The first episode of Coke Studio 11 created some buzz but failed to live up to expectations musically. A question that arose was whether having a large number of artists on board would make a difference if the producers couldn’t do justice to them. It almost felt like the artists were under the dictatorship of the producers and so, the songs sounded forced.
But with episode four out now, the sentiments have changed slightly. Ali Hamza and Zohaib Kazi finally seem to be settling into their groove, even if that means going back to what usually works. They do well when they are not trying too hard to make statements and let artists utilise their own strengths.
‘Mahi Aaja’ by Asim Azhar and Momina Mustehsan
Episode four – titled ‘Gulistan’ – opened with season nine’s star duo Asim Azhar and Momina Mustehsan crooning Mahi Aaja. While they previously delivered a decent, hummable tune with Tera Woh Pyar, this latest track is a slight notch down from that.
Mahi Aaja flows well as the melody and rhythm gel together and the modern electronic instrumentation supports the vocals. But while the track doesn’t have any technical flaws, it lacks originality. It only serves as a passable episode-opener, while satisfying the vanilla cravings of Azhar and Mustehsan fans. Extra points for the former’s jacket though!
‘Nami Danam’ by Chand Tara Orchestra
The Chand Tara Orchestra is the showstopper of this episode. The group’s grunge rock rendition of Persian kalaam Nami Danam hits the right spot big time. At first, one may feel Sherry Raza’s vocals don’t blend in with the earth-trembling guitar riffs but they slowly grow on you. And the rhythm section elevates the song to another level.
Overall, the rock instrumentation works so well that despite not knowing the language, you will find yourself singing it. The translation of the lyrics makes for a better, more electrifying listening experience. Nami Danam truly takes us back to the glory days of Coke Studio and also gives up hope for a bright future. Watch out for the harmonica notes amidst the head-banging guitars riffs.
‘Aatish’ by Shuja Haider and Aima Baig
Episode four ends with another great offering, this time by Shuja Haider and Aima Baig. Aatish opens with Haider’s soulful vocals, only to funk it up with Baig’s playful voice. The beat and the melody build on the two contrasting styles and bridges them well.
Aatish has been written and composed by Haider himself and he proves how underrated he is with the track. Here, he has an old school, innocent and almost literary approach to love. His words flow like a stream and his voice has a vintage touch to it. Baig’s powerful notes create the perfect contrast to Haider’s and the result is a tune that will make you want to tap your feet and hum along.
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