Coke Studio 6: Ayesha Omar eclipses two maestros

Published: November 25, 2013

Ayesha Omar gives a classic a Barbie-like twist, ruining the whole song. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY

KARACHI: 

The monotony of Coke Studio becomes more evident with each passing episode. It is not just the overdose of Sufism that is causing problems. It  is the repetitive arrangements, redundant reinterpretations, and above all, the forgettable melodies. One can barely tell the songs apart on the radio, but mesmerising pieces like Laili Jaan are a notable exception. In the latest edition of the popular music show, the listener meets with heavy weights Abrar and Rustam Fateh Ali, both performing songs below their musical talent and capabilities. Then there’s Ayesha Omar, giving us yet another reason to dislike her vocal capabilities. While Rustam’s song is one of a kind, it’s the devastating and almost demeaning disco take on Lagay Rae Nain by Ayesha Omar that unfortunately eclipses the multitude of talent on this episode.

Why Ayesha? Why?

Omar lists the raags she has learnt and elaborates on her long musical journey from the age of nine, only to present us with a flat, mechanical, Barbie version of Lagay Rae Nain. She is not the only one to blame, perhaps we can fault the synthesizers and electronic effects that have been heavily layered over her audio, turning the song it into what she calls a “Sunday drive to the beach song” and Rohail calls “very soulish”.

One thing is for certain; her selection as an artiste on Coke Studio wasn’t in Rohail’s control. The brand probably forced him to bring mainstream, popular faces into the show in order to make it look grand. Whatever it is, Rohail’s limitations as a producer, along with his vision as a music arranger, are quite clear in his modern rendition of the classic thumri. The song sounds more like a remix of a 2000s Bollywood hit than a piece of auditory art by one of the most renowned producers of the sub continent. The song is catchy for all the wrong reasons,  which is why platforms like Coke Studio should be very careful when attempting to reinvent classics like Lagay Rae Nain  — a number that’s been sung by the likes of Hamid Ali Khan and Mehnaz begum, to name a few.

One keeps wondering why Rohail chose Ayesha to perform such a prestigious number, when he already had classicaly trained vocalist like Zara Madani on board. For Ayesha Omar, the lesson is quite simple  — sometimes it takes more than just passion to be recognised.  Either accept that you have vocal limitations and work on them like Zoe Viccaji did, or don’t talk about your classical training in music when you sound flat and unmoving.

Not challenging enough for Abrar

Abrarul Haq makes his Coke Studio debut in this episode with Ishq di Booti, presenting a composition rooted in folk rhythm. When brought onto the Western scale of music, the track finds itself comfortably placed in shades of Jazz and Funk.  The song has an incredible beginning, with the right mix of eeriness and happiness being created by the brass section and the keys, but dies as the song progresses. The song by its very construction has roots in folk tradition. That’s why its melody is repetitive, and doesn’t stay charming to the ears for long. That is also where Rohail fails as an effective produce and arranger, as he doesn’t offer enough musical variety to keep you glued to the melody. Vocally, Abrar has done a great job, but this song doesn’t even come close to the original caliber and range of this Pakistani gem.

Rustam Fateh Ali Khan: Never too late for a genius

Tori Chab by Rustam Fateh Ali Khan and Sumru Ağıryürüyen is a well orchestrated collaboration of a rarely-rendered South Indian Raag called Aboghi Kangra, and the traditional Anatolian classic Kalenin Burcu Muyam. The final product is both haunting and soothing, and the credit for that goes to the beautifully played instruments in the nine minute long song. It is one of the rare songs from the new season where, despite the length of the track, the arrangement has actually worked, and the orchestra doesn’t sound repetitive. The African harp, the Kora, Oud  — alongside what some consider the ancestor of the piano — the Kanun, are the soul of the song.

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What did you think of Ayesha Omer’s Coke Studio debut?

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Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (33)

  • suresh
    Nov 25, 2013 - 9:42PM

    who cares? coke studio pakistan sucks.

    Recommend

  • SHN
    Nov 25, 2013 - 9:45PM

    She needs to stick to acting. Hate when actors suddenly think they are singers, and vice versa. Its two different talents, stick to what you’re good at.

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  • expert whthe
    Nov 25, 2013 - 9:46PM

    Whether it was a thumri or bandish it is debatable but the point is it is horribleRecommend

  • Shamy
    Nov 25, 2013 - 9:48PM

    Agreed, Ayesha Omar has sang a semi classical song with no variations which are a true representation of a classical piece, a very flat and safe performance which does not reflect the raag at all. Not worth singing if that was the case.

