minute album.

The sonorous vocals of Harish stand apart throughout the album and the percussions, bass and guitar lines complement each other well. Their experiments with a few classics may make a staunch Carnatic listener think twice, but for a generation thriving on a healthy blend of sensibilities, it’s a guaranteed treat. The rock may have got a little too heavy for fusion here and there in the album but the underlying beauty of a raga has barely been compromised. Six years has been a rather tantalizing wait but when sated by such an eclectic experience, it has been worth it.  For a debut, this is a scintillating start by Agam and may go down as one of the top albums to be released this year. The album goes through the various textures of a human brain and listening to it is a spiritually uplifting experience – all this for a meager amount of Rs. 90 – who wouldn’t want to buy it?

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Shubhodeep Datta

Shubhodeep is home to a lunatic in his head, who is on his own with no direction home. Tell him about his grammatical errors! Follow him on Twitter @datta_shubho


The Silent Sea by Advaita


The Indian music scene is at its finest right now. The richness of our own musical heritage, be it Hindustani Classical, Carnatic or Folk, coupled with the immense exposure to music from all over the world has enabled artists in the country to create their own unique sound and feel, leading to some incredible musical acts. No other act in India, however, exemplifies the amalgamation of sights and sounds more than Advaita. This Delhi-based octet, which marked the coming together of a variety of musicians at the top of their game all the way back in 2004, have only grown from strength to strength, scaling peaks that only a few have been privileged to reach.

Their debut album Grounded in Space, which was released in 2009, is an absolute masterpiece, with tracks like ‘Durga’, ‘Ghir Ghir’, ‘Gates of Dawn’ and ‘Rasiya’ – each track showcasing the brilliance of each instrument used, a rare feat considering the number of musicians involved. Quick on the heels of the album’s success were appearances on Coke Studio and MTV Unplugged, where they performed on the same stage as some of Indian music’s biggest names, such as Shankar Mahadevan, Kailash Kher, Sunidhi Chauhan, Mohit Chauhan and Rabbi Shergill to name a few, which transformed the band from a niche Rock act into a house-hold name.

Three years after their ground-breaking debut album, Advaita has returned to the music shelves with The Silent Sea.  The long-awaited album brings back all the wonderful elements that have made Advaita such a loved act – Ujwal Nagar’s masterful Hindustani Vocals, Suhail Yusuf Khan’s serene Sarangi, Chayan Adhikari’s magnificent Western vocals and acoustic guitar, Abhishek Mathur’s powerful Electric guitar, Anindo Bose’s impeccable keyboards and electronics, Gaurav Chintamani’s groovy bass-lines, Mohit Lal’s wonderful percussions and bols and Aman Singh Rathore’s subtle yet perfect drumming. The album art is something which can bowl anyone over – extremely surreal, yet so in tune with the state of mind which is presented by the band.

The first track of the album ‘Dust’ begins with a melancholic but enchanting sarangi intro which is, without a shadow of doubt, a differentiating factor for Advaita’s sound, implying that dark and gloomy times lie ahead in the song, after which Chayan takes over. It beautifully showcases his vocal ability, during which he hits the high and low notes with equal élan. The entire song has an extremely ominous undertone to it, with the lyrics proclaiming “Everything shall pass, everything will turn to dust.” Not to be missed is the sarangi interlude in the middle of the song, which is simply mesmerizing. It is truly a superb start to the album; which only builds up the expectations for the tracks to come.

Gorakh’  was first heard by many during the band’s MTV Unplugged show. The amalgamation of Hindustani and Western is extremely well handled, considering the song alternates between an ominous and distant tone exhibited by Chayan’s Western vocals, coupled with the guitars and a voice of reason and hope by Ujwal’s Hindustani vocals. A special mention goes to the remarkable ‘Hey Maa’ aalap sung by Ujwal in the end – absolutely mesmerizing.

Soulful is the perfect word to describe the next track ‘Meinda Ishq.’ This song is a beautiful ode to love, and we get to listen to Suhail’s familiar and sweet voice as he sings this song as a soulful qawaali reminiscent of a serene Abida Parveen number, while we can listen to Anindo’s and Abhishek’s electronica far away in the distance. With majestic lyrics, such as “Kibla Kaaba, Quran bhi tu”, the song also causes a spiritual awakening which is only enunciated when the sarangi sets in. As you drink in the emotions and gear up to drown in it all, the track beautifully changes tempo, with the Western vocals and the instruments, which end the song with a sense of revitalization.

