Posted in culture, music, pakistan

Reasoning the Aesthetic of Coke Studio

makli-1 I am not a fan of soft drinks and many of us know about their health hazards and the water mafia as well. At least some of their undeserved money is spend on goodness named Coke Studio. We all have been a big fan of the platform, no matter how much criticism it receives. Last season, it also had its share of highs and lows but in the end we enjoyed most of it forgetting our baseless complains and whining.

Thoughts about Episode One – Reason
The first episode talks more about the mystical experiences of life and somehow not about Reason. I would have preferred it named as Intuition. The music though is top-notch.

Na Raindee Hai
This year, Coke Studio starts with the never done before element > Poetry Recital is a Persian oratory form coupled with musical instrumentation. Many critics have asked this question several time that why mystics had to share their experiences provocatively and get into trouble. Hallaj, Bulleh Shah (the poet of Na Raindee Hai) and other mystics who uttered their soul out didn’t have any choice – it was a God will for that era; this is being explained and soulfully executed in recital by Arieb Azhar. His diction and expression in delivery is powerful. The music creates the perfect trippy atmosphere perfected with lighting at studio; all the musicians and especially backup vocalists have outdone themselves. One of my friends who isn’t much into experimental music has become a fan of this piece due to Arieb’s meticulous reciting style.

The best moment: Smile after ‘je yaar na rakhiya razi’ which ends the song.


Abida Parveen takes on the stage who’s presence this year is the most celebrated one among audience. Her impeccable, passionate and fluid rendition of Ramooz-e-Ishq is the best I’ve heard – excluding my experience of listening her live without any instruments in small room with few audience. That was intimate soulfulness. While Abida Parveen is in her usual style, the band gives the song a unique instrumentation in a subtle manner (I must say their honor to play with such a gem) which lifts the experience without letting listener noticing much; that’s what sufi feel is all about. It just intutively goes into your heart and melts it. Lyrics makes you die with love.The cinematography is worth mentioning as it is as smooth as her rendition, highlighting expressions of the house band members but the real charm is in capturing singer’s hand movements. The song ends in crescendo of reciting Ya-Ali and drops as if it went eternal. Did someone notice the beautifully handwritten reference pages for lyrics?

The best moment: The sigh at the end of 6th minute; 05:55 to be exact.

Alif Allah Chambay Di Booty
The shocker of the episode for sure. Arif Lohar in his joyful jugni (spirit) as ever and displays his powerful voice. Meesha is a delight whenever she comes on mike, the folk rock vocals are to die for. And the contagious groove (along with Meesha’s attitude and the red lipstic is a visual treat), what else do you want. Proud Desi-ness replaces club culture.

The best moment: Dum Gutkoon (my heart flutters)

When I heard that Karavan would be on Coke Studio’s third season, I thought why are they here in the first place. The moment Tanseer takes the first note, I am spell-bounded. He does a great job with vocals and has matured in his singing, although you can’t deny that backing vocals did help much too. The soft rock music by band gives the song a nostalgic feel as reflected in lyrics as well.

The best moment: Actually none. Okay if I have to mention something, backup vocals in interlude.

Bibi Sanam Janem
Zeb and Haniya ends the episode with their punk version of a love song originating from Herat province of Afghanistan. If you hear the original, you might not be that gaga over it, at least I wasn’t but Coke Studio version is the pomegranate flavored.

Bibi sanam janem, anaar-e-sisstanem
Ba darwazae tajh quran jayee sanam janem

My love, you are like the sweet pomegranate of Sistan
Your being borders on the divine, my love

The song starts with Sadiq Sameer on Rubab and you wonder is it another ‘Paimona’ but once keys on keyboard starts hitting you know it’s not. The house band is all in for groove and to surprise rubab fits in perfectly with all other instruments without asking for undue attention. Mannu gets the attention here with his bass. Violin has been use minimally but with such force between main verses that its delightful. Zeb’s vocals are like honey and her persian accent is heavenly peaches. The mukhda is club like where antaras are more traditional, still they blend perfectly. Fortunately, it ends the episode and you are dancing way till the end credits and who knows even after it, surely a high-note! 🙂

The best moment: The ending thirty seconds of the song.


What was missing: I couldn’t make out the sound of different instruments in most tracks, very unlike Coke Studio 2. Somewhat vocals got overpowering at some places. I wanted to enjoy these sounds and appreciate quality of each musician. I want balance between vocals and instrumentation; not between instruments themselves. Keyboard and drums are the strongest elements in Coke Studio but here I wasn’t able to appreciate Zaidi’s work distinctively as instruments got lost in harmony. I hope it makes sense.

What has improved: Song selection, audio and video quality. Above all VARIETY.



a coffee addict/ optimist sun flower/ can't-live-without-50mm photographer/ writing enthusiast/ [an almost inexistent] paper cookie smasher/ orange things collector/ wishes he had two antennas on the head; ps: philosophy-pistachio & educational technologist. to sound little proper: A self-taught, internationally published, photographer who loves to write/blog and read while breathing philosophy in between. Graduate of M.Ed. in Teacher Education with High Honors from Aga Khan University and currently works at the same university as Education Designer for Blended Learning. Candidate for Social Innovation in Digital Context (SIDC) at Lunds Universitet funded by Swedish Institute. Action Partner for Oxfam International Youth Partnership 2010-2013 led by Oxfam Australia. To cut the conversation short, an optimistic realist who believe in designing his life to fulfill dreams while sipping countless cups of coffee! I hope this makes some sense.

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