According to its official website, Coke Studio “embodies a musical fusion of exciting elements and diverse influences, ranging from traditional eastern, modern western and regionally inspired music.” The unique initiative provides a platform for Pakistan’s wide range of musicians, bringing them together to celebrate their industry, artistry, and diversity through live recordings and performances. After the unprecedented and immense popularity of Coke Studio’s first season, the initiative’s second season is slated to begin next month. Below, Batool, a journalist based in Karachi describes her experience at the press conference for Coke Studio’s Season Two:
When I’d been handed the envelope with Lotus written on it, I’d curiously turned it over while my boss briefed me on what I was to do. As soon as I pulled out the glossy 4′ by 6′ black and red invitation, she didn’t have to say anything more – the colors on the card gave it away. My eyes grew wide and I gasped with excitement. Coke Studio was BACK! I was going to go to the press conference!! I was over the moon, even though it was on March 23, a public holiday.
The day came, anticipation built, and expectations were high. Studio 146 was packed. Red coke bottle palanquins hung on the walls, forming a great backdrop for pictures, interviews and so on. About 20 video cameras formed the back row. I had plenty of time to observe the scenery, because even though the event was being held by Coke, the press conference began about forty minutes late. The conference finally began with a montage of clips from the previous season, which was famous for the remixed well-known tracks like “Garaj Baras” [see YouTube clip below] and “Allah Hu”. Country Manager Rizwan U Khan took his place at the center of the panel and put forth Coke Studio’s mission statement, “Bringing alive the magic of live recordings and performances, Coke Studio prides itself on providing a musical platform that bridges barriers, celebrates diversity, encourages unity and instills a sense of Pakistani pride.”
Rohail Hyatt next took the stage and echoed, “To have the opportunity to add to such foundations through Coke Studio is inspiring and motivating.” Coke Studio presented an incredible and diverse line-up for this year. There are three different categories – The Featured Artists, the Guest musicians, and Coke Studio’s very own house band, ensuring that the quality of music remains consistently outstanding. This year’s Featured Artists comprise of Ali Zafar, Arieb Azhar, Atif Aslam, Javed Bashir, JoSH, Noori, Riaz Ali Khan, Saieen Zahoor, Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan, Strings, and Zeb & Haniya. The Guest Musicians are Gul Mohammad – Sarangi, Gurpreet Chana – Tabla, Sadiq Sameer – Rabab, and Rakae Jamil – Sitar. The House Band contains a wide array of musicians who are renowned experts at their various instruments. Assad Ahmed – Lead and Rhythm Guitars, Babar Khanna – Dholak, Jaffer Zaidi – Keyboards, Kamran ‘Mannu’ Zafar – Bass Guitars, Louis ‘Gumby’ Pinto – Drums and Percussion, Javed Iqbal – Violin, Natasha De Sousa – backing vocals, Omran ‘Momo’ Shafique – Lead and Rhythm Guitars, Saba Shabbir – backing vocals, Sikander – Dholak, Waris Ali Baloo – Multi Percussionist, and Zulfiq ‘Shazee’ Ahmed Khan – Multi Percussionist. With such a diverse group of musicians, I am certain we will see many unique and groundbreaking performances.
Coke Studio is reportedly going to decrease its live audience this year because of last season’s sound quality issues – resulting from crowd chatter, cell phones and the sounds of the doors opening and closing. The press conference ended surprisingly early – after ten minutes – and I was disappointed that none of the artists from the panel spoke. Tea was announced and the interviews commenced, leaving one’s thirst for more unrequited. Journalist and blogger Faisal Kapadia of Deadpan Thoughts commented, “The fusion aspect of Coke Studio’s mixes is energizing our youth, stimulating them to get bigger and better and do more to help cultural influences thrive. In these times, when all other views of Pakistan are bleak, Coke Studio is taking Pakistan to new heights on an international platform. The fundamentalists send SMS’s claiming Coke’s cloaking a Jewish Conspiracy, which is ridiculous when you look at how much it is doing for our community”.
This event was clearly important for Coke, and it appears that a lot of expenses were incurred to maintain the standards it is renowned for. The glossy handbook in the press kit contained detailed biographies of each of the artists, and photography was done by none other than Rizwan-ul-Haq [a prominent Pakistani photographer]. The Pakistan music industry is clearly benefiting from Coke’s attempts to cradle Sufi and other folk/regional music and incorporate it into contemporary sounds. Using Coke’s platform, Pakistan’s crown jewel musicians can soon make a mark in the world as the most progressive country in the field of melody.
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