Soundcheck: Crimson tide: the return

April 5, 2009

Sunday, 05 Apr, 2009 | 12:29 AM PST |
by Khaver Siddiqi

Source: Dawn Images

It’s back and some say it’s bigger and better, while others say it’s more of the same — but in a good way.

One cannot deny the force Coke Studio has become the second time round. Sure it initially had its fair share of critics but that, and tumultuous times, did not waver the determination the forces behind it. The concept is pretty simple, take a contemporary artiste and a regional one, add a dash of production courtesy Rohail Hyatt, sprinkle with a lavish setup and you achieve a blend of fusion that bridges barriers, celebrates diversity, encourages unity and instills a sense of Pakistani pride.

Surprisingly, the pre-recording brief and press conference started fairly on time and was smooth sailing all the way through. Unlike the previous arrangement, this time around there was easy access, the set was elaborate and reflected the spirit. Speaking on his involvement as the lead on the project, Rohail Hyatt said, “This time round it seems as if I have a big brotherly sort of role. I don’t know why that is so but I am enjoying it thoroughly. I’m very proud and honoured to be working with all the team members. They are an amazing bunch and are nothing short of family for me.” Afterwards, Images on Sunday was invited backstage in the Red Room, a small section of the studio converted into a small eatery, complete with lavish seating arrangements.

This year’s line up includes Ali Zafar, Arieb Azhar, Atif Aslam, Javed Bashir, Riaz Ali Khan, Saieen Zahoor, Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, Strings, Josh and Zeb & Haniya. Accompanying these formidable is the power-house band, which includes the talents of Babar Khanna on dholak, Kamran Zafar on bass, Gumby on drums, Omran Shafique on guitar, Saba Shabbir on backing vocals and Zulfiq ‘Shazee’ Ahmed Khan on multi-percussions. In addition, they are joined by Assad Ahmed also on guitar, Jaffer Zaidi on the keyboard, Javed Iqbal on violin, Natasha D’Sousa as backing vocalist, Sikander on dholak and Waris Baloo on multi-percussions. This year also welcomes guest musicians Gul Mohammad on sarangi, Gurpreet Chana on tabla, Rakae Jamil on sitar and Sadiq Sameer on rabab. And they’re all mingling together, anxious for the world to hear their music.

A visibly tired but seemingly relaxed Rohail Hyatt spoke about his experience, “My reward this year is just watching these gifted artistes perform. It’s a simple choice really, you look at the artiste and hear their music, you hear what they can bring to the table and then you invite them. We got everybody that we wanted this year.” And how did he finally manage to get a hold of Saieen Zahoor who was supposedly in the first season but then not? “We didn’t go through the proper channels,” he admits. “Apparently he had made commitments elsewhere and the timing of the schedules was conflicting.”

Saieen Zahoor admitted that last year the timings were off, but this year everything is on track. “Every generation has its colours,” he said, “It’s only natural that this one has its own. And it’s been an exhilarating experience working with all the new colours of this generation.”

Emerging from absence this year is rock band Noori. “This is exactly the kind of thing we were looking for,” said Ali Noor, “The level of sound quality here, the production, it’s just way beyond to what we’re used to.” There is also talk of their new album, which Ali Noor confirmed, “We’re ready, we have to get some final touches in, but we’re ready.” Ali Hamza’s contribution isn’t just limited to the music, in fact, he’s also part of the sound team. “I don’t feel like I’m just part of the music team, I feel like I’m a part of it on a whole.” CS2 brought about an interesting collaboration, one that was now difficult to imagine, that of the temporary re-unification of Gumby and Noori. Both the band and drummer are excited about the reunion of sorts, but make it clear that it is not for any future Noori albums.

The event also sees the likes of Atif Aslam into the fray of the crimson concert. “I’ve completed work on my new album which I’ve worked on all by myself, right down to the arrangements.” What can his fans expect to hear? “My performances will be a complete surprise to my fans.”

Q of Josh was most excited about the project. “This has been a memorable experience, we’re working with some of the top artistes of Pakistan.”

Also joining in from abroad is tabla maestro Gurpreet Chana. And what was it like working with all these artistes? “Amazing experience, this is something that I’m really looking forward to.” Chana learnt the classical tabla in the Punjab gharana (style) from his Ustadji Professor Parshotam Singh. Of late he has added a unique flavour to his music and mesmerises crowds with tabla fusion.

The event also marks a change in production direction thanks to the likes of Zeeshan Parwez and Adnan Malik and the warmth and the genuine passion present in the air in and around the studio gives hope. To see such diverse stars gathered amid times like these gives hope to those who shall listen to them. The recordings will be aired later this year, during the summer on all channels — music and otherwise — so stay tuned.