As Rohail Hyatt returned to Coke Studio 12 after season 6, the expectation was that he would take the idea of Coke Studio 6 with its hybrid-recordings featuring exciting contemporary as well as regional artists forward and take out the commotion. It would do – what Coke Studio under Rohail Hyatt has excelled at - creative collaborations between two different dimensions of music, the established contemporary Western artists alongside regional, folk, classical ones (some even undiscovered) and in doing so would introduce the audience of one to the other and vice versa.
He was clear that purists would not be pleased but that was okay because while some would return to the originals, others would be intrigued by the original and minds would open up as the journey began. He was right. In addition to established names as well as creating names, Coke Studio – under Rohail Hyatt – was known for giving at least one emerging act a chance. Season six was something else altogether and a great belief for many that it was his finest.
Now in its 12th season – with the first episode coming up later this week (October 11) - not only has the season (summer) in which Coke Studio originally used to appear changed but the show is returning to its roots in awkward ways.
Unlike last year where four bands got to make their debut as well as rappers - and as the norm of the show is which includes several regional artists - this year no new contemporary artist has been tapped by Coke Studio 12.
The artists, who made their debut during Strings reign and/or Rohail’s years are returning with the regional artists providing comfort that at least their presence might make up for lack of room for a single emerging artist from the modern music era as well as the counter culture movement.
A great deal of effort has gone into the set and we’ve learned this through the behind-the-scene videos that were released last week and hosted by percussionist/ drummer Kami Paul.
The trailer itself is a montage rather than a patriotic song and echoes, in some ways, the season 4 evolution. The set is different and the detailing is visible if you watch the BTS videos. It almost feels like a studio recording session as a setting to make the experience, perhaps more intimate between the audience and the artist.
The Very Good
Artists most exciting are not just featured ones but begin with the house band itself. A mostly complete revision has taken place.
The house-band now consists of Mehr Qadir, Nimra Rafiq, Rachel Viccaji, and Shahab Hussain on backing vocals; Amir Azhar, Javed Iqbal, Kamran ‘Mannu’ Zafar, Sarmad Ghafoor, Tanveer Tafu, Varqa Faraid, Zain Ali on tonal instruments; and Aziz Kazi, Babar Khanna, Hassan Mohyeddin, Kami Paul, and Veeru Shan on percussions.
All of these people have enormous talent and it’s time the country’s biggest music property showcases that.
In guest musicians, alongside names like Sajid Ali on Flute, Omran Shafique on Guitar, Syed Saif Abbas on Bass Guitar, there are also guest musicians such as Balochi Troupe: Mohammad BuxAaharr, Shaihan Khan, Shehzad Sardar, Taj Muhammad Buledi; KPK Troupe: Abdul Majid, Fazal Kareem, Khurshid, Zafar Ali; and Sindhi Troupe: Mevo Khan, Muhammad Talib, Roshan Ali, Shoukat Ali Faqeer. Sadiq Sameer on Rubab, Shahzad Ali on Harmonium, Fazal Abbas on Tabla, Shakoor Faqeer on Khamach, and Noor Baksh on Banjo as guest musicians complete the list.
This is another exciting component to the show.
The Unexpected Letdown
Apart from names like Banur’s Band, Barkat Jamal Fakir Troupe, Harsakhiyan, Kashif Din, Shamali Afghan, all of the artists featured on Coke Studio 12 have appeared on the series before.
Abrar-ul-Haq, Aima Baig, Ali Sethi, Atif Aslam, Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad with Humnawa, Fariha Pervez, Hadiqa Kiani, Nimra Rafiq, Quratulain Baloch, Rachel Viccaji, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sahir Ali Bagga, Sanam Marvi, Shuja Haider, Umair Jaswal, Zeb Bangash and Zoe Viccaji.
Shahab Hussain was scheduled to go solo last year so maybe he can be counted as emerging act or Nimra Rafiq (without Sounds of Kolachi). Names like Sunny Khan Duurani, Biryani Brothers, Natasha Noorani, Abdullah Qureshi, Mehdi Maloof, Takatak, Karakoram, Umer ‘Duck’ Khan, Shehzad Noor, AbidBrohi, SomeWhatSuper and Poor Rich Boy (who can sing in Urdu with just as much heart), Talal Qureshi, Adil Omar, SKM, and so many more will just have to wait until next year.
It is almost as if the upcoming Coke Studio 12 is less about merit and more about getting stronger numbers than last year. Bagga will get numbers. He also produces film music. But if that’s the case, why not get Taha Malik in instead? He did a phenomenal job with Laal Kabootar’s music.
At this point, the only ironic question is why Momina Mustehsan was left out. Add Asim Azhar along with Sahir Ali Bagga and you have the trifecta.
And then we ask why there are no big names left. Maybe because shows like Coke Studio simply don’t invite them to be who they are, something which was present in the earlier seasons Rohail Hyatt produced with great flair. And Coke Studio marketing and platform is unlike anything an independent artist can match.
Time will tell if the instrumentation, the revised house-band will make up for repeating a major chunk of featured artists and whether the collaborations designed for the upcoming seasons make music junkies, who are jaded by now, interested in the show again.