Instep Today

Major shuffles take place on Pepsi Battle of the Bands 2018

Instep Today
By Maheen Sabeeh
Tue, 05, 18

Strings will replace Ali Zafar while Meesha Shafi continues to be a part of the upcoming season alongside Fawad Khan.

Strings: Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia


It looks like Coke Studio is not the only major music production to undergo some major shuffles this year. As reported earlier, Zohaib Kazi (known for projects like Fanoos and Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher) and Ali Hamza (one-half of music group, Noori) are co-producing the upcoming season 11. They are replacing Strings, who amicably parted ways with the production last October after helming it for four seasons.

The decision to rope in Kazi and Hamza also takes into account their long association with the show, with the former having worked with both Rohail Hyatt and Strings in various capacities and the latter, having appeared on the show as a performing artist, first with Noori and later as a solo artist. Hamza has also helmed music direction duty in later years.

We also know that Kami Paul, who has appeared on Coke Studio as drummer in the past is returning this season as is guitarist Omran Shafique.

Pepsi Battle of the Bands, the music TV series that is about finding new talent and crowned music group Kashmir winners last season, is also seeing some massive changes this year.

The 2017 edition featured Meesha Shafi, Fawad Khan, Atif Aslam and Shahi Hasan as co-judges with Ali Azmat featured as a guest judge in the finale episode, and Farooq Ahmed from Aaroh, as guest-judge in the auditions round. The season was produced by Faisal Rafi.

But come 2018, and a great deal has changed. According to (unofficial) reports, Shehzad (Shahi) Hasan is taking over as producer while Atif Aslam won’t be returning as judge. In an interview with Images, earlier this month, when asked why he was not returning, Aslam stated, “Perhaps I was an extremely popular judge according to the fans but not according to the show’s makers. Perhaps I was too expensive for them. It’s their call, it’s their show.”


It then emerged that Fawad Khan and Meesha Shafi would be joined by Ali Zafar as a co-judge. But a grim truth, however, led to another shift.

Meesha Shafi, in a carefully worded statement made on Twitter earlier this month, alleged that she was sexually harassed by Ali Zafar on two separate occasions, about which she spoke to Instep in an exclusive interview on a later date, holding on to her truth.

Zafar has been defended by his band members in its aftermath while Shafi’s courageous decision to speak up has led to others breaking their silence and telling their own stories of harassment by one Ali Zafar.

While Zafar denied all such allegations of harassment (through a statement released on the very same day), it became obvious that in the current climate, both artists would not be seen on the same production anymore.

Since then, several artistes have risen to defend Meesha Shafi from within the industry including Osman Khalid Butt, Ayesha Omar, Sanam Saeed and Momina Mustehsan, while other stars like Maya Ali, Resham and Javed Sheikh have vehemently defended Ali Zafar.

Both parties have employed lawyers with Zafar having served Shafi with a Rs100 crore defamation notice.

The story is developing and has greater implications but as far as Pepsi Battle of the Bands goes, the latest report (unofficial) is that Ali Zafar has been replaced by Strings while Meesha Shafi continues to be a part of the show alongside Fawad Khan. If true, this is a great success for Shafi and for the greater #MeToo movement in Pakistan that is slowly beginning to take shape.