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CokeStudio Season 9, Episode 6

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Lagi Bina / Chall Mele Noon Challiye  by Sanam Marvi & Saieen ZahoorJaffer Zaidi.  What a clean rendition by Sanam Marwi to start the song. I had goosebumps when the padharo share des part made a quick appearance. She is closest to Abida parveen in terms of never losing a note even when she goes high or low. You know why Bullah danced when he danced? Probably because he heard a fakir called Saien Zahoor sing. Now on to Sain Zahoor – it is impossible not to be moved by his voice and here even though his parts are not composed with a soaring call to allah, you cannot help but sway when he takes a jibe at the ‘mela’ that is life. I am just blessed to be alive in the era of Zahoor. Mashallah song!

Tera Who Pyar/ Nawazishein Karam by Asim Azhar & Momina musteshan – Shuja Haider  – It is probably not a good thing for me to write but the sinking feel that the song gave me in the first 3 minutes, it made me sad, very sad. A beautiful medley of two songs (originally by Shuja himself). A song that probably dying lovers would sing as they leave this world for another. I loved Asim because you could actually hear the pain in his ‘nawazishein karam meherbaniyan’…God bless you kid!

Anokha Laadla by Damia Farooq & Basit AliFaakhir mehmood   Quite impressed with the tune and the way raga based fusion is romancing with rich instruments like accordion
And Sitar with a murderous guitar in the background and almost all throughout. Basit is so good! I haven’t heard anything from him so I would assume he is new. It is so reassuring to see new talent pay their respects to classical stuff with a hint of guitar here and a hint of grunge there. Mighty impressed by Faakhir’s composition. Damia could have been a bit more relaxed. She sounds stressed, may be because her parts are slightly more challenging.

Meri Meri –  Rizwan Butt & Sara HaiderShani Arshad  – Criminal injustice was meted out to us by keeping this song short. Sara Haider is too good and so is Rizwan butt. However, I felt Rizwan would have been better reciting the lines or perhaps choosing a different tune. Sara, whatever she got excelled in that. I absolutely adore the tune and the arrangement of the song, if only it was longer..

Not a single song came across as overproduced in this episode and that is such a relief…I have zero complaints now because I am too busy waiting for the last episode of the season next week, in which we will see Sabri saheb sing….for the last time.

This was a good episode overall

Previous episode review links here – 1, 2, 3, 4,

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

Review #CokeStudio8 Episode 6

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Previous Episode review here – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Ve Baneya  is a song that is fused brilliantly with an old song of Reshma. All of us have a film song for which we have bought an entire album at some stage in our lives. Mulazim Hussain’s part reminds you of that song. He is a good singer and the ease with which he sank his teeth to his part speaks volumes about his talent. Not once would you miss the feel of the song and that is just brilliant. Fizza Javed owns the song  by simply staying close to the classical brief oh her part. It is a part so nice, I wish she got more songs this season. She reminded me a bit of Humeira Channa though. I am surely looking forward to more from her in the days to come. Sajid ali and Arsalan keep the setting simple yet stick quite close to the song and create an armosphere which will have you swaying to this simple yet effective song.

Hare Hare Baans by Shazia Manzoor and Rizwan-Muazzam was the most anticipated song for me for the simple reason that I am yet to get out of the magic of Sakal Bann. (I still feel that is the best song of the season and would remain that way). Add to that the honey dipped voice of Shazia Manzoor and the wait was just unbearable. Fair to say, the song did exactly what I was expecting it to do. The voice and rendition of Shazia hits the bulls eye with ease. Rizwan-Muazzam and party are probably a gift to us listeners who like to listen to pucca music and not get carried over by cacophony. Easily one of the best songs of the season. There is a subtle tribute to piya tose naina laage re I feel in between 5:29 to 5:32 mins in the song, but then I am not a raga knowing chap, so please excuse me if you feel otherwise. Songs like these make it easy to wait for the next season of CokeStudio Pakistan…Thank God for that!

