Coke Studio 9: The collaborations are not working out

Published: August 20, 2016
Second episode explains why Batman prefers to work alone.

Second episode explains why Batman prefers to work alone. PHOTO: COKE STUDIO

This was not intended to be a eulogy to the genius we call Javed Bashir. However, having heard the second episode of Coke Studio 9, to us it sounds like a fine idea which we shall address in a bit.

With only eight songs out, the season has so far introduced 14 singers in a slew of the most random of collaborations. Creative choices are creative because they share a causal relationship with each other. Perhaps this is what creates the final product anew. With these two episodes, it is either the total absence of a plan or the simultaneous implementation of several that is telling us that things do not look good.

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Meesha Shafi was handed a solo performance that explored her strengths. However, the show aptly restored balance to the universe by bringing yet another female vocalist-cum-prop in the shape of Momina Mustehsan. The remaining two tracks had a lot of promise and a lot of singers as well.

Man Kunto Maula

Javed Bashir has have given us yet another opportunity to wax lyrical about his unparalleled abilities, this time with even more vigour. There is perhaps no other way of saying this: he is the apotheosis of the Pakistani music industry.

Amir Khusrow’s doorsill is one where every musical giant of ours visits at least once, to pay respects. Almost 700 years have gone by and the Qaul still does not get old.
Javed Bashir here has done what Atif Aslam and Riaz Ali Khan couldn’t do together in Season 2.

Ali Azmat’s bits are difficult to digest; we have never in the past heard a rock manqabat that makes us wonder if it really is what the lyrics want to say it is. In an ideal world, Javed Bashir could have done it alone and given us an even bigger masterpiece.

Yet, despite having a weak link in Ali Azmat’s shape, the whole here is still greater than the sum of its parts. If you listen to it a couple of times, you will realise that by not admiring Ali Azmat’s doing, you long for Javed Bashir’s bits even more, making them sound grander and fulfilling. This can be noted when the former Mekaal Hasan Band member returns to the chorus for the second time and continues to the charge for the remaining duration of the song.

Baliye (Laung Gawacha)

As compared to her Sammi Meri Waar stint, Quratulain Balouch gets a better share of the pie this time and Noori’s idea of making Mussarat Nazir’sLaung Gawacha sound heavy does not turn out bad at all. However, Haroon Shahid is also part of the song, because why not? From the ongoing season, this is yet another example of a collaboration spoiling things for everyone.


Let’s revisit two established facts. First, Ustad Tanveer Hussain is good with practically every stringed instrument in the world. Second, a mandolin does not fit all situations (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is not an acceptable example to give).
In Baliye (Laung Gawacha), you hardly hear what he is doing, spare for a few seconds, and if you do not see the video, you won’t know that he too is there.

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Afreen Afreen

Momina Mustehsan has said she did not rehearse for this one; we wonder what the compulsion was to still go for the final take.

Afreen Afreen is a school Eid Milan party jam where the overly-enthusiastic guitarist, who has just mastered the chords to a popular number, is hell bent on proving his mettle to an audience that is not interested at all. It saps the charm out of what arguably is one of the finest lyrical and compositional pieces to come out of our part of the world.


On an afterthought, this feeling might also have emerged because we have become so accustomed to ornamentation on the show that the idea of an acoustic guitar carrying the day sounds unacceptable at best. Even otherwise, Kashan Admani and Imran Akhoond can barely be heard.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is as good as ever but his vocals are too loud in the mix. Momina Mustehsan starts out high and by the time the chorus reaches its end, she has nothing more to offer except a sheepish smile. If smiles were all that was required of her, she has indeed delivered.
Yet, this tribute could have been much worse; not to forget Mehwish Hayat is also on the show this year.

On Faakhir’s part, this is a servile display of mediocrity. Ayesha Jalal once said Pakistanis cannot explain themselves. For Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s admirers, Faakhir must prove this great historian wrong and tell us why he did what he did.

Bholay Bhalay

Shani Arshad’s first song of the season is more of a situational track that emerges in a film, entertains for a bit and then takes its leave; film music already has his full attention these days so this inclination does not come as a surprise. This is Meesha Shafi’s home turf and we hardly have anyone else who can challenge her in it; listen to Eva from Moor for more evidence.

Omran Shafique’s guitar riff and Shehroze Hussain’s slick harmonium playing constitute for a big plus. With Shehroze Hussain, Coke Studio has upgraded its harmonium section; he has done a fine job with Baliye as well.


However, as catchy as it yearns to be, Bholay Bhalay does not grow on you. It ends up being just another song coming out on just another day.

