Coke Studio 4, Episode 1: What to expect!

Published: May 18, 2011

Sanam Marvi

Last summer, the nation’s hopes and dreams were obliterated in a cataclysmic event that shook the very foundations of what it meant to be Pakistani. There were cries and screams of outrage as people took to the streets with their pick-axes and Facebook comments, desperately trying to cope with the crippling grief that, gasp!

Coke Studio 2 was so much better than Coke Studio 3.”

The predicted mass suicides were averted only through the joyous brandishing of Arif Lohar’s magic chimta.

I think one of the good things to come out of the massive overreaction from last year has been the lack of hype leading up to this season’s Coke Studio. There had been an unholy amount of pressure on the show last summer and that really took the joy out of it. I think we could all benefit from managing our expectations from this season.

The first episode of Coke Studio Season 4 airs this Sunday on May 22 and I for one can’t wait to see it.

There’s an eclectic mix of artists selected, with the usual mix of folk, rock and pop music thrown in so that there’s something for everyone. Looking at the previews, I am inclined to think this is going to be a really safe episode. I wouldn’t expect too much in terms of experimentation, but the tunes promise to be solid and accessible.

Returning this year is folk singer Sanam Marvi. I’m not very excited about having her back on the show. Maybe she has some mass appeal that I’m missing but I felt that hers was the weakest folk music contribution last season. Her music is certainly pleasant but there’s nothing original about it and it almost seems like the house band is coasting through her songs. I don’t think her second appearance is going to deliver anything new, which isn’t a bad thing, since many people would be hearing that kind of music for the first time. But for me, it’s slightly underwhelming.

Jal have made it to this season, although their massive fan base probably thinks it’s a couple of seasons too late. Nevertheless, a lot is expected from them. Bands on Coke Studio tend to come under severe scrutiny and I feel that Jal will have that at the back of their heads and will play it safe. Their song for the episode “Iq Aarzoo” is a self-professed ballad, which should go down well, given our nation’s obsession with heartbreak and unrequited love.

Mizraab are the other highly anticipated single-Urdu-word band on Coke Studio this year. Young boys in black tshirts and raging hormones have been screaming for guitar maestro Faraz Anwar’s inclusion in the show ever since it started, and now they have been duly rewarded. No doubt Anwar’s dazzling guitar work will be on display and I think it could be one of the more powerful performances on the show. I don’t know why he had to go with a classical singer as a vocalist, but nonetheless, the few snippets I’ve heard of their song showcase a dark, powerful groove with a Black Sabbath-esque mood.

Komal Rizvi in particular has been one of the more derided choices for the upcoming season. I think it’s too early to rate her without hearing her performance. She might actually do better than a lot of people expect. She’s got a good, solid, classically trained voice and I wouldn’t want to judge her before she’s sung a note. However, I’m disappointed in her pairing with folk singer Akhtar Chanal (no relation to Coco). It seems like a repeat formula from last year when Meesha Shafi successfully teamed up with Arif Lohar. Their performance of the folk classic “Daaney Pey Daana” (a song which is offensive to millions of people with acne) is going to invite heavy comparisons, and it isn’t fair to either one of the performers. I think the trolls are already sharpening their knives/self righteous internet rants.

Finally, I think having Bilal Khan on the show is an inspired choice. I’ve been his fan since I heard his massive hit “Bachana.” It warms my heart to see someone like Bilal, who gained popularity on his own through YouTube and Facebook, get a coveted spot on the show, even though he has not released an album or signed a record deal yet. That’s the best part about Coke Studio. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are as an artist, everyone’s got an equal shot. Bilal’s smooth vocal stylings will be on display with his yet to be released song “To Kya Hua.” The guy is a talented songwriter with a knack for writing melodious hooks – he just might be the breakout star of this season.

Final thoughts – I think the lack of hype is going to work in CS4′s favour and the public will be pleasantly surprised, if not completely bowled over, by the first episode. However, I would urge everyone to consider listening to these songs again, in isolation, long after the episode has aired to really give them a fair chance. Nevertheless, it’s always exciting to see the nation come together for a single event and I’ll be looking forward to the big debates about the show come Monday morning.

