By Shershah Ahmed: It is that time of year again, the tail end of summer. For some people it means returning to school and university, but for everyone in general it means one thing; the return of another season of Coke Studio. Quite literally the biggest musical platform in Pakistan, putting all our big name musical stars and their talent front and center for the country, and indeed the world to see. This year showcases what is the largest roster of artists in the show’s history, as well as a unique take on production with multiple producers bringing their own distinct feel and flavor to the songs. Four episodes of season 9 have aired to date, with many more to come, so let’s jump in and see how the score is so far!
The unusual yet compelling opus that surpasses the concept of a singular use of language in the song, the lyrics and the melody of ‘Sasu Mangay’ neatly combines Naseebo Lal’s Rajasthani dialects with Umair Jaswal’s Punjabi. It gives a feeling of one flitting about the evergreen lands of Punjab, to trudging across the barren deserts of the Thar Desert. The stark contrasts are an acquired taste, but repeated listening certainly helps the magic of the track shine through. The commendable combination of the acoustics and rhythm with each singer’s powerful vocal styles make it a riveting track to listen to.
A musician being absent from the music scene for a decade would usually mean a reduction in either song writing or performance skill. Shooting to stardom with his chart topping single ‘Saathiya’, which was a staple on every music channel in the 2000’s, Ali Khan’s return on Coke Studio in 2016 with ‘Janay Na Tu’ shows that he still has a knack for belting out a formidable love ballad.
Taking up music direction duties on the track, Jaffer Zaidi has kept Ali’s musical roots alive, but given it an extra punch groove-wise by brining Mannu in to play bass. Also featuring Kamran Admani of Mizmaar taking on lead guitar duties, the track is a fun little number to listen to with a perfect arrangement and tasteful instrumental depth that adds value to this ballad.
Abida Parveen certainly requires no introduction, considering her accolade laden past Coke Studio appearances and sold out concert all over the country. ‘Aaqa’ pretty much defines what Coke Studio is all about and what it stands for. The track is a scintillating concoction of multi layered vocals, lyrics and impeccable musicianship. The Sufi magic is strong with this one. It is almost a cliché to say that the song has a mystical presence, but there is no other way to describe it. The ethnic instruments such as the Rubab just further add depth to the song, making it a plain joy to immerse oneself in.
Noori taking over production and arrangement on this track made one thing certain. The power of the song would be off the charts. And rightfully so, considering how Noori is known for their extremely upbeat music and even more upbeat live shows. The song keeps it relatively simple, which is perhaps its greatest strength and its blend of funk and folk makes it a winner. Zeb’s vocals are outstanding, and with Ali Hamza joining in on vocal duties, the synergy certainly makes for a winning combo.
All in all, a good start to the most recent and most anticipated season of Coke Studio. However, the show has just begun, and perhaps the best is yet to come. Taazi, and indeed the entire country awaits the next episode with bated breath, and keep up to date with Taazi.com for further reviews on the upcoming tracks from Coke Studio Season 9!