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  • English University Professor
    Nov 25, 2013 - 10:07PM

    On the bright side, I teach English
    and I going to use this article for my
    students as an example of irony.

    That was another example of irony.

    Recommend

  • Qubee
    Nov 25, 2013 - 10:23PM

    Sometimes going back to your roots is helpful. Do a kind deed by going back to study basic grammar and writing flow.

    Oh and to the English University Professor, please read the last line of your comment. Can you please, instead of just showing this article, give the link to the students you teach? It might teach them about irony way more than you expect. ;)

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  • legend
    Nov 25, 2013 - 11:20PM

    Someone has let loose the pro coke studio trolls

    Recommend

  • Acorn Guts
    Nov 25, 2013 - 11:42PM

    @English University Professor:
    There there .. feel better now?

    Recommend

  • zoha
    Nov 26, 2013 - 12:08AM

    actually,these kinda things are discouraging the talented ppl.so plz stop making them famous by saying barbie versions.take music as the music,there doesn,t exist any kind ov this version.

    Recommend

  • Bill
    Nov 26, 2013 - 5:29AM

    @ Suresh. What is your problem? Isnt plagiarism the highlight of the junk that India always throws out? N btw it is reflected in India’s coke studio aswell. Like a good Indian drowning insecurely in the face of anything Pakistani! Bravo!

    Recommend

  • Zalmai
    Nov 26, 2013 - 7:17AM

    @ English University Professor

    Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

    Recommend

  • Amer
    Nov 26, 2013 - 8:10AM

    Coke Studio is the best thing to have happened on the Pakistani music scene. It has created awareness of Sufism and traditional music amongst the youth and captivated the older generations with the immense talent in Pakistan. Rohail is talented to the max. Coke Studio also provides a break from the Bollywood music that we are forced to listen to by the local radio stations.
    We need to appreciate Coke Studio for its pioneering work not nit pick and criticise unfairly.

    Recommend

  • Sab33N
    Nov 26, 2013 - 9:48AM

    @suresh:
    Can you please suck it in? This is not an India Pakistan debate and if it were trust me, India would probably loose this one by miles. Coke Studio Pakistan is far more original and tasteful then Coke Studio India not to mention the fact that Coke Studio Pakistan originated before the India version.

    Why do you have to bring your trolling where it does not belong? Poke your Indian nose in matters where you shouldn’t? There are so many Indian trolls on this website that sometimes I actually wonder if everyone across the border is Faarigh .. I mean it makes us wonder if you guys really have any work besides spewing hate!

    Recommend

  • ad
    Nov 26, 2013 - 10:02AM

    Do people still watch this show??Recommend

  • John
    Nov 26, 2013 - 10:19AM

    @Asad K Shaikh:
    The only troll here is @Suresh.

    And I agree with the author, some singing talent is best restricted to the shower.Recommend

  • NS
    Nov 26, 2013 - 10:51AM

    I thought otherwise

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  • Nov 26, 2013 - 12:10PM

    Oh whatever are you talking about Rafay? The second episode is so good that it makes up for the first disappointing one. Ayesha and Abrar have done great. They deserve applause and not criticism.

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  • Acorn Guts
    Nov 26, 2013 - 12:32PM

    @abc: Not for long bub.

    Recommend

  • sachinlilsmurf
    Nov 26, 2013 - 2:08PM

    @ suresh, ha ha ha ha, ever go on youtube on Pak coke studio, indian trolls are compelled to accept Pak greatness. As they cant say anything negative because the music is just too good and of a superior calibre to anything bollywood churns out, they say things like “i wish pakistan and india never seperated”, and “music is for everyone, not just pakistan”…lol, we get your agenda. Go back to Coke Studio 1,2,3,4, and you will see. lol.

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  • Irtiza Nazar
    Nov 26, 2013 - 2:44PM

    Ordinary episode. After Ep 1 the expectations were very high form this season. Ayesha Omar? Seriously?

    Also, how come there are only 3 songs in this Ep?

    Recommend

  • Irtiza Nazar
    Nov 26, 2013 - 2:51PM

    Ordinary episode. After Ep 1 the expectations were very high form this season. Ayesha Omar? Seriously?

    Also, how come there are only 3 songs in this Ep?Recommend

  • Dr. ALE AHMED
    Nov 26, 2013 - 3:49PM

    As a composer n music arranger, ayesha omar song was awesome.. in terms of the feel it gave.. the music arrangement.. the beat… CS isn’t about too many instruments going bang bang.. sometimes we have to accept simplest form of music… after all CS is all about doing something differently… u need to listen to these songs 15-20 times because even thinking or driving any conclusion to any number… let it be ayesha omer, or the amazing fariha pervaiz’s Jogi, or let it be the out of this world “rabba ho”…

    p.s not ever classical song means too many “harkatain” must… and wiki isn’t factual mostly,

    Recommend

  • Parvez
    Nov 26, 2013 - 4:32PM

    Second attempt:
    I detect negative vibes about Ayesha Omar in this write up……. give the girl a break, she’s trying and deserves it.

