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Coke Studio Episode 5 review: Soul and rock ‘n’ roll

Updated October 19, 2014


Abbas Ali Khan
Abbas Ali Khan

Mujhay Baar Baar:

Abbas Ali Khan has been missing from the music scene ever since his rather flashy and successful debut many years ago. More recently, he altered his music to reflect his more ‘Sufi’ side but didn’t make as much of an impact as when he first came out with Sunn Re. His latest song featured in the fifth episode of Coke Studio can change that. Mujhay Baar Baar is a beautiful song from his upcoming album and his performance left one absolutely stunned — in a good way.

“This melody is really haunting,” said Bilal Maqsood about Mujhay Baar Baar. “We could think of an arrangement that was very intense and dark, although it is an uplifting song.” He related that Abbas had been present throughout the recording of CS as he is the man behind the graphics on the various screens on the set.

The Strings duo has given a rather edgy musical sound to the song and when Abbas ventures into vocalising an alaap in Raag Darbari, his voice spreads over and permeates the music, almost as if his vocal chords were an instrument in and of themselves.

Pehla Pyar:

In a complete contrast to Abbas’s song, Jimmy Khan’s Pehla Pyaar is upbeat and uplifting. “To counter Jimmy’s vocals we brought in Sajid on the flute,” said Bilal.

But instead of countering it, it seems more like he is keeping pace with him.

Mitti da Pehlwan:

Also being featured for the first time here is Jawad Ahmed. And the producers have tried to modify his style of music for this season as well. “There is no bhangra in this,” said Bilal right before the song, Mitti, was played. “He came in with a very typical bhangra-oriented song,” he added. “At first we thought we couldn’t do it but then we decided to take it as a challenge and so did everyone else.”

Was it hard for the musicians to adapt to Jawad Ahmed’s style of music? “Of course not; they’re professional musicians and they’re accustomed to playing different kinds of music,” responded Bilal.

The last episode before taking a break for Moharram begins with Sufi undertones

“The original tempo was at 128,” he added (I nodded, pretending to understand exactly what that meant. It probably meant that the song was fast-paced). “We brought it down to 116,” said Bilal. It took a bit of convincing but the singer warmed up to the slower pace and the result was a fun song that remains true to Jawad Ahmed’s style of singing, but innovates where the accompanying music is concerned.

Khairyaan de Naal:

A song that was recently immortalised by Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan and which is one of the more popular songs in the semi-classical circuit is Khairyaan de Naal. “Shafqat used a line from this song,” clarified Bilal. “The rest of the song has his own lyrics.”

“Tufail Niazi originally came out with this song,” he added. “His sons are the rightful heirs to it. If anything, this song should register with the audience through them.”

And in bringing the legacy of Khairyaan de Naal back home, Coke Studio’s version features the Niazi Brothers on it. The song starts off with an emptiness that is filled by the brothers’ soulful and heartfelt singing. The music then slowly begins and joins the singing, filling up the emptiness as the brothers sing the main chorus. Throughout the song, the flute plays a prominent role, as if responding on its own to the lyrics. Their manner is interesting as well, as they seem to echo off each other slightly while performing the song.

The simplicity of the song coupled with the rather heartfelt, seemingly sincere rendition of it, brings out the purity of Khairyaan de Naal. There is raw emotion in the song, but it creeps up in you gently and quietly. This song definitely hits a chord. It is an apt conclusion to this episode before the Studio goes on a Moharram break for several weeks.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 19th, 2014