گل سݨ

Rohail Hyatt, producer of Coke Studio:

Eastern music relies on melodic nuances that touch certain notes or frequencies and these can cause a ‘clash’ if used with standard chords. Gal Sunn is a good example of such a melody. It touches so many ‘added’ notes that avoiding these potential ‘clashes’ became a bit like walking through a landmine. Therefore in retaining the spirit of eastern music, I have tried my best to stay clear of these and that’s why the song ‘sounds’ a certain way.

I wrote a little bit about the relationship between Indian classical and Western music in a piece about Kangna. The gist is that western instruments often rely on harmony – playing multiple notes together in a guitar or piano chord. For a vocal melody to sit well on a chord progression, the notes in the vocal melody and the chord progression need to all be part of a common larger scale. If the two are lazily put together the sound doesn’t quite add up. While Rohail is not alone in his sincerity to this effort, the magnitude of his work makes him an important figure in this regard.

Ali Pervez Mehdi’s performance on this recording, by which I mean both his vocals and how much fun he is having delivering them, is a joy to watch. One of Rohail’s signature Coke Studio moves is to add a replying narrative, often in the voice from another gender, to many love songs. Meesha plays that role here, and this performance is a solid addition to the Meesha canon.

Fun fact: Ali Pervez Mehdi is brother to Ahsan Pervez Mehdi who formerly performed as part of Siege, and can now be seen on Velo Sound Station, and collaborating with Ali Noor.

چھاپ ٹرانس

Amongst all the big music shows, there was also the quiet release of this rabab-driven Balochi nar sur trance. You really have to hear it once to have this rather literal description make sense in your head.

Nar Sur is the genre of throat singing perhaps most widely known in current times through Akhtar Chanal’s appearance on Coke Studio. It is performed here by Bujla Bugti and Haider Ali Bugti. This recording also features Khumariyaan, who are known for establishing a new wave of instrumental Pashtun music.

h/t Asim Fayaz

Asim Raza & an Urdu Cover of Zombie

Shahan Shahid wrote back after the previous post covering Bohemia’s Saari Duniya on Coke Studio:

Very glad you covered this. I agree with you that Rohail's approach and the Coke Studio format can make rap tough to digest. In School Di Kitaab, the restriction to sing live made Bohemia gasping for air and the intro lyrics to Saari Dunya seem out of place in a humble-braggadocio. “Meri yeh dastaan suniye mujhse dilbar pyaaray” are also lot of words meaning nothing because I clicked on the song to listen to it! 

That said, Saari Dunya sent me down a wormhole which led me to this Urdu cover by Bakht Arif of The Cranberries' Zombie. It's as pleasing and cringeworthy as it first sounds but there's more: the lyrics—a faithful ode to the original's protest ethos—come from Asim Raza who, in the popular realm, has been a lyrics consultant to Coke Studio since its inception but also helped shoot Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to fame with Jiya Dhadak Dhadak Jaye for Kalyug (2005) (Raza's uncle served as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's promoter). Asim, in an interview, says his record label, Sargam Records—the same one this cover is released under—launched Humera Arshad and Ustad Rafaqat Ali Khan.

I am sure this cover went viral at some point given its views and is interesting just as an Urdu cover of a popular English rock song (thus falling in the same realm as another obscure, early 2000's cover of Evanescence's Everybody's Fooled by Maha*) but especially for readers of Hamnawa, I thought it would be a good bridge into Asim Raza, one major and often hidden piece of this loose constellation we call a music industry in Pakistan. In the same vein, this song epitomizes music's ability to transcend Pakistani socioeconomic boundaries: Zombie, a popular Irish altrock song, right up the alley for burger bachas, gets recreated at Sargam Records, a studio located at Scheme Chowk (read as: Chonk for full effect) in Allama Iqbal Town and founded by a UET Electrical Engineering-graduate-turned-lyricist-and-poet who also happens to have launched popular Urdu singers and produced and composed for Nusrat and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

In parting, the lyrics in Urdu:

یہ جتنی آنکھیں نم ہیں
گھٹتے دم ہیں، کم ہیں
اور کیا کیا کچھ خود پر سہنے والے ہم ہیں
آنکھوں سے دیکھیں بھی
کانوں سے سن کہ بھی
یہ چیخیں، یہ آہیں
ہم چپ ہیں
ان ظالم ہاتھوں میں ہم بھی تو شامل ہیں
ہم ہی اپنے ہی قاتل ہیں
اور ہم ہی گھایل ہیں
زندہ لاشیں
ہم چلتی پھرتی ہوئی
زندہ لاشیں

*If anyone has a link to this, or knows this song, please write back! I have scoured the internet for it and it seems someone's done a very thorough job scrubbing it. If tracing obscure music through the interwebs excites you, this Reply All episode is fantastic.

Shahan’s note reminded me of a song that friend of the show Aizaz Ahsan remembered but couldn’t find.

