In an older article, I warned, or let’s say prophesied, that if the producers of Coke Studio aren’t careful, their seat on the pinnacle of Pakistani Music will be taken. Today, I’m going to effectively give that seat away. Away to five people, who I believe should be safely and comfortably perched at the top.
Pakistan has always had a very rich and diverse musical offering. If any fact is universally acknowledged, it is this. Though, if Coke Studio is your primary source of Pakistani Music, then chances are you’ve never heard these names before. And honey, you’ve been missing out. Not just missing out in fact, my dear child, you have been starved! Starved of some of the richest treasures of our culture.
Oh you must be famished! Don’t worry. Uncle Nusair is about to send you 5 of the best (non-Coke Studio) artists from the Pakistani Music Scene! They’ll serve up some zesty, fresh tunes to fix you right up.
Natasha Humera Ejaz
If you’ve seen Cake or heard it’s soundtrack, chances are, you have allowed yourself to be serenaded by the angelic voice of Natasha Humera Ejaz. I first became aware of her considerable talents as a singer after witnessing her breathe life into the role of Mehru in Allahyar. She also contributed to two songs in that film’s soundtrack. As for Cake, her version of Bol is one of my absolute favourite songs for the 40-minute commute home.
She began her music career while studying at the International College of Music, in Malaysia. Since then, she has released several singles, both collaboratively and on her own. Her voice ranges from soft, eclectic and magical, to boldly centre-stage, complementing the music she produces. (Yeah, she produces music too!) While simultaneously, drawing inspiration from electronica, folk and jazz.
At the same time, her talents extend way beyond just voiceovers and singing. She has taken the stage to portray iconic characters like Rizzo in Grease Pakistan (2016) and Jill in Equus (2017).
Okay, so some of you may be annoyed by me gushing over Abid Brohi every chance I get. Can you blame me, though? His is the story that never fails to move me. He was an errand boy, couldn’t read or write, but taught himself to rap. This new-found talent caught the attention of the right people, and before we knew it, he was all over our feeds.
His debut, ‘The Sibbi Song’, a collaboration with EDM duo Some What Super, landed him nation-wide fame. The video of said song went on to win the 2018 Lux Style Award for Best Video Director (Raza Shah).
That same director also directed the video for Abid’s recently released follow-up, ‘Kaam Do’.
The song, which was released as Episode 4 of Volume 2 of Patari Originals, not only retains Abid’s signature style, but also adds to it. In spite of all the fame and recognition he has garnered over the last year, he has remained unapologetically himself, which is evident in his music. He remains a unique voice, that represents those that usually go unnoticed.
Okay so if you don’t know who Dino Ali is, I have to ask, have you been living under a rock this whole time? Okay, okay, I’ll cut you some slack, sheesh.
I realize that most of the people on this list haven’t had widespread fame and nationwide recognition, while Dino has. Then why is he here? Well, because it’s my list and I can put whoever I want on it. It’s not like his long list of talents, for which he has been under appreciated, was a factor in him landing on here.
I fully understand how superficial it sounds, when writers such as myself claim that someone has done it all, but Dino really has. RJ, VJ, news reporter, host, presenter, actor and singer. I kid you not. Me, however, I’m here just to appreciate him for his contribution to Pakistani Music. The best way to describe his music is, quintessential Pakistani Pop music. Uplifting, romantic, fast-paced and endlessly enjoyable. His latest, ‘Pyaar Yehi Hai’, embodies his artistry to a tee.
Note: I know Dino has been involved in making jingles for Coke’s brand Fanta. But I’ve searched and haven’t found a single instance where he was featured on Coke Studio. That is what this list is about.
Poor Rich Boy
Okay, this is a band that I had only vaguely heard off. I know that The Kollective has done an article featuring them. But that’s because I frantically share and retweet every article posted to The Kollective, including my own.
Essentially outside of that, I had never heard of them or heard their work. That, in itself was a gross injustice, to them. And to myself, because I was unknowingly depriving myself of some of the best music to hit Pakistan.
They are unlike any act that you would usually associate with Pakistani Music. They are staging a quiet, and subtle, rebellion against the usual. Taking what we usually expect from music in general, and turning it on its head.
Their music tells us that good songs don’t need to be loud, obnoxious, base heavy bangers. They can be soft, atmospheric and entirely mesmerizing. Each song tells a story, not just through the lyrics but through the music itself. Stories, I assure you, you won’t get tired of hearing over and over.
Sunny Khan Durrani
Very much like Poor Rich Boy, Sunny Khan Durrani also is at the helm of a musical rebellion. However, this Peshawar native rocks to a completely different tune, cheesy pun totally intended. The only way to describe his art: sparkling, spot-on, social commentary served with a fresh dose of savage. If you believed that Pakistani Music was lacking angst, that it’s all love songs and inspirationals, you need to give Sunny’s latest, ‘Log Kya Kahenge’ a listen. This is what Pakistani hip-hop looks like.
Sunny’s rebellion differs from that of Poor Rich Boy in the sense that he’s not looking to reform the way music is enjoyed. Instead, he uses his music to challenge the archaic societal norms around us. Whether it’s our incessant need to control the way others think about us, or the constant enforcement of impossible and outdated expectations, Sunny may just call you out on it. And call you out he will, in his unapologetically savage idiosyncrasy.
Ultimately though, he’s just a guy who uses his art to express the mess of thoughts inside him. Whether it’s through rapping in four languages, producing music, v-logging, or through poetry.
Yes I’ve been stalking his, and every person on this list’s, socials for a little inspiration, is that so bad?
Coke Studio Hit List
And there you have it, my list of the five Non-Coke Studio artists that deserve a place at the very top. Five artists that deserve all the love and admiration you can give them. Artists that need to have a few spots on your playlist reversed for them. And most importantly, five artists that shine bright without having a fancy label attached to them.