Coke Studio: nepotism exists in Pakistan too

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The Karan Johar vs Kangana Ranaut nepotism battle reached a zenith at this year’s IIFA awards. Yet if Pakistanis wanted to experience the full flavour of familial bias, we only had to read Coke Studio’s season 10 roster.

Among a list of Studio staples, the likes of Quratulain Baloch and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, we also have Danyal Zafar holding down the “new” fort.

And don’t look away from his familiar last name. He is indeed the younger brother of Ali Zafar.

Funny how that happened.


Keeping it in the Family: Coke Studio’s dilemma

I have spoken a bit about Coke Studio in the past. And I continue to be an ardent fan. They have given us some truly legendary performances. And I’m sure they will in the future. But I would have to be a special kind of aloof to not see where Coke Studio is headed.

Every year, the tried and tested formula is applied. We get a bit of Sufi, some pretty faces, a famous person or two, and a handful of actually talented musicians.

And sometimes, just sometimes, we get an unknown. Someone who has worked their way to Coke Studio and brought a unique energy to the mix.

So, the fact that Ali Zaffar’s younger brother is suppose to be said fresh talent this year is infuriating.

And don’t get me wrong. I am sure he is lovely young man. In fact, I’m sure he is also a talented young man. But the point is that nepotism and talent are never mutually exclusive.


Lessons from Bollywood

For example Varun Dhavan is clearly a talented actor. But he is also David Dhavan’s son, which has helped him. And it would be unfair to call the playing field levelled.

Neerja Actor Jim Sarbh explained the dichotomy perfectly.

On an “Actors Round Table” with Rajeev Masand, he was accompanied by Harshvardhan Kapoor (Anil Kapoor’s son). Harshvardhan claimed that while he was from a powerful family, he had had to audition and work hard.

To which Sarbh replied that while they both wanted to act, Kapoor was automatically considered for lead roles while he (Sarbh) would have to work his way up from the bottom of the ladder.

The same logic applies to Pakistani entertainment. Thanks to initiatives like Patari Tabeer and Lahooti we have been introduced to fresh new faces. But none of them were introduced to us by arguably the biggest musical platform in the country. Think about that. 


Keeping Up with Pakistan

Some time ago, we did a video about some local talents that deserve to be on Coke Studio.

And honestly, the one I am most disappointed for is Abid Brohi. It isn’t a secret that I think he’s a gem. But not having him on the list also proves how behind the times Coke Studio is.

Abid is the viral talent of the year. He is the nation’s darling and an underdog.

Abid could have given Coke Studio some much needed legitimacy. Which, given the fact that the same names magically appear on their list ever year, it is beginning to lose.


Listen to the People  

The ultimate issue I have with the whole situation is that time and time again local musicians have made it on their own. Case in point, Abdullah Qureshi. A truly viral talent, whose fans put more established names to shame.

It still baffles me that this champion of the masses has not been invited onto the Studio.

I understand that Coke Studio has to give people popular talents, who are amicable (read: good looking and sound pleasant) because this is a business.

But, that could have been accomplished if they simply listened to the people. If they went after musicians that fit this definition but had amassed followings on their own.

When talents like Qureshi and Mooroo are able to achieve success on their own, don’t they deserve the platform a little bit more than someone who is literally marketed as Ali Zaffar’s younger brother?


I doubt I will tune into this season.

I realize that that won’t make a difference to the program. It will continue to be the nation’s premier musical platform. But I just feel that we as a people deserved better. Look at how innovative the industry’s fringe elements are. Listen to the kind of sounds that independent ventures (Patari Tabeer, Lahooti) were able to uncover.

Yet, this is what will represent our music? We deserve better.

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