“What nonsense! Someone tell this idiot that she cannot sing. No breath control, poor voice projection, tinny voice thanks to the pitch corrector, fake expressions, annoying tone, uneven timbre, feigned accent, and no feeling. Horrible! Horrible!”

“Tafu’s tabla is awesome but the mixing is awful”

“… Was that music? Noor Jehan just flipped in her grave…”

“Actually they have killed the song by clubbing so called fusion into it.”

It’s the sort of reaction any revisit of a classic song is bound to attract, especially when it has been originally rendered in Noor Jehan’s voice. The British India-born Allah Wasai was one of the greatest and most influential singers of her time, with a record of singing the maximum number of film songs in the history of Pakistani cinema. Also an actress, her career stretched over seven decades. She died recently in Karachi, 14 years ago.

So when Pakistani contemporary singer Meesha Shafi returns to Coke Studio with a famous Noor Jehan song, music lovers wonder where her performance stands.

That Shafi, 31, is no stranger to re-singing Pakistani classic songs is well known. I gasped when, in 2012, I saw on my Facebook newsfeed a “Dasht-e-Tanhai” Coke Studio performance link. I shuddered at the very sight of it. I didn’t want to open that URL because I thought it was blasphemous to sing the Iqbal Bano classic in the kind of music that Coke Studio does. But, to my surprise, I found it to be an innovative composition.

And then, in 2012, Shafi sang “Chori Chori”, a Punjabi folk song in the late singer Reshma’s ethereal voice. The fusion is anything but a bad remix of the original.

It’s unfair to compare the original with its fusion, although it is bound to happen. For, when music creates experimentalists like the Coke Studio crew, it also produces purists. Purists who would probably smirk at the thought of listening to Mehdi Hassan’s “Gulon Mein Rang Bhare” in someone else’s voice. Or, a rendition of “Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo” in a voice that is not Farida Khannum’s.

The purists would argue it’s a violation, a trespassing on someone else’s territory or ownership rights. I would say – “ho hum!”

A redux, in no way, takes away the charm of the original, the cult that it was and remains. In fact, it’s a new sound, a fresh interpretation to the original. Is it impossible to look at the “fused” song for what it is?

I enjoyed Shafi’s rendition of “Sunn Ve Balori”, originally sung by the Queen of Melody for black and white Pakistani film, “Anwara”. Khawaja Pervez wrote the lyrics. Ustad Tafu has teamed up with Coke Studio to revive the song he originally composed.

The composition, about a woman wooing a man, is indeed a powerhouse, simmering with “shades of blues and rock styling”. Tafu sahab’s nimble tabla catches up with incredible virtuosity.

Meesha revels in this modern celebration of a classic, her voice pulls you in and liberates at the same time. She dazzles with each note. This is the craziest that she has delivered!

More on Coke Studio
This Monsoon, Listen to ‘Miyan Ki Malhaar’ from Coke Studio Pakistan

Coke Studio Pakistan Season 7 Singing in Confused, Familiar Tones

(You can follow me on Twitter @Ankush_patrakar)

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