May 5, 2014 By Saad Salmi

Coke Studio India: The Sufi ‘Gala’xy


Even if it doesn’t increase your faith in God it will certainly increase your faith in music.

Coke Studio is a confluence of diverse number of music genres, both vocal and instrumental, from traditional eastern to modern western, and from regional to folk. It   aspires to create a unique sound in every country where it exits, with each version conceptualized in accordance with the cultural nuances of that nation. The purpose of Coke Studio is to reinvent the way music can capture the spirit of the nation, opening hearts and minds, and of course, happiness.
Coke studio emerged  in order to  bridge the cultural fragmentations of Pakistan. The first episode of the first season was aired on 8 June 2008. Broadcast on a number of television channels, with video and MP3 files available for immediate download from its official channel on you tube, it received instant critical and popular acclaim. The show’s accent was firmly on bringing tradition and modernity together in a new synthesis. It made a conscious and sustained effort to work out a way to engage with the traditional folk music of the subcontinent using the vocabulary of western music, which is more accessible and familiar to the younger audience. Through Coke Studio many folk musicians have been introduced to a new generation and allowed them to access a deep and rich cultural heritage that was withering on the margins.
Bringing alive the magic of love recordings and performances, Coke Studio prides itself on providing a musical platform, which bridges barriers, celebrates diversity, encourages unity and instills a sense of pride. The concept of Coke Studio was first launched in Brazil in 2007 with the purpose of developing an exceptionally different fusion music genre by creating an ‘encounter’ between two top Brazilian artists coming from completely opposite musical styles. Drawn by the challenge, Brazil’s top fourteen artists came together to create seven episodes that were aired on MTV.
Coke studio India has now joined the optimistic spirit of this nation, celebrating the joy with incredible musicions who represent the best that the country has to offer across all its diverse manifestations. Every episode of Coke Studio India will feature one established musicion, one up-and-coming artist and one folk legend, creating a memorable sound that will resonate with the audience and stay with them far beyond the show. The legendary Leslie Lewis, a pioneer in  the industry and a renowned musicion and singer in his own right, is the person behind the creation of this unique Coke Studio India sound.(
As I pen this article, Coke Studio India, in collaboration with MTV, is enthralling music lovers all over the country, showcasing a varied ensemble of artists who came together and collaborated to create the original music. The list of artists that performed at Coke Studio last year included international as well as domestic talents, such as Jalebee Cartel, LA pongal, Swanand Kirkire, Master Saleem, Shankar Tucker, Usha Uthup, Papon, Shilpa Rao and many more, under the guidance of maestro producers like Amit Trivedi, Clinton Cerejo, Karsh Kale, Hitish Sonic and Ehsan- amongst others ( www.Cokestudioindia.Com).
One cannot imagine a cock studio without the mystic presence of sufi music, which is always alive. Sufi element of the concerts are exquisite, the lyrics being  poetic, humanist and at least a few hundred years old. Lots of lyrics were written by Bulleh Shah(, one of the most-gifted Punjabi poet that ever existed. His lyrics seem anything but and would even point the finger at today’s version of worship. That is not to say though that the show is dominated by Punjab and Sufi, diversity is very much at the centre of things.
Rock music has been the muse of city-based youngsters for a while now. But a musical style that is fast catching up with these bands is the Sufi rock. Originating in Pakistan, the genre became popular in the late 90s with the band Junoon. Their compositions include rock tunes, traditional lyrics, and musical styles. It’s believed that the term sufi rock was coined in 1993, when it was used by writer Nadeem F Paracha to describe Junoon’s music( Sufi music is related to god, and it was performed by combining classics with western beats. Lafz-e-dilli (formed in 2010), Nasya (2008), Astitya (2007), Rishilnc (2010), Kaash (2008) are the major five bands that have made a mark with this genre. (
Coke Studio draws upon the indian classical tradition of improvisation by the musicions, as well as the western classical tradition of structure and arrangement, where the producer uses his creative vision to harness the raw musical energy into a cohesive piece of music. It is a demonstration of masterful studio- craft by the producer, Rohail Hyatt, to create an underpinning for each song, which, though produced to the hilt, has moments of total spontaneity.
Take the smiles that erupt on the faces of the musicians mid-way through  ‘Alif Allah Chambray Di Bootey’ ( as they exchange glances and tap into some obvious infectious energy that has permeated the room. The sublime ‘Aik Alif’ ( sounds like one of the wandering mystic minstrels of the sub- continent, a baul or a sufi, just happened to wander into a studio, where he bumbed into a rock band. Even if it doesn’t increase your faith in God it will certainly increase your faith in music.
‘Kangana’ ( combines Qawali with the Hindustani classical ragg malkauns. A daunting  combination by description alone, it  performed live in the studio masterfully. Listening to ‘Ramooz-e-ishq’ by the amazing Abida Parveen (, the western arrangement (especially the drums) seems like it was naturally meant to accompany and accentuate Sufi singing. The luminous singing by Sanam Marvi on a couple of sufi songs, and the sensuous  ‘ chori-chori’ by meesha safi ( induce a slow-burn in the listener’s ears
It is expected that coke studio@ MTV will transcend the boundaries meted out to music, thus create a new wave of experience

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