Coke Studio episode 5 is a bag of mixed surprises

Published: September 16, 2016
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The musical dose should definitely last for a week I hope. Else, you can always go back to Afreen Afreen or Paar Chanaa De.

I would put down Coke Studio’s episode five as a bag of mixed surprises. I must confess that it did take some time for the compositions to sink in, but gradually, I have developed a liking for most of the tracks now. I call this an ‘overdose syndrome.’

With such an overdose of great music, one finds themselves in a dilemma. Perhaps, if I had listened to some of these compositions independently, I would have developed an instant liking towards them. But with excellent precedents such as Afreen Afreen and Man Kunto Maula, one is cautious in choosing a new favourite.

However, the more you listen to these compositions, the more you appreciate the effort and the quality of the outcome. So, perhaps, this post is to help those sitting on the fence to delve a little more into these compositions and appreciate the creativity. In general, most of the compositions in this episode have an interesting vocal melody. There is a good experiment in terms of raag and a fusion of contrasting vocal textures.

Jhalliya

Javed Bashir has come up with a masterly vocal performance, displaying his range, singing style, soulfulness and effortless variations all packaged in a single performance by the name of Jhalliya.

While an outstanding performance from Javed is not unexpected, what did come as a pleasant surprise were Masooma Anwar’s vocals. An open and bold sound, with a Sufi touch, she managed to give Javed good competition in terms of the listeners’ attention span. Also, I loved the poetry recitation part. Somehow, this concept goes quite well with songs of this genre – remember Mori Araj Suno by Tina Sani? Shahzad Nawaz’s heavy, bass-filled voice goes extremely well with the music.

Coming to the arrangement, this composition has a soft rock-Sufi feel to it with good fusion of instruments. Faakhir Mehmood has done a wonderful job in putting this arrangement together. The base foundation of the arrangement is on the creative bass line and electric guitars give the rock-like feel, while the dholak throughout and banjo at places bring about a classical feel. The banjo interlude at 04:31 is an interesting addition in between the vocals.

The strings section adds a beautiful dimension in places, especially at the latter half of the composition – for example the beautiful filler at 02:31 that carries forward the melody from where Javed left. The backing vocalists too, do a wonderful job overall. At places they accompany the main vocalist and at another instance they sing in off-scale, harmonising with the main melody subtly.

The composition climaxes beautifully with Masooma, and the backing vocalists sing the chorus while Javed does a flawless sargam to end on a high note. Overall, this is a very pleasant composition, inviting you to listen to it repeatedly and cherish the various layers Faakhir has very creatively put together.

Shamaan Pai Gaiyaan/Kee Dam Da Bharosa

One thing Coke Studio quite easily manages to do is to bring together vocalists who contrast and complement each other very well. Be it Ali Azmat, Javed Bashir, Rahat-Momina or Ahmed Jahanzeb-Umair Jaswal, the list goes on. The same is true of this composition too.

Kashif Ali brings soulfulness, while Rachel Viccaji brings power, and Shiraz Uppal with his beautiful arrangement is able to stitch together a musical delight.

Kashif actually reminds me of Mulazim from last season, who also had a husky texture and conveyed emotions (especially the pain) of the composition beautifully through his vocals. On the other hand, Rachel, the relatively shorter one among the backing vocalist trio, stands tall here with her power-packed performance. Her amazing stability and texture with lower notes and energetic throw at the higher pitch sections is indeed a goose bump-inducing performance. She also brings in a unique feel with her Western style falsetto vocals at various places.

The composition clearly has two distinct arrangements – one for the soulful Kashif’s part and the other for the rock-like Rachel’s part, which alternates stunningly in this concocted fusion. Kashif’s part is primarily on the keys and acoustic guitar which sets the chord structure. Flute interludes every now and then create a mesmerising feel, while the strings and choral section fill the air beautifully.

Rachel’s part is completely driven by electric guitars and the bass line, aided by the drums and shifts the genre to a rock number. There are many instrumental improvisations in the whole track; the bass-hammering by at 04:40, the electric guitar intro riff before Rachel’s part at 03:25 and the beautiful build up in end where all instruments come together – flute, strings, guitars and drums.

The melody is incredible. Co-incidentally, both the tracks have been previously sung by Naseebo Lal. There is slight convergence in the melodic patterns between the two compositions which the composer used to weave the two pieces together cleverly.

The first part is primarily on the major scale, but the usage of komal dha and komal ni at the end of chorus parts, gives a totally different feel, which coincides with the second song, thus enabling the fusion. The second song uses the komal dha and ni notes exquisitely, which makes me wonder whether it’s raag charukeshi.

I would love to know your thoughts on this.

Overall this composition is a smart fusion at various levels including melody, genre, instrumentation, vocalist style and energy levels. Rachel is a pleasant revelation in this one and Kashif is a great introduction to this platform. I hope that we see more of them in the coming times. I would definitely advise you to listen to this multiple times in order to appreciate this fusion.

Sadaa

Sadaa is a delight for classical aficionados and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan makes sure he displays all the text-book classical nuances in a single performance. Be it sargams, taans, a tarana, subtle harkats, alaaps and a beautiful jugal-bandi with the dhol throughout, as he synchs to its beat.

The arrangement is quite contemporary with the use of bass, guitars and drums throughout, along with the dhol. The strings section shows up during interludes and during the antara. There is also a brief sitar portion towards the end. Overall, it is a diverse arrangement which needs to be appreciated carefully underneath Rahat’s powerful rendition.

Melodically, the composition (originally created by Rahat himself) has beautifully used komal ga and komal ni throughout, creating magic yet again, if it’s from kaafi thaat in terms of the raag. What is also noteworthy in the arrangement is the creative use of percussions and enjoyable experimentation with beat time-signatures. Shani Arshad, the composer also mentions this in the BTS video.

Maybe this is not the kind of song that I can listen to on repeat anytime of the day, but this will definitely go into my classical-fusion playlist for frequent hearings.

Main Raasta

When variety, fusion and experimentation is more of a rule than an exception, a one-off attempt to get through with a clichéd pop-rock composition perhaps doesn’t seem enough for this platform. And, that seems to be the problem with Main Raasta.

The composition is indeed quite catchy, but not the kind you have not heard before. It’s on your typical major-scale-four-chord combination. The use of bass-line is quite creative and something I loved instantly. There is also your customary lead guitar interlude which is brilliantly done. I think the brief cameo by Momina Mustehsan (appearing to play the lead guitar) was unnecessary. Personally, I felt the composition became somewhat chaotic in the end with way too many voices adding to the chorus. It reminded me of With Or Without You at 04:12.

Did anyone else feel that as well?

The starting guitar patch clearly reminded me of Michael Jackson’s Black and White which Ali Noor actually acknowledges in the BTS video. The scale transposition is quite interesting, but I would rate the one in Jaane Na Tu higher than this.

Overall, it is a number that’ll definitely grow on you if you like this genre. But it is definitely an average number in relative terms, compared to the other tracks in this episode.

Largely, this was not a disappointing episode for sure and mind you, achieving something like this is no small feat given some of the masterpieces that have emerged this season. The musical dose should definitely last for a week I hope. Or else, you can always go back to Afreen Afreen or Paar Chanaa De.

Srikanth Prabhu

Srikanth Prabhu

The author is an investment professional based out of Bangalore. In his free time he is an aspiring musician and a recently turned blogger. He tweets as @PrabhuKeDarshan (twitter.com/PrabhuKeDarshan)

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