Coke Studio 12 – Hiding Behind Old Classics To Hide the Lack Of Creativity
Coke Studio was Pakistan’s best product when it came to music, the Gen Z kind. Not only was it superior to the Indian version but there was a time when it was becoming bigger by every passing day. Getting bigger meant getting responsible, and larger than life, but Coke Studio now is anything but that. At least, that’s what we have realized ever since Strings left the scene and the Coca Cola executives brought in Zohaib Kazi (not a music composer) and Ali Hamza as their replacements.
After the debacle of Season 11, Coke went on to bring back Rohail Hyatt, the showrunner of the first six seasons. His return raised the expectations of people for a massive change for the better but this has been anything but. What people tend to forget with time is that Rohail Hyatt was booted out after the dismal downward spiral of Coke Studio Season 6. The format the ex Vital Signs member follows is more on the lines of his time with Coke than its succeeding seasons 7-10 by Strings. That has definitely raised questions on his handling of Coke Studio, that too after a gap of five years.
Coke Studio Season 12 has been a disappointment!
Let’s address the elephant in the room, first. Coke Studio Season 12 has been quite a disaster, considering it came after its worst season ever. It was expected to be better since it went back to its originator, Rohail Hyatt. His lackluster approach, decision to continue with cover songs and no innovations have disappointed listeners. Yes, he was never a supporter of new songs, but Strings changed the Coke Culture by producing original numbers. They also shifted the burden on to fellow producers who composed songs and helped Coke Studio achieve new standards. That trend should have continued but didn’t, and the same people who were rooting for the return of Rohail Hyatt, are now reminiscing the Strings’ era longing for that touch to return!
Recreating Wohi Khuda Hai for no reason!
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s Hamd Wohi Khuda Hai along with Abrar ul Haq’s Billo (more on that later) are evergreen classics that didn’t require a Coke Studio version. In fact, both these classics could end up in the list of Untouchable songs, if such a list is ever compiled in Pakistan. Why Rohail Hyatt chose them to be reproduced remains a mystery; while Atif Aslam’s Wohi Khuda Hai might seem like a classic to some, it isn’t that great.
Udit Narayan’s version from Kartoos and the rendition by Naeem Abbas Rufi were far better, in fact, Udit Narayan was approved by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan himself. The Coke Studio version came out as flat and sounded nothing like the original version. Although leading composers did not bash it publicly as they want to be part of Coke Studio, those who do not fear the Cola giants, did. Atif Aslam could not do justice to the hamd although his fans found it to be soothing for some reason. If you take a closer look at it, you will find a disinterested Atif Aslam who is not doing something extra or perhaps, in this case, is incapable of it.
Back-stabbing Billo With Loud Backing Vocals
And then there was Billo, the song that sky-rocketed Abrar ul Haq’s career in the 90s. Perhaps it is the all-time best seller in the history of Pakistani pop music. The original version became popular because of its simplicity; the updated version is anything but that.
The forcefully added backing vocals, the synthesized music, and an out-of-practice Abrar ul Haq was not the kind of tribute one was expecting. It could have been expected in the last Season where Zohaib Kazi and Ali Hamza were in disarray, but not in the reign of the much-trumpeted, mighty Rohail Hyatt. How could he do so wrong especially when people were expecting him to be better than the rest? The way the song began shows the seriousness of those behind the Coke Studio version. Not only did it offend many of those who grew up listening to the song but also dented any chances of nostalgia attached to the song.
Is Rohail Hyatt The Right Man For The Job?
It seems Rohail Hyatt is stuck in the mode of the first six Coke Studio seasons. Not only has the music scene changed in Pakistan, producing original music has rather ended. Nobody is producing new songs and even if someone is, it is not getting the mileage new songs used to get a decade back. Back then, Rohail Hyatt lived on folk songs’ rendition and today, he is feeding off covers of classics. Ironically, these songs are from the same era when Rohail Hyatt was part of Vital Signs; why isn’t he recreating any of those numbers seems a mystery.
It might have something to do with plagiarism since the listeners have become smart and can smell a copy from afar. The same goes for the new songs which might have something to do with the failed previous season that was in short, a disaster. It would have been better had Rohail Hyatt considered Coke Studio Season 11 as null and void and carried on with the legacy of Strings. However, by repeating the mistakes of the Rohail Hyatt era, he is not only damaging himself but also Coke Studio as a music show, Pakistan’s best in recent years. One hopes that incoming seasons will be more original having songs rendered by prominent singers than just cover songs. As for Rohail Hyatt, all I can say is it’s never too late to rediscover and learn rather than crash and burn.
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