KARACHI: Rohail Hyatt may not be a wizard but long lost fans of Coke Studio are clearly expecting a magical spell in Coke Studio 12. The pressure to meet those expectations and budget cuts from the brand’s end hasn’t helped the cause much, sources revealed.
While one would expect Hyatt to go back to his comfort zone in such circumstances, he has chosen to do otherwise, as far as the choice of musicians is concerned.
The founder of the show has returned with no Gumby, Jaffer Zaidi and Asad Ahmed in the House Band while Omran (Momo) Shafique will play in just one or two songs. Momo, however, is also expected to be involved with the overall creative process to some extent.
Since everyone in the old gang was in talks with Hyatt initially, it must have either been the budget cuts or Hyatt’s sudden change of plans that didn't bring them back together. Perhaps a eureka moment that he must hire a younger lot of musicians in order to resuscitate a show that has already run its course.
Having said that, a number of local and international musicians will also join the House Band as featuring artists and collaborators.
The new House Band
Keys: Varqa Faraid
Islamabad-based Varqa Faraid replaces Rufus Shehzad who had come on board as Keyboard player during Ali Hamza and Zohaib Kazi’s tenure on the show. Although Faraid has been playing for quite some time, his skillset came into the limelight for his recent work with Saakin. While everyone expected Zaidi to return with Hyatt, we must not forget that 2019 has been a year of major stylistic shifts, not just budget cuts.
Guitars: Sarmad Ghafoor
Metalheads and hard rockers remember him as the crazy one pole of the rock band Qayaas, the others as the old wise man of the Islamabad/Peshawar music scene. An exceptional live player and a seasoned producer otherwise, Ghafoor will lead the strings and anchor the house band as a likely replacement for what could have been Ahmed’s place. He might partake in the mixing and production of the songs to some extent.
Guitars: Zain Ali
Zain Ali came to the forefront with the incredible progressive jazz band Red Blood Cat. He then went on to launch Piphany productions with a friend and musician Danish Khwaja where they released the track Sarak Sarak ft Mai Dhai. Ali is an innovative guitar player who has played live sessions for the likes Zeb & Haniya, Arieb Azhar, and Atif Aslam.
Drums: Kami Paul
According to the Coke Studio website, “The first mainstream act he ever played drums for was Ahmed Jahanzeb and there has been no stopping him, ever since. Paul has recorded as well as played live for various acts such as Mekaal Hassan Band, Atif Aslam, Jimmy Khan, Zeb & Haniya, et al.” Paul retains his position as the drummer of Coke Studio laying rest to all the rumours of Gumby’s possible comeback.
Bass and Eastern percussions: Mannu and Babar Khanna
The two have become the poster boys of Coke Studio since season one. Be it Fareed Ayaz’s Kangana or Aslam’s Rabba Sachya, Mannu on the bass and Khanna on Eastern percussions have come to define the groove of the show.
They’ll be providing the much-needed comfort zone to Hyatt.
World percussions: Abdul Aziz, Veeru Shaan and Hassaan Moheyeddin (Moyo)
Coke Studio 12 will put a lot of emphasis on percussions which is why the section has been expanded to three different percussionists. Abdul Aziz of season nine and 10 will be joined by Veeru Shaan of Nescafe Basement fame and Hassan Mohyeddin (Moyo).
Violin: Uncle Jay
The one-man-army has been preferred over an entire section. Hyatt goes back to his favourite Uncle Jay on the violin.
Multiple instrumentalists: Tanveer Tafu and Aamir Azhar
Tanveer saab was introduced to Coke Studio under Strings’ tenure and has been irreplaceable since then. According to his Coke Studio bio, “Tanveer is the son of renowned tabla maestro Altaf Tafu, Tanveer Tafu is amongst the most coveted young rubab players of Pakistan. Born in Lahore, Tanveer is deeply inspired by the works of the country’s most celebrated musicians, including Amjad Ali Khan, Akbar Ali Khan and Pakistan’s veteran guitarist Mazhar Ali Popa.
Aamir Azhar is another multi-instrumentalist who is known for being able to play anything with strings on it. He will join Tafu sb on the strings.
Backing vocalists: Shahab Hussain, Nimra Rafique, Rachel Viccaji and Meher Qadir
Hyatt will be going for the biggest chorus section of all Coke Studio seasons by including four singers as backing vocalists. Shahab Hussain, Meher Qadir, Rachel Viccajji and Nimra Rafique will work their magic together with the harmonies.
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