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Cokestudio 9, Episode 3

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Khaki Banda – Apart from the fact that Ahmed Hussain’s portions appeared to be loosely composed (at times), there is absolutely nothing that disrupted the experience of listening to this power song. The ease with which Ahmed throws his voice in the bylanes of melody is quite a contrast to the way Umair explores variation. Here though, Umair is splendid and controlled. Shuja haider has composed the song very well and a special word for Strings for producing the song so well! There are a lot of dips in the composition but none break the tempo of the song. The dips actually set up the song for a superb encore..I just loved the strings and drums in the song! Kudos!

Dilruba na raaziZeb‘s voice has a calming effect on the soul. In dilruba na raazi, she opens the song and leads you to a tune that is rich and adorable. With murderous strings from Tanveer hussain and some excellent houseband participation, we get a cracker of a tune, something we always expect when a new season of Cokestudio Pakistan is announced. Granted that Faakhir Mehmood‘s voice is slightly underpowered to handle a composition like this, but one cannot take away anything for the way he has tried. Not to forget, he is the one who has composed the song as well. Absolutely loved the song and before I forget, a special salute to Azhar hussain for the excellent Accordion play. How can you not start dancing in that slow Afghani style when this is playing?? (Guess what? You don’t even need to know the form of dance I am referring to…you will automatically get it…the tune is just *So* good!)

Tu hi tu – The ‘light’ song of the episode, the one song you would probably like to play on a long drive. I absolutely loved the tune of the song although but arrangement was too heavy all throughout. The power vocals of Hayat and Shiraz could have done with  a lighter arrangement and that is the reason the song didn’t hit me instantly. Perhaps it will grow on those who would like to give it a repeat listening. A good song, could have been superlative though.

Maula e kull – We all love Abida parveen and her powerful voice and style of singing. It is always a treat to hear her calling out to the powers that be. Trust Shani Arshad to give prominence to what we like about Abida Parveen, her voice. For first 5 mins, all we hear is the soulful voice of Abida Parveen with minimal arrangement at play. Just when you think this would be all, you are hit by a powerful yet understated music arrangement that throws you in the clouds and you feel the lightness of being…why? because you are floating on the voice of Abida who is busy calling the voice, the name, the power, the light that we are all destined to follow, even unknowingly at times. Experience your heart soar at ‘Hai dairyman kalandaram mastam’. I am soaring as I type this, Thank you Cokestudio Pakistan. Thank you Mahotarma Abida Parveen. I love you. All this and on top of it we see Tanveer hussain on a Sarod! Not enough words to praise the song!

We are 3 episodes old and I cannot help but feel the new composers are trying way too hard. They just don’t know where to keep it light and where to hit it hard. That said, this was easily the best episode so far and even though the occasional jarring arrangement breaks the cokestudio trance we are all used to, it seems to be getting back to the groove.

CokeStudio Season 9, Episode 1

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Sasu MangayNaseebo lal and Umair Jaswal are in their elements in Sasu Mangay. I for one was so relieved to see Umair focussing on singing and not his distracting theatrics, and I quite liked his part. While I absolutely loved the way  Mahotarma Naseebo lends the colour of Rajasthan to the song,  what stood out was the superb twist to the composition (structure wise) and the fantastic house band including Amir Azhar…what a delight to see him back! I might not hear this on repeat but surely won’t skip it when it comes on the playlist. Well done Shiraz uppal, (music director) for getting the scratchy vocals of Umair and the power throw of Mahotarma Naseebo lal’s together. I strongly feel that the potential and the possibilities that Naseebo lal’s voice brought to the table weren’t fully utilised here.

Janay na tu – sung by Ali khan and composed by Jaffer zaidi Ali Khan himself,  the song has a delicate and adorable ‘nindiya re’ feel in the opening. Riding on the smooth and almost effortless singing of Ali Khan, the song is a treat! This is how a ‘soulful romantic song’ is done. What provides a melodious layer to a rather simple tune is the string section along with the new set of back up vocalists (except Rachel, she is a Cokestudio Veteran now!). Way to go Ali! It might not be ‘bewajah’ from the last season but wait till you see this one ‘inspiring’ a Bollywood song soon (not that it is a criteria).

