Coke Studio episode 3 and 4: The disappointments and surprises

Published: December 23, 2013
Atif Aslam failed to deliver, which is surprising as he always outdoes himself on the show. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY

Atif Aslam failed to deliver, which is surprising as he always outdoes himself on the show. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY


Yahi hamari Laila hai, yahi hamari Sohni hai, yahi hamari Sassi hai Heer bhi apni yahi zameen. These are a few lines from Vital Signs’ Yehi Zameen; one of the most patriotic songs of all time. This not only reflects the sense of ownership of their land that, under the patronage of Shoaib Mansoor, Vital Signs stood for, but also foreshadows the genesis of the ideological foundation of Coke Studio  — the idea of celebrating your own folklore, and keeping it alive and relevant.

This becomes especially important when people have become global citizens and national identity is still suffering from the quintessential cultural confusion of a more geographic outlook on history.

Episodes three, and specifically four, of season 6 made a conscious effort to celebrate our true roots, which couldn’t have been done in a more fitting manner than revitalising Bengali and Balochi folk; two regions that have been missing from our mainstream narrative.  Where episode four was star-studded, with something soulful from each song, Atif Aslam was an experiment gone wrong in episode 3, with the dynamisn of both Sanam Marvi and Zara Madani being the only saving grace.

Laila o Laila — Rostam Mir Lashari

First recorded by the legendary Faiz Mohammad Baloch, Laila o Laila is by far the most celebrated Balochi folk song in the world. Whether it’s the Balochs of Lyari or of Pungur, of Iran or of India, they all get their shoulders shaking to the moves of Chap (Balochi Dance) when this number comes on. The Coke Studio version, however, is a song soaked in dense production. At times, this nearly overpowers the folk roots that should be the centre of the song. The Baloch landscape is often depicted as a dusty plain of arid lands, but its music is rich and cheerful. Though full of crisp musical interplay thanks to some flavourful accordion and Norway’s Hardanger Fiddle (A variation violin that sounds like Sarangi), the track itself lacks the integral swing of the music that comes from that region. Though the performance may have had some success in capturing the bittersweet emotion of the original, it does not have the dynamics of a song that is sung and danced to in the streets of the region. The rhythm is too static and the form too dull. Having said that, Coke Studio’s rendition of Laila o Laila is still a sparkling souvenir of a vibrant musical mélange.

Aamay Bhashaili Rey by Alamgir and Fariha Pervez

The timelessness of Alamgir’s voice that will completely take over you in this rather soul soothing combination of the Bengali folk song Aamay Bhashaili Rey, and Fariha Pervez’s take on Saiyya Bina Ghar Jana. His alaaps are long, yet effortless, so much so that the highly skilled Fariha Pervez doesn’t even come close to the vocal prowess of Alamgir, who hits all the right notes with utmost perfection. Don’t let the wrinkles on Alamgir’s face fool you; his voice is as vibrant today, as it was in the days when he used to dance to Albela rahi, with a teenage Aamir Zaki backing him on bass guitars.

Zoe Viccaji, Zara Madani and Sanam Marvi

Three singers with very different approaches to music have upped their game in Coke Studio with their recent efforts. Where Marvi was always a maverick, her divine rendition of Yaar Vekho is possibly the best Coke Studio has ever delivered, in terms of vocal prowess. Madani was no less than a sweet nightingale in Raat Gaye. With her unique tonal quality supported by the electronic atmosphere created by Hyatt’s musicians, she made us almost forget the Ayesha Omar fiasco. Viccaji might have been noticed for the jazzy Raat Gaye in Episode 3, but it is really her version of  Üsküdar’a Gider İken, called Ishq Kinara, which she’ll be remembered for this seaon. For the first time, we have seen her pick a song that is challenging for her pitch and scales, and deliver it with both finesse and very few errors of Urdu pronounciation.

Asad Abbas and Atif Aslam

Aslam is an artist who always delivers, especially in the case of Coke Studio. This time around however, the experimentation with his song Channah doesn’t quite work out, partly due to a combination of the unusual scale he chose for himself, along with an orchestral arrangement that didn’t suit his raw vocals. Abbas, on the other hand, is a genuine discovery for Coke Studio, and with his powerful yet soothing take on the Sufi folk poem Mahi Gal, he may just be a gold mine of talent not only for Pakistan, but also across the border.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • Nescafe Basement
    Dec 23, 2013 - 8:32PM

    I still think Coke Studio is the best.


