The pandemic didn’t allow us to get another season of Coke Studio this year, but Velo Soundstation stepped in to be a potential replacement. What remains to be seen is if Velo Soundstation is actually a good enough to steal the crown from Coke Studio or not.
Velo Sounstation’s first episode came out on the 20th of November, featuring the reigning king of pop Atif Aslam, Umair Jaswal and Natasha Noorani. With such a promising lineup and slick teasers that managed to create substantial hype in the lead up to their debut episode, every Pakistani was expecting to be blown away. ( Just before we delve into the review, Velo Soundstation’s latest episode which came out yesterday is not being included in this review because quite honestly it is a travesty. From Shamoon Ismail’s song which was incomprehensible in places to Aima Baig’s cringeworthy ‘Te Quiero Mucho’ the whole episode was a bit of a disaster. But, this is only their second episode the benefit of the doubt must be awarded and the comparison with Coke Studio made on somewhat even footing. Who knows, maybe Velo will do better in the third installment.)
Unfortunately, the debut episode fell short of everyone’s expectations. Usually, any song that has Atif Aslam featured on it is sure to be hit but this pop rendition of Naseebo Lal’s ‘Kadi Te Hans Ke Bol’ felt flat. This soulful song should have been perfectly suited to Atif Aslam’s voice as he he rose to fame through emotional ballads, but the synth sounds distracted from the lyrics and the chorus didn’t hit hard enough. Neither the song nor Atif Aslam are bad by any measure but it could have been much better. Unfortunately, for Velo Soundstation Atif performed much better in Coke Studio when he sang ‘Wohi Khuda Hai, originally popularized by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Coke Studio was able to utilise Atif Aslam much better than Velo Soundstation did. Atif Aslam was outshined by his bedazzled blue jacket in Velo Soundstation’s debut.
Umair Jaswal covered Alamgir’s Ghagar, and it’s undeniable that the song is full of energy. Jaswal gave a high octane performance, but the way his song was structured and directed made it feel very erratic. Still it’s a fun song, and actually feels more pop-esque than Atif Aslam’s did. Coke Studio and Velo Soundstation actually don’t differ that much in terms of what type of performance they can coax out of Jaswal, since his performing style is suited to poppy upbeat songs anyway.
Newcomer Natasha Noorani actually ended up stealing the show. Her mellifluous voice is able to draw people in and keep them listening. The song sound like the perfect dulcet pop song you’d hear playing on the radio and in stores everywhere. It sounds pleasant and isn’t abrasive at all. Natasha Noorani’s original song was probably the highlight of the debut episode.
Maybe Velo Soundstation can take on Coke Studio in the episodes to come, if it debuts more fresh new music like this instead of trying to remake classics not suited to the pop genre. Now, to be fair Coke Studio frequently remakes old songs too and they don’t always work out. But, Coke Studio has multiple great seasons to rest upon, even if its last season was a bit underwhelming compared to the ones before it. Velo Soundstation is new to the music sphere so it will have to work a bit harder to achieve the same level of acclaim Coke Studio already has. One thing Coke Studio does really well is pairing musicians together across genres, which often results in an amazing mash up, for instance, Abida Parveen and Ali Sethi. Velo Soundstation could maybe focus a little less on the disco lighting and odd extras pointlessly dancing in their balcony on stage, and focus purely on churning out amazing new music.