Coke Studio Episode 1: Maestros and mishaps

Published: May 23, 2011


Akhtar Chanal with Komal Rizvi. PHOTO: RIZWANUL HAQ Sanam Marvi. PHOTO: RIZWANUL HAQ Jal. PHOTO: RIZWANUL HAQ Bilal Khan. PHOTO: KOHI MARRI Mizraab feat Mannan. PHOTO: RIZWANUL HAQ

Despite all the chaos that engulfed Karachi on Sunday night, Coke Studio’s season 4 was unveiled to the music-loving masses. With musical acts like Mizraab, Jal, Akhtar Chanal, Sanam Marvi and Bilal Khan featuring in Pakistan’s most popular musical act , the expectations were very high but only a few of musicians lived up to them.

Coke Studio has now come of age and with musicians like Asad Ahmed and Omran Shafique in the house band, much more could have been done with the songs. The quality of backing vocals has tremendously improved with the sisters Zoe and Rachel Viccaji.

Coke Studio has managed to create a sound of its own which can be identified by listening to even a single guitar riff, but this time around the excessive use of vocal tuners for all the vocalists apart from Marvi and Chanal gave the songs a very synthetic feel.  Here’s a closer look at each act in the first episode of the season:

Bilal Khan — ‘Tau Kia Hua’

Hailing from Lahore, the talented artist scored the major chunk of his fan following through Facebook and YouTube, even before his video was officially released. His acoustic style of playing and the simple, yet catchy song writing was what came through in Coke Studio, but it seems there was a very little input from the house band. The backing vocalists were placed at the right places in the song, but all the other instrument players seemed to fulfil the purpose of a proper orchestra, and nothing more than that. His raw sounding acoustic music was given a more ensemble feel, but the rest was his own singing and song writing abilities.  (7/10)

Mizraab — ‘Kuch Hai’

Although all the Mizraab and Faraz Anwar fans will hate the performance because the band is capable of doing much better, this was the best performance of the first episode. “Kuch Hai” is one of the most musically appealing songs from their album Maazi Haal Mustaqbil, and the brilliant arrangement of the song and vocals by the featuring artist Manan gave it a very wicked feel. The song grows on you as it progresses into different phases with vocals shifting from Anwar to Manan, and some great transitions through the violin. The song has a Middle Eastern feel to it, and the overall make up of the song is very progressive. It seems that the house band worked the hardest on this on. Great guitar playing, but too restricted for someone like Anwar, who is a much better performer at live gigs. (9/10)

Akhtar Chanal and Komal Rizvi — ‘Daanah Pa Daanah’

What could have been the successors to a successful duo like Arif Lohar and Meesha Shafi will end up being the waste of one of the finest folk tunes of all times, “Daane Pa Daanah”. Rizvi not only ripped the song and melody apart, but even made the song sound irritating as soon as she entered with her vocals. Having grown up listening to this Brahvi song, one feels that the house band did injustice to the song by wasting the legendary Akhtar Chanal , who is one of the most respected musicians of Balochistan. Rizvi may have tried her best, but perhaps the problem may lie in the fact that she is not used to the Coke Studio live recording environment, and thus ended up sounding like an untrained singer. Then comes the diction: Brahvi is not like Sindhi or Punjabi which one can easily adapt to. Perhaps someone like Fariha Pervez or Hadiqa Kiyani would have been a better choice to replace the vocals of Shazia Khushk, who is known for this song. Secondly Coke Studio needs to realise that “Laal Meri Pat” is by far the most overdone piece of poetry, so why going for it? All in all, it was waste of a great folk melody. (6/10)

Jal — ‘Ek Arzu’

Known for their distinct blend of pop music in Pakistan, the band attempted an experimental version of a new unreleased track “Ek Arzu”, and later on converted the performance into a medley. Basically Jal didn’t sound very different, which is quite pleasing for any music listener, but it did not sound like Coke Studio. Sometimes it sounded like a Bollywood number, at some points, Vital Signs, but on the whole like just another song by Jal.

