The hugest happening in the music industry this year was the onset of a new era of Coke Studio, as the Strings duo, Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia, took up the mantle of Rohail Hyatt. The biggest music platform in the country retained its position as the most-talked-about show as the new producers introduced to the masses several hidden gems like Sufi rock powerhouse performer Asrar and the ballad-crooning Jimmy Khan. Coke Studio season 7 brought pop prince Zohaib Hassan back into the limelight and produced the first ever jugalbandi between Abida Parveen and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. It was a solid seventh season that retained the essence of the original, which assured us that one of Pakistan’s pride and joy is in safe hands.
Album releases have been few and far between in Pakistan lately, and this year was no different. The brave artistes who did pour their heart and soul into a compact disc were varied: from qawwali maestro-turned-Bollywood popstar Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Back2Love and the still soulful Abbas Ali Khan’s Tamam Alam Mast to the new multi-ethnic line-up of Mekaal Hasan Band’s Andholan and Zoey Viccaji’s debut album Dareeche. Sales figures aside, it is great to see artistes who still believe in the traditional practice of album releases in an industry where singles and music videos are deemed enough to remain current.
After stirring massive interest abroad, the Tehzeeb Foundation’s world music compendium Indus Raag: Music Beyond Borders made its way to the Grammys as Pakistan’s first shot at bagging that mini golden gramophone. The 12 CD compendiums, which equalled 13 hours of collaborative classical music of Pakistani and Indian virtuosos, was vying against the 22,000 other submissions in the Best World Music Album category. While Indus Raag didn’t make the cut, we still find plenty of reason to celebrate, for it is a testament to the dedication and diligence of the album’s producers, Sharif and Malahat Awan, and recognition of their work’s world-class quality that it was accepted as submission for the Grammys.
The year also saw the rise of the indie artistes, who piqued foreign interest and were flown off to the States to give the goras a taste of our home-grown brand of rock and folk music.
First, it was the Peshawar-based Khumariyan and Lahore’s Poor Rich Boy who represented Pakistan at Season 2 of Centrestage, a cultural diplomacy initiative that connects foreign artists with American communities. The duo were invited back to the States for the biggest music festival in the world, South by SouthWest in Austin, Texas, along with MHB, Islamabadi hiphop artiste Adil Omar and Mai Dhai Band featuring beautiful vocals from Thar. Their performance at the SXSW in March 2015 will be one of the highlights of Pakistan’s cultural calendar next year.