Coke Studio 8: From boys to men

Published: August 17, 2015
Season’s first episode testifies to the growth of Strings but falls short in stirring excitement.

Season’s first episode testifies to the growth of Strings but falls short in stirring excitement.


Ever since Rohail Hyatt hung up his boots, there were many who wrote Coke Studio off. The excitement had faded. Things just weren’t the same. Strings’ debut was like a Javed Miandad innings – carefree in terms of aesthetics but full of intent.

Their second round has come out as a more thoughtful venture. The line-up is well-rounded. The Atifs and Ali Zafars are still around, yet the earthiness has only increased. With Asim Azhar, Mulazim Hussain, Mai Dhai and Karam Abbas aboard, the show has assuredly upped its inclusivity. Here’s insight into the first episode of season 8, aired on August 16, in what might be the biggest sweep across Pakistani television.

Aankharli Pharookai

Mai Dhai earned her spurs last year with her folk tune Sarak Sarak, which instantly clicked with the audiences. Aankharli Pharookai is an exact shadow of that composition – a raw, festive treat that echoes the arrival of happiness in the wilderness of Rajhastan. The Marwari articulation, whose eccentricity is oft-discussed by its native speaker and humour writer Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi, is an ode to a guest. Be it Arsalan Ali’s harmonium fillers or Aahad Nayani’s spirited drumbeating, the aura is an upgrade to last season’s dangerously catchy Shakar Wandaan Re. But the experiment with Karam Abbas has been no less than a disaster. The track demands too much from the well-versed vocalist, who seems to struggle while keeping up with Mai’s energy.


An opus of Nabeel Shaukat Ali’s artistic prowess, Bewajah is one for the masses to hum to. While Nabeel’s voice quality and Sajid’s soulful reciprocation warm the heart, the string section’s riffs will provide the long overdue goosebumps. Haider Ali’s guitar notes on the keyboard walk the listener through the domain the composition transports them to. The music is not only reminiscent of String’s coming-of-age record Koi Aanay Wala Hai (2008), but also belts out nostalgia of popular Pakistan music in days of yore, when the playing was crisp, the Urdu was right and the product was honest.


Little has been done to meddle with the actual arrangement, which was originally part of Mekaal Hasan Band’s third record Andholan (2014). Ahsan Papu’s presence overshadows both Abid and Sajid, who could’ve been utilised in a more efficient way. While the euphony of Mekaal and Imran’s playing are a treat for guitar enthusiasts, the tight groove is questioned by Momo’s palm muting with the right helpings of distortion. The strings section’s presence could’ve spruced up the regality of the track, but for those who get swayed by Eastern melodic compositions, Sayon will stay with them for a long, long time. Many MHB loyalists may disagree, but Sharmistha Chatterjee has no shoes to fill. Both she and Javed Bashir are good to an extent that scares you. Seems the heir to Runa Laila’s throne has finally arrived.


With over a million views on Facebook alone in less than two days, the track fits the curtain-raiser bill. What’s being dubbed as a provocative attempt, gathering a crowd comprising both romantics and naysayers, seems to be an honest attempt at bringing to light the multifaceted musical acumen that Atif Aslam is hell-bent on portraying. While he manages to breeze through the eulogy, the qawwali craves for a vocal powerhouse, such as Amjad Sabri, who could’ve greased the rendition had it been a collaboration. When the vocals don’t interest the listener anymore, Ustad Tanveer Hussain’s rubaab provides some respite. The redundancy in chorus is vivid, while the arrangement is reasonably decent. Wish the producers could borrow the track’s metronome settings for last season’s Chaap Tilak and fix both the promising covers that fell a yard short. While a comparison with the original and an evaluation based on the aesthetics of qawwali are both unfair and unyielding, the attempt will certainly not make the mighty Sabris turn in their graves.

Verdict: By and large, the episode goes to prove Strings have undoubtedly upped the ante from the previous year. What might not excite many as it used to, is yet to lose its relevance.


Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Parvez
    Aug 18, 2015 - 12:13AM

    Thank god Rohail Hayatt has gone…… he did what he had to do and it was time to let fresh blood take over. The sound has changed, the music setting is fresh and different for each piece, as opposed to the same monotonous sound that Coke Studio was being associated with ( except for a few flashes of brilliance )…….Up to now all the songs in season 8 that I have heard were pretty good…..even Atif Aslam doing a qawwali.Recommend

  • Salma
    Aug 18, 2015 - 12:39AM

    Mai Dhai was incredible. Her sincere, powerful voice echoed like the wind in the desert. A treasure, indeed.Recommend

  • Aug 18, 2015 - 9:24AM

    Season 7 was not bad at all but the distracting dances by vocalists and that over produced sound overshadowed everything. That said, it had some melody and although my playlist since then doesn’t include many songs from season 7, I thoroughly disagree with the writer that anyone wrote CokeStudio Pakistan off!

    I don’t agree with the views on Atif song and Mai dhai’s song as well but then we don’t have to agree. It is our own interpretation when art is in question.

    We like it or not, everyone dissed CokeStudio in Pakistan when it began calling it tacky and manipulative. It stood tall and took the test of time on the chin. We will never know why Rohail had to leave and am sure even the worst critics of Rohail miss his genius. If he shared a sound that was not up to your liking, it is YOUR fault because a set of human beings cannot define what can be termed as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ just like I can’t make that choice for you.

    The studio is a platform where traditional is mixed with new and new is mixed with newer and for that, this episode ticks all the right boxes

    Cannot wait for the rest of the season

    Lots of love from India
    Rohit Recommend

  • Amjad
    Aug 18, 2015 - 12:40PM

    Episode 1 was a disaster. Atif Aslam murdered a beautiful qawwali. Mai Dhai needs to tone herself down to Mai paune do or dedh. The third song was totally be wajah and Mekaal Hassan Band should be banned. Worst episode of all seasons.Recommend

  • Malik Murad
    Aug 18, 2015 - 12:57PM

    An excellent article explaining the overall episode 1 of CS-8. A superb effort by Strings who have put up expectations for the viewers to its highest levels after this great 1st Episode. All the four songs were great and lovely. The inclusivity is at its peak as we have been provided with variety of music, lyrics, singers etc. Great Job Strings!Recommend

  • LOL
    Aug 18, 2015 - 1:02PM

    @Amjad: looks like you have been winning Grammy’s, since the rest seem so terrible to you. Please share your songs with us.Recommend

  • shaikhmustafa
    Aug 18, 2015 - 4:46PM

    @Amjad ; if you think Mekaal hasan band should be banned then im afraid the entire pop music scene in pakistan should be written off as clearly there has never been a better sounding band than MHB in pakistan.
    While yes this particluar MHB track was probably not as grand sounding as was expected from MHB given the very high standards that they have set for themselves. The riffing on studio version of the track and the coke studio version sounded different, im sure it was planned to be that way and yes while we are all huge fans of pappu sb. but not utilizing the other two flute players effectively left me wondering why mekaal did that. Recommend

  • Altaf Abbasi
    Aug 19, 2015 - 3:56PM

    Atif Aslam Is The Best Singer In AsiaRecommend

  • Awais
    Aug 19, 2015 - 11:08PM


  • Ali
    Aug 19, 2015 - 11:10PM

    The performance of Mai Dhai is clearly a copy of Coke Studio India’s song “Kattey”.Recommend

  • Agha
    Aug 21, 2015 - 1:48PM

    Maybe you just need to tone down the “volume”.Recommend

  • Agha
    Aug 21, 2015 - 2:18PM

    The only “copy” is that the performers are sitting. Thats all there is to it. The performances are completely different.Recommend

  • Syed Owais
    Aug 22, 2015 - 9:18PM

    Atif aslam and all the artists are growing in experience and are inherting the soul fullness of classical folk music and sufiyana touch in the taste of youngsters.This is what has to be admired.Recommend

  • sara
    Aug 30, 2015 - 9:45AM

    Asim azhar? Looks like coke studio Is dead coz now loosers who are delusional and think they are talented are part of the lineup. Even the bacKing vocals group has more talent in thier tiny toe than asim ashar could have in his whole body. Stinkssss.Recommend

  • Asad Abbass
    Dec 21, 2015 - 2:55PM

    Hi salam Madam i am singer give me information how can i release my Cd with coke studio kindly give me info thanking youRecommend

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