I have been a huge Coke Studio fan since the Rohail Hyatt days. Rohail Hyatt introduced Coke Studio to Pakistan. He aimed to explore, reinvent, rediscover Pakistani music industry. Blending traditional and sufi songs with modern music, trying to save the dying languages of Pakistan and discovering raw talent – this is what Coke Studio was all about. I remember back in season 5, a group of Chakwali singers collaborated with Punjabi rapper, Bohemia, for the song, “Kandyari Dhol Geet”, and this insane collaboration actually worked so well that this song is still on my playlist. The point is, Hyatt dared to take risks, and this is one of the many reasons I absolutely loved Coke Studio.
After the hastily concluded season 6, Rohail Hyatt went AWOL, and Strings took over. I loved seasons 6 and 7, and I think Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia did a wonderful job. Sab Akho Ali Ali, Washmallay, Nadiya, Mujhe Baar Baar and Chaap Tilak were some of my favourites from season 7. They returned with a bang in season 8, and Bewajah, Tajdar e Haram, Sammi Meri Waar are only few of the many songs that stood out for all the right reasons.
I was eagerly waiting for Season 9, and my expectations sky-rocketed after listening to the goosebump-inducing, heart-achingly beautiful, Aye Rah e Haq Ke Shaheedo. Unfortunately though, this season is shaping up to be quite the disappointment. Here are my thoughts on the latest episode:
Khaki Banda – Ahmed Jahanzeb and Umair Jaswal
Music Director: Shuja Haider
I am pleased to see Ahmed Jahanzeb after quite some time. He is incredibly talented! Umair Jaswal knows his stuff, but I think it’d be nice to see him add a new flare to his singing, because he is beginning to sound monotonous now. The song wasn’t an utter disappointment and I especially enjoyed the last two minutes, but again, it’s largely forgettable. Ahmad Jahanzeb does a wonderful job here, and I want to see more of him in Coke Studio.
Tu Hi Tu – Mehwish Hayat and Shiraz Uppal
Music Director: Shiraz Uppal
Now, seriously, what on earth was this song? Unlike most people, I had no issues with Mehwish Hayat featuring on Coke Studio season 9 because I think she has a very nice voice. But, this was a poorly composed song and the lyrics had Bollywood written all over them! Sorry, but this wasn’t Coke Studio material.
Dilruba Na Raazi – Zeb Bangash and Faakhir
Music Director: Faakhir Mehmood
Here again, the music director decided to offer his vocals and the result was far from satisfying. It’s not that Faakhir’s a bad singer – he’s not – it’s just that it’d have been nice to see a Pushto singer sing with Zeb Bangash. Zeb Bangash, however, is an absolute delight!
Maula-e-Kull – Abida Parveen
Music Director: Shani Arshad
Here, Abida Parveen was seen doing what she does best. This is one of those renditions that you listen to with your eyes closed – you feel at peace. It’s an experience.
So, far the most popular song of this season has been Afreen Afreen. But, I am not a huge fan and that’s not because it doesn’t compare to the original – I don’t think covers should be harshly criticized for not being able to measure up to original, let’s get real, no one can match Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – but because it was not a well-conceived rendition. I loved Momina Mustehsan’s velvety vocals but her bit was too brief – she sang for less than a minute. For the remaining six minutes or so, she just…sat there and looked pretty. Momina herself said that there were no rehearsals prior to the actual recording and she first heard the arrangement when she came for the final recording. Also, it doesn’t help that the opening music totally reminds me of Atif Aslam’s Jeena Jeena.
The only song that I have thoroughly enjoyed and played quite a few times is Aaja Re Moray Saiyaan (sung by Zeb Bangash and directed by Noori). It always brings a smile on my face! Other than that, Coke Studio has yet to impress. I think this has a lot to do with the different format of this season. All these music directors are incredibly talented and creative, but after watching (listening to) these three episodes, I am afraid this new format isn’t working, at least not for me. I am no music critic, and when it comes to music, it all comes down to your personal taste and preference.
What do you think of this season? Feel free to share your thoughts.