Music with ‘Strings’ attached

Published: October 10, 2014
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Coke Studio, one of the largest music platforms in Pakistan, has entered into its seventh phase with Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia from Strings taking the reins from the great Rohail Hayat. Coke Studio, as a venture, has received great appreciation from the audience and after years of turmoil in the music industry in Pakistan, there finally is a brand of music which people can relate to. However, amid much criticism of Hayat losing his ‘musical creativity’ as the seasons progressed, Coke, the parent brand behind Coke Studio, decided to experiment and give the studio a new direction.

Now whether Strings have got it in them to handle the pressures of Coke Studio or not is something that we will just have to wait and see however, judging by the episodes that have been aired till now, they will have no problems in carrying on the legacy of Hayat. But the question remains that whether the new administration is carrying on the legacy of Rohail Hayat or is it giving the studio a new direction?

Strings has had a mixed season with varying reviews on the three episodes that have been aired till now. Although much of the audience loves the simple and soothing music produced by the ‘risk-free’ Strings, the sense of adventure and exploration is missing from the current season. Hayat was known for his bold and sometimes ‘wild’ interpretations of songs (Charkha, Alif Allah etc). Strings, on the other hand, have played it quite safe giving out only simple structured songs and relying on the ability of the vocalist and induction of various instruments to turn the feel of the song around. The ambience remains the same and the signature ‘Strings-like’ progression is highly visible in the songs aired this season.

Another aspect is the growing unease in the artists who have performed in this season. Artists rarely complained when Hayat was in the driving seat but with Strings, many veterans feel neglected including powerful names such as Amir Zaki, Faraz Anwar and Shallum. If the artists are not comfortable, then how can they produce what is being asked of them? This is the question that the producers need to ask themselves if they have committed to lead a new direction but if they are just looking to carry on Hayat’s legacy, then they will have no problem in coming up with simple songs to attract the masses.

We remain hopeful that the brand, which has given much hope to the music industry, will stay alive and evolve. However, we will have to wait and see whether it is a new ‘studio’ or just the same music wrapped in new Strings.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2014. 

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