Aaja re moray saiyyan – is composed by Noori and sung by Zebunisha bangash.  The sound is over produced and at times it felt like Zeb’s voice is trying hard to be heard amidst cluttered arrangement. Having said that, even Zeb falters, especially towards the end (finally! she is human it means!). It is a happy song and while I am not one of those who think ‘Cokestudio should only do songs that make you go crazzzzzaaaaaaay and spread junoonnnniyat’, I would have liked a bit more fine tuning in the song. if you sing this song in a group, you will enjoy it because the tune is very nice. Here, it fails to deliver. Easily one of the weakest compositions to ever feature in CokeStudio post Rohail Hyatt. Royal has spoilt us rotten! He raised the expectations so much that we have all come to be believe – ‘Nothing can go wrong even by mistake in CokeStudio Pakistan. It is too important a platform to err, even by mistake.’

Aaqa – Whoever thought of getting Abida Parveen and Ali Sethi together deserves all the praises. Ali’s free flowing soft vocals with the powerful Abida Parveen sets it up nicely. The composition is rock solid and for that Shuja haider deserves a pat on the back. Ali Sethi and the humnavas are in top form. There is a free flowing quality to Ali Sethi’s voice and that is why it is a bold step for him to try a composition like this. A fabulous ode to the almighty that will resonate long after the season is over. I wish the ending was managed better, it gave me an ‘over produced’ feel. Simply put, you do NOT come in the way (even in the form of an over excited music arrangement) when Abida parveen is concluding a song.

Overall an underwhelming start to the season 9, hope it gets better from here.

My picks – Jaanay na tu and Aaqa

#CokeStudio8 – Episode 7 Review

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Previous Episodes review here – 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Armaan –  With the powerhouse performance in Khari neem in their bag, It was hardly a surprise to see Siege get another song.  Alycia Dias gave them company this time round though. A resurrection of sorts of their old song, Siege is on the top of their game with this one.  The treatment is what takes the cake apart from Alycia’s powerful yet melodious delivery. This reminded me of good old pop songs of old days which never required a ‘music video’. I won’t be listening to this again and again but if it does appear in the playlist, I won’t skip and that is mainly because of the way antraas are done and that jugaldandi of sorts at about 4:00 mins in the song.

Ajj Din Vehre Wichh  – is a song that is composed beautifully but watching and listening to this you cannot help but feel that Ali Zafar was quite unprepared. The ChaCha Ghalib’s lines in between come off disjointed because Ali reads it out the way bad politicans read their speeches. This is a pity because the song has everything else going for it otherwise. An intimate tune, minimal arrangement and as I said, super lyrics. When the promo for this episode showed Ali Zafar‘s name, I wasn’t particularly thrilled. Not because I don’t like the singer, but I felt having 3 songs from an artist in one season is a bit tiring. I have the same opinion on Atif Aslam in this season. Merely goes on to show that the producers were pandering to ‘clicks’ than ‘variety’. Anyway, Just a thought – Ali Sethi would have sung this better and it would have been his second song of the season. Did not like.

Dil Jaley – I came across Malang party thanks to my music list interactions with someone who I am sure is reading this and smiling. Anyway, for the reasons unknown, I missed ‘making noise’ about them earlier because I simply loved their official version of this song which they came out with about 3 years back or so. Right from the word ‘Go’, the song captures your attention with that addictive guitar riff that transforms into a mellow yet very present loop. To my ears, the first part of the song didn’t sound much different from their original version but for the wonderful backup (watch out for the backup singers towards the end!), but then came the excellent improvisation that gives a blues feel and makes the aggressive song fluid in its character. My pick of the episode…boy we have GOT to hear Malang party more and more! Give us more songs Malangs!

Aaj Jaane ki Zid – I am sure I am in minority (and won’t be surprised if It is just me in entire world who thinks so) but I feel that one of the most embarassing efforts of A.R. Rahman is when he tried to sing ‘Aaj jaane ki zid na karo’. It just didn’t work, even superficially! Here, the songstress tells us why She is Malika-e-ghazal. Farida Khanum. If you have heard her original rendition and if you have heard it growing up, chances are your eyes will well up with this fantastic version. Nothing more to add. Thank you Farida Khanum. Thank you for giving melody to our emotions.

Funny slide before the song says – We would like to thank Farida Khanum saheba for gracing CokeStudio, it should have read We would all like to thank Farida Khanum to grace us all by choosing music.

Yes they have excellently made a slide show of her pictures to play during the song. Still better to take a deviation for a living legend like Farida Khanum  than for  a flunky making a music video about bulleh shah mere ghar aaya kas ke mujhko galey lagaya! Ugh!