ساری دنیا

Rohail Hyatt, producer of Coke Studio:

This song has a strange chant-like opening and closing part! I had found this loop somewhere and I had used it as a placeholder for something traditional in the song. When we realized we would not have any traditional artists come in because of covid restrictions, everyone still felt this part had to be preserved. So we got the backing vocalists to sing this as an intro and outro to the song. The original part was in some strange subcontinental language and the only words I understood from it were ‘munda kaka’. Not sure what that was but if someone connects the dots, please do share the info!

This is a meta song about rap itself, reminiscent of Rap Hai Saara from Coke Studio 11. I find it interesting to compare the two because they reveal the very different creative processes of different producers.

On Saari Dunya, Rohail pulls some classic Coke Studio techniques: the addition of a ‘traditional’ or classical element (in this case that chant mentioned above), percussive orchestral instrumentation (from Turkey and Nepal, reminiscent of the only other asynchronously recorded season of Coke Studio, season 6), and a dark break lead by guitar and bass. Rohail’s production also relies on echo, as an effect on various tracks and also in the way the backing vocalists emphasize parts of what Bohemia is saying. I find this particular element of Rohail’s style a little hard to get my head around. Perhaps this is just personal preference, but I get the feeling this does not feel natural in the nature of Bohemia’s music. What makes the song great regardless is that the chorus is one mean hook, and that it is always hard to disregard Bohemia’s charisma.

Rap Hai Saara was produced by Ali Hamza and Zohaib Kazi. The production in terms of personnel is much sparser. A guitar riff and and a very electronic beat form the spine of the song’s first half. The second half is held up with a dhol and a synth. There are no backing vocals, and Ali Hamza remarks in the BTS: “We’re about to break all the Coke Studio rules”. He refers perhaps specifically to the performance but I think the comment applies to the audio production as well. While the vocals take center stage as they do in most Coke Studio recordings, the orchestra hibernates and classical elements are foregone to let the rap shine. The result is a more natural rap tone but one harder to digest for those not into rap beforehand. This reflects not just a difference in style, but a difference in intention. For Rohail, Coke Studio has an ethos that inculcates the artist. For Hamza and Zohaib the desire is to use Coke Studio’s reach to bring audiences to rap.


Friend of the show Hassan Asif sends the following review of Maanu’s Khwaab:

Maanu is a fairly recent addition to Pakistan’s second wave of underground hip hop scene after cult favorites like Faris Shafi and Lyari Underground. The song, Khwaab, is a part of his debut album titled, Yain City. ‘Yain’, as Lahoris will know is the colloquial term to express some sort of a chaos. But it is not entirely about being obscured by the chaos; it is also about making something out of the bleakness. Essentially, it’s a term that expresses frustration but also an underlying will to also go through the yain.

The song starts off and ends with sample of a call which is apparently with one of Maanu’s ‘bros’. The call celebrates persistence and the second sample at the end of the song confirms that it is about Maanu’s dive into unchartered territories with this kind of music with an encouragement to keep going. 

The music video explores a colorful void replete with retro neon colors – a hint of a nostalgic reverence for what’s gone by but simultaneously looking into the future with sheer audacity. Maanu faces the camera as he sings while various colored filters wash over the screen, showcasing the trippy artistic sensibilities of the directors Zain Peerzada and Luke Azariah who play for Takatak, long-time flagbearers of the Pakistani heavy metal underground in Lahore. 

Underground music scenes across the world are collaborative in nature, with close-knit connections resulting in systems of support not afforded by the mainstream. The Pakistani underground is no different and this synergistic work between Maanu and Takatak is representative of that. This music, the video and promotional materials are made by the musicians themselves espousing a DIY ethic. 

The sound is filled with a somber yet catchy bassline interspersed with a very tasty use of synth. The chorus is uplifting that will make you reverberate with it leaving you with a sense of the Lahori urban experience. This is a song for today’s Lahore. 

Maanu sings: 

ہاں یہ دنیا الگ، ہم الگ ہیں
باقی سب ہیں مگر ہم تو فرق ہیں
زندگی ہے مشکل پر صبر ہے
اگر مگر چھوڑو بولو اگر کوئی قدر ہے

Haan ye dunya alag, hum alag hain 
Baaki sab hain aam par hum tou farak hain 
Zindagi hai mushkil par sabar hai 
Agar magar chorro bolo agar koi qadar hai

Is it indifference to the surroundings? No. 

It is a deeply existential response to an environment that makes you feel alienated while acknowledging that the environment is our own. So what do we do about it? 

To this, Maanu responds:

کر لے ہم پہ اعتبار بولو جو ہے زبان پہ
خوشیاں بھی ہیں یہاں بولو ڈرنے کی کیا بات ہے
ٹینشن نہیں لینی کیونکہ ہم دونوں اب ساتھ ہیں
تو آجا گم جاتے ہیں خواب میں

Kar lay hum pe aitebaar bolo jo hai zubaan pe 
Khushian bhi hain yahan bolo darnay ki kya baat hai? 
Tension nahi hai laini kyun ke hum dono ab saath hain 
Tou aaja gum jaatay hain hum khwaab mein

Cruise through a nighttime cityscape listening to this. 

Loading more posts…