Coke Studio Season 6 Music Review - A Musical Fusion of East and West


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Coke Studio Season 6 Music Review - A Musical Fusion of East and West
Much hyped Coke Studio Season 6 is finally here; starting acts are impressive but the show that was brought to its true epitome by raw Pakistani talent; the sudden addition of L'Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio and other western elements for me came as somewhat of a disappointment since it was one show that was meant to be a Pakistani pipe-dream for true music evolution, a show meant to jam infrastructure of the society and raise everyone’s eyes from child to mother; as was hoping to see more of versatile Pakistani musicians getting their due air time. Anyways hate getting political but thankful that familiar faces of Asad Ahmed, Ali Zaidi,Mannu, Momo, Sikandar Mufti and Viccaji sisters are still there.

Laage Re Nainaan Tum Se by Ayesha Omar – Episode 2: A nice little track with an atmospheric multi instrumental twinkling, a soulful bass-line backed by silky vocals. For me Ayesha Omar had an impacting touch since didn’t really believe that she had it in her considering her career as a vocalist up to this point; she does appear to be a bit flat on couple of occasions but considering the emotional prowess behind the lyrics and superb instrumentation soothes the soul.

Ayesha Omar connects with the basics this Season with ‘Laage Re Nain’. Based on the early evening raag Bhopali, the song’s composition has manifested in the form of an easy listening experience with a chilled out vibe and a catchy tune – making it a song that’s quick to bob your head to. A raag that she had learnt at the age of 9, Ayesha feels that this experience now transports her to her childhood, as this was one of the earliest raags she had learnt. Composed in the ancient sub-continental language of Poorbi, the verses speak of classic love, mirroring the restlessness that comes with being in love across distance. While the yearning does tug at the heart, the experience in this song is not one of sadness, it is a celebration of being in love and fully experiencing all the feelings associated with the state in true bliss. While the lyrics are reminiscent of folklore, the verses thematically express the perpetual state of search we find ourselves in while all along the way; the true voice of Love is within. While the overall composition stems from Eastern Classical origins, the feel of the song finds itself well placed with the mountain music of Nepal – a connect that begs to dive in further to discover the harmony with the Zen of Buddhist musical influences. The groovy sunshine feel of the song, performed by the band in Serbia, meets influences from Nepal such as the Flute coupled with the calming quality of bells.

Language: Poorbi
Vocalist: Ayesha Omar



Ishq Di Booṭi by Abrar-ul-Haq – Episode 2: Abrar-ul-Haq has jumped to the very genre that suits him the best and that is to give his vocals to the mystics of this realm in pursue of divinity but sadly how saintly lyrically this track for me fails to create that blissful state that it so very desires. The opening involving resonating piano with funky drums and saxophone riddled angelic ambition fails to compliment the lyrics to follow. A few occasions during the track that has this haunting expression as one with 4 minutes into the track where most of the instruments finally stop the noise they were making other than that for me it was a onetime listen.

This Season Abrar-ul-Haq presents a composition rooted in folk rhythm which when brought onto the Western scale of music finds itself comfortably placed in shades of Jazz and Funk. The overall song demonstrates conflicting sentiments in that the wordings express a prayer in the name of self-actualization bordering between happy musical accents and the eternally present sad undertone. Lyrically the song as written by Abrar speaks of inner growth and the process accompanied on the journey within beginning with Intent. As the song progresses, he uses verses by Sufi poets to symbolize the link between this world and the next asking what it really is that we carry with us into the oblivion. Thematically, the verses speak of the gift of true self-actualization lying in the idea of self-negation. The song is one that is personal to Abrar as he feels it demonstrates his relationship with God, the world and his own existence. Musically, the song’s conflicting tones find a form of whimsical harmony between the instrumental elements by the Serbian House Band alongside the Dhol beat of the Dhol Group and the percussive accents of Morocco while the Serbian String Orchestra, in true subtlety, bring the underlying melancholy of the song to the foreground all the while staying true to the scale presenting a rich mix of fusion .

Language: Punjabi
Vocalist: Abrar-ul-Haq



Tori Chab and Kalenin Burcu Muyam by Rustam Fateh Ali Khan and Sumru Ağıryürüyen – Episode 2: The feeling that I get from this Coke Studio is that Rohail Hayat is looking to have his name in Guinness Book of World Records as a composer of an album that has every language and every instrument of this world; the reason I am sounding a bit harsh is not for the quality of music its superb no doubt and the mixing too is out of this world but this is one show I look forward to for all this time and I need one track to have something simplistic instrumentally involving The House Band, you know get back to the basics to have the people and the music that made the beast of the show that it is today.

