KARACHI: Strings had the opportunity of creating history but they missed it by a whisker or maybe a lot more than that. Rohail Hyatt’s ambitious yet disappointing rendition of Coke Studio season 6 had given Strings enough vacuum to fill in but they only managed to create a few sparks but no fire.
Energetic Ahad Nayani and experienced Khalid Khan did manage to give the redundant Coke Studio sound a more 80s pop feel (something expected of Strings) but Rohail’s farsightedness and holistic approach ended up being replaced by Strings’ myopia.
They played it safe; so safe that there were no cross-genre collaborations. Sajjad Ali sung alongside Fariha Pervez, Abbas Ali Khan sang a duet with Humaira Channa and same goes for Rahma Ali and Jimmy Khan.
However, the most shocking collaboration was between Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen, a production which was average at best, when compared to Coke Studio’s own standards and one that ended up not doing justice to any of the two maestros.
In a nutshell, Strings didn’t come out of their comfort zone, they seemed scared to experiment at large but whenever it did, like in the case of Usman Riaz’s Bone Shaker, it did pay off. All in all, confusion dominated fusion and comfort dominated risk in Coke Studio 7, a season that was supposed to celebrate the ‘Sound of the Nation’ ended up sacrificing the soul of Balochi folk, for the love of Komal Rizvi and confusion.
Amir Zaki’s overdue induction into the show was reaffirmation of the fact that Coke Studio had been missing out on something truly special. If anything, it was the maestro’s guitar solo in Zoheb Hassan’s Chehra which proved to be the saving face of a largely disappointing song.
Despite the shortcomings, one thing that has constantly been improving every passing season has been the video production quality. Credit must be given to Abbas Ali Khan who produced the visual effects used on the set along with the colour and themes that complimented the mood and genre of the song being played.
As producers, Strings were clearly spoilt for choice as the season boasted of probably the most star-studded roster since the groundbreaking season 2 of Coke Studio.
But despite this, Strings were unable to effectively utilise the talents of several legendary musicians such as Sajjad Ali, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Abida Parveen, Humera Channa and Aamir Zaki.
With Abida Parveen and Sajjad Ali, they might have pushed the envelope a little too much and over-utilised them, which inadvertently resulted in a more monotonous sound for the season.
On the other hand, a guitarist of Amir Zaki’s stature deserved more than a guitar solo. A musician with a portfolio as diverse as that of Zaki merited a solo song.
It turned out to be a three-way race between Asrar, Usman Riaz and Jimmy Khan. All three musicians deserved to be on the show and credit must be given to Strings for giving them the freedom to better express themselves through their own distinct styles. Riaz has quickly established himself as one of the more celebrated and unique musicians in the current Pakistani music scene since his appearance on Uth Records with his well-crafted music videos and soundtrack for Seedlings.
But Asrar and Jimmy Khan have literally shot to prominence with their appearance on the show with the former arguably delivering the best song of the season in Sub Aakho Ali Ali.
A notable mention in this category would also be Sara Haider, who made her debut on backing vocals for the season. Her chemistry with Rachel Viccaji was one of the few highlights of the season.
For a person who is considered as the pioneer of pop music in Pakistan, Zoheb Hassan’s appearance in this season has dented his legacy quite badly. The musician seems to give the impression of an aging athlete coming out of retirement in an attempt to relive the glory days.
Unlike most musicians, Zoheb Hassan would’ve been better served doing original songs rather than revisiting some of his classics as it is very difficult to replicate the success and quality of those songs for him, especially, in this day and age.
Even as a vocalist, Hasan looked under-cooked and off-color as he was outshined by his collaborators on two occasions, Amir Zaki in Chehra and Zoe Viccaji in Jaana.
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