There are winds of change blowing through Coke Studio and the rumours have created a small uproar.
It is being said that Rohail Hyatt, CS’s first ever producer, credited for having ingeniously infused it with energy, given it its soul and raised the bar with a number of smash-hit songs, is going to be returning to the show this year. Meanwhile. Ali Hamza and Zohaib Kazi, who started their tryst as producers last year with CS Season 11 last year, will no longer be helming the show.
But is this merely hearsay or is there some truth to the rumours?
For one, it is confirmed that Zohaib Kazi and Ali Hamza are no longer producing the show.
“Yes, I have stepped down from producing CS,” says Ali Hamza. “My reasons for doing so are a few and I would love to talk about them sometime but I don’t think that that time has come yet simply because these reasons are related to my own personal journey and the new avenues that I am trying to explore.”
But is it also confirmed that Rohail will be making a return? We have been told that “nothing is final yet”. According to Fahad Qadir, Director Public Affairs & Communications within Coca-Cola for Pakistan and the Afghan region, “We had a great season last year and we made some new records but after every season we look at consumer responses and improve constantly. We are currently brainstorming about the upcoming season of Coke Studio and whatever changes there may be, we will make an official statement.”
That’s a suitably ambiguous reply which nevertheless confirms that there are changes coming up. It is no secret that the consumer response to last year’s show was not favourable with the cover of 'Ko Ko Korina' sung by Ahad Raza Mir and Momina Mustehsan being bashed all over the country. CS was bashed extensively for having ruined a classic, the show’s choice of producers was questioned and the song inspired countless Internet jokes and memes. In fact, the vitriol lashed against the song was something of a shock, giving testament to the power that social media has in the present-day.
Perhaps these are the ‘new records’ that Coca-Cola Pakistan is referring to: most controversial song, most ridiculed song and what not.
Nevertheless, we have to acknowledge some of the changes brought in by Zohaib Kazi and Ali Hamza to the show.
CS Explorer segment was a brave, inventive change in which the show travelled to the far corners of the country, highlighting traditional folk music in its natural surroundings rather than within the four walls of a black-and-red studio.
An effort had also been made to feature more new artistes in the show as well as more original music. Only three covers were sung in the entire season – one of them the notorious 'Ko Ko Korina' which uncategorically managed to negate all the show’s positive aspects with a single controversy.
CS, of course, is no stranger to controversy. Audiences feel a sense of ownership towards the show and while its hits have always been lauded wholeheartedly, the misses have always been denounced just as viciously. Given time, Ali Hamza and Zohaib Kazi, long time CS members and known for their unique musical perspectives, could have possibly steered the show towards new directions. On the other hand, they would have had a tough time winning back a highly judgemental audience that had predominantly criticised them in their debut season.
Nevertheless, to have the Rohail Hyatt back in the producer’s chair is a cause for excitement. Rohail brought a definitive magic to CS and it is that unbridled passion for music and vision for marrying the commercial with the artistic that we can look forward to.
Is he truly coming back, though? Our very credible sources indicate that there is a huge chance that he will be returning. There are also rumours afloat that it is not yet decided whether Rohail’s return will just be for this year or if this will lead on to a more long-term arrangement.
Until an official statement emerges from Rohail or Coca-Cola Pakistan, we can only do our guesswork. Is this going to be the season that’s going to spiral CS back to its former position as the topmost, most-loved platform for music in Pakistan? And, on a side-note, are Coke sales consequently going to rise? CS is a platform built up for the love of music but, of course, also for the love of building a brand image and generating more profits for the chief sponsor. We’ll see, we’ll see.