Fresh music talent in Pakistan always finds it difficult to get attention. But the increasing number of platforms that feature ambitious musicians are rays of hope. With platforms as impressive as the first season of Uth Records or as ineffective as Cornetto Music Icons, all these shows epitomise one thing — the country is packed with young musicians who are keen on producing music despite impediments.
The first two offerings by Nescafé Basement season two — Akhiyaan and Tere Ishq Mein — are examples of bottled-up enthusiasm. But while the efforts of young musicians are commendable, unfortunately they aren’t enough. Produced under the supervision of multitalented musician Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan aka Xulfi, the numbers garnered attention on social media and were praised by music enthusiasts, but lacked finesse in terms of arrangement and composition.
Season two begins with classics Akhiyaan and Tere Ishq Mein. PHOTOS: FACEBOOK
While Nescafé Basement has been compared to Coke Studio by critics and fans on several occasions, the fact remains the show will always be a high-school version of the latter. However, credit must be given where it is due — Nescafé Basement is unique as far as the high-octane grooves and rawness of the final product are concerned. And this has been a fruitful result of featuring new and ambitious artists.
Featuring Shafqat Amanat Ali, one of the most impeccable vocalists of the subcontinent, along with Imran Momina aka Immu and Shallum Xavier, Akhiyaan changed the landscape of the music industry in the early 2000s. And this is exactly why Nescafé Basement’s version of this timeless track failed to impress. While Hamza Tanveer’s vocals are up to the mark, irrespective of his inexperience and the house band’s obvious attempt at pumping up the song further, unfortunately, the rendition ends up being repetitive in terms of its chorus and fusion of various instruments.
Fusing the sound of a traditional sitar with that of a trumpet in a rock song and playing around with the chorus are hackneyed tricks. We wonder how Xulfi plans to innovate with the show this season. If it’s challenging, then maybe the team should select simpler songs to cover.
Nescafé Basement’s second track, Tere Ishq Mein, is yet again another classic number — it was originally done by Mohammad Ali Shehki and the late Allan Fakir. Xulfi has featured two vocalists to execute this track — Asfer Hussain, who is classically trained and has a refreshing tone and Rizwan Butt, who has a folk touch to his voice. There is no doubt the two have done an incredible job by hitting all the required notes while not sacrificing diction and the true meaning of sufi poetry. The music is melodious and soothing, and the amalgamation with other sufi kalaam adds to the beauty of the track which preaches love and self-sacrifice.
Despite all these pros, the arrangement and overall sound of Nescafé Basement remains to be rather orthodox. The melodies are predictable — starting from a light, classical note then moving on to the drums with heavy bass suddenly being incorporated in the track. This trick has not only been overused in the early seasons of Coke Studio, but is also a common shortcut used by every other underground band and even by Bollywood musicians.
While Xulfi has managed to gather promising talent under one roof, it would work to his advantage if he inspires these ambitious musicians to create something new and creative, if not extraordinary.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2013.