Coke Addict

By Sonya Rehman

Who would’ve thought a multinational would wind up launching a project which would bring together a variety of local musicians together – on one sole platform – to sing, dabble in musical experimentation and fuse their genres of music as one?

To me, like many others, it comes as quite a shocker really. This is because; much in the past (and not so much in the recent present) has been said regarding the role of multinationals and the exploitation of local musicians. And rightly so.

From blatant and rather shameless advertising of a sponsor’s brand infused into a musician’s music video, CD cover and the likes, there is a certain disregard for those artistes who ‘go the distance’ by way of becoming thoroughly ‘commercialized’.

But frankly let’s get one thing straight: audiences at large, don’t really give a fig about how an artiste is ‘packaged’ and how so-and-so has undergone a metamorphosis into a walking/talking bubble brand…the ‘masses’ only ask for good music. Whatever ‘good’ encompasses is not your business, nor mine.

If Annie’s little shakey-shake ‘Mahiya’ ditty or Ali Azmat’s raw ‘Gallan’ rocks a listener’s boat, then so be it.

Ali Azmat, Rohail Hyatt and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan

You cannot dictate what a listener should be hearing, and what he/she should not. It’s pretty pointless.

That being stated, whether or not an artiste is ‘underground’ or directly under the media spotlight – by the end of the day, it’s the music that matters. And that, in itself, speaks volumes. It always does.

That’s how different genres of music are born – if people like it, there are chances it’ll stick around for decades.

Therefore, Coca Cola’s topical endeavour, this year, to put up televised gigs infront of a live studio audience (in Karachi) – under the banner of ‘Coke Studio’ has (hopefully) kick-started and further reinforced the beauty of fusion music – the harmonious dance of genres.

With well-known music producer Rohail Hyatt (that light-eyed young man of ‘Vital Signs’ of the yesteryear) leading the colourful little Coke Studio bandwagon, it comes as no surprise, the quality of music which has so far been whipped out.

The Coke Studio crew!

Among the featured local talent are; Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, guitarist Omran Shafique, crazy rocker Ali Azmat, drummer extraordinaire Louis J. Pinto (better known as ‘Gumby’), Ustaad Hussain Gullo Baksh, the lovely duo called ‘Strings’, Ali Zafar, bassist Kamran Zafar, turntabelist (and music video director) Zeshaan Parwez, the Abdul Lateef band (earthy drummers from Lyari), throaty back-up vocalists Saba Shabbir and Selina Rashid, and many more.

Coke Studio truly is a synthesis of diverse melodies and genres. Take for instance the Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Ali Azmat episode in which both sang and experimented with Azmat’s pacey number, ‘Garaj Baras’! What a whopper, that one. And then other episodes featured Tufail Ahmed and Ali Zafar – on the very same stage – singing ‘Allah Hoo’, and Strings and Ustaad Hussain Gullo Baksh fusing their own genres!

Coke Studio has, in actuality, put out some fine musical experimentation for local audiences.

So much so that each episode can give one goose bumps. Why? Because the experimentation of each song is so very varied and just, well, ‘different’.

The ‘Abdul Latif Band’

This is not to state that just because the sound is distinctive, Coke Studio has mesmerized audiences – sure for the most part it has done just that, but the fact that it has provided a dais for both commercial and classical musicians to come together and simply jam it out together has been much needed, in the local music scenario, for a long time now.

Perhaps what would really set Coke Studio off is if they continuously feature hand-picked classical musicians from around the country, discounting the fact if they’re well-known or not.

I’d like to see an abundance of bass flutists, tabla players, saxophonists, sitar players, dhol-wallahs and others who’ve never had a chance to be featured on television. Now that would be something.

Because to keep alive the true spirit of fusion music – one must always aim at experimenting with undiscovered, raw, classical talent, and then blending it with modern-day, contemporary tunes.

That really is the only way the dance of genres can truly take flight into a dove of melodies so that it may soar freely in each chamber of a listener’s heart.

The Friday Times

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