Out of the 12 tracks churned out by Strings this year, only three can be termed as original compositions. While it makes sense to revisit the past and honour giants whose work went largely unnoticed, the stack of records containing covers, medleys, tributes and remixes has gone through the roof and reached the extent of exploitation. Also, under the nose of master wordsmith Anwar Maqsood and competent backstage staffers, such as Jami and Zahra Sabri, diction has been mercilessly slaughtered over the past three episodes, be it in terms of voiceovers or the way the lyrics are sung. Season 8’s third episode was no different. With a few happy moments now and then, it largely played on the contagious romance of the past.
Time to address the elephant in the room. Ever since the show was conceived, it has upheld the tradition of celebrating the achievements of some of Pakistan’s finest music talents. The few exceptions too have somewhat done good enough to be noticed among towering artists. Despite having the approval of certain sections, Ali Sethi, Ayesha Omar and Komal Rizvi were allowed in just too soon. That being said, Umran Langiyaan was probably one of the best arranged compositions to come out of the show in the past two seasons. Apart from a few instances here and there, Sethi was unable to get right most of the murkis the Asad Amanat Ali anthem is peppered with, and the improvisation helped only to a certain extent. He helplessly chases the tempo by skirting areas that demanded justice. Nabeel Shaukat Ali sitting idle through most of the track and then walking in was a directorial decision never witnessed before in the Coke Studio style of play. His Chan Chan Chankan transports the listener to a world they would never want to get out of. In an ideal world, some leprechaun could have secretly swapped the lyrics sheets of the two vocalists or, whispered the idea of allowing Nabeel more time on the microphone in Bilal and Faisal’s ears.
Neun La Leya
The duo that director Sohail Javed once called Pakistan’s Pink Floyd finally returned from a hiatus to restore the faith of many skeptics. Jaffer and Maaz’s genius is known to all and they delivered just the right product — a soothing rendition of a folk melody that invokes emotions that are hard to articulate. The track opens to a rising electronic melody, breaking the monotony of the signature Strings’ method. With a Turkish saaz in his lap, Ustad Tanveer Hussain proved yet again that there is no stringed instrument that he cannot boss. Hamid Ali Bela will surely be smiling up there, somewhere.
Man Aamadeh Am
A Persian track tabled by the ethereal Gul Panrra as a solo act. With commercial instincts kicking in yet again, the producers brought in Atif Aslam, who has drawn an eclipse of moths every time he has appeared on the show. The cover has much to offer during the initial four minutes, with Panrra casting a spell over the listeners. As the song drags itself to the ninth minute, it leaves a spoilt impression. The collaboration will, however, serve Panra well, bringing her into the limelight she deserves.
In an interview with The Express Tribune, Euphoria frontman Palash Sen went on record testifying the unparalleled attributes of the Arif Lohar brand. Rung Jindri is another specimen of the tradition Lohar has been shouldering for years. With the house band at full strength, Lohar comfortably toys with yet another folk song, over which his command can certainly not be questioned. However, in terms of recall and general appeal, the track fails to leave an impression and we doubt if the listener would even want to bear through the full six minutes.
Verdict: The episode screams in horror over the producers’ belief that nothing but reworked traditional popular culture will sell.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2015.