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Studio giving Pak music a new voice gets in Rabbi Shergill

For about three years now,a phenomenon called ‘Coke Studio’ has been changing the ground rules for both popular and traditional music in Pakistan.

Written by Seema Chishti | New Delhi |
February 8, 2011 5:54:53 am

For about three years now,a phenomenon called ‘Coke Studio’ has been changing the ground rules for both popular and traditional music in Pakistan. Through three series of highly successful TV shows,recorded at a studio in Karachi,Coke Studio has provided a forum for blending traditional,folk,pop and younger musical styles and poetry of Pakistan.

Now it has gone one,some would say logical,step further and invited talented Indian singer Rabbi Shergill into its fold. The singer who burst on to the scene six years ago with a very modern twist and sound to Bulleh Shah’s poetry with Bulla ki jaana mein kaun,flew to Pakistan on Saturday for about a week for what would be the first Indo-Pak collaboration by Coke Studio.

Without overtly saying much but,for example,by choosing and aggressively promoting Sufi music,getting together folk-style musician Arif Lohar with model and vocalist Meesha Shafi in the memorable Alif Allah,and having two sisters of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa descent — Zeb and Haniya — strum the guitar to Pashto tunes,the Karachi studio has become a symbol of the young and modern Pakistani and one that they are proud to talk about as an important modern cultural experiment.

The music is not only savoured by non-resident Pakistanis but by an increasing number of Indian fans through the Web.

While Pakistan-based Rohail Hyatt,the popular Pakistani musician and producer who takes most key decisions at Coke Studio,said he was “unable” to immediately confirm the details of what was being planned,the bid to get Shergill to be a part of the fourth season started late last year.

Shergill’s visa materialised only now and,according to sources close to the singer,he was able to just Studio giving Pak music a new voice gets in Rabbi Shergill about make it. “It would have not been possible had the visa taken even a few days more,as Rabbi has a very busy schedule in the US and Canada after this,” said a source.

Shergill is believed to be planning to sing compositions of Bulleh Shah,the evergreen Sufi poet of the 17th century,Punjabi folk singer Yamla Jat (who has struck a chord by delving on the plight of the diaspora of Punjab), and poems of noted Punjabi poet and critic Dr Harbhajan Singh.   

Contemporary writers from Pakistan like Kamila Shamsie have been quoted as saying that “the most glorious thing about the show (Coke Studio) is the disparate traditions it brings together,pop,qawwali,rock,folk and classical”.

Says noted Sufi singer,lyricist and writer Madan Gopal Singh: “Coke Studio is doing tremendous things in Pakistan. In an environment where one Sufi shrine is attacked every month,it is something to sing songs of resistance. But what they are doing is way beyond that,they are resisting through their songs.”

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