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Music is an art form that well and truly transcends space, time, language barriers, borders, everything. It cleanses the understanding, inspires it, and lifts it into a realm which it would not reach if left to itself. At one time, it can evoke a sense of calmness even during the most advert of situations while at times can also fuel waves of rage and fury, bringing forth the tears one has been holding back for ages. Music bridges the gap and differences between cultural heritages and backgrounds and erases the line that defines all borders.

To prove my point, if you ask me to cite an example without any second thoughts, I’ll redirect you to the comment section of any half-decent Coke Studio song on YouTube. Regardless of the number of hits, likes, time of upload, language, artists (no matter how low-key), it is probably the only space in the entire cosmos where the so-called INDO-PAK nemesis takes the complete U-turn. “Respect Rahat Fateh Ali Khan Sahab, love from Delhi, India” and “Respect A.R. Rahman Sir, love from Lahore, Pakistan” is a common sight in the comment section of all their videos. Indeed, there are fans well beyond South Asia, with comments flowing in from the US to Turkey to Iran.

While there is all but love, harmony, and mutual respect from either of the rival sides, an inevitable question still persists- “Which Coke Studio is better? Is it India or, is it Pakistan?”

While it is a fact that an individual’s taste in any matter is unique to themselves yet, the likes of countless others, including myself, without giving it much thought, will point towards Pakistan. Reason? Well, that’s an answer you should find for yourself by listening to both the eminent studios. Anyways, my intention behind writing this blog is not to draw a comparison between the two juggernauts but to celebrate their legacy and acknowledge the soulfulness and solace they offer to us mortals.

The experience of watching the show makes us feel that we’re in their jam-room itself with some of the finest musicians from India, Pakistan, and beyond. What separates these tracks from any other songs out there is the sheer freedom and audacity to experiment, combining completely different genres all together into a nutshell. Be it jazz, rock, ghazal, qawwali, tribal folk, or reggae with Hindustani classical, the artists have long mastered the art of fusing contrasting genres and forms, and mind you effects produced are ethereal and heavenly. Only in Coke Studio can an Atif Aslam riff on John Lennon and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahab, while the instrumentalists slip in a tribute to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, all in the span of a single track. The lightings, stage, costumes, decoration, the entire setting screams something stellar and larger than life.

But if you are new to this phenomenon called “Coke Studio,” the question arises that how do you start when you have 17 seasons — 13 from Pakistan and four from India — to go through?

Well, to ease your pain a bit, here I am with a list of some of my all-time favorite Coke Studio songs that I cherish and hold dear to my heart and soul. Again, as taste in matter varies from person to person, what clenches Rank 1 in my list might not even feature in the list of other listeners. But I can assure you that going through this list will definitely incite feelings of love and awe for Coke Studio in your hearts and, that’s the sole motive of this entire write-up! So without further adieu, here’s my list of Top-11 best Coke Studio songs-

#11 Rockstar – Ali Zafar Coke Studio Pakistan | Season 8

This list was originally supposed to feature only the Top 10 best songs of Coke Studio but, I dearly wanted to include Rockstar into the mix, hence Top #11. By no means, this song has a deeper meaning or awe-inspiring lyrics. If truth be told, this probably is the stupidest Coke Studio song ever! But, you’re going to love every second of it. The sheer audacity and the unrelenting narcissism of the artist are crystal clearly reflected in this track and, that is what makes it an absolute monster of a song. Do give it a try, you are definitely going to love it!

#10 Aao Balma – A.R Rahman, Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan Coke Studio @ MTV India | Season 3

Aao Balma is a song featuring Ustad Ghulam Mustafa’s classical Hindustani vocals, Rahman’s piano, Sivamani’s percussion, and Mohini Dey’s bass. It weaves together three contrasting versions – Hindustani, Carnatic, and Western. The composition by A.R Rahman simply put, is legendary in more than one way. It is a masterclass in fusing the traditional power of Hindustani classical vocals, with Carnatic scales few have mastered, ensuring that the listener is continuously surprised by what starts as a straightforward fusion composition.

#9 Madari – Clinton Cerejo ft. Vishal Dadlani & Sonu Kakkar Coke Studio @ MTV India | Season 2

The song talks about how no situation in life is in our control. All we can do is to play along with the almighty, i.e., the Madari.

“I am a puppet in your hands for nothing ever moves without your wish. Life is nothing but the music you play and I am dancing to your tunes. You hold the source of all life and all its various colors, happiness or sadness.”

Everything is magical about the entire arrangement, each of the artists, the lyrics, composition, as they culminate unbelievably in this Clinton Cerejo masterclass.

#8 Chaudhary – Amit Trivedi ft. Mame Khan Coke Studio @ MTV India | Season 2

Accompanied by the traditional khartal and sarangi, fused with guitars and drums, “Chaudhary” is totally a brand new take on Rajasthani folk music. This song is enough to tell you that Rajasthan is more than a desert. Far away from the typical love stories of kids or adults in love, this song talks about a man (adult) who fell in love with a young girl (kid). It teases those feelings of helplessness in the man’s heart who knows that he cannot even dream of fighting for her. The contrasting difference in their personalities has been portrayed beautifully. All in all, a complete masterclass.

#7 Afreen Afreen – Rahat Fateh Ali Khan & Momina Mustehsan Coke Studio Pakistan | Season 9

No Coke Studio list is complete without featuring the name of Momina Mustehsan. If you think that her beauty is nothing short of divine, you should hear her sing. It was only fitting for her and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to feature in this track, doing complete justice to the original track sung by the legend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahab himself. In this close to the 7-minute-long song, Rahat Sahab tries to describe the beauty of Momina, using every possible adjective there is, and yet, in the end, he quits trying by saying- “Husn e jaanaan ki tareef mumkin nahi” (It is impossible to describe your beauty beloved)

Probably the most iconic Coke Studio song with more than 300 million views (and counting!), Afreen Afreen is a song that needs no description.

