Music lovers in Pakistan have been deeply disappointed by the music ventures of Pepsi and Coke, Pepsi Battle of the Bands and Coke Studio respectively. Coke Studio which was initially developed in Brazil and brought to Pakistan with an objective to promote music in the country helped both the music industry and their brand in the beginning, which was exactly their aim from the start.
Eleven seasons ago when Coke Studio kicked off with Rohail Hayat as its producer, it quickly went up the ladder of success. It not only gained immense popularity for its musical content but by Season 3, Coke Studio had become a regional phenomenon; by Season 6 it was considered an equal to international success story being replicated by countries such as India and the Middle East.
On the contrary by Season 7, Coke Studio started to distaste, it looks like that it went out of creativity and ran itself into the ground. In a desperate attempt to salvage a property, Coke hired the services of Strings to lift and reinvent the show. Strings who are popularly known for their songs went on to produce rejuvenated Coke Studio that was highly appreciated. By Season 9 and 10, they went on to follow collaborative model by bringing in other producers in the show to keep the creative journey of Coke going.
However, during the initial airing and final production of Coke Studio Season 10, there came a very surprising announcement that Strings will no longer be producing the show. This news was absolutely a shock for the entire music fraternity since the show was already on air. Right after the completion of Season 10, Coke began looking for a new producer for the show. Zohaib Qazi who had separated from the production team of Coke Studio after Season 10 had been freelancing with various artists and platforms such as Patari, Strings, Natasha Baig and so on. These platforms and individuals were supporting Zohaib Qazi at the time when he was not associated with Coke Studio in its eleventh season.
Furthermore, Coke Studio began to look for new producers to continue the brand that by now had built a formative reputation and popularity. They went to do discussions with all major producers of music in Pakistan that included Sahir Ali Bagga, Shuja Haider, Shiraz Uppal etc. However, to the utter disbelief by music professionals, Coke Studio chose to create a team of the former coordinator of Coke Studio Zohaib Qazi and the other half of Noori Band (Ali Hamza). It is surprising that why Ali Hamza was chosen for the project since even Noori’s album was not produced by them but instead by Shiraz Uppal.
On the other hand, Zohaib Qazi was always the glorified coordinator of Coke Studio and not in any way the creative component of any of the Coke Studio seasons. In fact, out of all the producers interviewed almost all the music professionals agreed that Shiraz Uppal by far should have been the obvious choice. The reasons for this are that the biggest all-time Coke Studio hit Tajdar-e-Haram was produced by Shiraz Uppal. Moreover, he has also partnered with one of the biggest names of international music such as A.R.Rehman and has co-produced perhaps the biggest hits of all times not only in this region but in the world of music in general.
Rumours are that one of the core members of the operational team within the brand went out of its way to ensure that Ali Hamza got the project and in order to create some sort of support, Zohaib Qazi was teamed up to make this happen. The result is right there in front of us the so-called merit Coke Studio has now fallen flat on its face by becoming Joke Studio. All the friends whoever helped the coordinator during the one-year period, when he was out of the show are now part of the show without any regard to merit or otherwise. Ali Hamza does not seem to earn the kind of respect by any major music professional of Pakistan due to his lack of command on music.
Coke Studio started off as a platform of elite music professionals who came to produce outstanding collaborative pieces of music. One had to prove its metal to be on the show and earn its way to be on the show. Now Coke Studio seems like a congregation of friends who at times are either virtually unknown or do not have the kind of professional signs of progress that would deserve their presence on the show. A few musicians have been sprinkled into the show to try and give the kind of credibility that could be expected from this platform but even they, due to their lack of required professional guidance and command, have completely failed to make a mark this season. Songs like Shikwa, Jawab-e-Shikwa have been brutally murdered, such are the songs which are divine and create an air of calmness around the listener but unfortunately, the remixes of Shikwa, Jawab-e-Shikwa arenothing close. In fact, they sound like drums and flutes are being played by a band in some wedding.
In short, Coke Studio is an example of what unprofessional approach and nepotism can do to a successful brand. Will we see some sense next season? We don’t know but the most probable name that should have been the producer right now is touring the USA as an integral part of A.R.Rehman team.