Mandirva’ is one of the most remarkable songs on the album. It speaks volumes about the plethora of emotions one experiences when in a situation – it is never a single emotion. Joy is always coupled with excitement, grief will give way to rage; it’s just the way emotional catharsis works. It begins immediately with a sargam which builds up beautifully to let Ujwall take over. His voice perfectly showcases the longing and sorrow as he sings of sadness and hope amidst rage beautifully depicted by the guitars, drums, keyboards and the tabla. Such a change in the song’s tempo makes the listener delve deep down into their own soul, and feel the connection. It is absolutely enchanting to listen to the journey Ujwal takes us through in the song – from the pain and hope interspersed with continuously built up anger until the breaking point is reached, and he descends into the madness caused by the wrath with an alaap which showcases the immense vocal marvel that he possesses, with the word ‘Mandirva’ being sampled and looped in the background. ‘Mandirva’ is a sensational composition – one of the album’s best tracks.

Spinning’ is an extremely mellow track, which compliments the intensity of ‘Mandirva’ perfectly. It opens with Ujwal’s vocals as a plea to a loved one, with Chayan giving him perfect company, as the song soothes and embalms. A special mention goes to Suhail’s sarangi, Anindo’s keyboard and the subtle drumming. This song is a major highlight of the album.

The instruments in the song ‘Words’ build up the mood with the Western vocals bringing in a sense of melancholy, and the Hindustani vocals powerfully adding to the mix. The lyrics are beautifully written, and the music is top-notch; however, it’s something that Advaita has done innumerably in the past, and it follows down the same predictable path. A beautifully composed track, but not anything the fans haven’t heard earlier.

Gamapanipa’ is the most fun song of the album. The moment you hear the sarangi play the notes of the song’s title, you know you are going for the ride. Even before the entire band joins in with everything they have, you already have your feet tapping and your head swinging to the music. Ujwal comes in with an alaap, from which Suhail just takes the song to another level, reminiscent of his magical vocals in ‘Durga’, and the Western vocals add to the joy, without losing the quality of the music, which is a remarkable feat.

Mo Funk’ is the reason why Advaita is such a magical musical act. Perhaps, the defining track of the album, along with ‘Mandirva’, this song sets in stone what all of us know as a general idea – the magnificence of Ujwal’s vocal talent, for in this song he exhibits his skills in Carnatic classical for the first time. The song begins with tantric bols and chants with an extremely funky groove, and all of it dies down to bring Ujwal to the fray, who flawlessly sings each of the Carnatic notes, and simply leaves you in awe at his versatility. Chayan comes in with a superbly crooned Rock ballad verse, and the tempo is built for an amalgamation of sounds towards the end. This is a scintillating track.

Tremor’ is again, another mellow track. Chayan’s vocals shine in this one, with the questioning grief in his voice. While the Hindustani vocals come in to give the song wonderful layering, a complaint that some listeners could have is that the song sticks to a template or a formula, which unfortunately, limits the range of the band. But that is still being too harsh on the band.

The title track of the album, ‘The Silent Sea’ s one of the most subdued. Melancholy is the first word which comes to mind when listening to this song. The song begins and ends with the sounds of the sea, with the same restrained vitality which has become a theme in the album, exhibited wonderfully by the vocalists and instrumentalists. The swarm of sorrow may get a little too much for some people by the end, but it’s a bold move by the band to sign off with this song.

This is quite an experimental album. The band themselves claim it to be the result of a higher level of maturity. A myriad of emotions and sounds to enunciate those emotions is what Advaita has played with here, and the result has been marvelous. Although the name of the band implies the state of being ‘non-dual’, some of the tracks from this album have such a dual nature to them; it adds an extreme amount of depth into the soul of the band. On the first hearing, the album may seem a little unusual to those who have gotten used to the band’s sound à la their first album; but on further listening, you are left in awe with what these outstanding musicians have created. This is truly a masterpiece in its own way; because although it will happen, comparisons with Grounded in Space are unfair. They are very different albums, the off-springs of very different thought processes. Kudos to the band for creating a sensational mix of Indian and Western sounds; very rarely can you find both co-existing so beautifully. The Silent Sea is a remarkable album, and will surely be a stepping stone which will take this marvelous music act to even greater heights. A wondrous achievement, and a must have.


