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Suno – Shilpa rao (Review + Artist credits)

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SunoAnkhiyan Udeek – Accompanied by understated beats and an excellent israj by Arshad khan, this track is nothing like its countless re-imaginations by other Indian artists. Rao sounds comfortable (when has a difficult song troubled her anyway?). There is something in her voice that sticks in your head and if you couple that with excellent arrangement, you will get a song like this. By all means, superb!

Aaj Latha naiyo has an unplugged relaxing feel to it because the arrangement is minimal. This traditional song has been re-imagined by various artists with the most recent effort that comes to mind being Javed bashir’s at coke studio Pakistan by Rohail hyatt. While that version was marked with characteristic alaaps and harkats of Bashir, this effort by Shilpa disarms you with its luallaby-sque charm and beethoven-sque sound.

Ankhiyan Nu – has traditionally been a soft composition that played up the seriousness with words and not aggressive music arrangement. In this album though, the start is a bit hurried although the antras are done very well, and yes one stanza which is chosen isn’t the one you hear normally. I would have of course liked a bit of pause in the composition.

Duma Dum – The thing with classics like Duma dum is that they have been presented to us so many times already and if your effort isn’t superlative (arrangement or singing wise), even the ‘good’ versions don’t cut much ice. With constant beat and free flowing violin by Sharat chandra Srivastava, the track tries but doesn’t wow you, because there is nothing, well ‘wow’ about it. Towards the end, the track takes a bit of soulful turn which doesn’t sit in well with the overall vibe of the song as it is.

Aaye Na Balam –  After listening to Shilpa’s version of ‘Wo jo hum mein tum mein qaraar tha’ in maestro studio sessions (review here) I was looking forward to what she has done with this age old gem. It would suffice to say that as much as we should praise Shilpa’s singing, we must absolutely be grateful  to the arrangement of the song. This is exactly how a classic of this stature should be re imagined.  The israj is breathtakingly beautiful and the bass with guitars is just apt. I cannot write enough good things about the way this song ends, it just took my breath away.  For me, the song of the album!

Challa –  Shellee has penned this song and the kickass start of the song really sets the mood just right. I must admit the singing of Rao came across a bit bland and didn’t have the much needed ‘attitude’ (I know! I am not a fan of the word either but you get my point), that the song so richly deserves. Towards the end of the song, I actually thought Rao is going to fuse ‘tere ishq nachaya kar thaiyya thaiyya’! Having said that, what works is the delightful arrangement (yet again!) especially those guitars and violin!

A good album by all means. Of course, most of the songs in the album are in Punjabi, so the uptake from non speakers of the language might be an issue, but these are such timeless compositions that anyone who is a little curious would be lucky to try this album.

The tagline of the album reads ‘My love for the legends..’

In my view,  with a presentation like this, which is devoid of any drama and forced loudness, these legends would be so proud of the album. A glorious album that is worth a buy.

You can (And should!) buy the album here

Artist credits

Guitars by – Bhanu Mendiratta & Pranai Gurung (Latha)

Bass – Sajal Sharma

Keys – Anil Chawla

Drums – Abhijit Sood

Israj – Arshad Khan

Violin – Sharat Chandra Srivastava

Mixed by – Gaurav Chintamani and Sidhant Mathur at Quarter Note Studio, New Delhi

Mastering done by – Ted Jenson ad Sterling Sound, New York

Lyrics by – Shellee (Challa)

Other Lyrics – Traditional

CokeStudio Season 8 round-up #CokeStudio8

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You can find my earlier post on the 10 best songs of CokeStudio Season 8 here. And if you don’t want to read this long post, simply click the playlist below. Simple that way. Thanks a lot Ankit bhai for putting the playlist together.

Here is the list of all songs I liked from this season and all ‘things’ I didn’t like.

With the Season 7 not cutting much ice with the music fanatics who were disturbed to see Rohail Hyatt’s departure, the show’s new producers – Strings, had their job cut out. They had to economize on the over-expressive presentation and clamour in the studio and focus on what CokeStudio Pakistan is best known for – Fusion of the known with unknown and revitalizing old classics. The season 8 has just concluded and here is what we think was good  and not so good with it.

Artist line up – You could sense from the artist line up promo that producers were quite confident. The house-band was more or less similar to the last year’s show but with some welcome additions like a child Sitar Prodigee Shehroze. Having Farida Khanum, Shazia manzoor, Mai Dhai, Ali Azmat, Ali Haider, Ali Zafar, Arif Lohar, Atif Aslam, Ali Sethi and host of other exciting new names meant there would be a right mix of mellifluous outings with some euphoric sounds peppered generously.

