Coke Studio Explorer opens with the sound of Chitral
In Coke Studio Explorer, a new module introduced this year, which also serves as a prequel to the main show that is scheduled to appear next month, co-producers Ali Hamza and Zohaib Kazi, in the first episode, travel to Kalash Valley of Chitral District and discover the story and song of two very special girls, Ariana and Amrina.
Through the BTS footage, we understand their mission, which is to explore the sounds of Pakistan with the belief that Pakistani youth has a lot of passion. And, in a time when cynicism has seeped the music and entertainment industry as multiple stories of sexual harassment allegations have emerged and following it an eerie silence from many, this video brings with it moments of joy that didn’t seem probable, truth be told.
And so the journey begins, as producers Ali Hamza and Zohaib Kazi land in Chitral and head to Kalash, and admit that they are looking to find an indigenous all-female musical act. It is here that we meet the endearing Kalash-based duo of friends, Ariana and Amrina. Their innocence, humour and character, captured in the BTS video as well as their interaction with the producers, have an endearing effect to say the least.
The reach of Coke Studio as a national platform also emerges when the girls are asked why they think the Explorer team is there and they say they have no clue until they recognize Ali Hamza for ‘Tinak Dhin’ as a line is sung by the two.
In the main episode, we are introduced to a song called ‘Pareek’ which roughly translates to “let’s go” and opens with a chant before emerging like a dream. The song is recorded “inside a small wooden cabin in freezing temperatures” and marks Ariana and Amrina’s first commercial collaboration. It is an “age-old folklore, the story of love, persuading the companion to Pareek.”
The song, a fusion of sorts, keeps the essence of the folklore intact while tacking on electronic elements and manages to emerge as an urban, folk-y, chant-fused track. The video is absolutely gorgeous, capturing snow-capped valley, the recording process inside the wooden cabin, the girls inside and outside, joined by other children on some occasions.
It also features the producers, though they don’t remain the focus as they go on to record four senior singers at one point but the focus comes back to Ariana and Amrina quickly. As singers, they both deliver and in more ways than one. It is hard to not be enchanted by their talent and it is good to see Explorer featuring voices of indigenous Kalasha people particularly if it claims to be the country’s biggest music series. Episode One of Explorer gets it right, from the video to the song.
Speaking to Instep about the broader values of Coke Studio Explorer, Zohaib Kazi told Instep in a recent interview: “We have the power to influence so many people so this year has to mean a lot more than just music; it has to influence people, it has to be about storytelling and about people; it has to influence the country and it is meant to inspire people and to recognize diversity and make it acceptable. The broader conversation behind all of it is that for us, beyond a consumer, it’s a human being first.”
Added Ali Hamza: “That is the first common ground that Kazi and I came together on… that music is a means. It is not the product we’re creating.
Our focus is on exposing people and starting a conversation where people have a better sense of identity and feel proud about Pakistan. Coke Studio Explorer is the starting point, which will lay that foundation.”