Are there too many cooks in Coke Studio’s broth?

Published: August 16, 2016

Coke Studio's Sasu Mangay

It’s that time of the year again, when the most anticipated musical project of the country hits our screens and is seen dodging the pressure of incredulous expectations attached to it. Coke Studio is back with its ninth season and will stick around for the next two months – all the while retaining an essential chunk of our national narrative. People will love it, hate it, love to hate it, and hate to love it – but everyone agrees there’s nothing quite like Coke Studio. Here are my two cents on the first episode of the current season.

1. Sasu Mangay

If there’s anything this song does, it establishes the singing prowess of one Naseebo Lal. After a lifetime of singing lewd Lollywood songs that are recorded just as poorly, she shines throughout the song. A lesser-moving Umber Jaswal complements Naseebo well, but never manages to steal the show from her. Produced by Shiraz Uppal, this song isn’t your typical Coke Studio song and comparisons with Bollywood are justified. However, this fits the bill for a commercial number – something Coke Studio seems to require for its sustenance.

2. Aaja Re Moray Saiyaan

This one’s a quintessential Noori song: simple lyrics, upbeat music and light composition. Though many have claimed that both Noori and Zeb are way beyond singing childish ballads, we can always do with a happy-go-lucky number; not every song requires hefty Sufi poetry to qualify as serious music. Both Ali Hamza and Zeb render the demands of this song perfectly. The song instils in you a yearning for the simpler beauties of life. Go on a road trip through Pakistan and let this song be your companion!

3. Aaqa

This song sounds just as good in real as it did on paper. The maestro Abida Parween, with the latest sensation Ali Sethi, some deep verses, Shuja Haider as the director, and some heavy dhols along the way – you get another gem from Coke Studio. Though Abida Parveen might have been under-utilised in this song, and at times Ali Sethi seems to be in a state of pain whilst trying to keep up with the Sufi Queen’s vocal chords (something he himself admits in the BTS video); on the whole the song works just as well. Only time will tell if this one goes down in history in the same league as Jugni and Tajdaar-e-Haram.

4. Jaanay Na Tu

The first episode of Coke Studio takes refuge from folk and tradition in the form of Ali Khan’s Jaanay Na Tu. A typical Pakistani pop number, this one’s serene and simple. It never tries too hard, and that works in favour of the song. Ali Khan’s soothing vocals gel well with the romantic, sweet melody. However, this isn’t the stuff Coke Studio favourites are made of – it’s only meant to get on the playlists of music aficionados.

The first episode of Coke Studio was, notwithstanding the multitude of hits and misses, overall a good start. Since the broth is being handled by too many cooks this time, let’s see how the experiment turns out. But one thing’s for sure, Coke Studio has never shied away from experimentation, giving us some masterpieces during the process. We hope the current season has also got some in store for us.

Asif Nawaz

Asif Nawaz

Asif Nawaz is a doctor from Abbottabad who's either traveling or writing while not procrastinating. He tweets as @asifnz (twitter.com/asifnz)

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