  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Dec 23, 2013 - 9:15PM

    I came across Coke Studio Pakistan couple of months ago and some how hooked on it. They have produce some very beautiful music and brought in some very young talent. In my view Coke Studio has brought harmony and peace message internationally through music. Those of us living abroad for decades feel very proud of our heritage and the young talent our country has produced is some thing to be admired. What a way to go Coke Studio , great job, we appreciate your policy of encouraging folk music of Pakistan. My thanks to ET for publishing,encouraging and projecting Pakistan’s new artists.


  • optimist
    Dec 23, 2013 - 9:31PM

    Don’t say anything against my coke studio :)
    That is one of the few things where Pakistanis can be rightly proud!


  • ahsan dar
    Dec 23, 2013 - 10:28PM

    yeah Atif aslam always deliver, like he did in his Billie Jeans killer version that literally killed everyone who listened, where do you ppl get your writing from


  • Emjay
    Dec 23, 2013 - 11:31PM

    I don’t agree with the author, posing as a ‘critic’ here. Channa was an absolute delight and will remain one of the top songs of this season.


  • S.D.
    Dec 24, 2013 - 1:29AM

    This writer certainly should not write anymore about Pakistani Music Scene.


  • Jeans
    Dec 24, 2013 - 2:36AM

    “Laila o Laila — Rostam Mir Lashari” is so far the best song of this season.


  • Magnanimity
    Dec 24, 2013 - 4:25AM

    Channa is the highlight of CS season 6 !!!


  • Ali
    Dec 24, 2013 - 5:00AM

    Coke Studio is our pride and i love even failed experiments. At least he is trying different things and that is what CS is about, some of them will rock and some will fail.

    Please do not stop experimenting CS, only thing that you may need to do in future is cut down on foreign musicians as it can be overkill at times.


  • Samra
    Dec 24, 2013 - 7:14AM

    Atif Aslam did not go wrong, he did not fail
    channa is a very beautiful song
    he did have his notes and pitches right
    Atif Aslam is the pride of Pakistan I only watched Coke Studio fr the first time because of him


  • Raheel
    Dec 24, 2013 - 9:43AM



  • Summaiya
    Dec 24, 2013 - 2:05PM

    I actually liked Atif Aslam’s Channa and a lot of people i have spoken to, male, female and professionals think the same too. He definitely delivered.

    And Fariha Pervez is brilliant as well.

    Stop criticizing for the sake of criticizing.


  • Shamy
    Dec 24, 2013 - 2:17PM

    I have to say this season of Coke Studio just does not connect well with the wider Pakistani audience and that includes me. The fact that theyve got in foreign musicians is just not working out to be honest in my opinions. We Pakistanis were so proud of creating music out of our own talent i.e. the likes of jaffar zaidi, Gumby, Momo, Asad and wanted to see them perform rather than some unknown random faces. I am not saying the serbs are not doing a good job. But somehow i do feel deep down that there was a sense of pride looking at our own musicians on screen and connecting them to Coke Studio and Pakistan. Youve taken away our pride by bringing in foreign musicians. Experimenting with music is fine if you want to, but over experimentation often kills. And this is what we are seeing this season.


  • MythicalCMD
    Dec 24, 2013 - 3:54PM

    Author? What are you talking about? I’m a baloch of Iranian origin living outside Pakistan because of problems we faced in Iran and Pakistan, sometimes because of our religious differences or sometimes because of our cultural differences or lastly because we’ve different views from the militants who otherwise look at the army as their enemy, in vivid manner, they are our enemy because we belive Pakistan and Balochistan can co exist and we can accept our cultures and respect each other,Saying coke studio has failed to touch the baloch sentiments is as stupid as It sounds. I agree with the fact that not many baloch people living in balochistan’s plateaus,deserts, will suddenly accept this ‘too modern for them sounds’ and that too will only happen if they are educated about what basically Internet and computers are and government gives them their complete rights and electricity for starters but other balochs who are blessed with education and are living in urban Pakistani cities or mega cities like London,dubai,Muscat,Bahrain,Doha, they’ll diffenitely be happy that atleast some in Pakistan cares for them. That there are people who accept our cultures and our art and promote it, and also that baloch are not only isolated to the slums of liyari , that we’re spread around the ends of world (Sweden And Norway,North Pole) as well, the guy singing being from Iran/Karachi/Turbat/Norway/Sweden, the backup baloch guys being from Gawader and Gangs Of Liyari Respectively). Please promote love, and peace. Stop dividing everything with Borders, Mr Author please stop dividing music. It’s the only universal language we know of. And do research, interact with people and ask them how they feel about The experiment, instead of just writing sheer criticism on a new experimental platform which revolutionised the Middle East , (coke studio Arabia,India,Africa) Africa, now Europe as well, in just 8 years.
    Now lastly, the last episodes produced some of the best Songs ever in coke studio’s history. Laila o Laila, Ishq Kinnara,Channa, and many others huge as well!
    Music is a subjective matter, not Objective.
    Hopefully this will be published.


