KARACHI: It has been over eight years since the Coke Studio logo flickered on Pakistani TV screens for the first time. Few would questionthe show’s phenomenal success thateven made a few Indians offer Kashmir inexchange for Rohail Hyatt’s brainchild.However, things are no more the same.
India now has a Coke Studio of its own whose lead the Pakistani version is now set to follow. Two years ago, Hyatt hung up his boots for good and passed on the reins to Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia of Strings.
Today, 57 songs later, the band has moved up the hierarchy and made room for six new producers, each to belt out episodesof their own.
With the show awaiting fresh blood to take the legacy forward, The Express Tribune spoke to industry heavyweights about what they think the future holds for the show.
“The initial success of Coke Studio lay in the fact that we had an ensemble of producers joining forces. People like Asad Ahmed, Omran Shafique and I used to work in coordination,”
says drummer Gumby. “Hyatt did hold the reins but the show had our input as well.” The musician feels, “it is ridiculous that a single producer churns out 25 to 30 songs alone.” According to Gumby, there are two kinds of producers. “There is a guidance producer and then there are those who tell you what to play.” He feels several producers working at once will give the show quality.
Atif Aslam is undoubtedly one of the big stars of Coke Studio. lthough he will not be part of the upcoming season, Atif thinks the multiple producer approach should have kicked in long ago. “I think monotony is creeping into its sound and it would be unfair to expect one producer to create different styles of music that appeal to all kinds of audiences,” he says. Citing the example of the Shiraz Uppal-produced Tajdare-Haram, he said tracks like these prove that the formula works.
Jal front man Goher Mumtaz is one who stands by Strings. “I don’t dislike their work. Coke Studio’s job is to give you hits and it is still doing that. Tajdar-e-Haram, Rockstar were both hits.” However, he says the show is in dire need of diversity. “I think the show needs to evolve visually. Every producer should be given the freedom to give his own audio-visual treatment to the brand,” Goher says. However, the singer-songwriter maintains that fans care little about the nuts and bolts. “They just want to listen to new music. I think the show that gave an identity to many and helped resurrect the careers of others should keep on giving.”
Farhad Humayun, who took charge of the drums on the show’s fifth season said, “If you want my honest opinion, I really don’t care. I think the show has come to a saturation point. You cannot squeeze more out of it.” Farhad concurs with Goher that Strings haven’t done badly. “But you see the same type of music is being regurgitated for years. It no more leaves an impression on you like it used to back in the day.”
Former Qayaas vocalist Umair Jaswal is of the view that every year, out of the 28-30 songs that are put out, only 4 to 7 turn out to be hits. “Even if every producer gives you two hits, you have 12 which is a big umber.
I am not against it. They can go for it, ” he says. Khalid Khan says he has been advocating the approach for a very long time. “We have a small music industry and it is important that everyone gets a hance.” The former Coke Studio bassist adds that if there are six producers, there should also be sixguitarists, six drummers and six bassists on board. “It is the only way forward for the industry. We get to see styles of different producers,” says the musician.
The arrival of Coke Studio also saw other corporate entities flex muscles and respond to the show’s overpowering appeal. Ufone churned out Uth Records and Pepsi produced the rather short-lived Pepsi Smash. Nescafe Basement was one such venture that stood the test of time and gathered a cult following of its own. Its boss Xulfi also feels Coke Studio needs to diversify. “It has been eight seasons like this. This [multiple-producer approach] worked in India as well. We have more variety in our industry than theirs,” he adds. The Call front man states, “I don’t say that Coke Studio’s music is irrelevant. But the new format will add to its relevance and make the sound more modern.”
But then there are those who disagree in principle with the way things are going. “I think Coke should shut the show down and invest somewhere else,” says music producer Faisal Rafi. He feels the only cure for the show’s banality is bringing Hyatt back. But wouldn’t that mean going back to Season 6? “Creative people are remembered for their successes. Not all of Christopher Nolan’s films have turned out to be hits.
This doesn’t mean he is a bad film-maker,” Faisal asserts. He goes on to state that the multiple-producer idea, if implemented, will be the last nail in the coffin. “Producers are selfish people. They wouldn’t want others to share their limelight.”
Coke Studio 9 guest producers
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2016.