Farhan has improved his singing, but the overuse of vocal filters killed his originality. From “Ek Arzu”, the song moves into a classical phase with “Teray Ishq Nachaya Kar Thaiyaa” and finally enters the more rock and upbeat part where “Dum Mast Qalandar” is performed. Farhan does a good job, the melody is worth humming, but the overall song isn’t extraordinary. (7/10)

Sanam Marvi — ‘Sighra Aaween Saanwal Yaar’

This was the best vocal performance of the whole episode, and in fact the only performance in which the music seemed to be designed for vocals, instead of the other way around. Marvi renders the poetry of Sachal Sarmast and Sultan Bahu with utmost brilliance and the music allows her to display her vocal prowess by reaching different highs and lows. She is a great singer, but her song “Pritam” in the previous season was far more musically appealing than this one. A singer of calibre deserved a far better comeback. (8/10)

Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (49)

  • hmmm
    May 23, 2011 - 10:48PM

    Good, analytical piece.

    But if you want to do report on showbiz, art (or anything!), you should learn to get your spellings right. You have spelled almost every song on the episode :p

    TAU kia hua indeed!

    and by the way, Komal did not sing the Brahvi part at all. It was the Balochi part she sang. But agree with you – laal meri pat has been done to death! although she did give it a nice feel…Recommend

  • M
    May 23, 2011 - 10:59PM

    Cant agree more to your review over Komal Rizvi’s performance!!! totally ruined the song!!! Was a torture hearing her part! I give her a 1/10.. that too being generous!!Recommend

  • MJ
    May 23, 2011 - 11:02PM

    You gave the highest points to Mizraab’s song with his terrible vocals, while you criticize other singers in the episode as well as CS’s handling of their vocals. There goes your credibility.

    It was a very good episode and a great start to the season. We need to learn to criticize less and enjoy more. Suddenly everyone is a music guru and expert. All I see around now is Pakistanis putting down the show. Suddenly, from liking the show, it has become cool and in to dislike the show, just because it has become so popular. Give CS a break and be grateful for a show which is giving a good impression of the country to the outside world and is the envy of our neighbors. Do it before the show producers decide to quit the show and we start seeing people yearning and longing for it in years to come, posting and reposting songs in its memory, the same ones they are criticizing right now. After all, it wont be the first time Pakistanis would be acting in this pathetic way. Recommend

  • Huma Ahmer
    May 23, 2011 - 11:16PM

    Thumbs up for the Coke Studio Season-4 lovers :D
    Despite all the chaos, they still groove us every season :)
    ~BILAL & SANAM~ rocked this time.. n not to forget……
    ‘Daanah Pa Daanah’ definitely soothed me too ;)Recommend

  • Madhat Ali Khan
    May 23, 2011 - 11:37PM

    Bilal khan 9/10Recommend

  • Madhat Ali Khan
    May 23, 2011 - 11:42PM

    Bilal Khan 9/10..!Recommend

  • Tooba
    May 23, 2011 - 11:52PM

    I think Komal Rizvi shouldn’t have been on coke studio. She wasn’t ready and ruined a song that would’ve been great. I think Rohail Hyatt should redo it with Mesha Shaffi. I wonder how Komal even got onto coke studio as there are far more experienced and better singers in the industry which are mentioned in the post!

    Bilal khan was absolutely amazing for me the best song of the episode. Even though Faraz Anwer completely restricted himself for coke studio it was a good change…over all i think coke studio needs to get its charm back from the first two seasons!Recommend

  • SamSar
    May 24, 2011 - 12:08AM

    Loved it this time,,,,Recommend

  • cocaine
    May 24, 2011 - 12:52AM

    if anyone has listened to bilal before,they could conclude why he could have been much betteq.rohail bhai,spend sum time with the kid ,he can be paki john mayer.i think ,7/10 is good,h,it never seemed a cs track,where was the experimentation?Recommend

  • AN
    May 24, 2011 - 1:37AM

    Whatever i will give dannah pe dannah 10/10. Ok Komal part was not extraordinary but overall the song was soothing and melodious.