  • Muhammad Usman
    Dec 24, 2013 - 4:47PM

    I am not at all impressed by the remarks of the author. I believe that atif aslam and his team has done wonderful job in Channa. I am shocked that author of this article did not even bother to mention the work of Marvi in Yar Vekho.
    Express Tribune please dont publish article from author like that . Thanks


  • Haris Ali
    Dec 24, 2013 - 5:24PM

    Totally biased article…..


  • Anjum Amim Siddiqui
    Dec 24, 2013 - 6:32PM

    This coke studio has one problem no connection between singers & music. Observe the face of Serbian drumer it appears he is doing it under pressure rather connecting with song.


  • Ashar Ali
    Dec 24, 2013 - 10:10PM

    Few songs are below par as per my liking but songs like Jogi, Rabba Ho, Babu Bhai, Channa, Laili Jan, Laila O Laila, Ishq Kinara and Tori Chab are definitely the most beautiful songs. These songs are also unique because different musicians, different singers with different singing styles are fused together in a very successful and unique way. The idea is first of its kind and definately Pakistanis should take pride in it. I feel that by design Coke Studio is being criticized, I would suggest that we should get rid of the comparison syndrome. There is no comparison of this season with the older ones because both are different in many ways. Very Soulful music, two thumbs up for Rohail Hyatt, singers and musicians.


  • Asmat Ullah
    Dec 24, 2013 - 11:11PM

    The Biggest Disappointment and surprise is this article, Coke studio 6 is so far the best musical production by Rohail Hyatt, The soul and purpose of this Season should also be kept in mind before criticizing. This season displays that Pakistanis are not terrorists,…we are fun loving people who cherish lovely music and can connect with foreign lands via music..


  • 357
    Dec 25, 2013 - 3:12AM

    Laila o Laila… Man oh man, that dude doesnt sing…he pours his heart out, western fusion notwithstanding. Major ratings there!!!


  • Truth
    Dec 26, 2013 - 8:22AM

    Great Job Coke Studio….
    I am very much pleased to listen my childhood favorite Laila o Laila, especially wonderful job by Rustam Lashari….

    @Author..please don’t forget to appreciate in a failed attempt to balance the artcle…


  • sunrise
    Jan 4, 2014 - 3:50PM

    translate laila o laila song Recommend

  • Asad
    Jan 6, 2014 - 8:14PM

    Hats off to Coke studio. Amazing combination altogether. Its a fantastic Music cocktail.


  • Awakened Paksitani
    Jan 12, 2014 - 1:39AM

    Dear sir, apart from the ET piece and apart from the music critic, I as a Pakistani, accept whole heatedly that yes, we are proud of our brothers from Baluchistan. I, feel for the unjust done to them, I feel for the negligence they had faced for such a long time. And I, as a fellow Pakistani, am sorry, for not speaking out about it, I am sorry for not doing anything for my brothers who had been neglected all these years. But, I as a Pakistani and many others like me would like to say, that Pakistan is as much a Baluchi’s home as it is anyone elses and I promise, that I will do everything in my capacity to make Baluchis of Baluchistan an inseparable part of Pakistan not by force but with love, compassion and brotherhood. We can make amends, we can bury our differences and we can makeup for our past follies only if you are willing to forgive and give your brothers another chance. Let not the spirit of peace and harmony die. United we stand and with you by our side, we stand proud, we stand strong.


  • Bobthebuilder
    Feb 20, 2014 - 9:36AM

    Dear writer, about Laila O laila by Rostam Mirlashari, is it really not good enough for you?


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