ISLAMABAD: On July 3, Coke Studio kicked off their new series, Coke Explorer, under the reign of producers Zohaib Kazi and Ali Hamza.
A pre-cursor to the musical platform’s 11th season, premiering in August, Coke Explorer is an adventure-meets-music-meets-discovery journey that takes viewers of the show across the country. The five-part series, accompanied by five original songs, allows for Coke Studio fans to immerse themselves in the long- running show’s process of finding talent from across the nation.
“This year is going to speak on unity. There is a divide because of the elections so we thought of constructing something that would unite people — knit all these little little areas around Pakistan together to share what we appreciated — human stories,” Hamza said.
Kazi and Hamza have taken the reigns after a long relationship with the show. Kazi worked closely with Coke Studio for seven seasons in diverse roles including production and management, while Hamza performed on the platform a number of times with his band Noori, and acted as music director for the show.
“I’ve come to the realization that people should, rather than plan short term, should look at things from a long-term perspective. Coke Studio started off as a shorter vision but as they saw its potential, it started growing,” Kazi told Arab News. “The experience instilled a belief in me that things can grow organically.”
“It’s been a breakthrough kind of a space personally for me, there is a kind of a music that is within my creative system and I got the opportunity to open that part of myself up and share that with the world.”
Hamza told Arab News: “Coke Studio has been a very important part of my life and musical journey, and every time I’ve come onto the platform it’s been kind of a breakthrough year and a turning point in my musical journey; an evolutionary point for me.”
Although they have both been players in the Pakistani music world for some time, the pair only crossed paths in August before meeting in October last year to discuss what they saw as the future of the show.
“We had a conversation in August actually, that was the first time we connected on a personal level,” Kazi said, laughing. “You’re awesome,” he tells Hamza.
“We sat down to talk very specifically about this opportunity and it was amazing! In a matter of 10 to 15 minutes we were so triggered, so driven — I truly felt I had known Zohaib for a long time,” Hamza said. “Our cores are very similar, our ideas about life, about humanity — those are the bigger discussions we were having before getting into the specifics of how to go about this. The fundamental foundation for this relationship really sparking happened by chance.”
“Music was the last thing we discussed, among the first thing were broader ideas of where life is going and that the core of this is people. It is the humans that are consuming (Coke Studio), the humans who are producing it, playing it — it must resonate with people,” Kazi said.
Today, Coke Studio boasts having had artists like Abida Parveen and the late Amjad Sabri on its platform, contemporary rockstars like Atif Aslam, millions of views on YouTube and a cross-country regional musical trend not many have been able to match. So the two producers, fans of the show themselves, took the reins knowing the enormity of the responsibility they were undertaking.
“It is definitely a platform with massive influence,” Hamza said.
With Coke Explorer, Hamza and Kazi venture through the Kalash Valley, Sindh, Muzaffarabad, Balochistan and Lahore, building up the momentum leading to the newest chapter for Coke Studio.
“A common theme in a lot of our conversations was that Pakistan and Pakistanis are going through a bit of an identity crisis; we take pride in who we are but we don’t have many new references to look at,” Hamza said.
“I think one of the primary discussions we had was, ‘what do we do after ten years?’ We had to innovate. It was very important for us to recognize and acknowledge the countercultures that exist around us; these are the people who give our identity depth. Coke Studio has the reach to allow us to get to know these cultures more intimately and to amplify their colors.”
“Pakistan is very unique in the way that in a very small space we have almost every imaginable geographical terrain,” Kazi said. “The geography of a place also determines how its people live, the culture and the music — the sounds, voices, lyrics all capture the essence of that culture. The idea now is not only to showcase that to the world but to Pakistanis themselves too.”
Coke Explorer premiered on July 3 with the first episode taking place in the Kalash Valley. The mini-series will feature four more regions and artists from those areas, all of whom will be seen in Season 11, which is set to premiere in August.