Omar Bilal Akhtar

Omar Bilal Akhtar

A musician who studies journalism. He blogs at adpdiaries.blogspot.com

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Annie

    The author is very wrong about Sanam Marvi. She is one of the best things to come out of Coke Studio and her highly underrated vocal stylings can match the best of the best. Mainstream appeal? I think its her lack thereof which has led to her not being noticed. Unlike ADP, who weren’t noticed because of their blegh music….
    Call me an internet troll but if defending talent is trolling, so be it…Recommend

  • Mahwish

    You’re right about season 3 being derided. I would even say it was derided unfairly. When the episodes aired, people showed their disappointment in overwhelming numbers. But those songs grew on people over time. Bibi Sanam Janem, Naina De Akhay, Chori Chori, Mori Araj Suno, Hor Vi Neevan Ho, Nazaar Eyle, Mirza Sahibaan, Soz-e-Ishq, etc did become massive hits over time, as opposed to an instant hit gem like Chambey Di Booti. I think expecting CS to come up with instant hits is not the right way to go for such a show which gives preference to quality over instant blasts, especially ones that you forget after a while. The classics of Coke Studio might take a while growing on you, but they stay with you for a long, long time.

    Episode 1 preview of season 4 does promise to be quite good. I would watch and listen to it with an open mind. I think that’s the only way to treat this incredible show the way it deserves.Recommend

  • now here what we will be misssing
  • Shahrukh kazmi

    I am just waiting for Mizraab to Perform, It is the Most creative band and the most talented band for the season and song they have chosen for the first episode that is so amazing people will surely like it.I hope they do add some progressive metal element too in there performance. Recommend

  • hadia khan

    Komal rizvi sounds as if she has received classical training!!! Really??? She butchered “mujh say pehli see pehli si mohabat”.. She was singing live at Umar Shareef’s show. Recommend

  • sara

    true komal totally butchered “mujh say pehli si muhabbat”, she doesnt sound like a classical trained artist. i hope she does better in CSRecommend

  • Saad Durrani

    Season 3 was just down-right cold. Zeb & Haniya butchered those Persian songs as they mumbled the links with incorrect pronunciations. The only thing worthwhile that came out of Season 4 was Meesha Shafi and Arif Lohar. Sanam Marvi was OK too. EP was downright disappointing.

    Comparing Komal’s act with Chanal with that of Meesha with Lohar is not justified. Meesha and Lohar have been famous where Komal has been seasonal and very few people know about Chanal. I think it is fairly a dangerous move.Recommend

  • sogul

    Finally after 4 years there is a Baluchi element in Coke studios!! I’m looking so much forward to Akhtar Chanaal’s performance – he is creme de la creme of Brahui music! And for those of you who says is unknown – he ain’t unknown in Baluchistan and Sindh! Kudos to Coke Studio Recommend

  • Adnan

    In this session only Faraz Anwar and i think so Bilal Khan is a perfect choice otherwise no one is to be perfect for the coke studio, i think Rohail Hyatt Select other artist just for on popularity basis Recommend

  • Brohi

    @Annie: so true, she is an immensely talented singer. But i dont think we need to defend sanam marvi against someone who likes miserable mizraab sigh.

    “Daaney Pey Daana” (a song which is offensive to millions of people with acne), are we supposed to laugh?Recommend

  • Shahrukh Kazmi

    To The People Who thinks Mizraab is Incompetent please first go and get your facts correct Miraab Lead Guitarist/Vocalist Faraz Anwar’s Autum Madness Solo made it to the top three Among the 2000 the guitarist who were competing in the Guitar Idol, He did not won it but because he never went to the Final round Due to Financial Reasons which was England where he was going to perform in front of the Legendary Guitarist Steve Vai. He also Got the Scholarship Berklee University on the Bases of his Album Untitled.He Was Also Part of the first Pakistani Death Metal Band[DUSK] which was formed Around in 1994 Baber Shaikh was Also the part of it.He is the Only Guitarist Who did session Playing with almost 52 Artists in Pakistan Including NFAK, Sajjad Ali,Vital Signs, Junoon, Ali Haider, Strings and many others. Famous Garaj Baras[Organized], Duur and Bolo bolo Solos are All done by Mr Faraz Anwar thanks to him by keeping the Progressive Metal/Rock Scene Alive In Pakistan and keeping it different from others.

    Try to Respect.

    Thank you.Recommend

  • Sarim Zia

    Good article in terms of prediction. I hope one comes out prior to every episode, just to gauge how on or off your thoughts are. Spot on with Sanam, and quite there with Komal and last season’s formula too. Hope Mizraab turns to what you expect from them. Recommend