    Jal was indeed disappointing. I expected better.Recommend

  • Aimen Anwar
    May 24, 2011 - 2:58AM

    What a terrible sound. Still ringing in my ears! What were they thinking giving Komal this slot? She cannot sing. Her voice has absolutely no variation or pitch. It’s infact just very pop queen. She can sing her own tunes fine!!!
    But such legendary folk music is not her forte. She ruined these classic numbers for me.
    I was just upset by her performance.

    The high’s were definitely Bilal Khan well done!!!Recommend

  • AA
    May 24, 2011 - 8:36AM

    I didn’t get the point of mixing Baluchi with Sindhi but I agree that Komal messed it up and it is surprising that this song went on air the way it did, there are obvious flaws with her singing. Sanam Marvi’s was the best of all.Recommend

  • Usman
    May 24, 2011 - 9:20AM

    Let the Coke Studio bashing begin!

    People get a life!!! The guys at Coke Studio have done a tremendous job! Season 4 Episode 1 was awesome. People like to put their own two cents into everything. The fact is all the songs in the first episode rocked.


  • Imran
    May 24, 2011 - 9:36AM

    Komal Rizvi is not a true singer at all… she entered music world just for glamour. I think she shouldnt have been in Coke studio and shouldnt have ruined the folk tune. it was really an irritating vocal, believe me i switched the channel.Recommend

  • Adeel
    May 24, 2011 - 11:25AM

    Well we are coming up with reasons to tell ourselves that this episode of CS was good only `cause we LOVE this concept so much….lets be honest this was by far the most boring of CS episode with none of the songs to remember for good reasons…i agree Komal just destroyed a great folk song!! she isnt just good enough! i dont think CS season 3 and Season 4 to date is any way near the height it touched with CS 2…Recommend

  • tabrez
    May 24, 2011 - 11:36AM

    For God sake…Even the dumbest would know that Komal Rizvi is no way near to be called a singer.I think she needs alot of practice before she could even try for coke studio.I also expect that coke studio must not compromise on their already set standard. Very dis-appointing.. Recommend

  • tabrez
    May 24, 2011 - 11:38AM

    Komal Rizvi should not be in coke studio at first place.Very disappointing….Recommend

  • Jay
    May 24, 2011 - 12:03PM

    Totally agree. i am from India and was so looking forward to this after the last few seasons.

    I just wish the Akhtar Chanal bit was just there for all of the song length and just him.. i loved him.. raw beautiful voice and Lal meri has been done to death, could have been avoided.Recommend

  • Jay
    May 24, 2011 - 12:05PM

    And also one more thing. Didnt Komal Rizvi try to move like Mesha during the waah waah waah bit .. that was so pointless.
    Sorry Arif Lohar and Mesha that rocked.Recommend

  • Ihk
    May 24, 2011 - 12:34PM

    Man.. I loved Akhtar Channa and Komal’s performance!!! :oSRecommend

  • Ihk
    May 24, 2011 - 12:37PM

    And why wasn’t there that weird glass barrier around Gumby this time? What is up with that!!Recommend

  • Shahrukh Kazmi
    May 24, 2011 - 12:39PM

    Mizraab’s Performance was by far the most technical and the most mesmerizing from all. It took me back to the Natural Born killers soundtrack. Violins, Cellos, Guitars, Drums, Piano and what not. It was magical. Thank you RohailRecommend

  • Ice
    May 24, 2011 - 1:17PM

    I agree Komal totally ruined the song.. Bilal Khan did an amazing job!! Recommend

  • blizzard
    May 24, 2011 - 1:21PM

    serioulsy man.. .Meesha shafi wud’ve taken to song to another level… and Akhtar Chanal’s performance wud’ve been worth it… I cant stand the sound of Komal Rizvi’s voice…Recommend

  • Farrukh
    May 24, 2011 - 1:40PM

    We need Dr.Masooma Anwar on CS …. Recommend

  • SK
    May 24, 2011 - 1:48PM

    Comparing a singer with another is not justified!!!!
    Rizvi did a great job and Danne pe Danaah was indeed one of the best performances of Coke Studio. Recommend

