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CokeStudio 9, Episode 5

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Thoughts on CokeStudio 9, Episode 5

Jhalliya by  Javed Bashir, Masooma Anwar & Shahzad Nawaz has such a confident start and that voice of Shahzad! Pleasantly surprised at the solid and controlled voice of Masooma, what a find (for us Indians, that is!). This is a good song by all means, still not something that we expect in season 9 of CokeStudio Cokestudio Pakistan. The goodness of the composition has gone out of the window because of shoddy bollywood type lyrics (what’s with ‘piya’ gap filler?). What a pity, still a decent song and by God Shahzad…what a voice, hope there wasn’t so much music when he was speaking. Give me Shahzad’s voice instead of (increasingly predictable and boring) alaaps and tarana from Bashir.

Sadaa – Something gave me an impression that Rahat fateh ali khan was playing a ‘catch up’ to the tune. There is nothing bad with the song. I liked the tarana towards the end more than anything.  I wish there were more variations composition wise. Rahat fateh ali khan is so good, wish he was used better here though.

Shamaan Pai Gaiyaan/Kee Dam Da Bharosa Rachel Viccaji and Kashif Ali have given us the best song of the episode by paying their tribute in a way that would make the original composers so proud. Don’t waste time reading this, head to cokestudio.com.pk and listen to this right away! The composition, singing, variations, back up vocals…everything just on the spot. Take a bow team! 

Main Raasta  by Noori Momina Mustehsan and Junaid Khan is a rock song with real energy (unlike fake star singers who dumb down music with their autotunes). After paar channa de (which was spoiled by the cacophonous ending), I was quite scared to see yet another song where Noori might refuse to stay in background, but in this song, their participation just adds the perfect grunge that you expect from a kickass song like this. Insanely talented Junaid and Momina, we are watching, give us more stuff will ya?

Overall a satisfying episode thanks largely to Rachel, Momina, Shiraz uppal, Noori, Junaid and Kashif ali. With two episodes remaining and Stars like, Mr. Sabri, Sain zahoor and Sanam marvi’s songs waiting in the wings, I hope the season ends with a splash.

You can read previous episode reviews by clicking on the episode numbers below

1, 2, 3, 4

CokeStudio 9, Episode 2

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Bholay bhalay saiyya – starts with the autotuned (or whatever the hell it is called) voice of shani Arshad. It didn’t put me off because experiments are important aren’t they? I am quite keen to understand how the song was conceptualised. In a bid to sound a bit too ‘desi’, the nasal calls of ‘saiyyan’ look plain silly and we know Meesha Shafi can do much better than this. That said, I absolutely loved the crisp production of the song. Apart from a minor part when Sitar enters the composition, there isn’t an instance where the arrangement is over powering the designated sound in a song. Now coming to the video. Those who say ‘why are people concentrating on video?’ are probably unaware that Cokestudio is just NOT an audio property. Had it been the case, we wouldn’t have seen so many ‘red mushrooms of nescafe and what not’ try to copy the way Cokestudio videos are made. So yes, I found the video absolutely silly and repulsive and by GOD the heart called out for the subtle days of Rohail Hyatt. Did I like the song? Yes! Will I go looking for the song in a playlist? Absolutely not!

Afreen Afreen – has been re-imagined by Faakhir Mehmood and boy has he aced it! Rahat fateh ali khan is in top form as he lures you to sleep with his sugar dipped singing and what adds to the sing songy feel of the song is the beautiful singing by Momina Musteshan…I wish she sings another song in the season and I wish she had more sing time in this song. The arrangement of the song is delicate and God those strings! There is a strong sentiment of ‘how dare they change the song of the great NFAK’, I don’t subscribe to it. If we cannot play with classics, then what are we? Play, change, interpret, use, mix and open everything for being retold to the generation that ‘listens song on youtube’. Not everyone would come around to the soulful yet classically heavy grand compositions of our times. So take them, mix them with whatever is contemporary and leave others to explore the original gems…Trust me, you will do a big service to the classics which would otherwise remain un-heard and would be in a folder that would be named as ‘Maa-Papa ko pata nahi kya pasand hai iss type ke songs mein’. Loved it, loved it so much!

