Music, magic, madness

Sufi, soul, rock ‘n’ roll and rap –the first episode of Coke Studio glides over various musical genres bringing together a diversity that is, simply put, food for the soul. And the stories behind some of the songs


Paisay Da Nasha by Bohemia

International award-winning Pakstani-Amerian rap artiste, Bohemia, is featured in this season of Coke Studio. His contribution, Paisay Da Nasha, carries his signature – both lyrically and in terms of its flow. The Viccaji sisters (Racheal and Zoe) join Bohemia on stage as they return this season as backing vocalists.

“Behind every rap song, its poetry, is a message,” says Bohemia in the behind-the-scene clip of Paisa Da Nasha. Unsurprisingly he’s talking about the intoxication that the pursuit of money can bring and being in love with it. “I’m asking a question in the song,” says Bohemia, “and perhaps I’m asking myself: did you get any real happiness from doing that?”

Coke Studio has experimented with Bohemia’s song by infusing and brining to the forefront a variety of instruments that provide a whole new groove to the song. It works well except for one tiny little thing – the music often pushes Bohemia’s singing into the background. And with a force such as Bohemia, he deserves to be front and centre – all the way through.

Tum Kaho by Symt

Hassan Omar, the guitarist for Symt, composed and arranged the music for the song and played it for Haroon who later penned the lyrics for it. Perhaps the most surprising revelation about the making of the Tum Kaho is that Hassan’s main inspiration when composing music comes from the theme music played in video games!

Tum Kaho is an expression of the one human emotion that can bring about both war and peace – love – in its most absolute form. That expression of complete devotion and submission is evident in the main chorus translated here: “I will bring down the stars at your command. I will steal the moonlight to shine just for you.”

Tum Kaho is not a new song for the most ardent of Symt fans as they have performed numerous times in their previous concerts. The Coke Studio version, however, changes but doesn’t eliminate, the funky nature of the song and adds an almost jazzy element to it. Easy to listen to and hummable, the Coke Studio version of Tum Kaho has a subtle richness to it that extends throughout the song.

Kamlee by Hadiqa Kiani

Kamlee is a qalam penned by perhaps the most popular Punjabi Sufi poet in Pakistan, Baba Bulleh Shah. It has been covered by numerous artistes in the past and deals with a recurring theme in Baba Bulleh Shah’s poetry: introspection that would result in a greater awareness of the self. And in that process, coming closer to God.

Ever the fashionista, Hadiqa certainly looked the part of a mast malang person –her hair has grown long and she kept it crimped and open, and she wore a beautiful long black kurta with minor detailing around the neck. Her overall look was sombre yet sophisticated.

But Hadiqa’s performance wasn’t limited to the visual image alone. She rendered Kamlee with such feeling that she seemed to emote the song from her very soul. Gone was the cute, loveable singer who sang popular love ditties that Pakistan fell in love with (and continues to love) some 20-odd years ago. In her place emerged a mature woman that sang a qalam deeply rooted in the very fabric of Punjabi society. She sang with angst and a darkness never seen before. “Kamlee has my heart and soul in it,” said Hadiqa. Kamlee is a powerful song, and so was Hadiqa’s performance of it.

Larsha Pekhawar Ta by Humayoon Khan

A demand made by a woman to her lover to bring her a black tunic and four flowers from Peshawar is what forms the base of this classic Pashto folk song. The origins of Larsha Pekhawar Ta are unknown but it is a song that is stamped deep into Pashtun culture. Many artistes have covered this song – it has an Urdu version by the name of Tujh Ko Qasam Hai Meri – but this season, popular Pashto singer, Humayoon Khan, covered Larsha Pekhawar Ta for Coke Studio.

