Coke Studio Season 4 Episode 1 Review

By Hasan Faridi

When it comes to Coke Studio, the Pakistani, and even the International audience, demand high quality and breathtaking music in each episode. The Producer of Coke Studio, Rohail Hyatt, has done it again.

So another Season has recently dawned upon us and Coke Studio has more fans than ever. With countless of talented artists such as Arif Lohar, Strings and JoSH having already taken the stage, can a new line-up top them?

Coke Studio firstly introduces Bilal Khan with his song “Tou Kya Hua” (“So What Happened?”). This talented youngling’s first release “Bachana” was released virally on YouTube and became a speedy success. The song is mellow, later kicking in with Bilal’s vocals that sound promising like in his previous singles “Lamha” and “Bachana”. As the song progresses at a steady pace, the acoustic is joined in by a wave of instruments that lighten up the mood. Depending on your personality, the song is either romantic or depressing. All the bridges of Bilal’s songs tend to be the best parts of the song, and here, he does it again. The only negative is that his Facebook Page hints at him being the Justin Bieber of Pakistan.

Mizraab are known for being one of the most influential metal acts to have emerged from the depths of Pakistan. But we see the other side again. With a new line-up (who we don’t really see much of in the midst of the studio) and not forgetting the guitar virtuoso Faraz Anwar, Mizraab now perform their classic track “Kuch Hai” (“Something’s There”). We start off by watching the backing singers set the mood as Faraz strums away. Its not until he starts singing when we get a blast from the past. Compared to the old track, the vocals have improved beyond expectations. Remember the whiny Oooooo’s? The song would even survive without the vocals, because the music is superb. Like the classic, we hear skilled shredding on the acoustic guitars, which would probably make fingers bleed. This time we get to see it. The outro goes into the Arabesque sound we hear at the start, capable of sending shivers down the spine.

What can we say? In this case: “Kuch hai”. What is this something? Pure talent.

The world is always bombarded with images of violence, terrorism and the cheeky grin of Zardari in the media. But when listening to “Daanah Pah Daanah” (“Multitude Of Grains”) by Akhtar Chanal and Komal Rizvi, the world can be introduced by the spiritual and soulful side of Pakistan that is normally hidden from view. The song starts with a more spiritual Sufi musical style, and goes into a small partition. And all that is heard is a keyboard. Yet still one of the dancers is dancing, hypnotically. It then breaks into the poetry recognizable by Pakistani bands Junoon’s “Lal Meri Pat”. Through to the close of the song that breaks into a funky groove, we see that everyone simply loves the music, even the in-studio drummer Gumby grins.

The “Pakistani Popstar” Atif Aslam parted from the band Jal in 2003. He has had his chance to shine in Season 2, but now its time for Jal to have the last laugh. Frontman Farhan Saeed, sings side by side with Goher Mumtaz on acoustic guitars in the performance of “Ik Aarzu” (“A Wish”). The song starts off slow with light acoustics, but it is not only till the end of the song when we feel the full power and potential of Jal. The band takes Bulleh Shah’s poetry (also popularized by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) and creates a new composition. The song heightens its pace but sadly ends too quickly. This almost 3-minute outro flies too fast. But after this breathtaking performance, it might be said that the parting of Atif and Jal is the best thing that happened between the two. Why? Because the two singers, Atif and Farhan, can show off their amazing voices without having to duet.

This will now probably spark a verbal war.

Nevertheless, next up is Sanam Marvi with “Sighra Aaween Saanwal Yaar” (“Come Swiftly”). The song is an ascension to the stars. Her voice is simply what people have described as “heavenly”. Speaking of heaven, the poetry pays tribute to God Almighty, aiming to reunite the listener with his Creator:

“Alif, the first letter of God’s name, is a jasmine flower that the Guide has planted in my heart – He!”

And such a connection it is. The song is continuously mellow, Sanam Marvi sings with all her heart and the instrumentals, like Mizraab’s “Kuch Hai”, have the power to play on their own. But the poetry is what makes the song so unique and adds the musical taste of Pakistan, or it would simply be a jazz instrumental.

It seems that beautiful Pakistani poetry from poets such as Sachal Sarmast, Sultan Bahuhas, and Bulleh Shah, heavily inspired these performances in Coke Studio throughout the first episode of Season 4. What seems ancient has been created into a concoction of the old and new, and Coke Studio has mixed a wide variety of talented musicians together to create a powerful Pakistani sound that can only be grown in Pakistan. Nowhere else.

Again, Coke Studio has put its previous Seasons to shame. It’s outdone itself. The question is will it do better in its next episode? It was a pain to write this review, because whilst writing, Coke Studio was driving me to a world of my own.

“Kuch Hai” (“Something’s There”).