    Recommend

  • Asad Durani
    Nov 26, 2013 - 5:53PM

    after 200 years, when these seasons will be taught as courses in universities, only then I will ask..

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  • Anjum
    Nov 26, 2013 - 5:54PM

    @Dr. ALE AHMED:
    no wonder you are a composer nobody has heard of when u call such a song amazing hahaha its like ashfaqe malik telling me how it is to be famous, who is ashfaque malik? exactly!

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  • saeed
    Nov 26, 2013 - 7:04PM

    I love self appointed music critics like Rafey who probably have no clue what the good music is..they just have to write something critical because they can….i think coke studio deserves our appreciation for great rendition of classical and Sufi inspired music to this generation…thank you. .Recommend

  • Dr. ALE AHMED
    Nov 26, 2013 - 8:08PM

    @anjum

    i left music in 2007… prior to that the sub continent used to dance on my tunes… though i wont share my work nor real name, .. remember u always have 2 choices, one being troll n dumbo making sure u don’t learn… other choice, learn n evolve…

    the problem with pseudo writers is that, they don’t understand anything.. and write about everything.. while those who know everything, unfortunately rn’t willing to write about.. probably they do understand, people read n write for entertainment merely…

    Recommend

  • Hussain
    Nov 26, 2013 - 9:14PM

    Ayesha omar has done a great job. We should appreciate and encourage her.

    Recommend

  • Zohaib
    Nov 27, 2013 - 12:05AM

    Half a million new Facebook fans for Coke Studio in the last 4 weeks suggests haters are far out-numbered by likers for season 6.. As long as those numbers keep rising, biased articles like this one have the significance of ‘passing wind’ in front of thunder..

    Recommend

  • sensible
    Nov 27, 2013 - 12:43AM

    come on guys. Give her some space. She’s just a beginner. I am sure she can be good singer. People used to say same about atif. Look where he’s now.

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  • Rida
    Nov 27, 2013 - 11:34AM

    I don’t understand why everyone is hating on the writer. She sounds terrible and her voice is probably autotuned and this is clearly Coke Studio trying to stay “current” and “hip” for the masses. Are we this deprived of good female singers in Pakistan that we will pick up anybody who claims they can “sing” and make them a part of something like this? Do not understand this choice at all, Coke Studio!

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  • Aziz
    Nov 27, 2013 - 9:27PM

    Mr. Rafay Mahmood, Ayesha Omar has been acquiring training from the likes of Ustad Rustam Fateh Ali and singing in front of audiences numbering in the thousands for longer than the number of years you have probably spent on this planet. Your analysis of Coke Studio is so skewed with your own personal biases and grudges, not to mention being choked with inherent contradictions that you have literally dug your own grave and may just as well lie in it.

    If her style of singing is what you so “eloquently” termed as “a classic Barbie-like twist,” please show me the just one other member of this so-called Barbie club that has performed a raag in its purely classical form and hit all the sur (notes) spot on, and I’ll show the place where Elvis is still living all alive and well.

    Moreover, your remark of “Ayesha Omar, giving us yet another reason to dislike her vocal capabilities” is exactly what an internet troll would say, whose act of trolling is disliked even in casual chat forums. It is highly lamentable that a prestigious publication such as Express Tribune would allow its feature pages to be used as a personal playground for trolls.

    By the way, what gharana or family of South Eastern classical music performers do you belong to so as to give a verdict of a “devastating and almost demeaning disco take on Lagay Rae Nain”! Ustad Rustam Fateh Ali, belonging to the Patiala Gharana, is the foremost authority on how Laage Re Nain should be sung and done justice to. His participation and association with his protégé in this episode of Coke Studio is proof enough of Ayesha’s unwavering command over the intricacies of classical music and her subsequent impressive performance.

    All this boils down to is that hissy fits should be reserved for one’s “Dear Diary” and not be made public so as invite the men in white coats to come and take one away.

    Recommend

  • UM
    Dec 2, 2013 - 9:06PM

    @RafayMahmood
    Can you for a moment praise something?
    Hate it when people like you try to proclaim themselves as the authority on everything.
    We get it you run out of stuff to write on so you take the easier road and criticize something you’re yourself incapable of doing.
    Better learn to highlight the positives than being stuck on the negatives.

    Recommend

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