Coke Studio Bharat needs to succeed -- because of its music, nothing else, asserts Sandeep Goyal.
Coca-Cola is bringing back its global music property Coke Studio to India after a gap of eight years, and rebranding it as Coke Studio Bharat.
The new season of Coke Studio will feature an amalgamation of over 50 artists from across India, especially the hinterlands.
The platform will witness the coming together of this massive ocean of talent to create over 10 memorable tracks celebrating the roots of India.
This season of Coke Studio is being curated by musician-songwriter Ankur Tewari, who will be assisted by a think-tank comprising poet-lyricist Kausar Munir and music producer K J Singh.
The artists and musicians line-up includes varied talent from Armaan Malik to Diljit Dosanjh, to Jasleen Royal, to the Shillong Chamber Choir.
Regional Indian instruments like alghoza, chimta, duff, sarod, sarangi, tumbi, and rabaab will be specially highlighted in the music.
Coke Studio owes its origins to Brazil where it was first staged as a musical concert in 2007.
Nadeem Zaman of The Coca-Cola Company, in 2008, partnered with Rohail Hyatt, member of the Vital Signs musical group to launch a Pakistani version of the show.
The inaugural season premiered in June that year, in front of a live audience.
It was an immediate success, receiving critical acclaim and frequently getting rebroadcast. There was no looking back thereafter.
Coke Studio combined a myriad of musical influences, from traditional classical, folk, Sufi, qawwali, ghazal, and bhangra music to contemporary hip-hop, rock and pop music.
The show was immediately noticed, and applauded, for promoting Pakistan's multiculturalism by inviting artists from various regions of the country and also those from various languages, to collaborate musically.
The success of Coke Studio was driven by the fact that it not only promoted traditional music genres, but it also incorporated several local musical instruments in each of the sessions.
Fusion of different musical forms, instruments, lyrics and styles is what started to define the essence of the show.
Coke Studio provided a stage to both the mainstream popular singers as also to folk and ghazal singers, with no power hierarchy.
This brought the 'not so popular', marginalised and even unconventional music forms into a studio setting, and fused them with much more successful and popular music types.
The show provided visibility, success and exposure to local artists that performed in it, and who became both the differentiators, as well as the divas of the event.
Coca-Cola brought the successful Pakistani format to India in 2011, in partnership with MTV.
The show ran for four seasons, but only had at best, some lukewarm success. It would only be natural to ask why?
The answer perhaps lies in the commercialisation of music.
In India, Bollywood is both the driver, and the destination, for all music talent.
Mass popularity is attained, and encashed by a well-lubricated ecosystem that is supported by the film studios, the music labels and the artists.
In Pakistan there is hardly any commerce in music.
Music is created and venerated for what it is, just music.
The pristine quality, and excellence, of the music come with a much higher premium than the litmus of mass popularity.
So the pulls and pressures of the marketplace are far less.
But will Coke Studio Bharat succeed in this latest avatar? For the 137 years that it has been around, Coca-Cola has constantly endeavoured to connect with consumers at multiple levels.
The challenge for Coke Studio in India will be its ability to drum up some good music.
So far one can only see time-tested formulas being regurgitated -- using Amitabh Bachchan's voice to anchor the Apna Sunao launch film; claims being made of creating a modern day Mile Sur Mera Tumhara all over again, and more such.
That is precisely what may derail the Bharat version -- its Bollywoodisation, and its advertising hype.
Coke Studio Bharat needs to succeed -- because of its music, nothing else.
Coke Studio Pakistan broke the barriers of language, religion, nationality and touched the hearts of even those across the border, in India -- perhaps the only Pakistani export we've happily welcomed.
The music was just beautiful. It created its own franchise and gave birth to its own fans.
Coca-Cola India has to learn its lessons from the Pakistani original and analyse the causes for its tremendous success -- a dizzying musical journey, with singers experimenting with fusion and eclecticism, digging deep into Pakistan's traditional sounds and creating new ways of melding them into an electronic landscape.
Coke Studio Bharat is trying a different take on technology.
It has put a QR code on Coca-Cola bottles that would take consumers to the Coke Studio Hub.
It would also allow the audience to get a 360-degree view of selected songs, thus virtually transporting the audience inside the sets of Coke Studio through their mobile phones.
That's interesting -- but it is not what consumers want: They want to experience great music. Period.
Sandeep Goyal is managing director, Rediffusion