Coke Studio minicert at Hard Rock Cafe, Hyderabad


Coke Studio India mini-cert at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore





Prejudices are a bitch. Social media invariably works on these prejudices as people tweet proclaiming their love and hate for various things. Sometimes people’s opinions on movies, music etc. tend to be formed before they have experienced it, solely based on other folks’ reactions to the same. I must admit to not having followed Coke Studio India solely based on the bad press it was getting in the online world (which admittedly is not a very critic-y thing to do). I loved whatever little of Coke Studio Pakistan that I’d seen on YouTube but somehow never got myself to watch Coke Studio India. This meant that i was heading to the mini-cert at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore with a slight preformed opinion, hoping that by the end of the night it would change.

Leslie Lewis, the show’s music director sporting a handlebar ‘stache since 1926 kicked off proceedings with a small jam alongside the backing band for the night, before introducing the first act Tochi Raina on stage. Raina, known for his playback songs in films like A Wednesday and No One Killed Jessica, started his set with ‘Rabb-e-Elahi’. The sizable crowd and their DSLR cameras roared in approval at the choice of song as Raina predictably belted out the song. He then invited Carnatic singer Mathangi on stage as they attempted a Sufi/Carnatic fusion number called ‘Yaar Basinda’. Sadly, the song wasn’t anything to write home about. Mathangi then performed ‘Tere Bin’ rather nervously as her vocal delivery was extremely unclear and hurried. Even her song introductions were completely inaudible as she mumbled her way through her set before introducing the “rockstar” Sanjeev Thomas as the next performer. Sanjeev T (as he was billed) walks the talk like a rockstar but is unfortunately more swagger than substance. Sanjeev T and Mathangi dueted on the train wreck that was ‘Akhiyan Milaoon’ (which is an ordinary song to begin with). Both singers missed their cues on multiple occasions and looked very under-rehearsed. It was at this point of time that I realized what was amiss. The entire ambition of Coke Studio was to bridge contemporary and traditional barriers, celebrate differences and explore the musical depth that spreads out across the vast cultural panorama of India. From the little I had witnessed, Coke Studio India did none of that. Here were two artists doing a marginally rockier cover of a 90s Bollywood song. There wasn’t anything refreshingly fresh, daring or new to the entire dynamic of the concert and it resembled a generic reality TV show that are dime a dozen nowadays.

Assamese folk singer Papon was on next and his presence pepped up the show up to a large degree. He played out traditional Bihu songs that are sung during the coming of spring by farmers in Assam. The songs were energetic and had a folksy non-Bollywood ring to it. Papon was easily the best artist of the night as his lively singing complimented the backing band, especially flautist Ashwin who used his array of wind instruments to imitate bird calls, which gave the Bihu songs an authentic feel. I also noticed that Papon played all three of his songs on just two chords barred at the same fret! All the artists then joined Papon on the already overcrowded stage for the encore as they performed the R.D Burman classic ‘Jaane Jaan Doondhta Fir Raha’. As far as finales go, the encore was fitting and vastly more entertaining than most of the show.

During the entire duration of the show I tried to be as objective as possible in reviewing the gig and truth be told I wasn’t very impressed with what Coke Studio India had to offer. Barring the entertaining Papon, the other artists did not really offer anything that was musically interesting. Another point of note is that the disappointing Mathangi had the most stage time. While her nervousness can be excused, reading a song off a lyric sheet definitely cannot be. The sound too was setup with an over-emphasis on the vocals while the backing band, all talented musicians I’m sure, was relegated to being just that – a backing band. A special mention goes to the acoustic guitarist who played with great feel throughout the set. The show might have entertained most people but the point of Coke Studio was spectacularly lost. But you don’t necessarily have to take this reviewer’s word for it, the crowd loved every minute of the concert.

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Sohan Maheshwar

Jack of all tirades, total shirk-off. Follow Sohan on twitter! @soganmageshwar


Coke Studio @ MTV minicert at Hard Rock Cafe, Pune


Coke Studio @ MTV at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore


Coke Studio @ MTV at Hard Rock Cafe, Delhi