‘Ol Rock’ refreshes 90s pop

The musical show includes singers performing on old Pakistani pop songs.

Express August 16, 2011


Despite the intense criticism that “Coke Studio” received, the musical show still gave corporations the guts to invest in the rapidly enervating music industry. As a ripple effect, one saw a telecommunications brand launch its own version in the form of “Uth Records”, promoting undiscovered artistes. Now the latest to join the bandwagon is yet another beverage brand that has rehashed Pakistani pop classics from the 1990s under “Olfrute Ol Rock”.

“Ol Rock” is a musical show with distinctive characters performing old Pakistani pop songs covered by various artists. Many bands and artists have become part of the show that has started to make waves. Untill now, The show has included covers and songs by known bands such as Seige and Cheapmunks till now.

For the generation that grew up listening to Ali Haider, Najam Sheraz and Bunny, “Ol Rock” brings back the memories of an era when the TV reigned, when Fakhre Alam ruled the pop charts, cassettes with open reels lay strewn liberally across car seats and oversized fashion was an eyesore.

The ‘Ol Rock’ campaign

Having released eight songs as part of a drama serial, the “Ol Rock” campaign is a simple, effective and cost-friendly venture that refurbishes songs like “Qarar”, “Tairee Ankhon Ka” and “Aajana” to suit the tastes of the techno-urbanised youth of today.

Shot along the gritty streets of Karachi in places like Kothari Parade, bazaars and beaches, the videos show how the Karachi landscape has changed from back in the day. What is remarkable about these videos is how well they portray and carry emblems of popular culture, linking it from the 1990s to the 2000s and connecting a whole audience of young Pakistanis to former pop idols that made headway in the absence of MTV, foreign media and YouTube.

Siege’s “Jaasimilli”, which is a vibrant but sanitised item number of sorts, brings to the fore the light-hearted innocuous flirtations that characterised educational institutes. Songs such as “Teri Ankhon Ka Ishara” by Bunny and “Qarar” by Ali Haider have been refreshed to create a hip, disco feel and are shot indoors but stylised in a manner that makes them a good watch. The Haider classic has been anglicised by Cheapmunks to work for a Facebook-obsessed youth that is posing incessantly in the video while grooving to the song and sporting candy floss coloured screen shades, which are not only a popular accessory for the early teens but also cleverly resonate Cheapmunk’s trademark of the same. The video is a snap shot of the yuppie youth culture where young boys and girls are just out to have a good time but know that this ‘fun’ must be ensconced in some private space.

Similarly, “Tere Ankhon Ka Ishara” recreates the Rajesh Khanna era, replete with polka dots, puffy hair, aviators, bow ties, butterflies and flower power. If Pakistan had a club culture, these songs would be blasting from speakers there and playing on repeat. One would like to see them attempt more complex and epic classics like Sajjad Ali’s “Chief Saab” that holds as true now as it did in the 1990s.

Also to give credit where it is due, the corporate interest in Ol Rock doesn’t debase the project. Sure there is brand presence but it doesn’t engulf the general depiction of pop culture.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2011.