If there's one thing Coke Studio has taught us it's that the right kind of treatment can make all the difference in music. We didn't have to wait for the television phenomenon to get this blast of wisdom. But it's relevant if we are talking about re-inventing traditional music, which is one of the strengths of Coke Studio. It explains the sharp difference between the show's Pakistani incarnation (in its fourth year) and its Indian one (which has recently sputtered to life).
What can you expect when the music is un-re-invented? The least you can look forward to is better packaging.
But EMI, like other established publishers with long catalogues, refuses to learn one thing about re-packaging old gold — that putting out relevant, well-informed notes and images about the singer, the style or the recordings can impart immense value to the albums. They refused to do so while putting out three brilliantly curated collections on the works of Amir Khusro, Bulleh Shah and Faiz Ahmed Faiz last year; and they haven't done it with their 'new' collections of Mehdi Hasan, Farida Khanum, Noor Jehan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ghulam Ali and Abida Parveen.
We, the music lovers of India, must have made it clear that we are suckers enough to pick up such old stuff without any value addition.
So here goes this reviewer's protest. We know the singers and we love the songs that have been published anew. We have been hearing them for a long time. And these aren't particularly exciting recordings. So there's no reason to write about them all over again, is there?
Not for beginners
His other brothers, Zakir Hussain and Fazal Qureshi, are known as percussionists who have successfully crossed several boundaries in fusion music. Zakir's earlier work with Shakti and Fazal's current stint with Mynta have been feted. Now Taufiq, too, is claiming some of the attention. And rightfully so.
In the first of the two DVDs, Taufiq plays a western drum-set and a djembe, the African drum. He collaborates with musicians such as Sridhar Parthasarathy on the mridangam and Amit Dutt Choubey on the tabla to show various styles of playing with compositions and how they could be imported on to the 'western' drums. On the second DVD, he atomises each note on the djembe, which he calls the tabl.
A masterful exposition for those studying fusion percussion. Actually, it works even without the fusion bit.
It's one of those commemorative albums. August 15 is drawing near, and we have a new film with an intriguing title: Gandhi to Hitler. I have no clue yet about the story, but the album is a throwback to Manoj Kumar territory.
Jagjit Singh's 'Har ore tabahi' reminds you of at least a dozen other songs by Jagjit. 'Teh jazba hamara' by Shaan is a mix of something that belongs to the radio programme, 'Fauji Bhaiyon ke Liye', and a kids' march.
The most worrying bit is Bhupen Hazarika's 'Vaishnav jan toh'. Hazarika has done us proud over the years with his music and his work as a musicologist. I have spent one of my most memorable New Year's eves sitting a few feet from him, listening to his rendering of folk songs. But it's difficult to sit through the 85-year-old singer's drawl-some version of the bhajan. Well, he must not have recorded it with a gun to his head. But what is it about us that we cannot let go of our idols?
Talking of idols and commemoration, it would have been a much more engaging season had we got something new on Rafi (whose death anniversary was July 31) or Kishore (who was born on August 4). Why the silence there?
Collections: Mehdi Hasan, Farida Khanum...
EMI/Virgin India, R595 (5 CDs each)
Art of Indian fusion drummingGandhi to Hitler
Exposition: Taufiq Qureshi
Ultimate Guru Music, R999 (2 DVDs)
Music: Arbind-Lyton; Lyrics: Pallavi Mishra