Over the years, Pakistan’s Coke Studio has developed a reputation for producing songs pertaining to different genres. Since its inception in 2008 when the show was emceed by Rohail Hyatt, it has gone on to become immensely popular and has gained a strict following among its fans who are not just restricted to Pakistan but also are in a significantly huge number here across the border. Songs like Ali Azmat and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Garaj Baras (Season 1), Meesha Shafi and Chakwal group’s Ishq Aap Bhi Awalla (Season 5) and Zeb and Hanya’s Bibi Sanam Janem (Season 3) highlighted the show’s interest in mixing and experimenting with different languages, styles and instruments.
Coke Studio’s Season 10, which was emceed by the band Strings, has just ended its run and garnered favourable reviews. Though many of the season’s songs were tributes to legendary singers and musicians, a few original compositions and experimentation too stood out.
Here are top 10 songs from the season that caught our attention:
1. Laal Meri Pat
Strings dropped the tempo of the traditional folk song, which is translated from Bu Ali Shah Qalandar’s ghazal, and gave it a loungy, psychedelic composition. Quratulain Balouch’s thick, soulful vocals, infused with Akbar Ali’s haunting alaaps and Arieb Azhar’s spoken word, makes you lose yourself in its repetitive rhythm and makes this rendition of devotional poetry stand out.
2. Yo Soch
‘Yo soch’ translates to ‘A thought’ in Pashto and the song, composed by Strings, wails of longing and desire for love. Ali Zafar sings in Urdu while he is matched in Pashto by Natasha Khan, who otherwise has sung as the backing vocalist in the whole season. The song, composed on classical jazz, is loosely inspired by the concept of musical theatre which is a performance art much like opera but with more emphasis on the musical content.
3. Allahu Akbar
Composed by Shuja Haider, Allahu Akbar is a devotional song sung by Ahmed Jehanzeb and Shafqat Amanat Ali. Traditional qawwali elements of tabla and harmonium are backed by a piano quartet consisting of violin, cello, piano and viola. The genius of the composition comes to forth through intermixing of all these instruments which complement each other and the vocals.
4. Dekh Tera Kya/Latthay Di Chaadar
The concoction is a duet of a traditional South Asian wedding song and an 80s pop song. The former is sung by Quratulain Balouch and the latter by former lead singer of Jal, Farhan Saeed. Composed by Shani Arshad, the song plays on the rhythm of dandiya embellished with an upbeat tempo.
5. Kaatey Na Katey
The song, which is a revised version of the original which was sung by Runa Laila, features entwined solos of rock singers Rachel Viccaji and Aima Baig imposed upon semi-classical singer Humera Arshad’s sharp vocals. The music, which is directed by Ali Hamza, is fuelled with energy and what works is the experiment between the trifecta of singers as well as the use of mandolin.
6. Tinak Dhin
Ali Hamza, in both the previous season and the present, has made his name for adding an element of innovation, yet, not quite departing from a traditional composition. Another energetic number, singers Ali Hamza, Ali Sethi and Waqar Ehsin sometime complement and other times supplement each other vocals. Though the best among them remains Hamza with his smoky voice and genius composition.
7. Maula Tera Noor
Shafqat Amanat Ali brings to this song what he has usually been known for in Bollywood – catchy and simple improvisation. Shani Arshad has kept the composition of this hamd deliberately simple so as to not divert the listeners from purity and simplicity of the lyrics.
Faasle takes you back to the initial seasons of Coke Studio where ballads were a part of almost every episode. Telling of unrequited love, Jaffer Zaidi’s composition, as well as vocals, are the highlight of the song, however, they don’t quite eclipse Quratulain Balouch’s melancholy. The song is characteristic of the band Kaavish and take you back to odes to love that were sung in the 90s and early 2000s.
In a stark contrast to the above-mentioned song, Ali Zafar’s playful song, which was taken from one of his albums, too, talks of the tragedy of love but in a more pop-blues envelope. The song (which reminds of one of Zafar’s earlier Coke Studio songs Rockstar) is composed by Shani Arshad and also features guitar solo of Ali Zafar’s brother, Daniyal.
10. Ranjish Hi Sahi
As a tribute to Mehdi Hassan, Ali Sethi beautifully brings alive Ahmed Faraz’ lyrics which have been sung time and again by various singers over the years. Yet, Sethi’s rendition still floats because of his versatile and emotive vocals, even though Jaffer Zaidi has kept the original composition and added little to it.
Other songs that deserve a mention from the season are Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Rangrez, Amanat Ali and Hina Nasrullah’s Chaa Rahi Kali Ghata and Javed Bashir and Akbar Ali’s Naina Moray.