After it was announced that Coke Studio’s episode 5 has been delayed due to the Makkah tragedy, the songs were released only 24 hours later.
Proceeding in a retrograde motion, this was the first time this season that Ali Zafar and Atif Aslam were not carrying the weight of predictability on their shoulders. They now have accomplices.
Mekaal Hassan Band is a brass-necked proponent of fusion music and Kinare refused to skirt the philosophy. MHB’s second track in the season was another serving from their latest record that was left untouched by Strings, perhaps for the better. The band’s forte lies in its sense of direction; Mekaal knows exactly what he is doing and that sets him apart from most other faces on the show. He and Imran share a riff that summons emotions to be dealt by Sharmista and the flute department. Sharmista meanders through the track with considerable ease in comparison to her previous appearance and is further cushioned by the monosyllabic presence of the backing vocalists.
Ali Azmat was a dash of lemon in the generic Rooh Afza that was served at the drink’s counter. His Freddie Mercury moustache and theatrics upped an otherwise unexciting race to the finish line. Rangeela was eccentric and outlandish, yet very typical. Azmat’s signature originality leaves the listener grateful and cheery. Momo’s face was evidently lit up as he saw his dependable partner in control. Yet the spell breaks exactly the way the track was conceived — instantly.
Bakshi Brothers walked in with heads held high. Identically dressed and poised, the quartet sounded like a well-rehearsed school choir performing at the annual day. They stretched a celebratory Ramazan ad film jingle into a six-minute hymn that keeps reminding the listener of the displeasing cliché that ‘revolutionary thinkers’ like Hassan Nisar regurgitate every day. Strings seem in no mood to let go of Peera Ho too soon. It was dragged into the confusion exactly the way parents drag us to elaborate family gatherings. Attributed to Saeen Zahoor on the official website, it is slaughtered on charges of being a crowd pleaser. Waiting for the house band to break through the shackles of purposelessness is like waiting for Imran Khan to admit the 35 puncture story was a blatant lie — you know it’s never going to happen but the hope still doesn’t diminish fully.
Hina Ki Khushboo
At two different occasions was Noor Jehan remembered this week — Coke Studio and Sarmad Khoosat’s Manto — and both left questions of why and how unanswered. Hina ki Khushboo was a typical dholki episode: the chirpy cousin with a reasonably sound voice exerting herself in the company of the other cousin from the States, whose antics bring all the aunties to the yard. Asim Azhar is a bright and interesting brand that has attracted a lot of attention, but the soloist’s charm is killed by Coke Studio’s obsession with collaborations. It is certainly ‘too risky’ a task to let a woman carry the day without meddling from a disoriented male vocalist.
Verdict: The episode accentuates the argument that all that is left are known faces and showy instruments.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2015.