It was at the start of the year (courtesy @imsabbah) that I got introduced to the retro-flavoured ditty dripping oodles of sweetness that was Nadiya, by Jimmy Khan and the Big Ears. And Strings raise the sweetness quotient multiple notches up on Coke Studio! The ukulele which was the soul of the original remains (albeit with a lot more improvisations from Hamza Jafri), but here we also have the melodica by Arsalan Rabbani and there is the clopping sounds from Babar Ali Khanna which so beautifully accentuate that retro feel. And to this mix the composers add a couple of verses from the 1956 song Gaadi Ko Chalaana Babu, in this case rendered to a tee by Rahma Ali. The result is a piece that will leave you with a wistful smile every single time you hear it.
Sunn Ve Balori
Strings convert Ustad Tafu Khan’s yesteryear Punjabi song (originally sung by Noor Jehan) into an attitude-loaded rock song, one that quite obviously has the guitarists having a field day. The man leading the pack is Omran Shafique with his brilliant solos. Not to understate the support from the strings section. Meesha Shafi and the backing singers do a good job of conveying that energy in their rendition as well. While I appreciate the fact that the composers decided to get the original composer Tafu Khan to play the tabla (he is awesome by the way!), his solo is the only discordant note I felt in the whole song.
Sajjad Ali’s song from the 1999 film Aik Aur Love Story (starring and directed by him) gets revisited in episode 3. And like his first song, the arrangement gets a major facelift from the original form riding on Tanveer Tafu’s rubab, Arsalan Rabbani’s harmonium and Sajid Ali’s flute. Sajjad Ali is joined by another reliable singer who has appeared on the show in the past, Fariha Pervez. But beyond all this the song has a dominant filmy sufi kind of sound. Not like I am against it, just that it brings with it a strong sense of familiarity.
One of the lighter-sounding songs (and definitely the shortest one) that Abida Parveen has sung on the show. Of course even the rendition of a simpler tune doesn’t make her sound any less majestic. The arrangement is classic Coke Studio, a perfect melange of flute (Sajid Ali) and guitars (Shallum Xavier, Imran Akhoond, Khalid Khan) and piano (Jaffer Ali Zaidi) and tabla (Babar Ali Khanna). Blissful composition.
An unusually experimental and minimal entry by Coke Studio norms, Bone Shaker understandably has your attention for Usman Riaz’s impressive display of percussive guitar play, which is what the song is for almost all of its first half. Over the rest of the song Usman is joined by Babbar Ali Khanna with his tabla and bols and Sajjid Ali on the flute. Entertaining piece, though the dissonance between the two segments kind of rankled me.
Another of Biddu Appaiah’s classics from the Nazia-Zoheb era comes to life on Coke Studio, this time his subcontinental adaptation of his own legendary Kung Fu Fighting. And this one works much better than Chehra. Strings retain Biddu’s yesteryear funky groove which sounds as engaging at the hands of the house band and guest guitarist Omran Shafique. The combination of Zoheb Hassan and the harmonies from the backing vocalists works quite well too. The only stumbling point is the jazz digression with clarinettist Jaffer Hussain at the lead that ends up sounding redundant for all the effect it has.
Shakar Wandaan Re
Shakar Wandaan Re. Distribute sweets. The moment you hear those opening notes on the banjo from Tanveer Tafu (who increasingly seems to be in Pakistan what Tapas Roy is on this side – there just doesn’t appear to be a stringed instrument he doesn’t play!), you know that this song is going to be as delightful an experience as implied by that title. And riding on an infectiously happy folk tune (felt a hint of jaijaiwanti around that title refrain), the song goes on to deliver in style, courtesy Asrar’s (and the backing vocalists’) splendid singing. The arrangement aside of the banjo too is fab – the accordion sound given by Jaffer Ali Zaidi on keys, the folk percussion etc. adding to the feel very nicely.
Another wedding-themed song, and another winner. In more ways than one, this continues from where Phool Banro ended. The mood is similar, tugging at the heart strings, there are places where the raga seems similar (it could probably be a combination of desh and kaapi/pilu – a mix that has been used by ARR more than once to brilliant effect), and we once again have Humera Channa producing another stunner of a rendition, this time with the equally awesome Javed Bashir by her side. Jaffer Hussain’s clarinet might have missed the mark in Dheere Dheere, but here it works and how!
So episode 3 turned out to be the weakest episode so far, but that apart Strings still seem to produce at least two gems in each episode. And in Ambwa Talay we have another strong contender for the song of the season.
Top Recos: Dost, Nadiya, Ambwa Talay, Shakar Wandaan Re