The revival of music in Music Television takes another leap with the launch of MTV Unplugged, a show that features artistes performing acoustic versions of their songs. The first episode, featuring Rabbi Shergill, was a delight
For a few years now, an entire generation has watched in disgust as the music channel that ushered in a wealth of renegade, eye-opening musical experiences with the arrival of cable television in India in the early 90s fell to the despicable low of reality TV shows to win the TRP race. Looks like MTV has decided to finally reclaim the M for Music in its logo too, because with the launch of Micromax MTV Unplugged, the third such music-based show (after Coke Studio and MTV Roots) the channel is finally going back to where it belongs, or so we hope.
The first episode, with Rabbi Shergill of Bulla Ki Jaana fame, was a winner all the way. Featuring 7 tracks over a one-hour time slot, the episode took you from his overplayed hits on music channels (Tere bin, from the movie Delhi Heights, and Bulla �) to yet-to-be-released track Ganga from his upcoming album, which, incidentally, formed a fitting conclusion to a soul-stirring set.
Bulla � set the mood with some extended guitar, piano and flute solos to give you a real concert feel and introduce an element of "funk and RnB into the track", as Shergill, dressed in his trademark white kurta pajama and sports shoes, explained. Thankfully, the performances were matched by subtle camerawork, which refrained from the now-overdone close-ups and fadeouts of the audience and performers alike and restricted itself to simple cuts, for the most part.
Challa, Shergill's interpretation of an old Punjabi folk classic, was a softer piece that also showcased his vocal range to a certain degree. After a decade of digitised music that has polished the voices of even non-singers to prioritise texture over melody, it was refreshing to meet a real, tuneful voice shorn of technological mastery.
While Jugni was a bit of a disappointment, with producer Ranjit Barot's English additions feeling a little forced, Tere bin lived up to its hit status, and also brought singers Shabab and Altamesh, who introduced a Sufi touch to it, into the spotlight.
Bilquis, a 2008 track that's a paean to some of our brave activists, including Satyendra Dubey and Manjunath, sounded like a poem, with each stanza dedicated to one person. Ashwin, on the flute, helps it pick up the pace a little bit, in accompaniment with a short guitar riff. Nice.
Finally, Ganga, a track about Shergill's inevitable anguish about what will be left of the country and the environment for future generations, starts with an almost-Creed-like guitar riff, and then rounded off into a mellifluous track that you will love with your eyes closed.