Coke Studio vs Nescafe Basement - is there a winner?
Finally, the most awaited season of Coke Studio is on air. However, like last year, it seems like Coke Studio has not been able to ignite the same interest in people like it did in the first two seasons. Having said that, with just one episode on air, it is probably too early to determine the success of this season.
What is different this time however, is that Coke Studio seems to have competition – and that too, young and fresh competition – in the form of Nescafe Basement. This show has been produced by Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan, better known as Zulfi, who used to be a part of Entity Paradigm (EP) and is currently in the band Call. Moreover, Nescafe Basement centres around artists under the age of 22.
A social media war seems to have broken out between fans of Coke Studio and supporters of Nescafe Basement.
@Rimshakhan_ Coke studio and nescafe basement are different. Thats why!— Osman Kasim (@uqkhan) November 7, 2013
Nescafé basement is daring, exciting and fresh....coke studio ageing slowly!!— Sadaf Khan (@skhan38) November 6, 2013
Nescafe Basement has exposed Coke Studio. CS is producing same crap over and over.— Hasan Shahzad (@hasanshahzad) November 5, 2013
Intrigued by this battle of the fans, I decided to watch episodes of both shows back-to-back and having done so, I have a better understanding of why there seems to be a growing preference for Nescafe Basement over Coke Studio.
Below are some of my observations regarding some tracks from both shows:
Khayal by Umair Jaswal
This has to be my favourite song so far, perhaps because I am more into the classic rock genre. The use of the rhythm guitar and drums has a definite Led Zeppelin feel which takes you back to the classic 70s era. Moreover, the melody of the strings in the background makes the song grow on you after a couple of listens. Of course, Umair’s vocals are absolutely superb as always, with smooth high pitches towards the end of the track. Unfortunately, although it is beautifully produced, rock music has still not caught up to the masses in Pakistan.
Babu Bhai –Ali Azmat
Ali Azmat, the man who needs no introductions, came up with a song called Babu Bhai which carries a very crucial message. With a pop-funk based feel, mixed with some electronic elements, the song has a great beat, but once again has a very western feel in terms of production. However, the end chorus with its multiple harmonies is quite innovative and even a bit of a tongue twister. Give it a try and see if you can sing it. Good luck!
Now, let’s see what Nescafe Basement has to offer us.
Ankhiyan – Hamza Tanveer
Remember the super hit sung by Fuzon? Well, it has been re-hashed by young Hamza Tanveer. It is my guess that the original is so popular that listeners would immediately connect to the new version. The arrangement by Zulfi has done justice to the track and overall it is very catchy. Moreover, the young vocalist has done a decent job of trying to step into Shafqat Amanat Ali’s huge shoes.
Tere Ishq Mein – Various Artists
I have always loved the classic sung by Allan Fakir and Mohammad Ali Shaikhi and listening to it on Nescafe Basement made me very nostalgic. Since pretty much everyone who hears it can relate to it, the song hardly faces any acceptance barrier. Credit goes to Zulfi’s production for keeping the soulful Sufi element of the track intact while doing the adaptation.
Which show is better?
As a musician myself, with some experience in production, I believe that the two shows are not comparable. Also, how can one compare art when each listener derives his/her own meaning from music that they listen to?
Although Coke Studio has been the pioneer in the country to launch shows of this kind, its main focus has been on producing new tracks by established artists. Moreover, this season it has also received criticism for collaborating with musicians from abroad and not giving enough of a chance to local musicians – which seemed to be the objective behind the show initially. However, this is just the sixth season of the show, people! If after five seasons, they have brought in some foreign artists, then let’s take it as a breath of fresh air and enjoy the music.
On the other hand, Nescafe Basement has done well with its first episode featuring revamped hit tracks, which already improves the chances of acceptability and appreciation by listeners. During a conversation with Zulfi, I found out that the upcoming episodes will also carry some original tracks.
Although Nescafe Basement deserves praise for providing a platform to the youth and bringing something new to the industry, I feel that neither Coke Studio nor Nescafe Basement have provided enough support to all the musicians who deserve to be on such shows.
We have talented musicians like Shallum Xavier, Aamir Zaki, Meekal Hasan, Adnan Afaq, Nabeel Nihal (who used to be in Aaroh), who have not been given their due credit yet. Hopefully, the upcoming seasons will include a mix of new talent with old experienced musicians.
If you ask me, I personally enjoy both Coke Studio and Nescafe Basement, because each show brings with it its own individual flavour. I grew up listening to Rohail Hyatt as a kid, while during my teens Zulfi opened a whole new dimension of music for me with his work in EP. I respect both, Rohail Hyatt and Zulfi for their brilliant contributions to the world of music in Pakistan. Of course, having a close friend as the drummer in Nescafe Basement does tilt my loyalties just a little!
Jokes aside, I think both shows have their strengths and weaknesses and it would be better if people appreciate the diversity that each has to offer.
Thank you, Coke Studio and Nescafe Basement for giving us melodious sanctuary.
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