As we delve further into the layers of the world’s many cultures to experience its hidden connect points, this Season, Coke Studio sees the union of what would appear to be sounds from different parts of the globe – but with the ever inherent Universality found in the theme of Love. The song itself begins with an expression of the rare South Indian raag known as Abhogi Kangra – a raag rooted in a 5000 year old history and is unique due to its structure. Due to its scale being so different, very little work has been done with the ancient raag, something that Rustam Fateh Ali Khan now feels is something worth presenting to exhibit a feel that is one of a kind and thereby create a sound that, with the accompaniment of contemporary sounds, cements the raag’s influence in modern day music. As the song progresses, we travel to Turkey to connect with a rendition by Sumru Ağıryürüyen of the traditional Anatolian classic that is ‘Kalenin Burcu Muyam’. Lyrically, the verses of both pieces talk of Love demonstrating the similarities in culture not just in theme but also in words. ‘Tori Chab – Kalenin Burcu Muyam’ is an experience of a multitude of influences as demonstrated through the instrumentation of the Serbian House Band and String Orchestra coupled with the enchanting African harp – the Kora and the Oud in Morocco alongside what some consider as the ancestor of the piano – the Kanun in Turkey.

Language: Braj & Turkish
Vocalist: Rustam Fateh Ali Khan and Sumru Ağıryürüyen



Khayaal by Umair Jaswal – Episode 1: A mastermind riff forms the background of this superb rock oriented track; something which has been neglected for sometime now in favour of maintaining tradition with folk sounding Coke Studio. As with this Coke Studio which involves a multi instrumental strategy this track for me is extremely refined with melodies concentrated and rhythms calculated and everything fits in brilliantly with the highly skilled vocals. A minute drawback is not so catchy sequencing of the verse structure since lyrically you end up wanting more or just waiting for the chorus part but Umari Jazwal does an admirable job showing incredible passion with his strained vocals but yet again where is the HOUSE BAND??

Language: Urdu
Vocalist: Umair Jaswal



Babu Bhai by Ali Azmat – Episode 1: Ok now for me this track quite doesn’t work out, was looking for a more orthodox performance from Ali Azmat as we have known him over the years and from Coke Studio Season 1 but looks like years of doping has finally done his job; is it just me or he looks extremely confused out there. Maturity in music is quite not so complimenting as well, more of a funky bass-line would have sounded more appropriate. I do wanted to hear more of twangy and bouncy guitars for this specific type of lyrics with someone going all wa-wa on a Fender because sometimes I feel with Coke Studio over emphasis of musical geniosity leaves the song dull.

Language: Urdu
Vocalist: Ali Azmat



Rabba Ho by Sain Zahoor Featuring Sanam Marvi – Episode 1: Musical arrangement of this track is highly complex and wonderfully druggy in nature; the double bass effect filling the background gives a unique psychedelic touch to the track; the track is harmonious for the initial part as you can relate to the beat pattern but as Sanam Marvi steps in the instruments go haywire; the track becomes overdubbed with instruments making it so intricate at time amazing the listener with brilliance and at times giving away the feel that too many cooks have spoiled the broth; but one thing is for sure Sain Zahoor was a bit underutilized for this track.

Language: Urdu & Punjabi
Vocalist: Sain Zahoor Featuring Sanam Marvi



Laili Jaan by Zeb & Haniya: Now this track incorporates many ear pleasing changes and has been significantly sped up as compared to original by Ahmad Zahir. The track has this delightful bouncy feeling to it added by the percussionist; complimenting it is the beat keeping sax with popping keyboards on top but for me the intro on rubab is dreamy. This groovy bassline is encapsulated by the delicate tone of vocals but the ending could have been much better composed as I get the feeling of being rushed into the song.

‘Laili Jaan’ is a song that took the world of Afghan Pop by storm in the 70’s by a man who is considered as the King of Afghan music – Ahmad Zahir. While Afghanistan is known for its wealth of heritage music, Zahir contributed towards creating a legacy of Pop and Rock music that mirrored Elvis Presley, which led him to be regarded as the ‘Elvis of Afghanistan’. The song talks about classic heartbreak – with just the right amount of pleasure in the experience of love that accompanies the sorrow of heartbreak. A song that represents the tragedy of love lost with a comical tinge, the feel of contrasting emotions comes through in the way that our aggrieved lover puts on a brave face to smile through the agony of heartbreak. This Season Zeb & Haniya take on the song as an ode to Ahmad Zahir as well as reimagining the song through the female perspective of a song sung by a man. The song is reminiscent of a time where the rich tunes of Afghan music prevailed in various parts of the world and had become a huge part of growing up in cities like Peshawar – something Zeb and Haniya remember fondly from their childhood days. Flash forward to 2013 and the duo bring to the song a gypsy feel that is complemented by the instrumentation performed by L’Orchestra di Piazza Vittorio – a modern sound that meets the tone of rhythm and blues with an added layer of jazz.

