Aurora Magazine

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Don’t mess with my national anthem!

Updated Aug 18, 2017 11:41am
Why Coke Studio’s rendition of Pakistan’s national anthem can be described as formulaic at best.

Facebook. That over-sharing friend you try to avoid but when he’s decided he’s going to share something with you, you’re going to see it. DAMMIT!

I’ve been avoiding the Coke Studio national anthem. Not because I don’t like the national anthem, perish the thought, but because its ‘reputation’ preceded it. Everyone hated the new version. And this confused me. On the one hand, I’ve always been open to covers and new renditions of old ‘classics’ and for the most part I enjoy and appreciate the effort of making something sound more contemporary, upbeat or in any way palatable to a wider audience. For instance, I loved Atif’s Tajdar-e-haram!

So a little history about the original, in case you can’t use Google. Our national anthem is the product of years of effort. The music was composed by Ahmed Ghulamali Chagla in 1949, and the lyrics were written by Hafeez Jullundhri in 1952. It was officially adopted as Pakistan’s national anthem in 1954 and was recorded in the same year by eleven major singers of Pakistan including Akhtar Abbas, Akhtar Wasi Ali, Najam Ara, Rasheeda Begum, Ghulam Dastagir, Zawar Hussain, Kaukab Jahan, Ahmed Rushdi, Naseema Shaheen and Anwar Zaheer. Twenty-one musical instruments and 38 different tones are used to play the qaumi taranah.

The qaumi tarana’s significance today is personal. To everyone. It’s got the quality to make you stop in your tracks and sing along; from the mellow start, the consistent build up that gets your heart beating as you keep up, to the slow toning down of the closing. The beautiful composition makes you feel proud to be represented by it, and the words, in Persian, tell you of a land that is brimming with brotherhood, glory and ambition. It’s beautiful.

So setting confusion aside, I decided to give the Coke Studio version a listen myself so I could put up a ‘Cut the drama guys it’s not so bad’ Facebook status and be done with it. But that didn’t happen. I couldn’t get through it. To me, our national anthem, with its current tempo and tone is perfect. Not too upbeat and gung ho and not too intense. It’s just right. But the Coke Studio version, sung by the complete line up of this season, just laid into it like a really depressed and intense friend who won’t cheer up and insists you share their downer mood too.

As someone who’s always on the side of the ‘innovator’ of an oldie, I felt upset. The treatment seems like a formula that the producers seem to have cracked and will now do to death – make it emotional, tug at heartstrings, make people cry and chest beat over the gift of this land and all the sacrifices that went into it. Induce goose bumps!

But I got no goose bumps. Just an irritated reaction where I wondered why for once we couldn’t have made the National Anthem, which is larger than life, even bigger. God knows we need some enthusiasm and pomp these days so maybe some more orchestra, louder singing and a building of crescendo that leaves you breathing heavily because in your head you were saluting and marching along to the beat.

With a line-up that includes Shafqat Amanat Ali, Sajjad Ali, Qurat-ul-Ain Balouch, Ali Hamza, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Noor, Nabeel Shaukat and Ali Zafar to name a few, I don’t get why you wouldn’t capitalise on the collective talent available to you and create something that would bring the house down. These are literally some of the most talented and charismatic singers we have in our ‘arsenal’ of talent and you make them whine out the national anthem?

Maybe I’m over reacting. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ve turned into the very people I always argue with over keeping an open mind. But after the third such ‘emo’ tear-jerking Coke Studio launch track, I’m calling it out and requesting they change the formula. This one is done!

Don’t mess with my national anthem!

Khizra Munir is CEO, CoPakistan.