Tumko apni kasam jaanejaan…baat itni meri maan lo…

Strings, Thank you for this episode that had 1 bad song, 2 good songs (Malang party and Siege) and one Ghazal which I am incapable of ‘reviewing’

CokeStudio Season 8 Episode 3 #CokeStudio8

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You can read the Episode 1 review here and Episode 2 review here

Man Amadeh amGul and Atif give us a folk-pop-routine fused song which is brilliant in bits but cacophonous in the rest. I would have loved a slightly subtle arrangement in the middle portions of the song. Absolutely loved the way the song started and last 2:45 mins of the song. Gul is superb and she should get a solo song soon. I guess the producers weren’t confident that an out and out folk song would fly. I won’t hear this song in repeat but am sure if you do, you will like it more times than the times you will dislike it. Still, could have been better, much better. Meanwhile, while we are at it, please see the inspiration behind the song by GooGoosh (what a cute name!)   (Observe how the arrangement follows the singer and not the otherway round). Also, observe how I didn’t know about the song before this song came out from CokeStudio. So thank you again CokeStudio!

Ali Sethi and Nabeel Shaukat had so so much fun and it rubs off on you when you hear and see Umran Langiyaan. The voice of Ali Sethi opens the song with a call that is so melodious you might not believe. The song defines perfection. Be it the subtle flute all throughout Nabeel’s part in the song, the simple yet effective harmonium or be it the impeccable Ali Sethi. I don’t know about you but the song took me to a village with perfectly combed gardens and a pond and then right about then Ali Sethi added the rock/pop touch to the song. Oh yea, I also loved the way Nabeel took to the microphone. A pat on the back of the producers to merge two excellent songs the way they did.

Neun La LeyaJaffer is much more than a keyboard player and that was established in CokeStudio long back when he mesmerised us with Nindiya re. Here, he gives us a hypnotic song. It is a relief to note that the song is not over produced and lends prominence to the voice because Jaffer has a throw that is quite controlled and doesn’t come across as someone trying to prove a point and yes! he keeps it all melodious, very melodious. His voice touches your heart and you can empathise with the helpless emotions of the song. It took a while for Kaavish to do another song for CokeStudio, and it was worth the wait. So worth it!

Rung Jindri – With the name Arif Lohar comes a tank full of expectations that he would rock the video and the song. In a somewhat poignant presentation here, the tiger from punjab keeps the tune slow and focusses more on the lyrics. A song that talks about life and that too in a somewhat ‘pind meets pop’ treatment. The arrangement is fine and the excellent additional backup singers lend a unique character to the sound of the song which reminds you of Chakwal group, only quieter (because they are in background). The strings section in this song elevates the song without dominating the sound. I especially loved the last few minutes of the song. Don’t expect a ‘jugnee ji’, you will get something similar energy wise but with much more meaning. A good genre for Lohar to touch. Watch out for the clinks of the chimta towards the end. Fantastic touch that!

Overall a super episode which wobbled a little bit in Atif-Gul song but just soared higher and higher post that. The effort is clearly there and the results melodious. A special word for the talented as ever, only quieter and more subtle houseband (when compared to the last year) – Kudos! I love the Aahad Nayani now. For me, he was the star in Atif-Gul Song.

Waiting for next episode of CokeStudio Pakistan is how life is being lived these days and for that, I am thankful to everyone associated with the project.

Main Kurbaan!

CokeStudio Pakistan Season 8, Episode 2 #CokeStudio8 #Review

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You can read the review of Episode 1 here

The traditional cover of ‘Sakal Bann’ by Rizwan-Muazzam is powerful, solid and melodious. The houseband has played its part very well and they are ably assisted by super backups from the Qawwal group. Muazzam ali khan looks like a man possessed and sounds exactly how the traditional qawwals used to sound. Touching hearts and making you a ‘devotion addict’ is just a normal day at the office for him. We got a hint of that when Rohail introduced him in one of the best songs of Season 6 titled kande utte. Tanveer Tafu’s solo gives you a problem of plenty in the song. There is so much to like that you will not be able to decide what is better? It has all come out as a superb track and big respect to Strings for not getting tempted to add additional layers and elongate the piece. That could have tried some listeners because of heavy character of the composition, singing wise. Two thumbs up! The song is like  a drug for the soul.

