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After the meteoric rise of Coke Studio, and before the relaunch of Battle of the Bands, Pepsi flirted with Farhad Humayun’s Pepsi Smash. Both Smash and Battle of the Bands are staged as contrasts to Coke Studio.
Battle of the Bands focuses on new musicians performing as bands, in direct opposition to Coke Studio sourcing vocalists that had achieved some recognition to come perform with a ‘house band’.
Smash was similarly built in contrast to Coke Studio. Instead of relying on a live cross between an orchestra and rock band, Smash focused on adding electronic elements. The show as a whole was lower budget: smaller set, less people, fewer songs. Most guest musicians had existing reputations, but were asked as far as I can tell, to perform newer recordings (even if somewhat incomplete). Noori performed a couple of originals that remain unreleased in any other form (and are some of my favorite Noori recordings). Strings also performed a couple of new songs. An early version of Sajni which was released in full form this year on 30, and this song called Jeevan.
Since this moment Strings have perhaps pulled back on their sound, towards a softer feel closer to their second album Dhaani. These two songs they performed at Pepsi Smash were it seems one-off performances that did not indicate a broad new direction, but rather different versions of in-progress songs akin to a live performance.
Jeevan has a prominent synth riff, in lieu of a bass guitar which gives Strings an interesting dimension. But characteristic Strings’ attributes remain: a Hai-Koi-Ham-Jaisa-style wordless chorus, an elastic, eastern vocal melody, and a soft rhythmic guitar riff.
This recording is more interesting now given Bilal Maqsood’s stint as Executive Producer of Velo Sound Station, this year’s attempt at a more electronic counterpoint to Coke Studio. Faisal Kapadia joins Bilal to perform Pyaar Ka Rog as Strings, a song Bilal teased on an increasingly interesting Instagram feed a few months ago and has now given the full treatment. Jeevan below is a precursor to the sound now released on Velo.