  • xohaib
    May 24, 2011 - 2:26PM

    i dont agree with your review of the first episode , its like we have too much expectations from cokestudio and if there is a little less ,people start saying its not that good . Guys this first episode was tooo good .Infact this is the only good thing ever happening to Pakistani music and giving some positive image of this country despite of the mullahs and stuff .
    Please support it as much as you can , so that this cokestudio thing keeps going and we have good stuff every summer =)Recommend

  • Aayan
    May 24, 2011 - 2:30PM

    My Rating:

    Bilal Khan (9/10)
    Mizraab (7/10)
    Akhtar Chanal (10/10) Komal Rizvi (3/10) so overall (6.5/10)
    Jal (6/10)
    Sanam Marvi (8/10)Recommend

  • Anon
    May 24, 2011 - 3:31PM

    Because it was an electric drum kit, therefore it did not need a sound barrier for better recording.Recommend

  • AU
    May 24, 2011 - 3:42PM

    This article seems to be so biased. One should admire their good piece of work.
    Plus i really liked Danne pe Danna by Komal and Akhtar.
    Bilal’s lyrics and voice was an excellent piece.
    Sanam Marvi and Jal were also okay.Recommend

  • Ihk
    May 24, 2011 - 4:39PM

    Oh… thanks for info!Recommend

  • KD
    May 24, 2011 - 7:27PM

    I loved Komal`s performance in CS…I can not understand why she is being criticized! Recommend

  • Saba
    May 24, 2011 - 8:03PM

    no doubt komal rizvi (unexpectedly) did an awesome job…the sweetness and fun in her voice…. her pronunciation of every word was very clear … clearer than akhtar zahri!

    i hope rohail hyatt gives a chance to shazia khushk and fariha pervez in this season…. they have been contributing to the music for so many years… regardless wat critics or ‘cool’ people say about them…

    if komal can … then they can sound amazing too in the studio…Recommend

  • zara
    May 25, 2011 - 5:08AM

    gosh it was the first episode and everyone is already slamming it!!!…. and if the majority are liking it what is all the fuss about??? all those comments are way too harsh …. Komal was definitely in tune with her vocals and had it under control … personally a folk song like ‘lal meri’ needed to be rejuvenated and I appreciate coke studio for doing so… Recommend

  • Mohsin Sayeed
    May 25, 2011 - 6:30PM

    Here comes the annual musical tsunami! It has caused a a far greater and longer lasting damage than the floods last year or the earthquake 6 years ago. Damaged music and taste. That silly chit of a musician Bilal Khan said in Instep: “And to be gifted an opportunity to come on to a show that has reshaped and redefined not only the musical but also the cultural narrative of Pakistan on a national and international scale — that is truly a humbling experience. ” Wow! The spring chicken seems to be an authority on culture, music, Pakistan hence such a grand statement. When will he learn if you can carry a tune that doesn’t mean you can carry an intelligent conversation, too? And then the cow who wrote it (also a part of the gloriously stupid youth) lapped up every word he uttered like a saucer-eyed star-f**! Bottled bad taste!Recommend

  • Jay
    May 25, 2011 - 7:02PM

    hey so listening to Mizraab now and its started working for me.. super production values super arrangement.. Rohail Hyatt u rock !!!Recommend

  • Pakistani Canadian
    May 25, 2011 - 8:45PM

    Funny comments. So Laal Meri has been overdone, but Arif Lohar and Meesha Shaafi were great? It’s as if Lohar hasn’t been pimping Jugni at every single performance (TV concert or live)!!

    Face it people, Komal Rizvi was a poor choice- as was the inclusion of Laal Meri. Meesha Shaafi was also never a good choice. Rizvi isn’t a good singer, but she does seem to have some modicum of command over her vocals. Meesha is entirely untrained vocally, and does not have ANY command over her voice. For those who think Meesha is a better singer; you’re being fooled by her looks (I don’t like those either personally, but to each his own). The problem with Rizvi are her horrendous hand and facial expressions.

