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#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’

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!

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?

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