The Season started with a bang with Mai Dhai and Karam Abbas presenting us with a thunderous Aankharli Pharookai which was an attempt of recreating desert sounds with the unique CokeStudio Pakistan Signature and it worked. The Sur Kshetra music reality show winner Nabeel Shaukat Ali mesmerized us with this flawless rendition of Bewajah which is a ghazal-sque composition treated with pop sensibilities. The runner up from the same reality show Mulazim Hussain is also a good voice to look forward to because in both his outings in the show, he came across as someone who has a good range blessed with excellent voice. His Ve Baneya would be no doubt one of the best songs of this season as he complimented a polished Fizza Javed to give us an old classic that was fused brilliantly with an earthy folk song.

Staying with the folk brief, it was an absolute delight to hear Siege recreate Mai bhagi’s thari cult classic ‘Khari neem’ and transform it into a song that retains the desert charm but with a solid flamenco influence and violins to die for! Staying put with folk fusion, Rung jindri had a strong tune that needed a set of solid vocals to catapult the song to the orbit we are all familiar with when it comes to CokeStudio Pakistan. Thank God for Arif lohar and those backup singers who did just that.

Jaffer Zaidi is much more than keyboard and accordion player. We heard him sing a motherly lullaby years back in CokeStudio and he made a comeback behind the microphone this season with possibly the most understated sung song in Nyun la leya which might not be everyone’s cup of tea but has a haunting presence. Speaking of a haunting experience, although it wasn’t a special song ‘music wise’, but you hear chiriyan da chamba and chances are you would be affected by the song for a very long time. In addition to steady singing by Suraiya Khanum, the recitation by Anwar Maqsood stirs your soul and makes you wonder what caused the lump in your throat

Apart from doing cover versions of old classics and folk songs, there are always attempts at creating something new in the studio. Bakshi brothers, who sound like a bundle of talent gave us Khalis Makhan which navigated our senses back to good old days where ‘likes’ were real and happiness was more than ‘lol’. It was a comforting to see Malang party sing their hit single Dil jalay and mix it with wild guitars in the studio. Shazia manzoor, in the company of arguably the best qawwals of today from Pakistan, The Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali Group, gave us a beautiful awadhi song in Hare hare baans. Ustad Hamid Ali’s Piya dekhan ko might sound too simple for CokeStudio Pakistan but it remains a favorite from the season because it is simple and very well presented. Meekal hassan band finally got inside CokeStudio and did rather well in both their songs Sayon and Kinaray, with kinaray being the calmer of the two. It would be no less than a crime to not hear Sharmistha Chatterjee’s voice in some Indian projects.

Now on to the songs which in our view have defined the season.  In no particular order, we begin with Atif Aslam paying a worthy tribute to Sabri brothers by reimagining the cult classic Tajdar-e-haram and in the process, giving us his best song till date in all the seasons of CokeStudio to date. The sheer energy of the song is divine, to put it mildly. We then move to Umran Lagiyaan that is fused with Chan Chan Chakan and even though Nabeel Shaukat ali does well, the song belongs to the magnificent Ali Sethi whose voice and singing is captivating and fluent, what a rare quality to have these days! Ali Zafar disappointed us in 2 out of 3 songs that he did for the studio this season. Rockstar is the song in which he soars! Penned as a pun on himself (read – rockstars!), probably this song is the most innovative song of the season and delivers what Ali Zafar will have a tough time to beat for a long time. Lastly, in what is the song of the season for us, The Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali Group brought the house down and inched us closer to heaven in their powerful sakal bann. The sheer energy and correctness of the rendition transcends everything else done in Season 7 and Season 8 by strings and reminded us of the ‘yet to be toppled’ 16 minute rendition of ‘Kangna’ by Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad which was a part of the Season 4 when Rohail Hyatt was at the helm.

There were other not so good attempts as well ranging from Umair Jaswal pouring in too much emotion in a song that didn’t require any, or for that matter the highly auto tuned sounding Asim Azhar. Ali Zafar and Atif Aslam were quite ordinary in their other two songs. Specifically talking about Ali Zafar’s ‘Ae dil’ song – the ‘take it away’ part from Ali Zafar and an attempt to put in too much into one song just killed the feel and continuity and left me quite confused, although pleasantly surprised to hear Sara HaiderThe ‘Ajj din’ song starts so well that you will probably have tears in your eyes and then it all goes south when Ali Zafar comes across unprepared as he reads out Ghalib..and reads it badly. Quratulain balouch still hasn’t got a solo song and that is plain sad. Two biggest disappointments were Ali Azmat and Ali Haider. While Ali Azmat’s song sounded too pre recorded and devoid of any real energy, Ali Haider kept going out of tune like he used to during his prime. That said, Samra Khan, Alycia Dias and Sara Raza were very good.