    The bigger problem for both ladies was singing something that they didn’t understand at all. Might as well make them sing a german song; they’re only mimicking like a parrot anyway. Jugni ended up sounding better because it was given a more ‘club’ feel. Daanah pa daanah is just a different song and can’t be turned into something like Jugni.

    The best collaboration on Coke Studio by far has been Noori and Saeein Zahoor in Alif Allah from Season 2. Noori as the true rock band of Pakistan, and Saeein Zahoor a pure folk singer. It was the only time somebody managed to restrain Noori’s otherwise crazy, unappealing wildness. Saeein Zahoor was also incredibly comfortable with Noori and the house band in general. Unfortunately, that type of collaboration has not been repeated since. Recommend

  • May 26, 2011 - 4:36AM

    the highlights of the episode were BILAL KHAN and the DAaNAH PAY DAaNAH song……

    those who think that KOMAL RIZVI didn’t do agreat job, do not have an ear for music.the voice variations, and the control she had over what was happening was something that was essentially required by the song.

    as for mirzaab….they sucked, pure and simple.

    sanam marvi was just her usual brilliant self…..although i feel that she should be brought out of her comfort zone by CS..Recommend

  • Jay
    May 26, 2011 - 11:00AM

    @ Pakistani Canadian totally Aik Alif is an all time favourite.Recommend

  • Saeed
    May 26, 2011 - 1:09PM

    ..And by next year, everyone will be saying how awesome this season was, and how season 5 sucks. No wonder we are so short of positive things happening in this country–in our cynicism, we trash even the few good things that are there. Criticism is fine, but please be just. No point in putting artists and performances down just to look superior. It’s good music–why not just enjoy it?Recommend

  • osama
    May 26, 2011 - 4:32PM

    the piece was based on your likes and dislikes. right?Recommend

  • CS fan
    May 26, 2011 - 8:23PM

    only BILAL KHAN rocked, JAL is totally disappointedRecommend

  • espresso!
    May 27, 2011 - 12:08PM

    bottom line komal rizvi sucks!Recommend

  • AN
    May 31, 2011 - 1:04AM

    Guys! You will not like coke studio songs instantly. Listen them over and over again. They will slowly grown on you. I remember in the last seasons, i had the same feeling about many songs but later on they became my most favorite songs. So haters! Please give them a break. That goes for yo too writer. First episode was awesome.

    @ ET
    You guys are seriously hard to please. It amazes me that how people in this newspaper are able to find fault in almost everything.Recommend

  • Ayaz
    Jun 2, 2011 - 8:46PM

    I was not impressed with the episode as i feel there isn’t that much hype going around for CS.
    To people who are criticizing the writer here, need to know that its a blog post, not a news article which supposed to be ‘fact’ based. The writer has his/her own opinions, if you dont agree, you dont need to discredit it either, by saying words like ‘pathetic way’ (MJ), ‘dont have sense of music’
    as a matter of fact, i wud say the same thing, komal rizvi sucked big time, her voice ruined the entire song, or shall i say songs. Bilal khan was the pick of the show, much much better than all of the performers, while mizraab did very wel too, faraz cant sing so he shouldnt, and chorus of ‘aaan aaan aaan’ was really annoying. Recommend

  • Bina
    Jun 3, 2011 - 12:55PM

    Sanam was fabulous but Rizvi was nt dat bad just her choice of song was not that much wiseRecommend

  • Jun 16, 2011 - 3:28AM

    RATING JAL 10/10

  • Faraz
    Jun 18, 2011 - 10:40AM

    What are you talking about. I didn’t expect anything when I heard that two folk songs that have been done to death are being re sung but when I heard it i was blown away. This is one of the best songs of CS. And if you add the translation it improves the experience of the song. i rate it 9/10. The writer has no taste in music.Recommend

  • Infantile
    Jun 21, 2011 - 12:41AM

    Komal missed one note. You guys are being too harsh. Her contribution to the song was great and I still have the song on repeat. Mizraab, on the other hand, I could not listen to more than once.Recommend

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