Coke Studio 6: Abrupt ending leaves Baloch musicians disappointed

Published: January 6, 2014
Ustad Mumtaz Sabzal, a globally known Banjo player with a reputed musical lineage, was disappointed at how he was cut out of Rostam Mirlashari’s Laila O Laila

Ustad Mumtaz Sabzal, a globally known Banjo player with a reputed musical lineage, was disappointed at how he was cut out of Rostam Mirlashari’s Laila O Laila

Ustad Mumtaz Sabzal, a globally known Banjo player with a reputed musical lineage, was disappointed at how he was cut out of Rostam Mirlashari’s Laila O Laila PHOTO: PUBLICITY

KARACHI: Eight episodes released on a weekly basis — a promise that Coke Studio made to its loyal fans before airing. And yet, unfortunately, this isn’t what happened in reality. The schedules kept changing; going from a weekly release to a release on every alternate weekend.

The varying schedules are now the least of its concerns. In fact, what has taken everyone by surprise is the announcement that Coke Studio’s fifth episode, which aired last Sunday, was its last and final for this season.

“The final episode of Coke Studio’s sixth chapter in its journey was aired on all major television channels and radio stations and is available online across Pakistan,” said an official press release issued by the Coke Studio’s PR team, on Monday.

This rather sudden end to season six of South Asia’s most popular music show has not only disappointed its fans, but also some of the musicians who were a part of it, at least during the making if not on-screen. The Baloch musicians, who kept waiting to see their melodies and instruments featured on the show, were disgruntled and saddened at being sidelined and ignored.

Ustad Mumtaz Sabzal, a globally known Banjo player with a reputed musical lineage, was disappointed at how he was cut out of Rostam Mirlashari’s Laila O Laila (from episode 4) and how another song that he was featured in wasn’t even released.

 “What happened with Laila O Laila ridicules Baloch music, and is a mockery of all the seasoned musicians who were featured in it but were left out of the final product,” Sabzal says to The Express Tribune. “I spent so much time with Rohail on this and played so many variations of the folk tune that he was dancing to them and kissed the musicians’ hands out of respect. However, sadly, there wasn’t even a single shot of those musicians.”

Earlier, while he was on a flight to Lahore with the rest of the musicians for the filming of the show, Sabzal had shared his excitement regarding his participation in Coke Studio with The Express Tribune. “It is high time that the sounds and rhythms of Balochistan, a province that is bleeding, are heard on a global platform,” he had said. “Through my Banjo and the sounds of other instruments from Gwadar and Naal, we have tried our best to bring the sweetness and humbleness of Baloch culture across in our music.”

Their excitement turned into sheer discontentment, and Sabzal shares that it was only on Rohail’s request that he invited musicians all the way from Surbandar, a fishermen’s village near Gwadar, to participate in this season. Amongst those musicians was Muhammad Umar Saurozi, a seasoned Suroz player who only performs at international shows in Sweden, Norway and South Africa and had simply agreed to be part of Coke Studio because he was a student of Sabzal’s grandfather.

“He spent quite a lot of time in the studio but all that was released was a small part that featured his son Fidaa Hussain playing the Balochi Dumboora. These are the people who made Laila O Laila what it is today and sidelining them was simply in bad taste,” asserts Sabzal.

While Saurozi wasn’t available for a comment, The Express Tribune contacted Abdul Kareem ‘Dholak Nawaz’, a dholak player who now resides in Mauripur, Karachi, but has had the privilege of playing Laila O Laila live with Faiz Mohammad Baloch — the legendary folk musician who first brought this celebrated tune to the forefront back in the ’60s.

“I was almost in tears when I saw Laila O Laila,” says Kareem. “The whole of Lyari, especially the upcoming Balochi musicians, were so excited to see one of their own teachers become a part of Coke Studio. When I saw the final product, I felt ashamed; it was as if I had been making false claims.”

