As you vote in a cliffhanger election, Pakistan, here’s hoping that its a productive one. May there be peace and happiness for you and your people, food and hugs, laughter and fireworks. And most importantly, may there always be music in Pakistan. Because, that is something you guys are much better at than us. Thank you, Pakistan, for Coke Studio. We are in awe of the talent that the country produces every single year, the fantastic collaborations you create and the wonderful combinations of global musical influences with unadulterated Pakistani musical tradition and heritage. What is also commendable is the constant effort of your musicians to explore niche traditions and indigenous pockets of music and lyrics and give them a global platform. From Balochistan to Punjab, every season of Coke Studio is an enchanting experience.
Ironically, I think it is a good thing that the Pakistani film industry is not the most important entity in the country. Because, if the movie industry becomes the most important – and influencing – factor in a country, every art form (and artist) moulds itself to fit into the raging trend in the movie business at any given point. India is defined by Bollywood. Hence, our music industry is also defined by what works in Bollywood. Our fashion industry survives because Bollywood actors become patrons for designers, give the brands visibility and infuse our fashion weeks with the constant incorrigible need for glamour that the country craves. Internationally, the success of a Gucci show at Paris or Milan is not defined by how many Hollywood celebs adorned the front row. In India, it is the opposite. Even in the indie music scene, musicians know that the road to survival ends at a fat deal with Yash Raj. Hence, even underground rappers have started emulating Honey Singh because the Bollywood trend these days is to forcibly inject a paragraph of sexist rap in every song. Even those so-called outliers who create “progressive” material for web series and other online video content, drop their pants and bend over at the opportunity to write a redundant Bollywood script (I am looking at you, Anuvab Pal). Groups like AIB and EIC survive because of their constant collaborations and friendships with Bollywood stars. Everyone aspires to be in (and with) Bollywood.
India’s Coke Studio was an abysmal failure. Thank you, Pakistan for keeping the rich musical traditions of your country – and the sub-continent – alive and kicking.
Though it was a difficult process, I select the best (and my favourite) compositions from each year of Coke Studio.
Season 1: Garaj Baras – Rahat Fateh Ali Khan & Ali Azmat
Season 2: Aankhon Ke Saagar – Shafqat Amanat Ali
Season 3: Alif Allah – Arif Lohar & Meesha
Season 4: Daanah Pah Daanah – Akhtar Chanal Zahri & Komal Rizvi
Season 5: Charkha Nolakha – Atif Aslam and Qayaas
Season 6: Miyan Ki Malhaar – Ayesha Omer, Fariha Pervez, Zara Madani
Season 7: Chaap Tilak – Abida Parveen & Rahat Fateh Ali Khan
Season 8: Tajdar-e-Haram – Atif Aslam AND Rockstar – Ali Zafar (I cannot pick just one. I tried)
Season 9: Rang – Rahat Fateh Ali Khan & Amjab Sabri
Season 10: Allahu Akbar – Ahmed Jehanzeb & Shafqat Amanat Ali