Coke Studio 9 has come to an end. The experiment of bringing six music directors (while Strings remained Producers) was presented a bit differently than the Indian version. Here, we bombard a music director’s entire set at one go. Pakistan version composed an episode with a single song from every composer. In the order in which the songs appeared, here goes the list of my favourite tracks from this season.
Scroll down to the end of the post for the youtube playlist. So this is the way we do it – start the playlist, listen to the songs and then start reading the post.
Jaanay na tu – To me, this remains one of the best songs I came across this year and not just in Coke Studio. There is not a single fault a nit picker like me could find. The sincerity of Ali Khan is matched by a tune that changes towards the end and with such subtlety that you would probably not notice it at all. It infects you nevertheless. I loved the texture of Ali’s voice and the range that he explored. Not every song needs to bring the house down, some can lull you to sleep with a smile on your lips. This one, does just that.
Aafreen aafreen – Re-imagining classics is something that CS-Pakistan does rather well. So when they picked up this song and turned the tune by its head, it didn’t please a lot of people.I have a theory that if you cannot play and manipulate ‘classics’, then they would never be explored by the current generation who is rightfully bent on better acoustics and ‘clear’ sound. So when Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Momina sat down with a soothing guitar by the side and an ethereal tune for company, it sounded good. The ganpati pandal right next to my apartment was playing this non-stop. Now, ask yourself, would they have played the original (which remains a classic and my absolute favorite) with such fervour? Oh, and too much respect for Javed Akhtar sahab. You listen to this alone and you blush, what a feat to achieve, sir. Thank you, for the song!
Maula-e-kull – The powerful voice of Abida Parveen is best left with minimal arrangement so that we can all connect with ourselves in her characteristic long taans and powerful rendition. That is exactly what Shani Arshad cleverly did here. With a running time of approx. 10 minutes, you are guaranteed to be transported in the space where only the supreme devotion exists, i swear I was in that space. I strongly urge you to explore this and wait till the song changes its pace, it will sit in you ‘run’ playlist, I bet. My pick of the season.
Khaki Banda – This power packed song by Umair and Ahmed Jehanzeb pretty much did its job well. The lyrics were sharp, piercing and a commentary on the state of us humans that hasn’t changed since ages. Just listen to Ahmed towards the end (karda phirey part) and then quietly go and listen to this song which he sang long time back that pretty much besotted all of us. The man has got range and sur.
Dilruba na razi – What’s a Coke Studio season without a good Pashtu fused song? While I did have issues with the arrangement, Zeb’s beautiful singing and Faakhir’s energy ensured I start swaying even though I was frowning. What can you do when Ustad Tanweer is hell bent on getting us all dance-y? Super effort!
Ala baali – Fantastic percussions are a given with CS-Pakistan. This season, however, it was a task to keep the sound from overpowering the vocals. Nirmal Roy and Jabar Abbas were clearly audible and were amazing to say the least. Doesn’t Jabbar sound like a soothing Sukhwinder? That ‘habibi’ vibe was tantalising and the Bulleh shah part grows on you as well, a pretty pretty song!
Aaya lariye – Granted that this song is quite distracting with lighting all over the place. Still, I picked this one up because it touches an oft ignored genre. Rufi was superlative and Meesha was naughty, and God those ‘jijja’ calls were infectious! The brass band (from M-Audio keyboard) played a key part in lending a celebratory character to the song.
Shamaan pai gaiyaan/kee dam da bharosa – Kashif, who is the runner up of Pakistani Idol 2013, has a voice that is soothing, and thankfully the song he was given exploits this trait very well. When he goes ‘haar ke baye gaiyyan’, he means it because it pinches your heart as well. That said, Rachel enters like a diva with a call that is measured, painful and malicious. Don’t miss the way Rachel swoops in at 5:24 in the song along with the electrical guitar and changes the mood of the song. Pain, Malice and Melody…perfectly mixed.
Main rasta – The only song of Noori in the list and the one that wasn’t trying too hard to be everything to everyone. I absolutely loved the funk of the song and the way entire house came around was a treat to see and hear. Junaid has a natural ‘chest’ voice and he uses it well and Momina, well she was quite good here as well.
Lagi bina/Chal mele nu chaliye – There are artists that made us Indians sit up and take notice of Coke Studio Pakistan. Saein Zahoor and Sanam Marvi top that list. This soulful song saw both of them collaborate and boy did it work! We hear songs where they say Bulleh Shah danced, I think Bulleh Shah danced because he heard Zahoor sing. Do check this one out!
Nawazishein/Tera wo pyar – When Shuja Haider fused his two songs (which you can hear here and here) asking Asim and Momina to do the honors, we got a soulful romantic song that might be accused of being too mushy, but hey! If we can hear a ‘typical one sided lover song from Bhatts’ filmed on Ranbir Kapoor and go all weak in the knees, this one deserves a listen and a repeat one at that. The string section of this song is where magic happens in addition to pretty much everything that contributed to the song.
Tu Kuja mann kuja – In this remarkable song, we saw Rafaqat Ali Khan sahab with Shiraz Uppal and lovely humnawas sway us the way only pure devotion can. I think this was Shiraz’s best composition of the season.
Nimma nimma – Sabir Zafar’s words are matched by the vulnerable vocals of Shani Arshad, who has also composed this song. With Coke Studio-Pakistan, touching varied genres are a given and this one is a call to mother and a very melodious one at that.
Rang – Amjad Sabri’s last outing that was complimented exquisitely by Rahat Fateh ali khan and humnawas. The highlight would always remain the ‘allah’ call by Sabri that used to be a Sabri signature in their days.
Observations – Somehow, I got a feeling that everyone was trying too hard to give it all. Hire an exotic instrument, get a good singer, and let us all do this together. The cohesive sound was totally missing from this season and after a stellar season 8, it hurt a lot. That and those distracting lights. If you hire a group of chimpanzees and give them laser pointers, they would do a better job than what studio did this time round. It *is* important because Coke Studio is as much a video property as audio. So spare me ‘focus-on-music’ argument. Look at how the studio evolved from season 1 (where one could see cameraman running all over) and you would understand how the visual theatrics were never a part of the studio’s presentation. Subtlety has been forcefully evicted. Noori was probably overwhelmed by the opportunity and wanted to reinforce their presence in almost every song that was given to them. It was quite distracting and put me off. I loved paar channa de but the way Noori made a mess of the song towards the end put me off and it remained a song that you would love humming, but would just like to see it getting over when you hear the Coke Studio Version. Ali Sethi was given just one song, that is wrong on so many levels!
Applause – The biggest plus was the new backup vocalists and we saw them being put to good use. In fact, one of the reasons of picking nimma nimma was the way Shahab Hussain participated in the song, enveloping the feel so well. Hussain was one of the backup vocalists of the season. Also, I absolutely loved the house-band and guest musicians. It was so nice to see Amir Azhar make a return after we saw him in this song, years ago in the studio. Javed Iqbal sahib was the ‘head’ of string section, and boy, did he make his presence felt! We also liked the varied genres the studio touched, ranging from a call to the mother, a lover taunting her innocent better half, to a marriage dance song done just right. All the singers were top class, to say the least.
Looking ahead – We don’t know what Rohail Hyatt is doing these days but he really needs to be engaged again because the overall vibe of the season wasn’t promising at all. Granted that Strings were splendid in season 8 but they have managed 3 seasons so far and all we remember is just one out of that. The cohesive sound, subtlety and experiments Rohail did are sorely missing.
Let us know your favourites!
(ps- you can find individual episode reviews on my blog – Almostareview.wordpress.com)