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Komal Rizvi singing in an episode - photo courtesy of Coke Studio website.

Komal Rizvi singing in an episode – photo courtesy of Coke Studio website.

If you are not familiar, Coke Studio is a music television series that started in 2008 and features different musicians on its episodes.  Its music is deep and generally filled with a lot of heart and soul that just draws any person in, regardless of whether he or she knows the language of the music.  It is all sung live with instruments and everything.  From Pakhto (Pashto) to Punjabi to Urdu, the content shown on Coke Studio appeals to the spirit of so many who just cannot describe what drives the soft spot they have for it, and its popularity across Asia is huge.

The Queen herself-Abida Parveen - photo borrowed from showbizalbum.blogspot.com

The Queen herself-
Abida Parveen – photo borrowed from showbizalbum.blogspot.com

I would venture to say that one of my small treats in everyday life is listening to songs from Coke Studio, Pakistan.  It was even more delightful to hear of its popularity in India when I was living there, and it makes me happy to hear that despite all of the craziness in Pakistan, it continues to run and is something Pakistanis can be proud of and boast about.  There was a great article in The Express Tribune, called “If India boasts about Taj Mahal, Pakistan should boast about Coke Studio”.  At the end of the day, I am a romantic about these kind of things.  Despite all politics, jingoism, war mongering between the two countries, the exchange of the beautiful traditional musical styles of the subcontinent fused with contemporary rock to appeal to younger crowds across borders is simply amazing.

By the way, India premiered their Coke Studio in July 2011, and are now on season 2.  I am just as excited to hear what type of music they will have to bring.  Yay for subcontinent music sharing and loving!   Admittedly, it is funny that there is a Coke Studio India and a Coke Studio Pakistan, but the Middle East just calls it Coke Studio Middle East.  Gosh, Coke Studio could not even transcend partition politics.   Oh well, let’s hope Coke Studio India and Pakistan collaborate further at some point, especially given the crazy Line of Control issues in recent news!

So, I came across Coke Studio because I am typically a sucker for anything Sufi, and it excited me to see more Sufi music broadcasted beyond just Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Bollywood portrayals (not that I don’t love the king himself, but some variety is great too).  In fact, a non-Desi friend of mine mentioned one of the songs that he heard on local radio (the same station as NPR).  It is called Manzil-e-Sufi by Sanam Marvi, and incorporates an interesting mix of Punjabi.  I love the uniqueness of Sanam’s voice!  Check it out!


Another great find I came across with Coke Studio is the Pakhtun songs.  I have had the opportunity and pleasure of learning this language (usually with a question of why?), and it has been wonderful to see the rediscovery of Pakhto music through Coke Studio.  This one is called Larsha Pekhawar Ta by Hamayoon Khan, and the really unique string instrument played in the video is known as a “rubaab”, which is unique to Pakhtun music.  Let’s hope I eventually get to decent Pakhto fluency to understand this song!

Larsha Pekhawar Ta

And of course, the more popular pop Pakistani artists are featured, such as Ali Azmat, Ali Zafar, Hadiqa Kiani, Atif Aslam, Abida Parveen, and we can’t forget the great Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (even though he can never replace the legacy of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for me, he truly has made his own mark).  In addition, many new names of young musicians trying to make their mark have made it to Coke Studio, such as Saba and Selina, Meesha Shafi, Komal Rizvi, Zeb and Haniya, and so many more.   This is one of my all time favorite hit songs that I have listened to since childhood, Garaj Baras featuring Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Ali Azmat.

Garaj Baras

Alright, I can go on forever with all of the content I love on Coke Studio, but honestly, you can find so many songs on YouTube just typing in Coke Studio, and they even have a site (surprise, surprise) to know the latest!