After the immense popularity of Coke Studio India and Coke Studio Pakistan, Bangladesh has come up with its maiden season of the international music franchise. Noted singers have lent their voices to legendary songs to create ethereal music which forms the crux of the studio-recorded show. Known for giving a platform to established and emerging artists, both Coke Studio Pakistan and India have received their share of popularity and praise. Now, Coke Studio Bangladesh is following in the footsteps of its predecessors.
The debut season featured some well-known Bengali songs, including Rabindranath Tagore’s Ekla Cholo Re, Lilabali, and Lalon Fakir’s Shob Lokey Koy, among others. Helming Coke Studio Bangla Season 1 is none other than popular Bangladeshi singer Shayan Chowdhury aka Arnob.
Known for his tracks like Hok Kolorob, Shey Je Boshe Ache, and Noyon Tomare, the singer curated and produced the inaugural season. In a candid chat with News18 Showsha, Arnob opened up about his experience and the journey of Coke Studio Bangla. He also shared his insight on Bengali music.
Excerpts from the interview:
This being the first season of Coke Studio Bangla, how was your experience of producing and curating this?
It’s a crazy, big journey. There’s so much to talk about, that I don’t know where to start. But it was a huge opportunity for me. Initially, when I was designing it, I thought of what kind of character we should have. Coke Studio Pakistan has a sound, India as a sound, so we thought about what Coke Studio Bangla should be sounding like.
Then I thought of the environment we live in, especially in urban areas, it’s very claustrophobic. It’s like madness with the traffic, the cars honking, the cows – there is chaos. And I thought about how to have that reflected in our music. For that, I took musicians from the grassroots level to jazz musicians to rappers and brought everyone together and we lived together for almost two months.
One of the landlords kicked us out because we were a bunch of musicians living in one place, singing aloud, playing instruments all the time.
In the case of Coke Studio India or Pakistan, a lot of songs got global popularity. With Coke Studio Bangla, do you think that Bangladeshi music is also getting that kind of global appreciation? How has the audience reaction been?
I had no clue that we were going to get all this attention. It’s lovely to see how foreigners are appreciating and reacting to our music. I never really thought of that because our goal was not how much popularity or views we were going to get. For us, it was more about how much fun we are having doing it and bringing everyone together in one place.
We did a live concert with Coke Studio Bangla songs, and it was mad! We had almost 30-40,000 kids attending it. In our country, the kids are so deprived of music festivals and concerts, especially after COVID. So we were all starving to go to concerts and it was crazy seeing them perform.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while producing this?
We were doing it for the first time so we didn’t know how to do it. We had accumulated knowledge of Coke Studio Pakistan and India because they’ve been doing it for years. We studied them and researched them but the challenge was to figure out the whole thing. It was not only about the music, but the whole ecosystem – the shooting, the production, there were a lot of learning curves we had to go through. And we are going to get better if we continue.
You are also married to a musician (Sunidhi Nayak), so how much do you go to each other for advice or suggestion? Is there any competition between you two?
We always bounce back and forth with our ideas because I sometimes need that. When you work alone, at times, you lose track of what’s happening, and what you’re doing. So the second opinion then helps a lot. My wife Sunidhi helps me a lot so we bounce back our ideas a lot. And I’m not going to compete with her because she’s a fabulous singer. I’m nowhere close to what she is capable of doing with her voice. She studied music and did a Masters in it. I did my masters in painting. You asked me to draw straight lines, I’ll be better. But singing a note straight, she’ll probably do it better.
Do you think that you’re better as a vocalist or better as a producer composer?
I think I’m better at singing my song than anyone else. But other than that, I’m not sure how good a singer I am. I think as a composer, I’m more comfortable.
What do you think is the one area we are lacking that can probably be improved to make Bengali music more popular and improve it?
We have to work on our originals because our music industry is dominated by film songs. In case of film music, you are asked to do something in certain ways. To support the film or to support the story and the actors. But we should have music for music, like art for art. We should have more platforms like these so we can play our own music. We also have to bring in the youth and connect with the youth. Because they are the industry actually.
Look at the K-pop industry and how they made up the whole thing. It’s huge and they are exporting it. So I think this is high time for us – West Bengal and Bangladesh – to collaborate and tap into this market and create a new sound which caters to the youth, the younger generation. We don’t have festivals, we don’t have concerts, we should be having more. And that’s how we get connected with people.
Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?
I’m inviting all the composers, singers, and songwriters to submit their ideas to us. We’ll be opening up a channel where you could submit your ideas and if it’s good, we will take you on board to work with us. So that’s one message I like to give to everyone, all the musicians out there, that we want to work with everyone.