September Issue 2014

By | Arts & Culture | Books | Music | Published 10 years ago

When Coke Studio first premiered in Pakistan in the summer of 2008, no one knew what to expect. The concept of broadcasting live music performances and recording sessions in a studio setting was completely unheard of and unexplored. And yet, Coke Studio moved millions of Pakistanis. Developed by Rohail Hyatt and the Coca-Cola Company, Coke Studio was the only show on television where the classical prowess of Abida Parveen, Saieen Zahoor and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan could share the stage with the contemporary musical offerings of Ali Noor, Haniya, Zeb, Abrar-ul-Haq and many others.

Six years later, the music programme has developed into a transnational movement, the perfect representation of Pakistan’s rhythm, harmony, texture and languages. In order to document its colourful journey, the Coca-Cola Company teamed up with Markings to launch a coffee-table book featuring highlights of each season, the ideas behind musical collaborations and a passionate foreword by Raza Kazim. Markings then bought the rights to the book, reprinted it and is currently gearing up for putting it up for sale.

A defiant crusader of the arts, Raza Kazim discusses what music has done and continues to do for the people of Pakistan. According to Kazim, the inception of Coke Studio has sparked a musical renaissance — bringing a fusion of seasoned folk sounds and new-age rock to the contemporary ear. For Kazim, this combination of heritage rhythms and modern instruments is about much more than making music — it is a quest for intellect, a hunger for answers and a lyrical story of Pakistan’s spectacular journey.

Kazim says, “Coke Studio has breathed substance and brought dynamics to the sleeping music scene in Pakistan. It has collected talent, resources, and a deep understanding of society, all focused on music — constructing a platform for debates and sparking deeper thought. I’m deeply grateful for all that Coke Studio has done to stimulate the people — people like me.”

Coke Studio: Sound of the Nation is decorated with pithy quotes from various artists; Ali Zafar deems it a progressive revival of music while Mohsin Hamid thinks it’s a form of hope. The book also contains stunning imagery and interesting pieces of Pakistan’s history in its different sections.

In the words of Rohail Hyatt, the celebration of Coke Studio in such a manner serves as a reminder to the Pakistani people that art and culture have been embedded in us for many generations — and the opportunity to explore such foundations through shows like Coke Studio is both inspiring and motivating.


This review was originally published in Newsline’s September 2014 issue under the headline, “A Musical Renaissance.”