It was heartening to see the phenomenal presentation of Farida Khanum’s Aaj jaane ki zid na karo by the songstress herself and this would remain the high point of all the musical movements forever.

Lastly, the houseband including guest musicians were brilliant throughout the season. Tanveer Tafu, Sajid Ali, Arsalan Ali are probably the best thing to happen the houseband which was splendid even before these wonderful musicians joined them.

One of the many duties of regional music movements like CokeStudio is dissemination of their creative riches to the world at large. Even in the age of streaming content, there remains a big challenge whether the listener would lend her/his ear to  someone who she/he doesn’t know. Music movements like CokeStudio act as an assurance for people to try out new sounds/artists.

CokeStudio Pakistan has been consistently doing it and it is assuring to see Strings getting it right on more occasions than their last outing in the Studio. They come as a respite to music lovers in the subcontinent who are sick of lousy music videos and hollow musical attempts  with no sincerity that end up looking like click baiting celebrity vehicles, taking listeners for granted.

And remember – all this is distributed free, legally.

#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 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 Pakistan Season 8, Episode 1 #CokeStudio8

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Aankharli Pharookai – A somewhat familiar ring of Mai dhai’s voice immediately transports you to a desert where a lover is singing and calling out to her beloved who is out somewhere on his camel and that camel advances with a rhythmic bustle. The song is just not about the commanding rendition by Mai Dhai. Karam abbas is just as good and so are Tanveer Tafu on Rubaab (oh that solo towards the end and a quiet presence all throughout) and Arsalan Rabbani on Harmonium. Rajasthani music – you beautiful beautilful thing!

Sayon – Finally Mekaal Hasan Band could make it to the insides of CokeStudio, not that they were missed. Sharmistha Chatterjee is a pleasure to listen to and kudos to the band for choosing the song they did. It is hard to not fall in love with the song barring few overproduced bits but by God does Sharmishtha cover those up or what! As with most of Mekaal Hasan’s work, there is a lot of noise and a constant sense of chaos. In this song, all of it works.

Nabeel Shaukat Ali – Bewajah – Trust CokeStudio Pakistan to give a wonderful pop twist to ghazal gayaki. Ghazal as a genre has been on constant decline post Jagjit Singh’s demise. Nabeel Shaukat ali gives a glorious touch to a ghazal that can be sung without all the accompaniments which are present in this version anyway. Sajid Ali brings the traditional stillness to the composition and it is a pleasure to watch his eyes look up while playing the flute. Not enough good things can be written about the beautiful singing and poignant lyrics. If you have loved someone and lost, keep the tissues nearby, this one will make you cry but you will not complain. Also, the correctness of Nabeel’s rendition tells us he is not a new singer. A pleasure to listen to.

Atif Aslam – Tajdar-e-Haram – Touching classics is always a big risk and kudos to producers to present Atif the way they have done in this timeless classic. With CokeStudio Pakistan, you can almost be certain that classics will not be spoiled (Except for that rare case of Komal trying ‘Lambi Judai’). Be it the humnavas Jamshed Ali Sabri, Naveed Ali Sabri, Mohammad Shan, Zahid Akhtar or that excellent Harmonium by Arsalan Rabbani or the master (Tanveer Tafu) himself on rubaab, there is hardly a note about which you can complain about in the song. Too soon to probably come out with this assumption, but this would remain my favorite for a long time to come and would go right up in the list of favorite songs from this season. CokeStudio Pakistan says this is a tribute to Sabri brothers. Sabri brothers would be proud. Jazak allah!

High point of the episode – Maikashon aao aao, madine chalein. Find it for yourself in one of the songs. When you hear something you have grown up listening to in the bylanes of Old Lucknow and that too done so well, you have no option but to go crazy. Take a bow CokeStudio Pakistan!

One couldn’t have asked a better first episode from Strings who appear to be getting in the groove of there being no groove at all…an ever evolving music wonder that is CokeStudio Pakistan.

The house band is top class and thank you strings for listening to us and stopping those distracting over the top theatrics by the supremely talented backup vocalists. Sara, Rachel, Momin – Kudos!