Baliye (Laung gawacha) – composed by Noori  and sung by Haroon Shahid (HS) and Quratulain Baloch (QB) has infectious energy all throughout especially the first part of the song when Haroon plays with an interesting tune. I didn’t like QB and HS interplaying each other’s lines. It was almost comical to hear HS sing ‘mera laung gawacha’ and it was tiring to hear QB sing HS’s lines right before her solo part comes in. Nothing sexist intended, just that it diluted the attitude of the song and turned a supposedly rock song (the HS part) into a mushy romantic song which was awkward. QB’s part is the one that could make me explore the song again. I wonder when the hell will she get her solo song? I am yet to hear a more controlled song from her than ‘Ankhiyan nu rein de’. Some might find the Noori band’s sing-along as cute, I find it silly and just a failed attempt to hold the urge to hog the screen…alas! not everyone can see others taking a centerstage. Funny thing – Do we remember Rohail Hyatt? Could we see this on-screen circus when he was there? Think. Overall, a song high on energy (full points to the band and composers for that) and extremely dull on melody and content.

Mann Kunto Maula is composed by the talent powerhouse Jaffer ali zaidi and predictably, the song has a smooth start, a start that is perhaps too perfect. I loved the way Ali Amat has started the song in a pop mood. The way Bashir enters the song is plain calming to the soul. After that the song goes southwards in terms of energy. It is perhaps the most underwhelming Mann kunto maula you will hear thanks to the dip in the energy…but right about 7:16 mins in the song, the energy comes back and how! I wish they would have just made it a simple ‘mann kunto maula…aum tum ta na na na re’ tarana on repeat and it would have worked wonders. Liked it, didn’t love it.

Quite a depressing episode and thanks to the onscreen circus of what appears like lightsabers in the hands of a drunk chimpanzee, there is way too much distraction and subtlety has possibly been forcefully evicted from the studio.

Pick – Afreen afreen

 

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 4 – Review #CokeStudio7

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Shakar Wandaan Re – The track starts with Tanveer Hussain’s mesmerizing banjo and you won’t be judged for thinking there are good things in store. Asrar keeps it light and hits it out of the park! Everything is spot on and the track is ably supported by the backup trio of Momin durrani, Rachel Viccaji and the ever so over-emoting Sara haider. In fact, towards the later part of every antara, it is sheer delight to hear the backup vocalists take the song higher by their splendid singing. A job very well done, the song doesn’t sound over produced like Asrar’s first song in the season. There is a treat for music lovers towards the end of the song by Asrar. All the signs point to us that we have another singer who is ready to be commoditized like Rahat fateh ali khan. I hope Asrar doesn’t fall in that trap though.

Ambwa TalayJaved Bashir & Humera Channa lend their voices for this song. There is a goosebumps inducing quality that braj ki boli has and we saw ample proof of that in the season 6 as well. In this song, the accuracy and fondness that Humera Channa brings to the composition is delicious to say the list. The tune dovetails into the tenderly composed (In Raga Pilu, I guess) song from bandini Ab ke baras bhej bhaiyya ko babul.  Javed Bashir sounds like a jogi who provides the much needed thehraav to your senses. A special mention of Jaffer Hussain on Clarinet is very much in order because it creates the right sense of occasion and not surprisingly, it is used towards the beginning of the song. God how I wish we poach Humera Channa to sing some songs on this side of the border!

Dheere Dheere Dheere – The guest musician credit has the name Omran Shafique so not surprisingly, there is a hell lot of infectious guitar in the song but that is not the only good thing on offer here. The somewhat iconic song from the years gone by performed by Zoheb hassan introduced us to the Zoheb who grunts, dances and doesn’t mind having a great time while singing.His limitations were on display in ‘chehra’ and that hasn’t changed here but the attitude is quite nice to see. The song has cute 1990s lyrics and don’t worry if it paints an image of a red Cadillac Eldorado an  long country side road driven by a boy who is  announcing to the world that he is quite high on love. I found the clarinet in the song lacking on the impact front, everything else is top drawer. This is how you recreate nostalgia with a pinch of contemporary!

Bone Shaker – Performed by Usman Riaz, Babar Ali Khanna and the flute magician Sajid Ali, the rhythm which the trio have showered  leaves us asking for more and thereby taking me to my only grouse – the track should have been longer. It is a beautiful piece. What I would give to hear more from Sajid ali and Babar Ali khanna together for a longer duration! Usman Riaz has already made a lot of news before CokeStudio Pakistan (Google him!) and we cannot wait for more from him. The highlight of the track for me is the tarana-jugalbandi between Babar ali khanna and Usman, Thumbs up!

An episode that picks up from where the splendid episode 3  left, the creators and the musicians deserve all the praise for this one. When you come across songs like these, you just don’t want to season to end!

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?

