Coke Studio Pakistan remains Coke Studio Pakistan even when it isn’t quite Coke Studio Pakistan. This was evident in the last season when the studio got it wrong more times than it got it right, but still gave us some good melodies to weather the storm of life for few months. Strings were retained for Season 8, and right from the first promo that presented the artists line up, it appeared that the new producers have got it right. We have reviewed all episodes and you can find those reviews here. In this post I am listing down my 10 absolutely favorite songs from this season. Are these the only songs I liked? No, but in the interest of keeping the post shorter than a Sooraj Barjatya film, have cut down the numbers. You can click on the title of the song to watch the videos. In order of preference, here it goes.
10. Chiriyan da Chamba – Not so much for any breathtaking musical arrangement, the song makes it to the list for the simple reason of Anwar Maqsood’s recitation. It’s been a while since we heard a recitation in the studio. Suraiya Khanum kept the singing more or less simple.
9. Kinaray – Mekaal Hasan band made a heroic entry to the studio with Sayon but it is Kinaray that gets our vote for being the better of the two. The tonal structure was more or less similar to Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty’s rendition of the same qalaam which you can listen to here. Apart from Sharmishta’s beautiful singing, the back up trio was top class in the song, but then they have been like that throughout the season this time round.
8. Khari neem – Take an iconic classic like in this case, this iconic song by Mai Bhagi and put some flamenco influence coupled with killer violins and spot on singing, you have what is Coke Studio’s style of paying tribute with their unique signature on it. The flute by Sajid Ali just adds to the tempo of the song and sprays an image of a playful banter between two lovers. What a beauty!
7. Bewajah – After winning the Sur Khsetra, there couldn’t have been a better stage for Nabeel Shaukat ali to showcase his talent, and boy, did he grab that opportunity or what! The beauty of this song is that it reminds you a classic ghazal style treatment of antras but doesn’t bore you with a constant mellow mood. The pop treatment and that velvet voice of Nabeel package the entire song into what could be one of the most romantic songs of this year.
6. Ve Baneya – Fizza Javed and Mulazim Hussain is quite a unique combination to be featured in the same song. While both Fizza and Mulazim have excellent range, in this song it is Fizza who took the song to a completely different level by singing a banna-banni song(?). Mulazim was quietly paying tribute to Reshma by giving his version of this song. It’s been quite a while that the song is in public domain but it is difficult for me to control tears at every antra that Fizza sings. Be it those long alaaps or the way dholak (by Baber Ali khanna) changes the pace in the second line of the same. Truly beautiful stuff!
5. Hare hare baans – Having grown up listening to a lot of Pakistani songs, Shazia Manzoor was not an unfamiliar name. What took the anticipation level to unmanageable proportions was when we were shown that the Rizwan-Muazzam group would be teaming up with her. As a result, we got an awadhi song that again touches a genre which is always out there, but somehow the producers of today are busy ignoring it. Any music movement is judged with the variations of genre it touches. Coke Studio Pakistan wipes the floor with the ‘others-music-movements’ for this simple reason and they keep things melodious as well, just like this song. What a pleasure to hear Rizwan-Muazzam complimenting the ‘pitch and note perfect’ Shazia in their own powerful style, yet not compromising the feel of the song. How many songs like this can come to your mind in the recent times? There is a tuneful pain in the word babul that you have to hear to experience. (Not to forget the song touching the familiar raga pattern as piya tose naina lage rey between 5:25 to 5:31 mins)
4. Umran lagiyan – was a mix of Umran lagiyaan by Asad Amanat ali and the Chan chan chankan by Allah Ditta Lonaywala. The original songs have a momentous mounting already. It took the uber talented, clean voiced Ali Sethi to retain the emotion of the song as he crooned Umraan lagiyaan. Even if someone is made up of steel, they are likely to develop goosebumps thanks to the melodious yet intense beginning of the song by Ali Sethi. What’s more, Ali is gentle, suave and desi in equal measure throughout the song. It is songs like these that define the entire season of a program and this song did exactly that. Nabeel was good in his rendition of Chan chan chankan but the song belongs to Ali Sethi…Watch (Yes watch!) the way he brings the song back at 4:11 mins onwards and you will know what I mean.
3. Tajdar-e-Haram – It has become some sort of a fashion to dislike Atif Aslam. While I have always liked him, there are times when he goes overboard. In this song, however, he hits the bulls eye with the same ease with which you just blinked your eyes reading this sentence. Holding a cult classic like one holds a new born baby and delivering a soul stirring song that connects you to the powers that be is what Coke Studio does most often than not, and it works. The tune would have been a hoot for the houseband to keep up for the duration of the song and for that we cannot write enough good things. High point – Aao madine chalein..
2. Rockstar – Like Atif Aslam, Ali Zafar also got three songs in the season, and what’s more surprising is both the artists delivered their best in just one of those three songs. Rockstar is a song that either you will like or absolutely abhor. It came very close for me to label it as the song of the season. Lyrics full of pun (including a jibe at being allowed four marriages!), that desi detour in between, the mention of Kim Kardashian, the excellent back up vocals, that mild lullaby like whisper in between, Omran on Guitar, and so MUCH more! The song has too much going for it and I doubt if Ali can ever better this effort. I hope he proves me wrong tomorrow itself! Ho Socho Ghalib ne pehna ho designer se leke coat neela! WTF! Mind blown!
1. Sakal bann – If music programs cannot give the generation of today a reason to look up our traditional compositions which have stood the test of time, it is all quite pointless. Thankfully, Coke Studio has always excelled in this area. Rizwan-Muazzam group have given us a song that would have made Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan saab proud, and has surely put a smile on Rohail Hyatt’s face. The sheer power of the composition is so infectious, you would start head-banging. Tanveer Tafu, who can play burnt wood in his sleep apparently, took the song to a level that would remain unmatched throughout this season. Songs like these are the reward for lesser mortals to keep going with their messed up lives. The entire song is worth every second in gold but the way the song ends, it gives me goosebumps to even type about it here.
Aaj Jaane ki Zid – There are always people around who would be horrible singers but in their head, they would think they are Tansens. Nothing wrong with that. The trouble is when they start putting their ‘talent’ out to public at large. That’s a punishment. Every tom, dick, harry and sally has put her/his ‘tribute’ to this evergreen Nazm out in public domain and they are all quite pointless and some are downright embarrassing. Farida Khanum graced Coke Studio in an emotional 3:10 mins recreation of this ghazal. They have made a fascinating video of the song which you must not miss, Farida Khanum’s presence is undoubtedly the biggest thing to have happened to Coke Studio Pakistan and it left us all in tears.
I want to write about 9 more songs, the houseband, and a lot more but the post is already way too long. To sum up, about 19 songs out of 29 songs were top class, and some of them outdid the best work of artists so far across albums/genres. A thoroughly enjoyable Season comes to an end and should there be a season 9, the expectations would be sky high…Strings take a bow!
And what do we do in India? We make music vidoes of songs which aren’t even 1% near the melody that oozes out of the lights on the sets of Coke Studio Pakistan, let alone compare them with actual songs.
And remember, all this is distributed free, legally.
UPDATE – Thanks to Ankit, he has made a playlist of all the songs.