Jiya Karay – Truth be told, I was never a fan of anything except Purani jeans by Ali Haider. I remember while growing up, I used to have serious reservations listening to the voice and somewhat average gayaki of Ali. Still, I remember smiling ear to ear when I saw him in the artist line up. Nostalgia, may be. In this song, he teams up with Sara raza. Age doesn’t seem to have done anything wrong to Ali Haider because he sounds exactly the same (and goes slightly out of tune the way he used to!). Sara raza is the star of the song in my view. What is undoubtedly the star of the song is the arrangement. Be it the splendid Sitar from Shehroze or the harmonica or the flute by Abid ali and Sajid Ali. The song has a beautiful retro feel to it and even if I won’t play it again and again, it will surely become  a song that you won’t skip if you are on a long drive. Not giving a solo song to Ali Haider tells us that Strings learnt from the massive embarassment of getting Zohaib Hassan last year and giving him a lot of songs, including a solo. Old stars look and sound even better when they acknowledge and model their sound/work around the limitations age brings with it.

Kadi aao ni – All the fusion movements in the present day are about bringing mukhtalif artists/sounds and creating something which was not fathomed so far by most of us. With this song, Mai dhai and Atif Aslam came together. The promise of something exciting was always there. Just like Strings avoided the temptation of going berserk with Rizwan Muazzam in a simple babul song in hare hare baans, they have done a good job by keeping the pop feel in tact and keeping the wonderful Mai Dhai relatively subtle than her previous outing in the studio. The song has a pop feel to it but if you ask me, I would probably not listen to it again and again. Part of the reason is below average lyrics (Atif’s part). It is strictly average. Atif is good especially towards the end but somehow it didn’t come together very well for me. That said, I am in love with the first 14 seconds of the song and that wonderful harmonium which very quietly moves along the voice throughout the song.

Over all an average episode with 2 songs making the cut and going on the loop (Ve Baneya and Hare hare baans) and the remaining  two just about hummable but nothing much at that.

Now we have just one episode left and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who all will make an appearance in that. Still, am unable to figure out one name (or several names depending on the line up per song). The probable line up looks likes this

Malika-e-ghazal Mohtarma Farida khanum

Alicia Dias with siege

Malang party 

Who else?

Review – CokeStudio Season 8 Episode 5 #CokeStudio8

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Hina ki Khushbu – is a song that all of us came across when we were big enough to know Noor Jehan. For most of us in India, we heard a version of it when Kumar Sanu sang this song in a Hindi film. The Song here is arranged rather well and you get the nostalgic 90s Pop feel from the sound of the proceedings. Samra Khan’s voice is strong and gayaki steady. Asim Azhar on the other hand sounds promising but I couldn’t help feeling the presence of auto-tuner in his voice and quite prominently. Also, it was quite uninspiring to hear ‘kinna sona’ because it lacked the oomph, which is why the song feels long and labored.  In fact this debut reminded me of Uzair jaiswal who was not exactly hitting all the right notes but was singing with such honesty that his songs on CokeStudio still remain my favourites till today. See them here and here  to know what I mean. There is a wonderful presence of Sitar by Shehroze hussain but even then the song is just not what you expect from CokeStudio Pakistan. An experiment that went southwards if you ask me.

Khalis Makhan rubs nostalgia in less than 40 seconds into the song. The gayaki is understated in parts and takes parvaaz in bits, keeping the heartfelt tune steady. Bakshi brothers are accompanied wonderfully well by Sajid ali, Tafu sahab and Arsalaan on Rubaab, Flute and Harmonium respectively. Not sure if this is limited to 90s kids like yours truly, but I am sure you have heard this tune somewhere else in your childhood and that makes the song special for me. There are a lot of variations in the song and as I said, all subtle and quite hummable. There is a certain pain in during disda nahi..Remarkable song!

