The name Coke Studio resonates with every music aficionado in the South Asian sub-continent. So, what does Coke Studio do? They make outrageous fusion music with an exquisite blend of different styles and instruments. This is innovation through different genres and different languages as well. Rohail Hyatt was in-charge of Coke Studio for the first six seasons. Coke Studio here refers to the “Coke Studio Pakistan”. The ten seasons are a benchmark that is difficult to replicate for any other musical show in the sub-continent.
Why is Coke Studio different? Coke studio is essentially the breeding ground for new talent and for musical maestros to come up with landmark numbers. Some of the examples of such masterpieces are “Aj Latha Naio” from Javed Bashir, “Tera Woh Pyar” from Momina Mustehsen and Asim Azhar, “Afreen Afreen” from Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, “Man Qunto Maula” and Momina, “Miyan ki Malhar” by Zara Madani et al., and others. These songs have a flair of beauty, feet tapping rhythm and a resounding melody topped with amazing lyrics.
Apart from the stellar singers, legendary instrumentalists such as Ustad Raees Khan and Farhan Raees Khan have added an icing on the cake. Adding to this, compositions from legendary composers such as Sahir Ali Bagga, Fuzon, Jaffer Zaidi and Ali Azmat have enhanced the perception of Coke Studio among the fans. The involvement of the in-house band in the compositions is one to savor. The enthusiasm, the positivity and the bonhomie attitude is the bright side of Coke Studio. CS has also featured Indian artists such as Shilpa Rao and Sharmista Chatterjee.
But there has been some shuffle in the producer end of the show. The first six sseasons were produced by Rohail Hyatt and from seventh saw the comeback of the much wanted team of Bilal Maqsood’s Strings. The change in production and direction saw a change in the artists. In the season six, there were musicians from Morocco, Nepal and Serbia playing for Roahil Hyatt’s ingenious numbers. The songs such as “Mahi Gal” were some which only Rohail could arrange. On the other hand, Strings is more of a band which has focused on medleys and fusions. Right from Man Qunto Maula to Tera Woh Pyar, medley and fusion have created magic in their numbers. Some of the songs are just soulful enough for one to etch in their hearts. For example, Afreen, which stood out of the lot for its tune, garnered a heap of praise for Momina Mustehsen and gave her a break-through.
So what next for Coke Studio? I was eagerly waiting for the tenth season. The season has had some flashes of brilliance from singers like Ali Sethi and Amanat Ali Khan, but has not lived up to the expectation of the audience. But the expectations have risen to a skyscraper level after Coke Studio 9, which is difficult for even Coke Studio 10 to match. The next few episodes would determine how the season would carry out. One song which has driven a lot of criticism and skeptic reviews online is Rahat’s re-creation of Ali Azmat’s Sayonee. According to me, Rahat has done his bit for the song, Ali Azmat’s voice is what people want for such a track. The frame of reference is the source of dissonance with people for this song and even I feel Coke Studio has gone off the beat here. Elsewhere in Season 1 of Coke Studio, Garaj Baras of Rahat and Ali Azmat was a blockbuster, because Rahat added his master class Hindustani “Andaaz” (which Ali is not known for) in the song and made the song all the more complete.
Nevertheless, there has been a lot of criticism towards Coke Studio, as to how the songs are being repeated and re-created rather than getting the composition from the creative side. The artists from either side of the border are outstanding and are blessed with amazing creativity. One could expect a lot of fusion coming from the upcoming versions. Coke Studio has also educated people and will continue to do so, about Hindustani Classical Music, Sufi, Hamad, Qawwalis and Sufi Rock. Thus, Coke Studio must continue to innovate different styles and genres as the audience want the same from the show. The poems/Dohas (Couplets) of great writers such as Waris Shah, Sant Kabir, Raheem and Bulleh Shah can be considered for the forthcoming seasons of Coke Studio which can effectively render new numbers by giving a classical touch with reggae/ pop/rock or any other Western style. Coke Studio is essentially different because it is about experience and harmony. Coke Studio’s existence would not be under threat (as some of them were worried online) if other musical events are popular because Coke Studio is about being different and not composing mundane stuff. So, one or two blips might be acceptable as all songs cannot be evergreen. On the geopolitical front, if there is any hope of India and Pakistan to work together to create magic in the field of entertainment, Coke Studio could be the right place!
Article Written by Adithya N