Kahaani – Music review

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There was a time when I used to feel Vishal Shekhar (hereafter referred at times as VS) are the hope for hindi film music. Then so many similar soundtracks happened and it all faded away. I was (Still am) vocal of their ‘same sound’. The soundtrack of ‘Kahaani’ gives me a gentle punch by showcasing the excellent variety of this musical duo. Happy to be proved wrong!

The album starts off like a oriental music concert soon accompanied by quick piano play….Usha Uthup swings in to let us know why kolkata is a land of contradictions with lots of activity…yet static! Amidst the 1970s music just before the first antaraa u cant help but notice that this is a character in itself, this song. Has to be a background piece and i wish it happens. The fierce vocals that accompany usha uthup appear intrusive at first but soon you realise that u are humming the song with them. One would expect Vishal to be the one ‘shouting’ in this song but surprise surprise!! It is Shekhar. VS appear serious to change their ‘sound’ of music (thankfully!)

So Aami Shotti Bolchi, all and all a good song. Won’t be a chartbuster for long but you will come out of the picture hall, humming this song. Yep.

Javed bashir starts of this song with a mix of alaap and a bengali music setting. Soon after aggressive guitars take over and javed breaks it off with piya tu kahey rootha rey. Excellent lyrics! Yet again ‘police siren like sound’ and the ‘lane-by-lane’ sort of turns in the setting hint that this is also a song that will further the narrative and not stall it. Vishal shekhar have kept it in mind that they will have to sound different and thats evident by their choice of singer in this song. They could have used someone else. May be Tochi raina….but then they opted for Javed bashir. Good choice. Still i didnt like the song. May be you will. Definitely worth listening to once at least. The only thing i loved in this song is when it ends and how it ends, leaving the superlative Calcutta in your ears! Kudos VS !

KahaaniVishal starts off this sing by calling out (in a manner that is trademark of a typical saleem suleman composition…..shukran allah, songs of fanaa and so many others!). Again, you would associate Shekhar with a soulful ‘call’ but then it’s Vishal here! A very pleasant role reversal. The difference being vishal looks content with being in background (Unlike Saleem in most cases). Melodiousy so. KK o my dear dear KK! How we love you like this (sans any ‘wooo hooo and all that’). The song belongs to KK and how! The song is easy on ears and reflective on the soul. The song couldn’t have achieved half of what it has if vishal wasnt accompanying KK. My pick of the abum…this! (How can you not notice the flute especially towards the end of the song…literally hugging the vocals of KK)

Tore bina – Superb beginning, very folkish. Guitar accompanies and launches the song in a very ‘cokestudio india’ fashion with Sukhwinder going behind the microphone. Adorable lyrics. Yet the problem that i have with this song is that it comes across as very ‘instrument heavy’ and the voice, the strong voice of Sukhwinder feels caged amidst all this. I would have preferred an almost ‘unplugged’ version of this song to this one. If you argue that this song is melodious in parts, i will agree and will gently point that the ‘melodious’ parts are those where the music setting is relatively quieter and is giving sukhwinder a chance to sing. Good song. Could have been so much more.

The unplugged version of kahaani by Shreya ghosal starts off again with Vishal who is sounding more in the lead because of a minimalistic music arrangement. Melodious no doubt. Shreya ghosal has sung such type of songs so many times so it doesnt come as a surprise when she effortlessly pulls this song well. A very ‘by the campfire’ version. Thumbs up!

Ekla cholo re – A composition weaved around the poetry of Shri Rabindranath Tagore with THE BIG B behind the microphone. The song starts on a contemporary tone with THE BIG B making an entry flamboyantly and arresting your attention in the process. Towards the end this song gets hindi words wich also sound very good. The Only problem (nitpicking) that i have is that at times the chorus is forced and is loud. May be the situation demands it like that still i didnt like it.

Special mention of the lyrics by Anvita dutt and Vishal. (Excellent use of the word ‘tram’ in the song kahaani)

Will you hum the songs 2 months after its release?

Barring kahaani and aami shatti bolchee dont see any other song lasting long.

Will You enjoy the songs when they appear in the movie?

I guess so

And thats what counts in OSTs

Hai na?

Overall a 3.50/5.00 because of the super effort by VS. was fed up listening to the same tunes and same setting. This is a breeze of fresh air and a fantastic ode to Kolkatta..nah!! Calcutta!

My picks – Kahaani (KK version), Aami Shotti Bolchi, Ekla cholo re, Kahaani (Shreya) 

And Your picks are….?

Image credit – @P1j or as we know him…Hindi cinema encyclopedia

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