Kinaray – I am not a fan of MH Band but I can safely conclude that with this song, MH Band has given us one of the most unorthodox sounds of this season. It is calming to hear the backups accompany the wonderfully talented Sharmishta Chatterjee and deliver us a soothing composition that is not even 4:30 mins. The tune is perfect and singing is top class! My pick of the episode, without a doubt! For all of us who know that this track by CokeStudio is a tribute to this composition, the only grouse is – it is less than 5 mins! Lastly, for some reason my YouTube comment was deleted by the admin at CokeStudio, so allow me to link you to the composition which serves as the inspiration of this song. It is by Pandit Ajoy Chakraborty and you can hear it here

Rangeela –  Ali Azmat was the reason enough to wait for the episode and in this song even though I was a tad bit suspicious of the sound (because it sounded too fine and pre-recorded to my untrained ears), Ali Azmat shines. The treatment is a bit filmy and lacks depth that Ali Azmat is known to decipher and display in his songs. The song is good but I have heard Ali Azmat Sing better songs.

Overall, not an impressive episode by any standards but the two songs which work, work like magic!

Picks – Kinaray and Khalis Makhan

Review – CokeStudio Season 8, Episode 4 #CokeStudio8

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Episode 1 review here, Episode 2 here, Episode 3 here

Rabba Ho – Trust Strings of season 8 to have a million variation in a song that is less than 7 mins. So far it has worked and this song here is no different. Mulazim Hussain reminds me of Sonu nigam and with all the positive vibes (not comparing so cynics, calm your tits please!). The rhythm structure is beautiful especially the way the stanzas are done. Don’t you just love Mulazim when he adds a bit extra ‘hoo’ (with a smile) after that longish alaap of ‘rabbbbbbbbbaaaaaaaaa’? The string section is top class and kudos to Shehroze Hussain on Sitar. Tanveer Tafu can basically play anything. I wonder how much time Tafu sahab takes at the ATM machine. He must get busy playing a tune on the damn ATM card itself! A song that is penned beautifully, composed tactfully and delivered passionately…mashallah!

Khari Neem – We saw what Strings can do with a perfectly simple vintage song when they turned this song by its head and gave us an impressive result here. This time, they got Siege to go crazy along with the entire houseband when they presented their tribute to this song. Fit to say they pretty much brought the house down. This sort of singing might not be everyone’s cup of tea, to me the song is a perfect blend of passion and rhythm. Flashes of brilliance from everyone else in the studio makes up for such a happy song! Those claps, the string section, percussion, everything and everyone top class! The last minute and a half of the song just elevates the proceedings and leaves you there…awestruck! Siege, Please sing one more song for us this season, will you?

Piya Dekhan Ko – True to the expectations which creep up at the slightest promise of two good artists performing together, you will see loads of musical dialogue between Ustad Hamid and Nafees and it is beautiful! The arrangement minimal, the feel just right and the presentation filled with old world charm of raga based compositions, this could be the simplest song of the season yet it will not fail you. A song perfect for light listening as well as dancing. Yes! Dancing!

Ae Dil – Beautiful keyboard starts the song and then it occurs to you that Ali Zafar is singing in English. I am not a fan of english efforts on the Studio. Sara Haider (Who we remember over emoting and jumping in Season 7) sings well and even though the  composition is good, the ‘take it away’ from Ali Zafar kills the song because the song is not a ‘take it away’ genre if you know what I mean. The guitar is amazing but it tries too hard to hold the song which is good in pieces (read – Sara’s portions). Ali Zafar is good but somehow we expect much more from him and you do feel that the english part actually compromises the feel of the song from the beginning itself which jeopardizes the continuity in one’s mind. It is not a bad song, just that it sounds broken, especially with the ‘original song’ kept in context in the beginning of the video. Great chemistry between Sara and Ali.

Overall a decent episode where you can listen to 3 out 4 songs on the loop and to be honest, the 4th song isn’t all that bad, just that it is good in portions.

Thumbs up to the producers, this season is turning out to be a revelation!

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!

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