Apart from Mohammad Baloch, Kareem is one of the most sought after dholak players in Sindh and Balochistan, and has toured and played with popular singers like Humaira Channa and Shazia khushk to name a few.

“I know we were paid, and that was what we were hired for, but at this point in life all one wants is recognition on a bigger platform, not money,” emphasises Kareem. “I have grown up with Laila O Laila, and not being a part of its modern rendition after putting so much effort into it, really hurts. But more than myself I feel sorry for Ustad Sabzal and Ustad Umar, because they are our legends and two of the few people who have been pillars of Balochi folk music in Pakistan.”

What needs to be noted is that this is not the first time such an incident has happened on Coke Studio. Random rejection of songs has made other artists unhappy as well, during earlier seasons. Sajjad Ali’s third song in season four, which he perceived to be “the most exciting number ever” when he shared it with the writer, was also never released.

The Express Tribune contacted Lotus PR, the company that handles the public relations for Coke Studio, for a comment from Rohail Hyatt. However, there was no response till the filing of the story.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • sabi
    Jan 6, 2014 - 7:57PM

    Soul needs no outside help to get attracted to beauty and vice versa.Thank you.


  • sall90
    Jan 6, 2014 - 8:07PM

    Well, the neigbor in south have taken over Coke Studio and it was surprising to see still 5 episodes made it out. Rohail has an alternative for sure – Pepsi Studio.


  • S
    Jan 6, 2014 - 8:28PM

    Quite disappointed to hear that to be honest


  • Ramiz
    Jan 6, 2014 - 8:39PM

    Don’t criticize too much. Rustam Lashari did justice to the song. :)
    BTW I don’t understand Balochi language, but after listening this song of Coke studio, I wished to learn this beautiful language. Off-course, Credit goes to coke studio.


  • Pakistani
    Jan 6, 2014 - 9:00PM

    This season of Coke Studio was a sheer disappointment. My score: 1 star out of 5. Recommend

  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Jan 6, 2014 - 9:11PM

    Perhaps Coke Studio will come out later with some of these recordings which has been sidelined for time being. Let us hope we see more of the legends from Baluchistan in future release. Yes, Coke Studio success is because of Rohail Hyatt and outstanding musicians from around the world. I can’t get enough of their music and keep on listening to it every day. There got to be a way to satisfy these musicians who are grieved by some of Coke Studio’s decisions.Recommend

  • Sharjeel Uqaili
    Jan 6, 2014 - 9:38PM

    I felt the same that local balochi musicians were not given a lot of screen time but I am sure Rohail Hyatt had his reasons. I am not trying to ridicule anyone here but Rohail has the final say in this show and he has the right to put forward whatever he pleases. We have now seen a successful formula so perhaps we can emulate coke studio and make other shows of similar standards.Recommend

  • optimist
    Jan 6, 2014 - 11:23PM

    I have worked in various productions and to be fair, these things happen all the time.
    Some people are happy and some people are bitter because their part is cut. There are always reasons but you cannot satisfy the grieved party.


  • sensible
    Jan 7, 2014 - 12:19AM

    We have very weak memory. It was actually coke studio who first introduced balochi folk singing to international stage. Remember season 4. Please don’t malign the only real pride of Pak. Sometimes Its not feasible to accommodate everyone especially in such a big stage.This season have been one of the best, sadly we are not used to this kind of fusion of rock and jazz with folk and contemporary. Rohail has done great job, this is not a joke to bring together musicians of different countries and compose 20, 30 track. Kudos to coke studio for bringing us such a diverse music.


