Season 7 of one of the finest musical initiatives in the subcontinent. More importantly, the first season of the show under “new management”. It was a big challenge that Strings were taking up, Rohail Hyatt had built up quite a legacy over the first six seasons (seasons 2-4 mainly, to me even Hyatt didn’t really manage to maintain the levels he attained in these three seasons elsewhere). After multiple delays, got around to finally reviewing the show this week. And since it has been immensely delayed, I have clubbed season 1 and 2 in this review.
Full artist credits and free downloads are available here. And all songs can be heard at the end of the review.
Tum Naaraaz Ho
Sajjad Ali. You do not get a lot of simple, sincere-sounding voices like that. And Tum Naaraaz Ho is the kind of song that brings out that honesty in the most heart-warming way. The original 1990 version (from the album Love Letter) had a very, well, 90’s arrangement, which probably explains why this song isn’t among his most famous ones. Thankfully on Coke Studio the song gets a treatment it deserves. The base is laid with keys and the strings section, and ruling all that is the flute from Sajjid Ali which is almost a second voice to Sajjad, even overshadowing the backing vocals. Faraz Anwar’s guitar solo in the second interlude too deserves a hat tip.
Sab Aakho Ali Ali
Trippy song that rides on guitars; Strings were always good in that department. The star of course is the veteran lead guitarist Aamir Zaki who blows you away with his solos – loved the hint of raag shivranjani he gives in the closing one. And there is also Khalid Khan’s brilliant bass line. Asrar’s singing is sprightly, and he is backed very well by Momin Durrani, Rachel Viccaji and Sara Haider.
Lai Beqadraa Nal Yaari
A standard Punjabi folk tune presented in a non-boredom-inducing manner, something a lot of Bollywood songs fail to do while following that routine techno Punjabi route. While a lot of the brilliance here is owing to the vocal prowess of Niazi Brothers, they are complemented by a superb array of sounds. Sleek guitars once again, but it is Tanveer Tafu’s mandolin that has you glued here right from the word go, and Sajjid Ali joins in with some splendid flute later on. The only thing that didn’t work for me was the chorus section, just didn’t seem to go with the song. Something about the song evoked memories of Zindagi Maut Na Ban Jaaye from Sarfarosh.
Mein Sufi Hoon
When you see the name Abida Parveen on the credits, you know that you are in for a hell of a musical ride. In Mein Sufi Hoon Strings hit a double whammy by pairing Abida with another legend, sitar veteran Ustad Raees Khan. And as you can imagine, this one is a treat – over 10 minutes of sheer bliss! At the end of the performance, the video shows Ustad telling Abida, “Kya baat hai!” I agree.
This review might have come out a couple of days earlier had it not been for this song. Every time I started with this song I would end up looping it some 20 times! Strings pick up a simple Rajasthani wedding tune, and weave a magical piece out of it. Rich arrangement again – violins, the occasional flute from Sajjid Ali, the acoustic guitar by Fuzon man Shallum Xavier, and of course the lovely tabla by Babar Ali Khanna. The song however belongs to the singers who deliver that folk tune with finesse. While Humera Channa starts the song off on a pitch-perfect note, Abbas Ali Khan later takes the song to another level with his alaaps (raag tilak kamod; sounds close to desh!). Definitely one of the best songs of the season.
The duo that gave us one of the best songs from season 4 – Daanah Pa Daanah – Akhtar Channal Zahri and Komal Rizvi return to deliver another delightful Baloch folk track (here is the true folk version I found courtesy Harish Sivaramakrishnan). While Phool Banro represents the poignant, composed side of a wedding, Washmallay shows the celebratory side of it (yes this one is also a wedding song, apparently). This is one song I would definitely advise you to watch and not just listen; the sight of Akhtar Channal going all dervish is enough to make your day. Not a lot of folk elements in the arrangement – just the morsing-like instrument played by Sikandar Mufti and Tanveer Tafu’s splendid Baloch-style mandolin – but it all sounds trippy-happy all the same. And top class job on the vocals too by Akhtar Channal, Komal Rizvi, backing vocalist-turned-lead singer Momin Durrani and the chorus.
This song should have had Tanveer Tafu in the main credits alongside Javed Bashir, he plays as key a role on the rubab here as Ustad Raees Khan did in Mein Sufi Hoon. Strings choose Baba Bulleh Shah’s lines for this one, making Charkha the first song to make two appearances on the show. While it was Rohail Hyatt’work that made the Season 5 version (Atif Aslam and Qayaas-rendered) tick, Javed and Tanweer reign supreme in the Season 7 one. Have become a major fan of Tanweer Tafu!
Weakest song from the two episodes, for me. The tune sounds ordinary, and I didn’t find Zoheb Hassan’s (of that famous sibling duo Nazia-Zoheb Hassan – in fact the song itself comes from their 1984 album) singing that great either. The song does get better somewhere around the point where Aamir Zaki picks up the electric guitar (partly because it is pretty much instrumental in the second half), but still a weak song overall.
So Strings have started off their campaign quite well I should say! Excellent choice of artists and songs, for most part. Yet to catch up on episode 3, hope to do that tomorrow. And really high hopes on that, after what I have heard so far.
Top Recos: Tum Naaraaz Ho, Mein Sufi Hoon, Phool Banro, Washmallay