“Performing this song on Coke Studio has been an enchanting experience for me,” said Humayoon, “some of the folk tunes are in our blood. Larsha Pekhawar Ta has a very high value for us Pashtuns. I’m proud of being the first Pashto singer representing Pashto music and culture on Coke Studio. I decided to sing our signature folk tunes as a tribute to our Pashtun culture. Perhaps next time, if I am called, I’ll present some of my own original songs.”  He was very grateful towards Rohail Hyatt, the producer of Coke Studio, for bringing him on the show and that he has “great love for every member of the House Band. I feel proud of being a Pashtun and Pakistani.”

Humayoon Khan teamed up with rabab player and Coke Studio regular, Sadiq Sameer. They have collaborated and performed before and were reunited on the Coke Studio stage. Humayoon Khan sings the song to perfection – so much so that anyone listening to it would want to simply get up and dance in the manner of Coke Studio percussionist, Sikandar Mufti, in the behind-the-scenes clip who gave into the song and could be seen dancing in the corner!

Charkha Nolakha by Atif Aslam and Qayaas

At Qayaas band member and guitarist for Atif Aslam’s backing band, Sarmad Ghafoor’s suggestion, Atif and Qayaas decided to collaborate together. Intent on helping out some of the newer talent emerging in the Pakistani music industry Atif said that “We initially wanted to perform Sun Charkha Di Mithi Mithi by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (NFAK) so we worked on it and shared our version of the song with Rohail Hyatt.” The Producer however felt thatCharkha Nolakha (also by NFAK) would be a better option. “I feel Umair did a good job in the song,” added Atif.

According to the lead singer of Qayaas, Umair Jaswal, “Working with Atif Aslam was a fantastic experience, there is more to his voice than one can imagine. He is a master of improvisation and has the ability to reproduce musical pieces that sound pleasing to the ears.”

Charkha Nolakha for me is an epic song,” he added, “It’s a musical journey that takes you away and I believe the haunting and the raging sounds in the song show a lot of who we are and what me make musically.”

With the idea of paying tribute to some of the biggest names in Sufi and rock music, the idea of fusing the music of NFAK with one of rock music’s most recognized bands, Led Zeppelin, came into existence.

“Initially I was supposed to sing the verses of Kashmir (by Led Zeppelin) at the climax of the song. We believed it would’ve been a great treat for the rock listeners but later on the idea was changed.” Instead, Umair sang the opening lines of a qalam by Baba Bulleh Shah on the guitar riff of Kashmir.  He added that all of the credit for the song goes to “the musical genius Mr Rohail Hyatt” and that “I believe it has touched the hearts of the subcontinent and has done its job.”

East meets west in Charkha Nolakha in a symphony that is both raw and haunting at the same time. It presents itself like an intimate ballad and flows like a whispered conversation between two very powerful entities coming together with a common purpose. Umair Jaswal holds his ground in Charkha Nolakha as Atif Aslam’s contemporary – his equal – while as a seasoned performer, Atif instinctively knows how to steer the mood of the song in a way that suits it best. It was a befitting end to a fantastic start to the fifth season of Coke Studio.

Newspaper view: [click for larger image]

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4 responses to “Music, magic, madness”

  1. A Pakistani Boy says :

    I’m hooked to Charkha Nolakha !!!!!! It’s amazing!

  2. Danial Shahid says :

    The name of your this blog resembles quite much to my own blog site that is please do check it and follow if you feel like, need some art related people to ponder about it. Also, this is a very nice post of yours. Also prior to this, I reviewed this episode for Pakistan’s largest music site, so here’s the link do view this too and tell me about it. Thanks. Looking forward to it :)

  3. Aliza Moiz says :

    charkha naulakha… most amazing song! totally hooked.. have heard it 0ver a 1000 times …great work guys.. Atif i have no words for u..u r one of the best.. yet again master piece in Coke studio and Umair.. im begining to think that ur voice has gripped me completely! U r Awes0me… hats off and good luck..
    cheers :)

  4. Arsal Hamid khan says :

    Atif Aslam (Voice of hearts) dressing check kro lrkey ki ♥♥♥

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