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The Coke Studio Interviews: Amit Trivedi

“My vision was to bring out the crux of our country,” says the music producer renowned for soundtracks like Dev D and Udaan, as he waxes lyrical about the third episode of the show.

21 Jul, 2012

Mariyam Thomas


Three weeks into the Coke Studio@MTV series, music producer Amit Trivedi takes over for the third episode today (July 21) at 7pm. With a five-song set, he brings together traditional folk with jazz, rock and pop; employing the talents of Rajasthani folk singer Mame Khan, blues/jazz singer Mili Nair, Punjabi vocalists Harshdeep Kaur and Devender Singh, and long time collaborator and playback singer Sriram Iyer. His band includes Darshan Doshi (who was the youngest drummer in the country at age 11 in 1997) on drums, Rushad Mistry (of Indus Creed) on bass guitars, Arshad Khan (grandson to renowned sarangi player Ustad Bane Khan) on esraj, Jarvis Menezes on keys, Sanket Naik (of Kailasa) on percussion, and Shankar Tucker (American clarinetist and composer, who recently collaborated with Raghu Dixit) on clarinet.

Starting out in college playing keys at local events and festivals, Amit Trivedi began his foray into music arrangement and composition making ad jingles for the likes of Airtel and McDonalds. His first movie soundtrack was for the 2008 Hindi film Aamir. Over the years, Trivedi has carved a niche from himself doing quirky soundtracks for movies like Dev D, Wake Up Sid, Udaan and No One Killed Jessica. 

Have a listen to Amit Trivedi’s song ‘Pardesi’ for Dev D below.

We had a chat with Amit Trivedi about his folk-fused, jazz-permeated, rock-tinged set, about his journeys, and discovering great musicians.

NH7: What was you vision for your set at Coke Studio?
Amit Trivedi: I’ve done five tracks for MTV Coke Studio. My vision towards it was to bring out the crux of our country. I’ve used for example, the folk elements of Rajasthan and keerthanam, along with Punjabi folk and bringing all of this together with my singers in my own kind of way. So, these are the three elements in my setup.

NH7: Can you take me through each of the songs and how you put them together?
AT: ‘Nirmohiya’ is the first one, it’s a love ballad. But I’ve infused a jazz element into it. I’ve used Devendra Singh, who’s a 16-year-old kid from Ludhiana. I had gone for a recce two years ago and that’s when I discovered him. At that time, he was 14 years old, and I had seen some 40 singers and this guy stood out. He was awesome. I wanted to do something with him but I wasn’t getting an opportunity in films. And this (Coke Studio@MTV) was the right platform to bring him on. Along with him, is veteran Harshdeep Kaur (who also sang in Hitesh Sonik‘s set). They are doing this Punjabi love song together. It’s not dance Punjabi or a folk Punjabi. It’s got a classical melody, but with a jazz feel to it.

Check out a clip of ‘Nirmohiya’ below.

Then there is one song called ‘Yatra’. The song talks about the journey of body and soul. It’s got a pop-rock feel but I’ve also got influences of Africa in there. I even use the sound of a hawk and an eagle, just to bring out that jungle-African flavour to it. Then, I assimilated that with rock, Carnatic, and pop – it’s an amalgamation of genres and I’ve merged it together not for the sake of putting it there, but I see to it that it seamlessly flows.

Here’s a glimpse of ‘Yatra’.

The third one is called ‘Bari Bari’. With this song, I can’t say too much about it because it’s got an anti-social element to it. The song is about angst, power, anger and frustration. It’s very much a rock song but with elements of sargam. I am personally singing on this one because I’ve got to vent all this angst inside me. I’m the right guy to do it. *laughs* I couldn’t do much when it was happening but through music I can do it now (vent his anger). Luckily, I’ve got (Natalie) Di Luccio as well. She’s a Canadian singer, and though she can’t sing in Hindi, my idea was to get her in that sound along side Sriram Iyer as well.

Watch Trivedi flipping out as a song comes together during rehearsal below.

The fourth song is ‘Chaudhary’ which is a pure Rajasthani folk song. It’s not traditional folk as I’ve composed the melody for it. Shellee had written the lyrics for it. I also would like to mention that the first song’s (‘Nirmohiya’) lyrics were written by Amitabh Bhattacharya. And then ‘Yatra’ is written by another good friend, Swanand Khirkire. Third song, ‘Bari Bari’ is written by Shellee, who also did the lyrics for the fourth song ‘Chaudhary’. The last one is ‘Badri Badariyan’ written by Kausar Munir. It’s basically all the producers I’ve worked with in the past.

‘Chaudhary’ is a love song, and it’s like a proper Rajasthani folk, like Langas and Manganiyar. And they have these staple instruments that they use like khartal, kamaycha, morchang and dholak, of course. In that song, I’ve used all of those.

Take a look at ‘Chaudhary’ below.

Lastly, ‘Badri Badariyan’ is a rock ballad fused with folk. We have a girl singing on it, Mili Nair.

Check out ‘Badri Badariyan’ below.

NH7: What was you favourite song to work on for Coke Studio@MTV?
AT: I think production wise ‘Nirmohiya’, because it took a lot of time and I had to go through a lot of drafts. I mean, during rehearsals also, the entire band spent three days working on the arrangement and after three days, in the next session, we decided to completely scrap everything we had done. I was not happy with it. Whatever was happening, was not happening. So I took a break for 10 mins, I went out, had a chai, *laughs* and then changed the song completely. And now when I changed it completely, it’s like a 180 degree shift. After that, I was so happy with the call that I took. It was a last moment decision and I was really happy that I did it because I am much happier with the new arrangement. I had a nice good night sleep after that. It was a relief. Now, ‘Nirmohiya’ has come out really well.

Watch Sanket Naik, Shon Pinto, Darshan Doshi, Rushad Mistry and the rest of the band jamming together at rehearsal with Trivedi below (warning: excessive crotch shots alert).

NH7: Is there any particular producer’s set at Coke Studio that you are looking for to?
AT: One singer that I’m looking forward to, who is related to one of the singers I used in my set, Mame Khan’s mama, Sawan Khan. He’s in Clinton Cerejo’s band. He is exceptional and someone to really watch out for. Outstanding. He is the real find. He is the sound of this country – that earthy voice of folk music in this country. He is the ultimate. I was really moved when I heard him.

NH7: How are you hoping to stand out from the other producers?
AT: Hahaha… should I be direct or humble? It’s tough to answer that unless you hear what’s happening with all the other producers, it’s hard to say. I’ve heard bits from what the other guys have done and they are fabulous. I won’t say what I was doing to stand out, rather this whole season is special because everybody out there is doing something different. I’ve heard Clinton’s (Cerejo), Shantanu’s (Moitra), Karsh’s (Kale), Nitin Sawhney’s and I love everything that has been done, that I heard. The entire package is wonderful. This season sounds great and from July 7 when the first episode starts, till the time it ends and the last producer has done his job, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.

Here is a sneak peak into tonight’s episode with his first song ‘Bari Bari’ below.

Amit Trivedi’s episode on Coke Studio@MTV will air tonight (July 21) at 7pm on MTV.

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