Coke Studio Season 5 Episode 1 [Review]

May 14, 2012

Ever spent so much time listening to your favorite song, only later finding out how fast time has flown by? That’s what it feels like with Coke Studio, because it’s now Coke Studios 5th Season. The onslaught of talent has come and gone but in the recent season, we see brand new faces in the Studio showing the world what Pakistan has to offer.

A new but familiar face can be seen in the first episode in which renowned Punjabi rapper and producer Bohemia brings something new to the table, spitting the lyrics in “Paisay Da Nasha” (“Greed For Money”). It’s the first-ever rap number in Coke Studio history (unless you class Akhtar Chanal Zahri’s vocals in “Nar Bait” as rapping). Moving on, the song highlights how money doesn’t really buy you happiness. So behind the smooth bass slides and hip-hop-style drumbeats, the song has a greater meaning. Bohemia’s vocals are effective in highlighting the message.

And we don’t even need to look far to see how effective Bohemia is because even in the video, the backup singers seem transfixed at his powerful yet smooth gangster style, giving him a glance here and there. The track is one of the best tracks in the episode, but sadly, it’s the shortest in length.

We’ve seen Pakistani pop/rock SYMT rising through the Pakistani music industry, featuring in various live sessions as well as starring in their own dazzling video of “Zamana”. SYMT are now stripped back away from the flashing lights, and are given the opportunity to shine in the song “Tum Kaho” (“If You Ask”). That they do. Vocalist Haroon Shahid for a start, let’s his unique vocal range shine throughout the song as members of SYMT and the in-house band sing and play behind him. The song begins with strumming acoustics but escalates to a more energetic love song. For those already familiar with SYMT’s music, the song reminds us of the love song “Dil Ki Ankhon” played in Levi’s Live Sessions. Nevertheless, this number is one of the best in the episode.

It was a surprise when it was announced that Pakistani music legend Hadiqa Kiani was set to perform on Coke Studio with “Kamlee” (“Crazy”), with lyrics taken from the famous Sufi poet Bulleh Shah. It takes a while for the music to kick in (you have 7 minutes 50 seconds so take your time Coke Studio), but Hadiqa takes the listener to the world of their own. After a slow buildup, the song begins with slippery bass slides and hard-hitting drums that bring Bulleh Shah’s poetry alive in the modern age. We couldn’t really imagine anyone else singing with such spirituality, heart and soul other than Hadiqa herself.

Coke Studio also shifts from the contemporary genre with Hamayoon Khan singing “Larsha Pekhawar Ta” (“Go to Peshawar”), a melodious folk song. The way the music and lyrics describe Peshawar, really makes me want to actually book a flight right this minute but I’ll wait till I finish the review. Hamayoon’s voice really shines whilst the in-house music oozes in the background (especially the stingy sound of the rebab instrument). At the end of the day, you don’t even need to understand Pashto to love this groovy track.

Popstars and rockstars don’t always mix, but the two combinations of Atif Aslam and Qayaas allow them to bring some sweet music to the table in “Charkha Nolakha” (“The Priceless Spindle”). No part of the song is the same and it adds to the entertainment factor. The music infuses both classical sounds with more contemporary sounds. The most prominent features are the vocals of Atif and the lead vocalist of Qayaas, Umair Jaswal. Both vocals blend perfectly, perhaps one of the best duets in the history of Coke Studio (the Youtube hits prove the duo’s likability). We even get the treat of listening to Umair’s screams like how he does in Qayaas’s “Shehrezade”. The producers were strategic in putting both personalities into the song, because it ends up being perhaps, the best song in the whole episode.

We’ll see Atif in upcoming episodes, as he’ll be in the Studio again (as ever). Let’s see if he stills reps the turban.

As I’ve highlighted before in a previous season review, Coke Studio is doing what it does best and its outreach is continuing to grow. Coke Studios fanbase is growing in numbers whilst Youtube videos are being viewed to death. And its not only Pakistan who love Coke Studio. Nevertheless, many fans will be thinking of Coke Studio when they listen to the lyrics in “Charka Nolakha”,

“Mera jeona kehre chajda ve”
“What good is my life without you?”