Now in its third episode, Coke Studio has gone (relatively) out of the box in terms of experiments and ideas while embracing imperfections. Some ideas such as the resurrection of a theme per episode have been brought back, which gives each episode a sense of cohesiveness.
The theme for this episode is ‘Rung’. But, our story begins with the most experimental song on the roster: ‘Allah Karesi’, a Saraiki composition, composed by both Attaullah Esakhelvi and his son Sanwal Esakhelvi with lyrics by Majboor Esakhelvi. A folktale that speaks of longing, the beloved, troubles, hope and the power of the divine, its greatest strength is that it sounds unlike anything Attaullah has done on Coke Studio in previous seasons.
The reason is that instead of singing with him, an idea that was explored in an earlier season, Sanwal Esakhelvi uses new-age technology such as a laptop and an EDM sampler to create an electronic song. He is, as he says in the BTS video, “triggering four different instruments”.
The father sings, while Sanwal provides an electronic coating that is bold, ominous and brings to (my mind) Hans Zimmer, the Hollywood composer, when he’s in a dark mood. The result is a song that should appeal to both Attaullah fans who enjoy his singing and folktales and a new generation that can be hopeful that the show is not only about ten-minute long convoluted songs but about electronic folk songs which this one is. A genuine effort to fly out of the sonic sound we associate with Coke Studio, it succeeds in its undertaking.
Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammad sing Bulleh Shah’s ‘Piya Ghar Aaya’ and as Fareed Ayaz explains in the BTS video, “Baba Bulleh Shah found his beloved in the form of his ‘Peer’ so to get the approval of his Peer says what God said.”
Sung in Urdu/Punjabi/Farsi, Fareed Ayaz bring it home with this qawwali which runs over 12 minutes and at one point states, “God united us”. The house-band provides a groove without stopping the qawwals from showcasing their expertise. An effective tribute to God, in the form of the return of the beloved, it comes off as a message of faith in these bleak, ironic, hopeless times and asks the self to look at its own self and look beyond the ritualistic.
It’s not always about numbers a song gets on YouTube. And of the three songs featured in the episode, the weakest and yet with the most numbers collected on YouTube (a cool 3.4 million), is Sahir Ali Bagga and Momima Mustehsan’s ‘Roye Roye’. Running at a whopping seven minutes, this one is a Bagga composition with lyrics co-written by him alongside Shakil Sohail and the song is supposed to be about unrequited love, a ballad if you will.
With terrible, clichéd lyrics, it bores from the onset even though Sahir Ali Bagga and Momina Mustehsan can certainly sing, if you’re into that sort of vocals. This song is like a safe bet, the kind Coke Studio has pulled in the past as well. A song that’s a bit too long and in the end sounds like a pop ditty gone awry with equally tedious lyrics and every instrument thrown on the board, for example, a weeping flute. It’s a bit like suffering to listen to this suffering ballad of a song.