Thumbs up for Coke!

*Goes away singing – Aao madine chalein, isi mahine chalein aao madine chalein*

CokeStudio Pakistan Season 7, Episode 1

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Yes, I gave in to the temptation to write about CokeStudio pakistan, Season 7, Episode 1

First, some background.

If you have time to kill, you can check previous posts in this blog about CokeStudio pakistan. I have been blamed as being a bit ‘too pro pakistan’ when it comes to CokeStudio Pakistan. I have my reasons whenever I say that CokeStudio pakistan > CokeStudio India. Apart from offering us various experiments which married folk with contemporary, recitals, rap and what not, CokeStudio Pakistan has always been all about subtlety.

And then Season 7 happened.

Starting with Sab akho ali ali by Asrar, I was shocked at the outrageous display of clumsiness. In good olden days, we used to see a smile at best being leaked by the musicians/artists even if all they wanted was to jump on the floor and what happened here? Almost everyone (including that irritating drummer) was busy emoting as if they are rooting for the most fake excitement award at the Oscars. Coming down to the song. The guitar parts are excellent and Asrar is just top class, as usual. The thing with CokeStudio Pakistan is that it used to showcase the best song from an artist and take it a notch higher. In this case, well lets just conveniently agree that this isn’t Asrar’s best.

Then Comes Sajjad Ali with Tum Naraaz ho,  a song that is simple and easy to hum, with excellent flute throughout. Kudos for the composition and 5 thumbs down with the over the top emoting by everyone, especially the back up singers! Why am I being nosy about the visuals? In good old days, the videos used to come across slick, well rehearsed and a proof that everyone has worked on their bit to make the song what it is. The visuals, the jumpy overalls of the band at play just disrupts everything! It is not a bad song, just that it isn’t the greatest song choice to be performed at CokeStudio Pakistan stage.

Then we get up close and personal with Niazi Brothers as they give us Lai Beqadraa Nal Yaari, a superbly paced song with everything just at the right place. Somehow, the moment the song starts, you are sure that this is going to be one hell of a song. The arrangement, the flute by Sajid ali and even the over the top drummer behaved himself in the song! Yet again, what lets this song down is the atrocious display of fake excitement, अमर ब्रास बैंड lighting and the ‘low cost’ emoting displayed by the band. Seriously, what on earth is wrong with the back up singers? The back up singers did a fantastic job singing wise in this song without a doubt though.

Probably the best was saved for last. I believe that  God descends wherever a good fusion concert takes place. Not surprisingly, when Abida Parveen and Ustad Raees Khan decided to sit and fuse a beautiful qalaam about the path and journey of a Sufi, heavens stopped and took notice. This is what we remember CokeStudio pakistan for. Goosebumps on every note and a powerful blend of two मुख्तलिफ elements. Here, the pleasing Sitar is aided by the ever so powerful Abida Parveen! In an otherwise blemish free composition, the only thing that irritated was the bad drumming. Not stealing away any credit from the producers, but it would take amazing talent to have legends of this stature and make a bad song. Thumbs up!

All an all an average episode that is severely let down by the over the top theatrics and poor choice of 2 songs out of 4.

When the season 1 started, the producer had no benchmark to go to..and then history was created. With Season 7 starting at this note, I hope it gets better than this as the days go on. It is NOT a T.V. Drama, dear new producers…Music is what sets everything right, so please focus on that,  Will you?

Thoughts of Episode 4 & 5 – CokeStudio Pakistan Season 6

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Episode 4

Aamay Bhashaili Rey – Alamgir sahab started this in what is called Dhaka bangla, I am told. A heart breaking and tear inducing request made to the ‘majhi’. Alamgir sahab isn’t new to singing so it was hardly a surprise to see him taking this traditional composition and hugging it out melodiously. Fariha Pervez adds the ‘ful’ to this ‘beauty’ of a song and makes it all so beautiful! Braj bhasha has a certain sweetness to it and Rohail Hyatt has cleverly and mildly arranged Fariha’s parts so that the listener gets engrossed. It’s an absolute delight to watch Fariha call out ‘Saiyyan bina…Saiyyan bina ghar suna’ and Alamgir sahab make a request at the same time to his ‘Majhi’ to lead him safely through to his home. Sheer delight!