Rating: 3/5
Verdict: The episode was a winner had Momina Mustehsan, Haroon Shahid and Ali Azmat not been forced to feature on the songs

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Syed hussain
    Aug 20, 2016 - 4:32PM

    Episode is still a winner. But yes agreed, putting two songs in one {read collaboration} is a terrible terrible idea. This should stop. Recommend

  • Saad Ghani
    Aug 20, 2016 - 6:47PM

    i still think afreen afreen was great, meesha shafi did not live up to the expectations(had brilliant in the past seasons), the qb and haroon song was a too loud, and last but not the least, ali azmat absolutely destroyed the song, although javed bashir nailed it to perfection, had it not been for ali azmat, javed’s mann kunto maula would have been a song to remember for the years to come(it still would be for me on his part).Recommend

  • Yasir
    Aug 20, 2016 - 6:55PM

    I completely agree with you Rafay. The songs aren’t gelling well together too. So called fusion sounds too forced. One must also point out the fact that a percussionist in the house band hasn’t really added any value to songs except for shaking those shakers in-time. The only song that kind of had a structure was Ali Sethi and Abida Parveen song. Recommend

  • Akif Khan
    Aug 20, 2016 - 7:10PM

    Too harsh criticism! Although I agree the show is just lingering on. But not every piece can be perfect. You get two or three a season and that’s an achievement. Recommend

  • Wasay
    Aug 20, 2016 - 7:14PM

    Why cant we just appreciate whats going on around us? Its music and it should be enjoyed! All these songs alteast made me feel good! Thank god i dont have to keep a pen and a paper when im listening to all these new releases! Recommend

  • Sarah
    Aug 20, 2016 - 8:01PM

    Ali Azmat is great but either solo or with someone else. Not with Javed Bashir. I’ve noticed Pakistanis always have an issue with with the rock performers. I’ve hardly seen them praise Ali Azmat, Umair Jaswal and the likes lately. Recommend

  • Hbs
    Aug 20, 2016 - 9:33PM

    Speak for yourselfRecommend

  • sensible
    Aug 20, 2016 - 9:51PM

    why can’t CS give QB a solo. First with Jal, then with Jaswal and now with Haroon. She is so underutilized at CS. She would’ve nailed the song all by herself. Recommend

  • Solo
    Aug 20, 2016 - 11:07PM

    This doesnt sound like coke studio of yore. This is more like coke studio india. Its way too bollywood this year. We have lost our touch of originality. Ali Azmat destroyed Javed Bashirs song, still fail to understand the need to have momina mustehsan in afreen afreen. Like you aptly said, a prop. Disappointing season so far.Recommend

  • Shamroz
    Aug 21, 2016 - 1:31AM

    Can anyone please tell me why Ali Azmat has a shrieking voice at the start of every verse ? What sort of singing is this ? Its pathetic and he needs to stop. Listen to his old songs from Junoon and he never sang with a voice that shrieked or squeeked like a mouse. Recommend

  • Emerald
    Aug 21, 2016 - 2:32AM

    For me,Baliye (Laung Gawacha) is the best track of Season 9 yet.QB and Noori just nailed it.However,I think that Afreen Afreen would be far better if they had Hadiqa Kiani in it instead of Momina Mustehsan.But overall I’m satisfied with episode 2 unlike episode 1.After all don’t forget that the main theme of Coke Studio is Sufi-Rock.Recommend

  • Ali
    Aug 21, 2016 - 3:33AM

    Failed music strugglers of Pak Music like Noori & Fakhir who were always dependent on computer more than thr talent are now composing at The Coke Studio music. Pakistanis cant diggest a Rock Qawwali theme and Laug Gawacha with so much digitalised instruments. As a common music listener Ali Azmat destroyed the classic poetry and I am unable to attach myself with classic Laung Gawacha. STRING come on … show ur magic instead of promoting these stupid composers.Recommend

  • SMF
    Aug 21, 2016 - 7:23AM

    This is amazing. The article is biased. After 4 years of not being interested in coke studio, I am roped back in! Great job guys! Ignore the negativity. Haters will be hatersRecommend

  • Usman
    Aug 21, 2016 - 11:15AM

    Perfect article!.. Exactly what i was thinking…. forcing two different genres together wont do any good…. more creative approach is needed…Recommend

  • Saman Elahi
    Aug 21, 2016 - 12:42PM

    Javed Bashir is really tremandous.. But Haroon Shahid Were not that bad the overall song Baliye(laung Gawacha) is Wonderfull Meesha is Good too but No comments about Afreen Afreen they totally ruined it.Recommend

  • doctor
    Aug 21, 2016 - 1:48PM

    Overall….A very poor season so far.
    Nooris and fakhir composing for CS…..too big an ask!
    haroon, momina, zeb, mehwish hayat singing in CS……too big a platform.
    RFAK version of Afreen…… too little an ask!
    umair jaswal’s prototype singing……too difficult to assimilate!
    meesha shafi performing solo while QB doing duets….. too much of injustice!
    Sets, lightning, direction……nothing appealing to be honest. Dear Strings…. Please take the ownership in your hands to let live CS to its reputation…Because…..”too many cooks are spoiling the broth”

