Chand Tara Orchestra drops a track that ‘Coke Studio’ could learn from | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Chand Tara Orchestra drops a track that ‘Coke Studio’ could learn from

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI: There’s a conscious effort in the world to get rid of the guitar. Some musicologists have even gone onto on to say that guitar-based songwriting is possibly the most significant hurdle barring creative expression. ‘World Music’ instruments such as the African Kora have made a comeback in an attempt to sound something different than just Western. On the other hand, bands such as Tinariwen have made the guitar sound so dynamic and alien that one wonders whether we really have to ‘screw the guitar.’

The Western world’s tiredness could be a result of the colonial hangover – they are both embarrassed and frustrated that the world didn’t begin and end with it. And now they breaking the mirror instead of washing their face.

Pakistan’s pop-rock market has always represented the tastes of a relatively small population. That small population is now undergoing immense changes with musicians preferring headphones over guitars.

Even Ali Noor, the god of third wave pop-rockers let go of his guitar and picked up the headphones in his last music video. He needed to for he was running out of ideas but Chand Tara Orchestra (CTO) doesn’t need to; Momo’s innovative and Eastern-influenced guitar tones fit perfectly with ears attuned to changing soundscapes and those that don’t want to break free.

Rung De is an upbeat number that works regardless of whether you know what Amir Khusrau is talking about. That you could listen to Rung De on you drive to the beach and yet delve into every note that builds into a heavy, amplified, extended outro much like a Haal, speaks highly of the band’s control over their music.

As much as they throw ‘Post-rock’ as their buzz word or buzz genre, Rung De has a bit of everything.  Its alternative rock with the harmonica adding the blues feel to it, making it sound like a lot of Springsteen’s earlier stuff.  As much as the band would be dejected about being compared to the boss, they must know that one of their die-hard fans termed Rung De as “Punk Rock on acid with an ambient feel to it.” Go figure it out for yourself!

Jokes aside. Few acts deserve as much appreciation as Chand Tara Orchestra for merging 13th century devotional texts and contemporary aesthetics. Their marriage of drums and bass drives the song in a very unorthodox progression. Unlike Nami Danam where they didn’t rely on an intro and directly got to the body of the song, Rung De is not as unconventional in structure as it is in its arrangement. The band stands out for its take on fusion rock and has set a very good example for the likes of Coke Studio to follow. Momo are you listening? Ha!

One song after another, Chand Tara Orchestra has made the devotional manjan sound less pretentious and more nuanced. Their version of Rung De stays true to their genre-bending tendency and Khusrau’s legacy of innovation in music.

The two other acts that haven’t abused the genre/style/post-coke studio-obsession with Sufi music are Sounds of Kolachi and Asrar. The latter has in fact been around longer than Coke Studio and has managed to remain prolific.  The rest have literally turned the Sufi/devotional genre into an excuse for a lack of creativity. Dreading to see when Farhan Saeed releases his take on Bulleh Shah or Momina Mustehsan’s going Kamli after someone. She already has Qaseeda Burda Shareef to her credit though.

CTO comprises Shehryar Raza (Sherry) on vocals, Baber Sheikh on bass guitars and synths, Omran Shafique (Momo) on lead guitars and Rizwanullah Khan on Harmonica and percussions.

The Express Tribune