Rockstar Ali Zafar has played a spoof on himself and the respect for him has gone up multifold! A song that spoofs rockstars and those who wear gogggggles at night. It’s a lovely mix of multiple languages at their funniest best woven into a song which is fabulous.  The tune, the pace and pretty much everything is spot on. I am not a fan of ‘performance’ by a singer. Anything that a singer does apart from singing is quite pointless, but watch the video to see the brilliance of Ali Zafar. Bollywood seems to have rubbed him off a bit, in a good way for a change. Right from the houseband to the lovely back up vocalists, everyone had a ball doing the song and the product proves it. I won’t be surprised if most of us don’t get the point of the song. We haven’t heard many songs like this anyway. Kudos for the lyrics…‘bebi you are the one but allowed to hain na mujhe chaar!’ – MAAAR DAAALA AZ YAAAR!

There are few things we can never express in words or via music. In ‘chiriya da chamba‘, Suraiya khanum and Hazrat Anwar Maqsood have proved this maxim wrong. A song about a girl remembering her family, childhood and so much more. It is like ‘Kaahe ko byaahi bides’ with a heartbreaking yet beautiful recitation by Maqsood sahab. Suraiya Khanum is wonderfully low key yet doesn’t sing a note wrong. I don’t remember crying so much while listening to a song. Towards the end, I was praying that Maqsood sahab shouldn’t get any more lines, because I was already weeping. I think it will be safe to give away all the awards and kudos to strings for accommodating a song of this genre in this season. Just hear it once and decide for yourself if all the praises to Cokestudio Pakistan are worth it or not?

I have always believed that Umair Jaswal is an excellent talent and needs to be exploited more. He can be gruffy and still hold the song. In Sammi Meri Waar, I feel he wasn’t required. The song is a bollywood-sqe composition with a twist here and a flute there. There is nothing wrong but it could have been better without Umair. The excessive ‘passionate’ singing in a sweet-ish song is about as big a misfit as casting Aashif Sheikh alongside Meryl Streep for a telugu wedding item song. Of course this could be Strings’ attempt to showcase the ‘range’ of Umair but then it doesn’t quite work here. Quratulain Balouch is the only good thing about the song and she makes you believe that she would have been alright without Umair. I wish CokeStudio Pakistan gives her a solo song. Enough of Panchi and sammi meri waar for Quratulain!

Episode 2 adds to whatever Episode 1 served us. Season 8 has so far been admirable and all it does is raise expectations from the remaining episodes. The power qawwals, the self jibing rockstar, heartbreaking recitation with soulful singing or just plain average romantic song, this episode had everything! There is excellent variety and this song set is easily the best combination we have come across in the last 2 seasons.

Thumbs up to Coke, yet again!

CokeStudio Season 7 Episode 6 – Review

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After a break, CokeStudio Pakistan’s Season 7 resumes!

Chaap tilakWhen names like Abida parveen and Rahat fateh ali Khan appear in the same song with CokeStudio Pakistan’s iconic backdrop, you do expect a lot. This is of course, if Rahat fateh ali Khan is not in his ‘done to death Bollywood singing avatar’, but I digress. I won’t lie, the opening piano notes gave me goosebumps. Abida Parveen and Rahat fateh ali set it up quite nicely with their powerful yet soulful opening act. The backup vocal group called Humnawa adds to the sense of occasion. Even though the song lasts for about 9 minutes, I could have done with a couple of minutes more because after the mounting the song got thanks to the opening, it fades all too soon. Oh yes, the part at about 7:26 minutes when Mahotarma Abida parveen joins Rahat fateh ali khan is beautiful and for me, the high point of the song. A parting thought – may be strings could have given this song to Abbas Ali Khan instead of Rahat fateh ali khan. I don’t mean to imply that Rahat fateh ali isn’t good in the song but towards the end, you do feel that both Abida parveen and Rahat fateh ali khan’s voice isn’t complimenting but competing with each other and the song drifts albeit for a moment towards noise. This could have been because texture wise, both the voices hold the same character, in my view. Not the greatest covers of chaap tilak, this.

Descent to the Ocean floor – Usman Riaz weaves magic in the ‘neoclassical’ offering by Strings and it is actually quite nice to see an out and out instrumental piece once a while. The notes on the piano convey a feeling of descent which is at first quick and bouncy but settles down once the descent is complete. The strings section adds to the aesthetics of the song along with the twinkling Xylophone and free flowing backups by Rachel and Sara. At the risk of sounding extremely greedy, I would have liked this to be a longer track. Splendid job!

