‘Coke Studio 4’: Who had the look?

The one performer that stood out for quiet sex appeal and sophisticated cool was Bilal Khan.

Hani Taha August 07, 2011


Throughout the history of popular culture, one sees a deep rooted association of music with fashion. Indeed, both have influenced each other and those individuals that have successfully managed to foray and charter both territories have become icons: Madonna’s conical bra, Michael Jackson’s red and black ensemble and his signature glove, Lady Gaga’s reinterpretation of the bizarre.

“Coke Studio” provides the most consolidated platform for musicians in Pakistan and yet, when one takes a general sweep of the style statements that they make, one comes to an abysmal conclusion of none — save for Meesha Shafi who made a stunning style statement in a red and black ensemble with flattering gold jewellery and brought scarlet lips back with bang in the show’s third season.

Yet, apart from this singular example, musicians in Pakistan, for most part, suffer from the syndrome that looking frumpy means that you’re serious about your work. Sure, one sees the occasional artistically styled video by the Mekaal Hasan Band fashioned by Ammar Belal, and the recent Overload video that got fashion’s new eccentric talent Ali Xeeshan on board, but on the whole though, our rock stars need serious help with styling - “Coke Studio” being a glaring testimony to the fact.

The two dominant trends that one saw in season four were blazers and a generous use of ajrak. Veterans like Attaullah Khan Esakhelvi and Sajjad Ali looked dignified in their choice of jackets and shawls, but the relatively newer blood, like Jal, horrified audiences with their uber shiny burgundy racer-boy jackets. The band that did, however, manage to get the jacket look right was Mizraab. Even with their characteristic nonchalant rocker attitude and look, Faraz Anwar’s very 80s camel jacket thrown over a causal black tee along with his choppy layered hair, was the distraught agonised sensitive musician to perfection. Unlike Jal, whose look was contrived, Anwar felt comfortable and appeared original, as did the band Mole with their oversized sweaters. Danial Hyatt’s looking like a mini Rohail just added to the charm.

The one performer that stood out for quiet sex appeal and sophisticated cool was Bilal Khan. Whether in a form-fitting black velvet blazer or a loosely knotted bright red tie, he pulled both looks with perfection. There is a calm sincerity to his voice and persona and Khan candidly admits, “I’d be lying if I said that as ‘Coke Studio’ drew near I was only thinking about my vocals and performance. After all, entertainment is a public industry and by proxy, entertainers have to fit the bill in terms of meeting the demands of what the public recognises as fashion at the time.”

Here’s a boy who understands what it means to be in the business. “Fashion is one of those things which I think one should be very aware of but need not let others in on that fact,” he says, and chose home grown designer Ammar Belal for that versatile black blazer.

Of the ajrak, only The Sketches added a unique flavour by using this age old Sindhi staple as a cravat to denote their own musical heritage, while others like Sanam Marvi wore it as an accent to her traditional shalwar kameez and Akhtar Channal as part of his own indigenous garb.

The women sadly, made no statement whatsoever. One can detect fashion promise in Quratulain Balouch and Rachel Viccaji who let their hair do the talking. Both sport bobs: Balouch’s primed and rounded; while Viccaji prefers a choppier look. A little push in the right direction could turn both into youth style icons. Someone like Mohsin Ali or Ali Xeeshan should be roped in, and let’s see the fashion week stars dress the “Coke Studio” stars. Now that’s a heady concoction to look forward to in Season 5.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.