Okay, now I may have spoken too soon. But, some time ago (that is when Coke Studio 11 kicked off) I may have said that the Studio was back. In fact, I might even have written an article to this end. And yes, that article was in fact a list of songs. And yes, I still like those songs; all of them. But, the time to eat crow is nigh. Because you see, I am a forgiving person, but even I can’t excuse murder. (Ps. This one’s going to be dramatic. So there; you’ve been warned). Why, in the name of all that is pure, did ‘Ko Ko Korina’ deserve this?
Why, while manoeuvring the line between good and bad, did Coke Studio have to butcher my childhood with a pick-axe?
Yesterday, a certain best friend of mine might have lambasted the Studio’s recent season as a whole. And his deluge may have included some thinly veiled digs at my own person. Allow me to defend myself, yes I realise that most of my favourite songs belonged to the first episode. That doesn’t take away from their quality. Nor does it negate the potential. If Mr. Hamza and team can give us five good songs, they could have mustered a passable eleventh season too. Also, at the risk of highlighting the half-full glass, but season 11 is not nearly as bad as its predecessor.
That being said, we must talk about the recent disaster. Oh, we must, we must…we must.
When you look over the seething rage of the internet, it is easy to call out the melodrama. I mean, okay, so someone didn’t do a good job of singing a classic. So what? Why the online vitriol? Why the dislike bar that looks like a lightsaber?
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Well, because of the legacy. You see, ‘Ko Ko Korina’ was sung by Ahmed Rushdi, possibly one of the most iconic Pakistani playback singers, ever. And, the video focused on Waheed Murad, during his chocolate-hero zenith. Add to this the fact that every antakshari match in the history of the country has included this song. So you see, where ‘Ko Ko Korina’ is concerned, we kind of take it personally.
And this isn’t to say that you can’t give classics your own spin. On the contrary, the most musically sound amongst us can really make a legendary song their own. Remember when Junoon did ‘Lal Meri Pat’? Or more recently, remember Saif Samejo’s version of ‘Teri Pawanda’? The new version of a tried and tested classic can be good. But this depends on how you approach it.
If you want to revamp something for the sake of revamping it, then you’ve already shot yourself in the foot. Also, if you are arrogant enough to think that you can improve something that is basically iconic, then I feel sorry for you.
That’s the thing about trying to revamp a beloved classic, if you approach it with an iota of cockiness; we can tell. Like a blood-hound, we will sniff the arrogance out and hunt it down. Or rather, we’ll tweet about it until our fingers are sore.
Ko Ko Korina and Coke Studio; The Train Wreck That Was
Now, we have done this dance with Coke Studio before. I mean just one season ago, they hacked away at both ‘Sayonee’ and ‘Lal Meri Pat’. And you know what? I was done with them.
But this year, when they started the season off with such a poignant rendition of ‘Hum Dekhenge’ I couldn’t help but hope.
Since then, I got more reasons to hope. When I was given The Sketches, Liyari Underground and Abida Parveen, how exactly could I complain? I even let ‘Hawa Hawa’ off the hook, because it was really nice to see Hassan Jahangir perform after so long.
But with this trite concoction, I draw the line.
‘Ko Ko Korina’ is a celebration of youth, beauty and happiness. And the Coke Studio version made me want to kill myself. It had all the gusto of a rubber chicken, and about as much charm as an ice-pick. And, if I belonged to a slightly less petty ilk, I’d stop here. But I am just petty enough, and have just enough time today, to dissect every nauseating detail.
Ahad Raza Mir; The Ditty That Tried to Be A Concerto
This song was apparently a debut of sorts for this young man. And even before he uttered that first iconic stanza, the tabloid media and twitterati had labelled him a star. Oh, they humed and hawed about just how adorable he is.
And please do not get me wrong, I am sure he is a lovely man. But, and I thought we already knew this post Daniyal Zaffar, a nice face does not a singer make. There really is very little that can make up for a the lack of some genuinely compelling vocals. You know, because you actually have to sing the song.
And yet, if he had given me a draw-the-crowd-to-its-feet kind of performance, I would have been marginally less annoyed. But, this too we were not given. For young Mr. Mir has the stage presence of a wet blanket.
I don’t expect him to exude the same kind of charm as the iconic Mr. Murad himself, because really, who can? But for God’s sake man, do something! Give me something! He seems to forget that we can both see and hear him. And by the end of the nearly four minutes, we want to forget as well.
Momina Mustehsan; The Great Mystery of Our Time
Now, I would like to have a genuine conversation about Ms. Mustehsan. But I can’t.
Because you see, her fans are the kind of Belieber and Bee-hive hybrid that makes me fear for my life. I cannot shrug my shoulders at a Momina Mustehsan song without being called tone-deaf and anti-feminist. The children and marginally creepy middle-aged men who stalk her social media, genuinely believe that this young lady will end climate change. And cure cancer. Which is a level of hero-worship that I can neither understand, nor relate to.
See, I have always seen Momina Mustehsan as an almost passable but slightly nasal vocalist, who cannot control her pitch. And yes, she is about as pretty as Mr. Mir himself. But, and I’ll repeat myself, a nice face does not a singer make. The only song in which her pitch wasn’t all over the place was ‘Awari’. And given the realities of Bollywood playback, I wonder how much of that credit belongs to the auto-tune software.
Here again, she is at first almost pleasant, and then as the song progresses, painfully shrill. This is textbook Ms. Mustehsan. Nothing new, nothing unexpected. And nothing spectacular. Is she as bad as the young man beside her? No. But that isn’t a notch in her favour. It is a testament of how bad he is.
The Styling; Or, What Happens When Your Five-Year-Old Decides to Play Dress-Up
Like I said; I shall be dissecting everything! Ideally, when we discuss a musical performance, the outfits shouldn’t matter. But when fashion labels are basically bragging about who got to dress the latest Coke Studio find, then we must discuss style.
The Studio is so obviously trying to cash in on all the pretty people on their roster, that it would be redundant to even mention it. But here, the shameless fan service must be called out. They so obviously wanted the retro vibe for this song. Why then, might I ask the stylist, did you completely drop the ball? Why does Ahad Raza Mir look like a mechanic from a Karan Johar movie? Also, why does Momina Mustehsan’s shirt look like a particularly ill child threw up on it?
What makes this all the more disappointing is that you only had to watch Armaan a couple of times to get the styling on point. The sixties were a time of sophisticated glamour, which translated into some rather suave leading men and women. I mean, just look how tailored and charming Waheed Murad is here.
Now, if you had to go the nostalgic route, why didn’t you give us this kind of charm? The sixties were all brylcreem and bouffants, not ill-fitting jumpsuits and cringe inducing shades.
I know I’m being supremely petty, but seriously; at least get the clothes right!
Washing My Brain Out With Soap
To think that some weeks ago, I was defending this runaway train. I cannot believe I hopped onto the Studio band wagon again. But rest assured, the ball has in fact been dropped. Again. I maintain that the season kicked off with promise (bite me Nusair).
But this, this right here is the kind of nightmare that makes grown women cry. I have very carefully, but very firmly, hopped off the Coke Studio train again. And I won’t be stepping back onto it anytime soon. Not until I can get Ahad Raza Mir and Momina Mustehsan’s plastic smiles out of my mind, at least.