It’s Time We Went to Rehab for Our Coke Studio Addiction

Why Can’t We Let Coke Studio Go?

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I was scrolling through Facebook as one does late one night. It’s useful for finding out about current events, you see. After reading about Mahira’s cringe-worthy reaction to Javed Sheikh’s awkward show of affection, I realized that the Lux Style Awards took place the night before. So naturally, I was curious to see who the winners were. Moving from one website to another, I began googling the results.

I was more curious to see how my predictions had fared against the actual, rather than seeing who really won. Mostly because I was hoping that at least when it came to the winners, the LSA’s didn’t repeat the same mistakes as with their nominations.

Alas, they didn’t just repeat them, they went above and beyond.

Depriving Gohar Rasheed of the best supporting actor award is a cardinal sin indeed. But there was one that, in my view, was much more heinous. So sinisterly undeserved, that I now question my own choices. Maybe my opinion is unpopular? Wouldn’t be the first time. But how can my heavily pop-culture influenced taste be so acquired that I fail to see the appeal of such a terrible song?

Okay if you’re not following, let me clear this up. I’m talking about ‘Tinak Dhin’ winning Singer of the Year!  I know! That appalled look on your face is exactly how I feel. Though my jaw didn’t drop as much.

 

Coke Studio Season 10; Blasting the Past?

It’s no secret, I have been extremely critical of this year’s Coke Studio. The tenth anniversary season was hyped to be the best yet. Coke made it a point to advertise that is was going to be a landmark season. So what if Pepsi had finally woken up? Coke rules the music scene. At least that’s what Coke, and Coke Studio fans like Shaan Shahid, would have you believe. All their hype came crashing down when the first video of this season went live.

Not only did try to revamp the national anthem, they also seemed to have forgotten how to inspire feelings of patriotism. I mean they were able to execute it perfectly last year with ‘Aye Rah-e-Haq ke Shaheedon’. And yet, they proceeded to do the unforgivable; butcher the national anthem. Rumor has it, they inspired Fergie’s recent rendition of the American national anthem.

And the atrocities didn’t stop there.

They remade several iconic songs from various genres of Pakistani music, and proceeded to do justice to none of them. To me, it seems they thought getting the country to swoon from watching Momina Mutehesan on screen would be enough.

What’s worse is that season was produced by legendary duo Strings. Why, why would you want your legendary status questioned like this? Why would you get Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to go all sufi on such a brilliant rock song like ‘Sayoni’? Also, why would you turn the iconic sufi qalaam, ‘Laal Meri Pat’ into such a horribly contrived alt-rock number? Why would you make the world question Quratul-ain Baloch like that?

And, why would you allow folk music to be misrepresented by the commercial sell-out, and honestly annoying song ‘Tinak Dhin’?

All it took was one badly produced season to tarnish a glorious legacy.

 

Down Memory Lane

I may be Team Pepsi forever. But, I would be a fool not to acknowledge the brilliance that once was Coke Studio. The Pakistani music scene was on its deathbed, dying an extremely painful death. Then, Coke Studio came around and like panacea, and single-handedly revived it. They gave us some brilliant songs over the years. They are responsible for introducing me, personally to the Pakistani music scene; to Zeb and Haniya, and Meesha Shafi. Songs like ‘Alif Allah Chambey Di Booti’ and ‘Balori’ became iconic. While others like ‘Affreen Affreen’ and ‘Aaya Lariye’ found permanent homes in shaadi playlists.

Season 9 was my personal favorite, with songs that I still listen to today. It gave us viral sensations like ‘Tajdar-e-Haram’ and mood boosters like ‘Aaja Re Moray Saiyaan’.

For years, we rocked to Coke Studio. These songs played at our mehndis and on oversized speakers in rickshaws. Others tried to emulate its success, but in the end Coke Studio stood taller than ever. I mean how many of us would actually remember Nescafe Basement, and that too, fondly?

In 2017 though, everything changed.

The most noted change was seen in Coke Studio’s trajectory. Normally, trends plateau before taking the plunge, Coke Studio’s however, took a nosedive. Not only did it lose some of it’s best talent, it wasn’t able to replace them. With new entries like Daniyal Zafar and Zaw Ali all screaming nepotism. Similar to the trajectory, the quality also took a nosedive, evidence of which I have already so graciously shared.

The biggest blow to Coke Studio however was the triumphant return of Pepsi Battle of the Bands (PBOB). There’s a saying in Urdu and it applies so perfectly here; “Der aye par durust aye”. For those of you who didn’t pay attention in Urdu class, this would loosely translate to, “better late than never”.

 

When The Games Began, Again

Pepsi Pakistan finally came to the realization that investing in music is of the utmost importance to the core market. After being dormant for all these years, Pepsi came back with a bang. The original PBOB season was responsible for giving us two of Pakistan’s most celebrated bands, Aaroh and EP (Entity Paradigm). This new season was responsible for bringing band culture back to the forefront.

Not only were the bands back, new talent was once again at the forefront too. Rather than established and or stale acts. Bands from all over the nation took part, showcasing their talents for all to see.

The best part was, the nation got invested in them. From the moment the first episode of PBOB had aired, people had elected their favourites and began fiercely supporting them. I say fiercely because of the amount of support fan-favourite band Kamaaj got upon being eliminated before the knockouts.

Simultaneously, talent that Coke Studio lost found themselves on the PBOB stage. This included artists like Meesha Shafi, Atif Aslam, Sarah Haider, Asrar Shah, and Zeb Bangash to name a few. Meesha and Atif joined Fawad Khan and Shahi Hassan as judges, while all the artists featured got to perform.

And they didn’t just perform rehashed versions of old classics like a tribute band. No, each got to perform an original of their own creation rather than being forced to grove to someone else’s beat.

Coke Studio may have brought Pakistani music back to life. But after ten years of doing the same thing, it is contributing less and less to nourishing it. That’s where PBOB comes in, and isn’t alone.

 

New Kids on The Block

For a few years now, Patari has existed but in recent years, this cool cat has become my go to app to get my Pakistani music fix. Very much like PBOB, Patari has become a platform for more and more artists. And, Patari lets them shine. So much so that some have even gone viral, like Abid Brohi for instance.

Errand boy turned rapper, Abid Brohi appeared on our phone screens to serenade us with this unique, self-taught rapping style. And we fell in love. ‘The Sibbi Song’ and his story both went viral, instantly. It’s no surprise that it was nominated for Singer of the year. But to lose to something so contrived as ‘Tinak Dhin’ is a slap in the face of new talent.

To summarize, the Coke Studio of today favors stagnation over progression. The producers are content with harboring delusions of grandeur. No matter how much talent, or competition, passes them by. This has already led to Coke Studio’s downfall. And if they’re not careful, the pedestal on top of which they once sat and ruled from will not just be out of reach. It will be the home of either Pepsi’s Battle of the Bands, Patari or something else entirely.

That is how natural progression works. Chances are, we will have to adjust to it, if Coke Studio doesn’t.

In fact, it may be that time already.

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