The new season of Pepsi Battle of the Bands is all set to emerge this Sunday and has most music fans intrigued. By now, any one remotely curious about the upcoming show knows that it has brought back Fawad Khan to music, an accomplishment on its own, and includes the rich-voiced Meesha Shafi and the inimitable pop king of our times, Atif Aslam.
We also know that the show is going to feature at least eight music bands as they compete for the top prize. Apart from the involvement of Atif Aslam, Meesha Shafi and Fawad Khan, Pepsi Battle of the Bands counts Faisal Rafi as producer and the mad genius of our times, Ahsan Bari, on its team. Some surprise appearances from music industry icons will also be seen as the show progresses.
The TVC featuring Fawad Khan, Meesha Shafi and Atif Aslam, as they belt out a mash-up of Vital Signs ‘Do Pal Ka Ye Jeevan’ and Alamgir’s ‘Dekha Na Tha’ has arrived and though flawed, it’s a great reverie-inducing moment that is a reminder of all that is still possible in music. It gives us all some hope. Finally, I must also add that with Coke Studio 10 on the horizon, there are those who will compare the two productions but at this point this remains an exercise in futility and simply counterproductive.
So it came as a surprise to note the commentary presented by film star Shaan Shahid on his Facebook page ahead of the upcoming show’s appearance. Mr Shahid wrote: “Old car shots, old song and late comers to the music scene. Pepsi Battle of the Bands has no bands only Coke Studio stars. Stick to cricket as Coke owns the music scene.”
Speaking to Instep Editor, Aamna Haider Isani, Mr Shahid deconstructed his status for us in the following words: “Pepsi is a brand associated with cricket and they’ve been doing a great job so why suddenly get into music? They should stick to cricket, it’s their forte. If you want to drive the youth, then open music clinics and bring talent from far-flung areas. If they manage that, then I will be the first to stand by them.”
“People on the judges’ panel are all wrong,” he continued. “Fawad Khan is an actor, not a musician. Meesha Shafi and Atif Aslam’s claim to fame is Coke Studio. Why aren’t Shahi Hasan, Ali Azmat and Ali Noor on the panel? These are the people whose claim to fame is bands. Why not get Abida Parveen onboard and did they approach Shoaib Mansoor, the man who created Vital Signs? What about Farhad Humayun? The panel should’ve been diverse.”
The real problem
While we respect Mr. Shahid for his 35-year career and contribution to cinema and we acknowledge the fact that everyone is entitled to having an opinion, he is not a musician nor is he an industry expert. Perhaps even more relevant is the fact that this kind of commentary is one-dimensional and doesn’t take into account many factors.
There is no rule that states that Pepsi must only stick to cricket. Their investment in music is not new since they backed Vital Signs very early on in their career. Remember that ‘Pepsi Pepsi Pakistan’ commercial?
The purpose of BOTB is to shed a light on bands and having artists as popular as Atif Aslam and Meesha Shafi on board means people will tune in, which is crucial for the long-term survival of the show. Maybe Battle of the Bands will not get everything right in its first appearance after 16 years but this show has potential to do a lot of good, which can only be achieved if it’s given time to thrive.
Furthermore, though Mr Shahid maintains that Fawad Khan is an actor, he must revisit the debut EP album, Irtiqa, to hear what Khan is capable of as a musician. His return via Battle of the Bands has reinvigorated fans and that is no small feat in a country where people are jaded by lack of opportunities for musicians. The collective value of seeing three modern music stars like Khan, Shafi and Aslam cannot be diminished just because Mr Shahid says so. As I’ve said before, it is a special moment and a reminder of all that is still possible even in these dangerous and dark times.
And while Mr Shahid is right about Meesha Shafi landing some of her biggest hits through Coke Studio, it doesn’t mean she can’t deflect to another music property. There is no hard and fast rule. Plus, Meesha Shafi, along with Atif Aslam and Fawad Khan, doesn’t give too many interviews and neither of the three suffers from a case of overexposure so watching them as judges has its value.
I too can come up with a number of people who can be judges. But you have to remember that Pepsi has done a number of other music-related projects as well. The short-lived Pepsi Smash, for instance, included Noori, Strings and Farhad Humayun but despite their presence, the series didn’t make as big a mark as expected. Going with Fawad Khan, is therefore, a logical bet. With the legend of EP firmly behind him and his enormous star power, Khan will pull in viewers across the board.
In the end, the collective comeback of Coke Studio 10 and Pepsi Battle of the Bands means that for once the spotlight will be on music. And that is a good thing. We’re sure Mr Shahid, like us, is only thinking of industry development and would like to see things progress; in that respect we hope we may have managed to change his opinion on the subject.