Language: Dari
Vocalist: Zeb
Semi-Acoustic Guitar: Haniya Aslam
Guitars: Emanuele Bultrini - Italy
Sax: Peppe D’Argenzio - Italy
Basses: Pino Pecorelli - Italy
Piano and Keyboards: Leandro Piccioni - Italy
Percussion: Pap Yeri Samb - Senegal
Percussion: Raul Scebba - Argentina
Kora: Kaw Dialy Madi Sissoko - Senegal
Oud: Ziad Trabelsi - Tunisia
Rubab: Siddiq Kamash
Dholak: Babar Ali Khanna
Backing Vocals: Rachel Viccaji & Zoe Viccaji



Jogi by Fariha Pervez featuring Muazzam Ali Khan: Now this track definitely steps into the full-fledged multi-instrumental territory; I can’t even pick the number of instruments featured in this track and to bring all these instruments together to form a very catchy track for me is a remarkable achievement. In all honesty never have been a big fan of Fariha Pervez, apologies but would have preferred one of the backing vocals take center stage for this one (listen from 01:15 to 01:26) the backing vocals are heart touching. Coming back to the instruments and the composition the track has this must listen combination of dhol and drums with a backing synth element (listen from 05:02 to 05:22) but the brass instruments doesn’t quite cut out they sound pitch perfect but lack an emotional feelings one associates with eastern instruments as they relate with lyrics knowing that each note is planned but still folk track backed by Pakistani musicians on istruments cannot be outdone.

Opening Season 6’s many different flavors and elements, is ‘Jogi’ - a song that brings the funk and groove of Western Brass elements to Qawwali. While open to interpretation, the song talks of connecting with the ever elusive ‘Jogi’, and in this process the underlying theme of recognizing what lies beyond the surface of who we are and connecting with that Source. In what appears to be a whimsical conversation created by the Sufi poet Baba Bulleh Shah, the Qawwali showcases the female perspective of a moment in an imaginary story – the moment when we witness the complete submission to the Love within when in the pursuit of Love’s many worldly manifestations. A story told many times in folklore, it represents an awakening when Love is found as a result of experiencing the Self alongside the contrasting shades of Beauty and Tragedy that accompany such a feeling. The vocals are delivered with the subtle power of Fariha Pervez and are accompanied by variations provided by none other than the Qawwal himself – Muazzam Ali Khan. Bringing to the mix the jazz and reggae feels of Western instrumentation is the Serbian House Band alongside a Brass Section that creates a tune that’s got a unique groovy quality. Adding a layer of melancholy while on the search for the Jogi is a String Orchestra from Serbia that creates the feeling of longing in the face of all the worldly liveliness. Tying up the beat is our very own Dhol group faintly providing the essential Punjabi Folk element.

Language: Punjabi

Brass Section:

  • Trumpet: Milos Nikolic
  • Alto Sax: Aleksandar Petkovi
  • Tenor Sax: Nikola Demonja
  • Trombone: Mladen Lukic
  • Baritone Sax: Bojan Vukelic

String Orchestra:

  • I Violins: Tijana Milosevic
  • I Violins: Mirjana Neskovic
  • I Violins: Ksenija Milosevic
  • I Violins: Jelena Dimitrijevic
  • II Violins: Selena Jakovljevic
  • II Violins: Jelena Dragnic
  • II Violins: Tamara Zivkovic
  • Violas: Ivana Uzelac
  • Violas: Aleksandra Damjanovic
  • Cellos: Julijana Markovic
  • Cellos: Uros Zikic
  • Acoustic Upright: Srdjan Djordjevic

Serbia House Band:

  • Piano, Keyboards: Goran Antovic
  • Guitar: Branko Trijic
  • Bass, Electric Upright: Dejan Antovic
  • Drums: Jovan Satric

Dhol Group:

  • Babar Ali Khanna
  • Zeeshan Haider
  • Irfan Ali
  • Salman Javed



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