Having introduced a new module called Coke Studio Explorer that found hidden gems from across Pakistan and put a spotlight on them by stepping out of the studio - a rarity for the production barring season six - Coke Studio 11 has unveiled its complete line-up of artists via the season opener, a cover of ‘Hum Dekhenge’. It features the entire line-up, singing various lines from the nazm that was originally penned by revolutionary poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and is most famous for the version by Iqbal Bano with composition by Professor Asrar.
Though the new season is set to begin on August 10, the decision to release the iconic ‘Hum Dekhenge’ – in Coke Studio format - days before the general elections 2018, is in itself a bold choice and says a lot.
And though I have not been a fan of the production’s previous efforts to take certain songs and colour them in a patriotic tone, there is no song (in my jaded opinion) that has more value to us all right now than this nazm by Faiz.
Purists will maintain that we could do well with staying with the original effort but the original effort will not run on multiple platforms, digital and broadcast, right now but this particular Coke Studio release, in between paid advertisements of certain political parties, will have its day.
Even as the Coke Studio platform remains an apolitical zone, this release points to an intuitive design. Even the line-up reflects that design. But more on that later.
This particular cover has surpassed previous efforts to do something similar by a mile even as it brings tears to your eyes. From the attitude of the artists to the camera angles to the division of lines, it all feels momentous.
However, ‘Hum Dekhenge,’ is not just another song; it has a history much like its revered poet and in that sense is quite possibly the biggest cover/song Coke Studio has ever touched. And therefore, reactions have been mixed.
Writer Zeerak Ahmed noted on Twitter, “This is the most politically relevant Coke Studio in years. I joked that I didn’t know how they’d outdo the national anthem from last year. But ‘Hum Dekhenge’ was an inspired choice at this moment in time. God protect them for their resistance.”
On the other hand, journalist Fahad Desmukh, writing in criticism of this cover choice noted on Twitter, “Marxist poetry appropriated by corporate capitalism to promote manufactured state nationalism...”
To discuss the purpose of this particular release and the phenomenal line-up that has been unveiled, Instep sat down with Ali Hamza and Zohaib Kazi just a day after the release of this song. Here’s an excerpt from that conversation…
Why this song? You could’ve taken any other song, I probe the producers.
“Intuition,” responds Ali Hamza. “It goes back to intuition. There can be many reasons to it. Just the line, ‘hum dekhenge’ resonates. It’s good poetry and good poetry has the power to resonate with different people. Good poetry is such that in different times in history, in time, it plays its role. When Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote this, it was a different time, the specific dynamics of it were very different. And in that time, it resonated in a specific way. We knew that we didn’t need to create that specific resonance. Because this is not that time; the time has changed. People have changed, their perceptions have changed and their emotional state(s) have changed and we have kept that in context. Frankly speaking, these are conversations that happen retrospectively; in prose you can open many spaces that feel non-verbal. In ‘Hum Dekhenge’ the important thing was to remember that we work with the song, not just the lyrics.”
Adds Zohaib Kazi: “It’s not, we will see. It’s We. Will. See. It is on the front-foot. So there are three things. The poetry of Faiz sahib, the composition by Professor Asrar and the treatment of the song. It needed to be head-on. We will look into your soul through the camera. We told the artists to look in the camera as if they are looking into the soul of people and they felt a certain belief that we too can do something.”
One nation. It doesn’t feel like we’re one at all. Where is the optimism coming from? “That’s the second part,” says Hamza. “That’s where music plays its part and how we can create optimism through music. That’s the whole point of doing it. Even with the Iqbal Bano version, it’s the energy and like every good piece of art and poetry, it creates an emotional resolution. It doesn’t leave you, it’s why it resonates with you.”
People feel very strongly about this particular nazm, and its rendition by Iqbal Bano. What would you say to someone who says you have taken a Marxist poet to a commercial, capitalistic platform, I ask the producers.
“Marxism needs capitalism,” says Hamza, “Marxism is outdated and capitalism will get outdated pretty soon,” he notes. Taking a serious tone, Hamza adds: “We’re entering a new age and that’s the whole point. We’re entering a time where aspirations of both will mix up. A human being is working within a capitalist world while having a questioning mind. That’s the real thing because it’s not as if all of us here are Marxists. At one level, that’s our take. We’re human beings, what are our aspirations? Instead of pinpointing the issues, it’s better to do something like this.”
“Optimism is the thing that keeps the world moving forward. At the end of it, nothing is perfect and people will doubt but the good thing is the brand let it happen,” reiterates Zohaib Kazi.
Watch this space for the second part of this interview.