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Coke Studio: High at five

Published May 13, 2012 12:12am


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Look out for the Pakistani-American rapper Bohemia (L) and Umair Jaswal of Qayaas in this edition of Coke Studio. — Photo Kohi Marri

After the fizzling out of the mass appeal that bands like the Vital Signs and Junoon commanded, it seemed as if we would be forced to go through a period without a true ‘champion’ of the music scene. Despite a number of newsworthy acts such as Noori, Strings, EP and others, there was dearth in the kinds of bands that really had everyone singing out Bulleya or even Dil Dil Pakistan. And while artistes like Ali Zafar and Atif Aslam were (and are) very successful, in reality they occupy the domain would have them be stars more than musicians (the former much more than the latter).

But in the past half decade, music has evolved in an unexpected way with Coke Studio (CS) inheriting the role of providing the most anticipated collection of music each season. Surprising because such a move by a private company, with what could have been an obnoxious way to brand something but isn’t, should have led to a lot of ‘sell-out’ music. Yet it hasn’t. In fact, the venture has become akin to a record label, where a smart producer recruits talented musicians to create a loosely defined genre of music, combining everything everyone has heard before, in a refreshingly new way. The name of the label might prominently feature Pakistan’s biggest beverage maker, but it hasn’t sunk into the minds of listeners as the show being the company’s asset as much as the name simply referring to a cool music show.

Of course, CS has its critics; a number of people claim that it hasn’t brought anything new in quite a while, or less harshly, that it sometimes manages to get stuck into a rut. A line not without merit; the crimson studio does tend to get repetitive at times. Often, it’s easy to pick out an attempt to recreate a similar sounding hit from a previous season, the effort usually producing mediocre fare.

But consider this: not since Peter Gabriel and Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (NFAK) has anything yielded collaborations between artistes as opposite as Ali Azmat and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Meesha Shafi and Arif Lohar, Noori and Saeen Zahoor; the show has also reinforced the idea that some artistes who would have soon been forgotten (for instance, Sajjad Ali) are actually still some of the most fun (and talented) musicians around. Also, some of the biggest and arguably best hits of the past few years have been songs such Alif Allah Chambey di Booti, Jalpari, and Aik Alif, songs which were popular before CS but jumped to a whole other level after being performed on the show.

To what I think is an equally big credit, and possibly bigger is the fact that after NFAK made qawwali and Junoon made Sufi rock cool, but the end of both meant there was no more experimenting in the two genres. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was still singing qawwali, but primarily for Bollywood, which is about as commercial as music can get. CS re-introduced the idea of experimenting with music, and while the results may not have been successful each time, the show encourages musicians to keep jamming and trying out new ideas—from making catchy numbers, to pieces that would fit better as scores to films. Vital experimentation, if music is to keep evolving.

The fifth edition of CS, which starts today, features the return of Atif Aslam, Bilal Khan and Meesha Shafi, Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad, and invites as first-time performers Hadiqa Kiyani, Qayaas, Bohemia (of Kaali Denali fame) and Symt. The show will also continue in its quest to fuse everything drums, guitars and back-up singers (or what we call western music) with regionally inspired music by inviting Tahir Mithu, Sheedi and Mai Allah Widhai. This season also follows the departure of Gumby who chose to devote his energy to Uth Records, and the introduction of Farhad Humayun (from Overload) on the drummer’s pedestal and Mubashir Admani on keyboards.

Images on Sunday was invited backstage to witness Rohail Hyatt conduct the CS orchestra and listen in on the artistes rehearsing and singing to the final takes. Out of the songs that I heard, Atif Aslam’s collaboration with Qayaas on Mera Aye Charkha Nolakha, originally a kalam by Baba Bulleh Shah, seemed quite promising. It carries a catchy beat, sort of like the Dum Gutkoon refrain in season three, but with a more brazen tone—especially when Umair Jaswal from Qayaas kicks in. Another artiste to look forward to is Bilal Khan who is said to have three tracks on the show!

One of the artistes to watch out for this season will be Bohemia. The Pakistani-American rapper from San Diego California was humbled by being at CS, “I’m completely in awe of Rohailji, I can’t believe I’m even here. It is such an honour.” While I wasn’t around to watch him shoot his performance, the rapper is a first for the show and should be interesting to watch.

Of course, all opinions on the songs are reserved until after they are aired. But with everyone’s thoughts on the show ranging from “let’s see what they do this time” to “the only that is happening in the music industry” to “the best that the country’s music industry has to offer” (all original quotes by real people who unfortunately can’t be named here), the fifth edition of Coke Studio is again certainly something to tune in to.


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Comments (16) Closed

innohunter May 13, 2012 03:59pm
Coke studio is simply awesome
Khurram Gondal Rawana May 13, 2012 07:45am
Wow!! Can't wait to see Bohemia, the rap star singing in Coke Studio. Cheers mates:)
Khurram Gondal Rawana May 13, 2012 08:03am
COKE STUDIO High At Five: Entertainment entertainment Entertainment;)
Khurram Gondal Rawana May 13, 2012 08:09am
Coke Studio's new version is just food for soul..
numan May 13, 2012 06:40pm
it shakes my soul and gives me goosebumps
yogi May 13, 2012 06:59pm
it is more then woooow :)
bg May 14, 2012 03:41pm
DRUMMIN falls short LACKS vRIETY IN DRUMMING !!! Or more strong
G.a May 14, 2012 12:01pm
All that wait and what a disappointment. Same slow strumming of the guitar followed by vocals. More of the same.
aneela May 13, 2012 02:31pm
ive just watched coke studio season 5 and it is amazing, its really hard to pick a a favourite but Atif ROCKED, everyone else was close behind xx
Ali S May 14, 2012 01:07pm
Really loved Symt's performance on yesterday's episode - finally someone bringing good pop music back
A.Bajwa May 14, 2012 05:50am
Coke Studio is amazing, It should get the highest award.
SMA May 14, 2012 06:29am
One of the best episode really, all credit goes to Rohail Hayat & his team.
arif May 14, 2012 05:02am
Its Feels Good That ( COKE STUDIO ) is Going ON AIR.
kdspirited May 14, 2012 02:39pm
It is hard to undermine our cultural affiliation to music. There are people out there who would hate for us to not be able to do that. But CS beats all odds and provide platforms for lesser known artists from all over the country to introduce to us their talents and show us how diverse and talented our small country is. I wish there were platforms for other skills as well.
pervin.nasir May 19, 2012 10:24am
looking forward to witness the grand performance. First time in Pakistan a show of such stature is being aired . Best of luck !
pervin.nasir May 19, 2012 11:37am
looking forward to witness the grand performance. First time in Pakistan a show of such stature is being aired .