#6 Naina Moray – Javed Bashir & Akbar Ali ft. Aamir Zaki Coke Studio Pakistan | Season 10

One of the finest compositions to have come out of all the seasons of Coke Studio, Naina Moray, has two parts — a thumri called Naina Moray (performed originally by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan) performed by Akbar Ali and a qawwali titled Mann Atkeya Beparwah De Naal vocalized here by Javed Bashir.

“I gave up my life – it was a tremendous extent of my trust. Even upon dying, my eyes remained open. It was the tremendous extent to which I waited for you.”

This song is a roller coaster of emotions filled with pain, anguish, and the never filling void of heartbreak. The lyrics being so powerful and hypnotic that they can shake you from within.

#5 Tajdar-e-Haram – Atif Aslam Coke Studio Pakistan | Season 8

If “Kun Faya Kun” and “Bhar Do Jholi Meri” are your go-to anti-depressing songs, then my friend, Tajdar-e-Haram well and truly qualifies to make it to that list of depression busters you need. Atif Aslam was shouldered the responsibility of doing justice to this gem of a song (qawwali) which was originally sung by the Sabri brothers, and he didn’t disappoint (no surprises on that front).

“We have no one to call our own, we are stricken with grief We come and cry for justice at your door Please spare us a merciful glance, or we will die at your threshold, crying your name.”

In this 10-minute ‘short’ song, we can witness Atif conversing with the Almighty himself. Begging to redeem him from all the woes and hardships that he has been facing silently.

#4 Chaap Tilak – Abida Parveen & Rahat Fateh Ali Khan Coke Studio Pakistan | Season 7

Originally written and composed by Amir Khusro, a 14th-century Sufi mystic, Chaap Tilak is usually heard in Qawwali concerts across South Asia. The theme of the composition is the absolute power of a mere glance from the empyrean.

“You’ve taken away my look, my identity, and everything from me by looking into my eyes. You’ve said the unsaid, just by a glance. By making me drink, the love of devotion. You’ve intoxicated me by just a glance.”

The resonance of its divine melody and mystical lyrics, accompanied by the vocals of Abida Parveen and Rahat Sahab, makes the entire experience of listening dreamy and paradisiacal.

#3 Husna – Hitesh Sonik ft. Piyush Mishra Coke Studio @ MTV India | Season 2

India and Pakistan: divided by border, united by Coke Studio. Well, the former part of them being divided takes a literal form in this song, written and composed by Piyush Mishra. This song is a letter from Javed (residing in India), who got separated from his lover Husna (now stuck in Pakistan) after the partition.

In the first half of the song, one can witness Piyush building the premise and tension using his ever so robust choice of words. Then, slowly, the distorted electric guitars and drums catch up with him, as the song reaches a crescendo and then leaps towards blessedness. Despite having left everything behind and eventually moving on, there is a looming sense of fragility and torment in Javed’s (Piyush Mishra) voice.

#2 ‘Laadki’ – Sachin-Jigar, Taniskha S, Kirtidan G, Rekha Bhardwaj Coke Studio @ MTV India | Season 4

The word “Laadki” in the song is a term of adoration and an enchanting way of addressing daughters. The heartfelt lyrics of this song captures the eccentric bond between a father and his daughter and the journey of a girl, growing up to become a woman. The parts of the little girl are sung by an 11-year-old Tanishka Sanghvi, who happens to be Sachin’s daughter! While Rekha Bharadwaj has sung the parts of the grown woman, adding an extended level of soulfulness together with her melodic voice.

“Oh! My darling daughter Oh my little birdie, fly away tomorrow. Just be by my side for tonight. Even the Tamarind and the Peepal tree will await your return. On behalf of all of them, I appeal many blessings to you, my darling daughter. Many blessings to you my little girl. I wish you could go back in time, be my little girl, and hold my hand one more time. My darling daughter My sweet child, I’m awaiting your return.”

The entire experience of listening to this gem will leave you teary-eyed and craving for parental love.

#1 Kangna – Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad Coke Studio Pakistan | Season 4

Two brothers at the peak of their prowess, surrounded by musicians who are completely in awe of their singing, creating music that transcends time. One cannot thank Coke Studio enough for this masterpiece! The song’s runtime of 16 minutes gives the two singers free rein to gallop like wild stallions, as the musicians follow them with a single, tenacious bassline and beat, allowing a multitude of variations. The only downside to this 16-minute marathon of a song is that it eventually gets over. (Replay button zindabad!)

If you haven’t heard this masterpiece yet, I’ll reckon you hear as well as watch entire the video playing. You start with an appreciation of a great jugal-bandi that slowly takes you on a ride that is gradually unfolding itself to become a journey, and BAM!! Before any realization, you fall into a state of trance where the worldly concepts of time, space, or reality don’t exist, a multi-dimensional world, where everything is exploding into colors and lights.

Songs that must be mentioned: Jagao Mere Desh Ko, Shikwa/Jawab-E-Shikwa, Ranjish Hi Sahi, Tu Mane Ya Na Mane, Tera Wo Pyaar (Nawazishein Karam), Aaqa, Bewajah, Latthay Di Chaadar, Tu Jo Mila Rabta, Nindiya Re.

Well, if you are more of a Spotify person (like I am), here I am attaching a playlist of all (almost all, some tracks are unavailable on Spotify) that have been mentioned in this gauche, trivial write-up.


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