One of the most fascinating and creatively diverse collaborations to have come out of Coke Studio in its run in India has to be ‘Kattey’, composed, arranged, and produced by Ram Sampath. With the phenomenal vocal talents of Bhanvari Devi and the iconoclastic rap verses of Hard Kaur fronting the collaboration, Sampath transforms this timeless Rajasthani folk song into a glorious modern behemoth. It’s a piece of music that never dips in energy, shifting moods effortlessly, from traditional folk sounds to rock ‘nroll to hip hop, never once missing a beat.
The original song, believed to have been around for centuries, has an underlying theme of devotional reverence to it. Sampath, using the lyrical qualities of the original, reinvents the pieceentirely, giving it a wholly unique form. Bhanwari Devi trades verses with Hard Kaur, providing a stunning interplay between tradition and modernity. Visions of Hindu gods appear in the original verses of the song before Hard Kaur directs the song into a new space with her deeply honestand confessional delivery. She speaks of her experiences, the many challenges she has faced in her life, and the sense of belonging and comfort she felt through music. A strong current of emancipation runs through this song, further accentuated by the exhilarating peaks of the chorus melodies, where Bhanwari Devi’s astounding delivery is accompanied by a powerful rhythm section, highlighting the dual guitar-and-violin attack chugging the song along. ‘Kattey’ evokes an immediate reaction of thrill and euphoria thanks to the relentlessly energetic arrangement. Originally from the third season of Coke Studio, this version struck a chord with a diverse range of listeners, and was also featured in the 2015 film Angry Indian Goddesses.
An aspect of ‘Kattey’ that’s easy to overlook is the fluidity with which it has been arranged. It’s a testament to the exceptional talents of Ram Sampath to be able to seamlessly blend the seemingly contrasting individual elements that make up this song. The floating guitars shift gracefully into a distorted attack; the forceful and stirring lines of Hard Kaur don’t seem out of place, even as they’re preceded by Bhanwari Devi’s diametrically opposite style of vocals. Instead of simply sounding like a collection of different influences —as a lot of collaborative fusion experiments often tend to —‘Kattey’ sounds like a complete and standalone work of art. Each of the elements —from the roving lines on the violato the gripping drums that drive the song forward with every transition —seem to serve the greater good.
Further, ‘Kattey’ acts as yet another showcase of the exquisite talents that exist in Rajasthan, and is yet another contribution from the state to popular music. Every corner of the country is packed to the rafters with glorious musical traditions and gifted performers. Beyond the aesthetics and thejoy that the music of Coke Studio provides to its listeners, it also plays a critical role in bringing these hidden gemsto the forefront and providing them with a platform to reach out to greater audiences.