LAHORE: Coke Studio has, for the past 10 years, been what music in Pakistan has centered itself around. Currently more than midway through their decade anniversary season, with the sixth episode due next Saturday, it has become the main attraction of the country’s entertainment calendar.
The current edition has managed to produce a mixed bag of hits and misses. After a decent first episode, the season seemed to be heading nowhere until Salman Ahmed’s Coke Studio debut ‘Sayonee’ showed clearly that the general trajectory was disaster. The fourth and fifth episodes, however, have managed to redeem some of the lackluster and underwhelming performances.
But another thing that the last two episodes have done confirms a creeping sense of nepotism which has recently been encroaching onto the television show. In the past five episodes alone, at least five performances have come from artists that are closely related to each other. Out of these five, three have been parent-child duos, and one a sibling-duo.
Sherjan Ahmed played the guitar opening on his father Salman Ahmed’s track Sayonee. Zaww Ali sang alongside her father Sajjad Ali on his first track of the season. Danyal Zafar played guitar on his Brother Ali Zafar’s second track of the season, Julie. And the most recent addition is Sanwal Eesakhelvi, who performed alongside his prolific father Attaullah.
The performances in question were up to the mark. No one can objectively say that any of their work was anything below the standard one would hold Coke Studio to. The question is not of the abilities of these artists. Nepotism, especially in fields requiring skill and training, is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be argued that close proximity to people belonging to certain fields of work can give one an unprecedented edge.
More importantly, inherited talent and close training from an early age can shape many a great artist. Within sub-continental music, the tradition of musical ‘gharanas’ has been an old one that has produced many of the greats, including Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Amjad Sabri and their patriarchs before them.
Even in Coke Studio’s current season, artists such as Shafqat Amanat Ali, and Amanat Ali from renowned musical ‘gharanas’ are performing, and with great prowess.
This is not even the first instance of relatives performing together on the Coke Studio. The issue, however, is the number of artists related to each other on this season. While not at all a hindrance to quality, it does promote a dangerous precedent.
In a nation of hereditary politics, and indeed, hereditary everything, there seems to be no end to it. And in a society where it is so entrenched, giving a voice to relatives of existing artists and then celebrating them on a platform as big as Coke Studio, is irresponsible to say the least.