The yearly ritual of waiting for the new season of CokeStudio ‘Original wala’ was rewarded by the entire team of CokeStudio Pakistan. While most musicians are still struggling with ‘fusion’, Rohail has upped the ante and has moved the entire CokeStudio Pakistan to the next level of fusion this time round. You can read more about it on their official website – cokestudio.com.pk

Will everyone like it? No! Good food isn’t easily acceptable to many if they are mostly fed sub-par food.

The two ‘singles’ so far

Jogi* – starts with  Fariha Pervez crooning out the all too familiar traditional lyrics that Pakistan has over used in almost every album that has ever come out.  Still, this version has a lyrical twist in between for a bit which is refreshing. Add to that the taraana by Muazzam ali khan.  Along with the supremely talented dholis in the studio and International musicians, the song becomes hummable for sure but lacks an overall playlist punch.

Laili jaan* – Zeb-Haniya bring the house down with this simply worded old song. A lot of people went down to Youtube to discredit the cokestudio team for any effort (because you know, for them it’s ‘copied’). Still, hear it once and tell me if you don’t smile everytime the insane drummer is shown having fun! The arrangement is top class, the overall extended house band tears the screen apart with this fantastic song!

Episode 1

Without a doubt, the last year belonged to Charkha Nolakha amongst other songs and the chief reason was Umair Jaswal with this husky calls and energetic singing. So it wasn’t a surprise to see him start the season with ‘Khayaal’. It’s an out an out ‘long drive’ song with some good variations by Umair. Clearly, those who hate Atif (because he is ‘besura’ in their own head), have another name to hate now! Superb song!

Babu bhai* – Ali Azmat is back! And this time, expectedly, he is back with songs that ooze out messages. Good or bad? You decide. In this episode Ali Azmat takes  a direct aim at those suck ups who would do anything to reach the top by any means (Koun yahan sochay hai, haram hai ya halaal hai). The pace is peppy and the arrangement just right. A song that is just over 4 minute, it packs a lot of punch. Don’t be fooled by the light tune of the song, it might just unsettle you!

Rabba ho* Oud starts the next song with Hazrat Saieen Zahoor for company. Now it’s no surprise that Zahoor snores more melodiously than many wannabe singers of India and Pakistan sing. So it comes as no surprise when we hear Zahoor sitting on a chair and just going about it. What we disliked slightly was the reverb his voice was subjected to at some places in the song. Let Zahoor be! Reverb doesn’t need him. Sanam Marvi on the other hand can very quickly confuse you whether it is really her or Mahotarma Abida Parveen who is singing the song.  Clearly, the best song of the episode.

 Episode 2

Laage re nain* – Sarangi by Anil starts this song and remains a character of it’s own throughout this breathtaking song. Ayesha Omar hits it and boy does it stay hit! Zoe and Rachel add sweetness to the song and the Serbian house band keeps it mellow. The song also introduces us to a west African instrument called Kora. The arrangement sounds exotic and neat. What a delight to hear the girls sing in poorbi language. Top class!

Tori chab – Kalenin Burcu Muyam – Rustam fateh ali khan takes up the hitherto less tried Indian (credit on the website as such, by theway) raga Abhogi Kangra  and presents us with an earthy composition. The singing is free flowing and the overall structure of the song sounds surreal. Turkish Singer Sumru Ağıryürüyen weaves her song (Kalenin Burcu Muyam) within this. Although it’s a good enough collaboration, at times I felt Sumru went slightly off key and that stalled the flow of the song.

Abrar ul haq did his bit with Ishq di booti and has a terrific house-band to fall back to. Special mention of the brass section that lifted the song. The song has a message of love and peaceful coexistence and it’s delivered alright! Towards the end of the song, we are introduced to ‘Tar’. The bass section is in fact so good that by the end of the song, I won’t blame you if you forget that it is infact keyboards that start the song!

Episode 3

Neer bharan* – (Zara Madani, featuring Muazzam Ali Khan) We are all human. So I blame my ‘preset’ notion that led me into believing this song will sound exactly like Rohail Hyatt’s presentation of the same in ‘Khuda ke liye’. Still, Zara madani does an able job to sing the entire song on a difficult and near whispering scale. Accompanied ably by Muazzam Ali khan, the song doesn’t ruffle any feathers and quietly ends.

Channa* – And in comes Atif! This time not taking long ‘taans’ but whispering Channa. Brass elevates the song higher. At times playful, at times yodeling, Atif mixes it up very well. The Punjabi lyrics are penned very well and inspite of being an out and out love song with what the ‘youth’ calls ‘mush’, you can totally workout with this song in the background. I would pay a million bucks to hear something similar by this collaboration just for the way the song builds up and ends. Top class Top class top class!

Yaar Vekho – Sanam Marvi brings a good amount of ‘stillness’ with this insightful composition (in raga bhopali). The setting is lifted by the excellent use of Violins. The song is pretty much flat with no flamboyance, beat wise. The interim calls and recitations by Sanam Marvi are bound to make even Mahotarma Abida Parveen Smile. If you cannot understand Punjabi, switch on the subtitles and watch the video and  get addicted. Special mention of Asad Ahmed on guitar and the atmosphere he creates. Mashallah!

Raat gaey* – Zoe viccaji delivers an urdu song with a total jazzed up treatment. The song lightens you up and gives out that foot tapping vibe. Brass (Expectedly) play a superb role along with drums and don’t be surprised if you are transported to an old club with a good singer lighting it up with her singing. A clever song that is delightful to watch (thanks to the violin gang) *toothy smile*

Notice the *mark? These are all the songs in which backup girls (mostly Zoe and Rachel Viccaji) appear and it won’t be wrong to say that they lend a finishing touch to the overall song.

It could have been very easy to continue the same fusion template that Rohail has followed with the present houseband over the years. Still, to disrupt it all and involve musicians from across the world (using technology in a way that logistics don’t hinder the creative process), Rohail Hyatt and the Team CokeStudio Pakistan have raised the bar very high.

Who is willing to catch up?

Episode 5 premieres tonight, do not miss it!

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