Laila o laia – There are some songs which you just know would be awe-F-some right from the first second of the song. This, ladies and gentleman is the same kind of song. Say hello to the ever smiling Rostam Mirlashari as he mesmerizes you with his requests to ‘Laila’ to go with him for sight seeing. Be it the violin, the constant ‘neat’ set of beats or the adorable lyrics, the song is a hoot! The complimenting balochi backups by Master Sheeraz Ali Sabzal Mohammad Ali Osman Baloch and Shaukat Ali are understated yet add to the elasticity of the calls of ‘Laila’ in the song. Just about everything is right about the song. A special word for Mr. Miloš Punišić in the song. Sir, you are just amazing!

Ishq Kinara* – Üsküdar’a Gider Iken – Performed by Sumru Ağıryürüyen and Zoe Viccaji is a peppy example of mixing the ‘inspiring and inspired’ in one total package. The song has a very ‘nomadic’ beat to it and the use of Kanun in the beginning sets everything just right! Will I listen to it again? No. Is the song bad? Hell No! Hear it and make your own opinion.

Mahi Gal*- Asad Abbas croons this traditional composition with consummate ease and catches your attention with the long taan he takes at the start of the song. The arrangement is lucid, the singing flawless. To me, the entire part of Fariha Pervez didn’t make much sense and even though (as per the website) the idea of her part was to raise the mood and tempo of the song, I felt it slowed down the song. Barring that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the song.

A satisfying episode overall. The song that stand out is the kora part and Asad’s singing from Mahi gal Aamay Bhashaili Rey and Laila o laila and delightfully so!

Episode 5

Miya ki Malhar* – Ayesha Omar, Fariha Pervez, Zara Madani and Rustam Fateh Ali Khan put us on a journey that starts with a drizzle and leads us to a massive downpour of music, stitched in the raga Miya ki Malhar (the rain raga) and performed with Braj ki boli. Ayesha Omar goes a scale up and sounds pleasantly different from her previous offering in the season. This one is no bad either. Zara is pleasant and Rustam sahab gets very little mic-time. In my opinion though, the song belongs to Fariha Pervez who shows ease in the way she sings and delivers one of the happiest song CokeStudio Pakistan has ever presented to us. The arrangement is top class with the welcome flute in between and a lot of artificial thunder. The heavy shredding towards the end might put off some people but then not many people like heavy rains either isn’t it? 2 Thumbs up for this!

Moray Naina* – A song that is composed and sung by Zara herself with a cokestudio twist. This would be the most innovative song of this season arrangement wise. Imaginative beats that are constantly building up the momentum and may lead you to think the song is just about to get started. You can sense the stillness of the song by the superb arrangement and the overall atmosphere is just top class. I am waiting for the people to call this song as ‘indulgent’ thanks to a prolonged spell of fusion towards the last few minutes of the song. Since it’s a completely new sound that Rohail presents us with here, am sure not many would take to the song at the first instant.

Sawaal – Kande – The original rockstar who used to set the stage on fire is back in the song and here Ali Azmat teams up with Muazzam ali khan and his qawwal group to give what can be described as a  ‘powerful’ song. In his previous appearance this season, Ali Azmat took a lighter look at the ‘mechanics’ of going up the ‘success ladder’. In this song though, he tackles the serious question about life and he does it with the intensity that can melt stone. Those long taans he takes are haunting and would surely make you think. The qawwalisque participation by Muazzam ali khan and his qawwals is linked to the part that Ali Azmat sings. Two different songs, both interconnected. That’s fusion, Baby! The level to which Muazzam ali khan takes this song towards the end would have made Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali khan proud, very proud.

Allah Hu* – It would be a criminal waste to have Saieen Zahoori leave the studio without we getting to hear the oldest and the purest call to the almighty in his pious voice. Here, the treatment is very pop like which is not distressing to the ears at all. Abrar ul haq stretches himself to leave a solid imprint on the senses. (Spoiler alert) – Tell me if you don’t get goosebumps at 5:19 when Zahoor sahab swoops in with a call to Bulleh shah. An ordinary version of ‘allah hu’ this is not! Get up, dance because the world is senseless and says anything! A loud cheer to this song!

All and all a delicious episode that gave us the raw power and intensity of thought from Muazzam Ali and Ali Azmat, the call to the almighty by Saieen Zahoor, the meditative state via Zara madani’s Moray naina and torrential rains via Miya ki Malhar.

All the songs with *mark have the back up girls Zoe and Rachel Viccaji in them and quite honestly I have run out of praises for the duo. The character they lend to a song, any song is just unparalleled and they are without a doubt a big strength for the Studio.

As the inevitable Season ending is upon us, the offerings are getting more and more delicious. A typical Rohail Hyatt’s tease strategy but we are not complaining!

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