Where’s the music?

Published December 15, 2013
Rachel and Zoe Viccaji.
Rachel and Zoe Viccaji.
Kaw Daily Mad Sissoko.
Kaw Daily Mad Sissoko.

This has perhaps been the most dismal year for the music show that only recently took Pakistan (and communities abroad) by storm. In a country where the music industry is going through its most difficult time yet, Coke Studio provided a strong platform to musicians to create good music and spread it out among the people. Genres were mixed, so were cultures and languages, older artists worked with newer ones and in the end what they created was pure magic.

And then somewhere along the line, the magic ended. Season after season saw the show become more and more predictable. This year with hopes (but not expectations) running high because of the promise of the ‘world’ of music being fused into the show, the show continues to sound, quite inexplicably, the same. How can you bring in such diverse elements of music from all around the globe (they are there, we can see them in the photos and the videos and read about them on the website) and yet have none of that actually contribute to the music? Where is the richness of sound? Where is the promised innovation? How can you take musicians from all over the world and make them sound almost exactly like the ensemble the show uses back home? Not just the instruments, but what does the music of all the places these musicians hail from, sound like? With the third episode of the sixth season, we still get none of that.

What can one say about the third episode that will come as … a revelation? Four singles sung by three very gifted ladies with three very diverse singing styles (Zara Madani, Sanam Marvi and Zoe Viccaji) and Atif Aslam. The episode had at the most a glimmer of a moment, but overall it was quite underwhelming.

The two weakest songs in the episode are Neerbharan by Zara Madani and Muazzam Ali Khan and Raat Gaey by Zoe Viccaji. Zara Madani is the voice behind the soundtrack of Khuda Kay Liye. Since then, except for a few performances and a single here and there that failed to make any impact; this songstress has pretty much stayed under the radar. One wonders, after listening to Neerbharan, a mellow but forgettable song, whether it was even worth coming out with.

Channa by Atif Aslam isn’t the best of what he’s come up with. It’s not terrible either. You’ll listen to it, maybe even enjoy it while it’s playing, but won’t go out of your way to acquire and listen to it over and over again. Channa is a song of love and longing (well, what else do you expect from Atif Aslam?) that could easily sound like it was meant to be a part of the soundtrack of a film.

What saves this episode is Sanam Marvi’s beautiful rendition of Yaar Vekho; a powerful kalam that explores themes of harmony within oneself and with the world. Lyrically strong and carried forward by Marvi’s powerhouse vocals, in this day and age of increasing intolerance and sectarian violence, these lyrics from the song caught my attention, “I am neither Sunni nor Shia. My heart is troubled by both sides.” Well said.

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