Yaad – Javed bashir gets another song in the season and honestly, I wasn’t looking forward to the song, not because I don’t like Javed Bashir, but I get tired if I listen to the millions harkats he takes in a simple song. The back up vocals are again manned by humnawa. The song has a (pardon me for saying this) bollywood song DNA. Thank God for Tanveer Tafu and the melodious harmonium by Arsalan Ali. Watch and listen how Tanveer saheb weaves the instrument almost all throughout the song without interfering in the effect of the song. The song did not work for me otherwise.

Jaana – Zoheb hassan tries so hard! That is all there to say. Wisely, strings pairs his song along with the master Amir Zaki so that the glitches in the singing are camouflaged well enough. While it was a relief to hear Zoe Viccaji, it was excruciating to get yet another song from Zoheb hassan because he has already done a lot in the season and perhaps the producers should have given someone else a chance? The song has a pop character and the weighed down start that Zoheb hassan gives, settles down thanks to Zoe but the song is below average on the whole because for once even the lyrics shout out their mediocrity.

Probably the most disjointed episode so far with just one track by Usman Riaz standing out and the other featuring two stalwarts just about making the cut. This is not the CokeStudio I used to look forward to.

Now we know why Strings do not give out the songs in the promo and cover it up with an amateur, accented voice over. Talking of the entire ‘in your face’ title ‘sound of nation’ – what is so ‘sound of nation-sque’ in the voice over, I wonder!

CokeStudio Pakistan, Season 7, Episode 2

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With the first episode hitting the right note for about 50% and horribly distracting screen heroics, we move to the episode 2 of the Season 7. With exciting artist line up, this one promised a lot in advance itself!

Washmallay – A traditional Baloch song that witnessed the reunion of the old gang of ‘Komal – Akhtar chanal zahiri’ along with a new member ‘Momin durrani’. My first thought was – Just 6 minutes! How can we satiate ourselves with just 6 minutes of Akhtar Chanal Zahiri? Not fair! However, this bomb of a song blew the socks off and I cannot write enough about the way Momin has performed the song. It was a sheer pleasure to hear Komal who I thought held the song very well and thank you Akhtar Chanal Zahiri for mesmerizing us with your raw energy. No, a little over 6 minute duration of the song didn’t affect me at all. A song that has got the ‘Dannah pa dannah’ hysteria back! What a thunderous start to the episode! Mwaaaaaah!

Phool Banro – I have been waiting since long (for the reasons unknown to me) to hear Humaira channa in cokestudio and boy does she make a splash! Teaming here with Abbas Ali Khan, she gives us what could very well be the song of the season. Just about everything is perfect. The flute, the setting, the subtle overalls, the singing, the presentation, EVERYTHING! It is a simple wedding melody from Rajasthan that is so beautifully done that it might make you all teary eyed. For me, the best song of the season so far. The confident Abbas added a lot of melodious brilliance to the song in a way that is hard to describe in words. His alaap towards the end reminds you of all things which are good with music.

Chehra – Zoheb hassan performed one of his songs that was released in 1984. This effort is commendable but perhaps the choice of episode to put this forward was not all that great. The song, when compared to the entire episode comes across as ordinary. What does work is the excellent music arrangement that doesn’t sound over produced and retains the 80s pop feel. That is just about it.

Charkha – Javed Bashir and some excellent back up vocal singers lend their voice to this ‘sound of nation’ version of Charkha. Of course it doesn’t quite have that raw energy that the Atif and Qayaas’ version had, but this one is no less. Mostly because Javed Bashir takes the song many notches higher. What a delight to see his harkats on ‘kudey’. The ever so amazing Tanveer Tafu presents us with such a ‘strummy’ rubaab that it is hard to take your eyes off the same.  Splendid song!

Since I have already given up and am quite sure that those distracting screen heroics come as a part and parcel of this season, I am not commenting much on the over the top display of the same, especially in Washmallay.

All and all, a top class episode 2 and I cannot wait for the entire season. Hope the good work continues

Washmallay!

For all about CokeStudio Pakistan Season 7, check out – http://cokestudio.com.pk

P.S. – Where are the subtitles in all videos dear Cokestudio Pakistan?

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