  • Sane Baloch
    Jan 7, 2014 - 1:18AM

    The song is indeed well sung with mixture of different melodies from Balochistan and Scandinavia but coke studio must not forget the local musicians who are well respected among locals.
    However, they have at least included a Balochi song so I can’t complaint since giving representation to Balochistan is rarely seen in Pakistani communities or projects. Something is better than nothing


  • fan
    Jan 7, 2014 - 5:44AM

    Good, informative article. I am quite disappointed too that Baloch musicians and artists were not adequately acknowledged/credited by Coke Studio. And that sense of disappointment is compounded by the fact that a lot of people like me were most looking forward to the exotic sounds of Balochi and other regional language songs that one does not get to hear everyday in the mainstream media. Coke Studio season 6 was a missed opportunity therefore that failed to live up to expectations, but hopefully next season will be better.


  • Participant
    Jan 7, 2014 - 11:23AM

    I honestly know what these musicians feel. I was a participant as well and to be very clear, the producer totally spoiled our song. To the point that one could hear patched errors (badly edited layers). If people get a chance on this platform then they expect to do big things. Not just paired up with part-time backup singers as an add-on. There is no creative control for the artist on this show. So I understand where these guys are coming from and fully support them.


  • Garam aaloo
    Jan 7, 2014 - 1:46PM

    This whole story was really uncalled for.. These artists should rise above their personal branding and look for a bigger cause that is to brand Balochi music. while watching and listening to the song no one can deny the fact that the song has represented Balochi music in terms of video and music. Secondly, I respect the local musicians and their fans but they should not have provided a rosy picture to their fans at the first place.

    @ participant: You should have the guts to disclose your identity so that we could have commented on merit to your claims.


  • Jan 7, 2014 - 3:25PM

    To add to what I have already mentioned, look at the problems Indian version is having. It comes off badly barring few flashes of brilliance. What rohail has been doing for such a long time is no mean job. So it would be best and only logical that people give rohail some benefit rather than giving out their disappointment so openly.

    To me, he has shown a hitherto not known picture of Pakistan. I would even like to come over to Pakistan if given a chance just to be a part of the recordings!

    I do hope that these songs that couldn’t make their way to us would be released as singles and released soon


  • South Asia?
    Jan 7, 2014 - 3:38PM

    I could understand if Coke Studio Pakistan described itself as the most popular music show in Pakistan. But most popular in south Asia? What is the basis of that claim? Ad revenues, viewership? What?


  • Usman
    Jan 7, 2014 - 3:54PM

    What a stupid person is the author.What is purpose of coke studio. Simple to let the younger listen to their rich but bored music ( to their liking) in a different way . Thats it
    and we all like that .so please i request these old author to stop commenting on coke studio. what is so good about oops i did it again sung by britney. but we all liked that and so is case with coke studio


  • Zohaib
    Jan 8, 2014 - 2:11AM

    @South Asia?:
    With almost a 100 million (yes that’s one hundred million) views on its YouTube channel and an undisclosed amount of views on Vimeo (due to the ban of YouTube in Pakistan), AND countless downloads of its content from an endless array of websites, it’s not just one of the most popular shows in South Asia. It is the most popular music show in the history of this region.. At least this article got this fact right! Check out their channel on YouTube if you have any doubts..


  • Bilal
    Jan 17, 2014 - 11:27AM

    i discontinued watching coke studio a while ago and shifted to nescafe basement for my dose of fusion music


  • Khizer Hyatt
    Jan 28, 2014 - 11:25PM

    Coke Studio Season 6 is a huge disappointment.
    I am extremely disappointed with Coke Studio’s old 1990’s Abrar ul Haq fever and Ayesha Omar’s fragile plastic voice.They need to bring new,fresh and talented singers of Pakistan like Imran Khan (Amplifier fame) and Falak Shabbir which are more in youth demand,rather than spoiled Abrar ul Haq or Ayesha Omar.
    I only liked two songs from Coke Studio Season 6,one by Atif Aslam and the other one Kande Utte by Ali Azmat feat. Muazzam Ali Khan.In women Fariha Pervaiz was good,but the rest of the female singers was just blowing air from their mouth.
    I hope Coke Studio will rise again in Season 7.Recommend

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