By Shershah Ahmed: Yet another week has passed, and we are back again to another new episode from the musical mammoth that is Coke Studio. Music lovers in Pakistan who have come to learn and love the venture await the latest episode with bated breath, and as always the latest offering finds itself praised by millions of fans. Yes there are always naysayers, but with every creative project you have detractors. It all comes down to opinion in the end, and the overwhelmingly obvious consensus is that Coke Studio Pakistan is the best thing to come out of the South Asia region, music wise. With Episode 5, the four tracks have something for everyone, so let’s dive in and see what they’re all about.
A song that can be described as a pop rock anthem, ‘Main Raasta’ is an easy track to listen to. The track sees Junaid Khan, and Pakistan’s newest celebrity obsession Momina Mustehsan in full duet mode, with Noori taking up directorial duties. These three elements come together to form an explosive sound, with pounding drums, mesmerizing guitar playing, and a captivating vocal melody that make this song an easy hit. According to Noori, they performers spent days holed up in the studio, with Momina and Junaid each coming up with lyrics for their duet. Junaid Khan’s vocals offer a powerful blend of emotion, whilst Momina brings to the table a sense of keen vocal expressivity which coupled with her guitar solo makes for a track that is full of life!
The second song of the episode; ‘Jhalliya’ is performed with the duo, Javed Bashir and Masooma Anwar at the proverbial helm. As with all Coke Studio tracks, the balance of power and expression is ever present. An intimate blend of Sufi music interspersed with Shahzad Nawaz sporadically narrating words by Bulleh Shah, the track gives off an ethereal feel. The higher pitched vocals belted out by Javed have a wonderful dichotomy with the deep dulcet tones of Masooma, and the track builds up from an atmospheric number to one with much more energy than it starts off with. A pleasing song to the ears, and the masses love it.
As with most Coke Studio tracks, we have another duet on our hands. It would be easy to brush it off as just another duet, but it has its surprises up its sleeve. This in itself is a very charming revelation. It starts off with Kashif’s softer vocal melody, that are delicately molded with an ethereal piano melody, and the track originally sung by Naseebo Lal, is composed in a way by Shiraz Uppal that keeps its unplugged effect intact. The music never interferes with the vocals, and vice versa. Half way through the track, which is where the scene changes, Rachel enters with her opulent and poignant vocal tones set against the high-energy double tempo instrumental section. Apart from flawless playing from the house band, features a smooth bass solo by Amir Azhar who is the same Amir Azhar who ironically played mandolin in the original track, back in 1996 when Noor Jehan sang it, incidentally for the last time she ever sung for a film.
The last song of the episode is ‘Sadaa’, sung by the legendary Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. This track basically seems like a gateway to some faraway land. Such is the mesmerizing and transporting quality held by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice, and he certainly puts on an extremely soul baring performance. The magnificent melody composed by Rahat himself, is full of the traditional rhythm based structure of the dhol and dholak. These are accompanied by a tastefully minimal offering of drums, perfect bass lines and an electric guitar composition that exudes finality, all skillfully directed by music director Shani Arshad.
Coke Studio yet again shows us the musical talent and power locked away in the people of Pakistan. It shows us again why it is the best music platform in the South Asia region, let alone Pakistan itself. A musical endeavor that is not afraid to take risks and the longevity of the program is astounding; especially considering this is the ninth season that is running. The fact that it shows no signs of stopping, and the feeling that it will only keep going uphill from here, makes Coke Studio an easy thing to come back to, time after time and year after year.