    Ps. Excuse me for being too bluntRecommend

  • Fawad
    Aug 21, 2016 - 2:02PM

    This show has now fallen so much in quality that it is a disgrace to the genius of Rohail Hyatt. He picked this up from nothing and brought it up to the level where the whole world, including Indians, absolutely loved it. And what did we Pakistanis do? Cried about him not producing sing alongs. We Pakistanis prove again and again that we don’t have the mental capability of understanding genius. The same thing was done to Adnan Sami Khan as well. What a shame.Recommend

  • Fatyma
    Aug 21, 2016 - 2:29PM

    I think this was a harsh article. Maybe you lack creativity? Ali azmat’s rendition is a daring act and gives us an idea that mun kun tu Maula can be done in any genre and not just in qawwali medium. That is its beauty and that is creativity Pakistanis take pride in.
    Afreen Afreen is also another creative act where the qawalli version is turned into a romantic song.. The lyrics just go with the mood and the girl has a mesmerising voice. Kudos to the team to choose her!
    Haroon and QB version has a totally a Noori feel to it and if you understand Noori’s energy, you will love the song!
    The mixture and infusion is the essence of Coke Studio.. So can’t understand why you’re complaining about it? I’m damn proud of Pakistanis getting together and coming up with such creative work.. When will we stop criticising for the sake of criticism? Can you come up with one better song? I can’t!Recommend

  • Rashid
    Aug 21, 2016 - 4:59PM

    It was Rohail Hyatt’s magic that he was able to extract better performances even from Ayesha Omar – who’s not known for her singing. While the Strings duo is piling up mediocre performances from the powerful singers like Abida Parveen and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (among others). And in the process, they are ruining melodious songs like Afreen Afreen. Sorry to say but Laage Re Nain sounds much much better than these neither folk nor rock creations that Strings are producing.Recommend

  • Fan
    Aug 21, 2016 - 5:32PM

    Great article and well described, Coke studio has not done justice to afreen afreen one of the best things to have come out of this country. They should defiantly refrain from featuring these “prop artists.” If you’re going to do a cover at least do it as good as the original if not better.Recommend

  • Shakeel
    Aug 21, 2016 - 5:48PM

    Fusion of two songs of two different genre / styles is not the issue but the way it is being done in this season. If the fusion is lowering the sound at the end of the first song and starting second song with a pause, then I think anyone can do this job.Recommend

  • Rumi
    Aug 21, 2016 - 10:15PM

    All those people who are criticizing Coke Studio 9 can never look beyond than Atif Aslam,Ali Zafar and Abida Parveen.They will always remain ‘lakeer ke faqeer’.Recommend

  • SaneVoice
    Aug 22, 2016 - 2:38AM

    Comon Express Tribune…..Are you mad at at Coca Cola for not giving you enough funds? Recommend

  • Muz
    Aug 22, 2016 - 11:17AM

    good effort…yes, some collaborations did not go well as expected but still we are getting some good music and that works for alot of people in these times…Recommend

  • Irfan
    Aug 22, 2016 - 12:44PM

    Although I am not a Music Expert or Music Fanatic. But Afreen Afreen remained my fvt song since 2001. I used to listen Afreen Afreen by Nusret Fateh Ali Khan sb like anything. But when I listened the same song from Rahat Fateh Ali and Momina. I was like, not criticizing right away but listening to the song was not a pleasant experience. However, still a nice try.Recommend

  • Arsalan
    Aug 22, 2016 - 3:06PM

    Perhaps you glossed over the fact that “Mun kunto Maua, fa haza Ali-un Maula” is a Hadith.Recommend

  • KD
    Aug 23, 2016 - 6:59PM

    the authors (Ali Raj & Rafay Mehmood) should be given a chance to direct 1 episode or atleast 1 song in CS!
    lets see what “magic” they are hiding under their sleeves
    For many years these 2 have been so severely unhappy with Coke Studio.. i pray that Strings give them a chance and they can show everyone how a song is actually produced!Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Sep 2, 2016 - 9:34AM

    The thing is that Rohail Hyatt has set benchmark too high for Coke Studio and since it has become such a huge music show, I cannot just accept that this song is just “not bad”; it has to be absolutely brilliant at least 70% of the time.

    It makes me sad that I look forward to a show for a whole year and I get just “average” music. Missing the class of ‘Ishq Aap Bhi Awalla’, ‘Titliyaan’, ‘Chal Diyay’, ‘Dholna’ etc.

    We understand that Rohail may not come back to CS but please Strings stop these kids and at least do it like season 7, it was still great with the likes of ‘Dost’, ‘Phool Banro’ etc.Recommend

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