Larger than life -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Larger than life

Pakistan Press Foundation

We know that Pepsi scored a decisive coup by roping in two of modern music’s most majestic voices – Atif Aslam and Meesha Shafi – when announcing the return of the Battle of the Bands, the short-lived but still revered music competition that made its inaugural appearance in 2002 and gave us bands like Mekaal Hasan Band (MHB), Aaroh and EP.

But perhaps the cola giant’s single biggest coup was creating a scenario where Fawad Khan would agree to resurrect his musical side. The fact that he’s doing it on this BOTB stage has value since it was this very show that propelled his band, EP to greater heights many moons ago.

Though the former EP front-man has evolved into a terrific actor and is presently a cinematic superstar with a following that extends beyond borders and conventional roles, it has come at a cost: his absence from music. And so with the return of Battle of the Bands, that musical side of Khan is once again being embraced by one and all, including and especially himself.

A glimpse of this masterstroke move can now be seen and heard in the TVC in which Shafi, Aslam and Khan present a mash-up of two classics from two pioneering artists. Running at 2 minutes and 30 seconds, the video opens with Khan singing the Vital Signs song, ‘Do Pal Ka Ye Jeevan’ in solo mode before being joined by Meesha Shafi; Atif Aslam picks up from where they trail off and he too makes a mark with ‘Dekha Na Tha’. The crescendo hits as the three unite on stage and sing together with great energy. Shahi Hasan, one of the original members of Vital Signs, also makes his presence felt while playing the guitar and the whole video is supposed to carry the feel of a huge concert.

To be honest, it’s not the most groundbreaking performance video. Adding young people playing instruments and going about merrily is done-to-death concept done in plenty of past advertisements.  But the bigger question is whether this Asad ul Haq directed video succeeded in its mission, which was to create enough buzz that people become invested in the upcoming production and it has. All of us are eager to see what the show will highlight and add to the conversation about music.

The bad news here is that the song stays within the parameters of modern jingle and doesn’t make an effort to step outside of it. It’s flying high still but that’s due to the adrenaline that is provided by the singers, first in the studio and later in the video.

The part worth mentioning is that the song is produced by Xulfi, the chief architect of the debut EP album, Irtiqa whose beef with Khan is practically not existent anymore. Taking to Facebook, he wrote about his working equation with Khan and stated, “This was an emotional and exciting experience, creating and producing this arrangement of two iconic songs for Fawad, Meesha and Atif to sing. Emotional because it was the first time I was recording Fawad after 15 years and it felt the same; the last time I recorded him was during Irtiqa, our band EP’s only album. And as I was producing this song for Pepsi Battle of the Bands, the battleground that prepared me for a future in music when my band EP participated in its first season 16 years back, it felt special.”

Not enough can be said about the collective star power of Meesha Shafi, Atif Aslam and Fawad Khan. Seeing the three of them singing together is more than a nostalgic blast; it’s a special moment and a reminder of all that is still possible even in these dangerous and dark times.

The enthusiastic response with which this song is being greeted by fans is a sign that all three of these artists should get in the studio and cut a record.

While Atif Aslam and Meesha Shafi remain active musicians, it remains to be seen if Khan will be pushed to create his own music but since everyone is fixated on Khan’s musical reverie-inducing moment, the time is here and now.

In the meantime though, there’s the upcoming season which means that for a couple of weeks at least we will have a chance to see and hear from both the artists the show is meant to highlight as well as industry insiders particularly Khan, Shafi and Aslam.

Beyond the TVC though, Pepsi Battle of the Bands has its work cut-out. It is arriving around the same time as Coke Studio and though comparisons, especially at this point seem pointless, it must be noted that Coke Studio survived ten seasons because the music that resulted from the show was created organically and with a lot of heart. Add to this the fact that the inaugural edition of BOTB gave us at least three solid bands including the genius unit of the Mekaal Hasan Band and the standard for deliverance is very high.

Pepsi Battle of the Bands is scheduled to begin airing from July 30. Watch out.

The News International

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