“This song breaks barriers of language, religion, nationality and touches the heart. Love from India.” Welcome to the sweetest corner of the internet in the Indian subcontinent – the YouTube comment section of Coke Studio Pakistan.
The love of art persisting despite political tensions is not a new emergence or exclusive to Coke Studio. Millions of Indians still hum along to legendary Pakistani singers such as Ghulam Ali and Abida Parveen. Similarly, generations of Pakistanis have grown up on a steady diet of Bollywood films. Television soap operas from Pakistan are hugely popular in India too.
Launched in 2008, Coke Studio is the most popular television show in desi communities, featuring studio-recorded music performances. It features studio-recorded performances by some of the country’s most famous artists, ranging from quirky pop and soul-stirring qawwali to rap. The music draws heavily from folk traditions and classical poetry.
In addition to bringing artists together, the success of the show is also a heartening reminder of the ability of musical cultures to thrive even in adverse political circumstances. Art is political but art can also exist and thrive despite politics. The similarity between the two countries is the intense love for Coke Studio Pakistan.
People from both the countries have always shared a deep affinity for each other’s art and culture. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Sethi, Ali Zafar and Atif Aslam are some singers who have places in Indian pop culture despite their Pakistani roots.
Coke Studio Pakistan’s qawwali renditions are especially popular in India. The show proudly adapts and showcased local, folksy, musical traditions like never before. Pakistani singer Zeb Bangash, said, “This, along with the slick sound, captured imaginations across borders.”
Musical critics suggest that the calming Coke Studio is also a refreshing change in India from the extravagant Bollywood. More than anything, the show’s success is also a heartening reminder of the ability of musical cultures to thrive even in adverse political circumstances.
The YouTube comment section of Coke Studio Pakistan has turned into a safe haven for those exacerbated by trolls, hate mongers and fascists on the internet. It has become a retreat from the propaganda machinery that runs on Twitter, an escape from the constant need to fit in brought to us by Instagram, and a lover’s jukebox. It is reigniting lost hope for renewed cultural collaborations.
According to the creators, nobody in India or Pakistan expected the show to be famous across nations. The renowned Indian composer Shantanu Moitra said, “Even Coke Studio Pakistan never imagined that it would get this much love from India – so much so, that it became more successful than India’s own Coke Studio. I think that’s incredible!”
The comment sections are filled with people celebrating art and it acts as a refuge from the internet and world that remains torn. The love and cultural exchange overpowers trolling, rivalry and politically-charged abuse. It is a beautiful sight of relief for people dreaming of a peaceful future.
Pasoori, a Punjabi word, can be loosely translated as a ‘difficulty’ or ‘conflict’. The song is about two people in love but about complaints and complexities of a relationship – a theme that unites people across geographies. Love and heartbreak bring people together easily.
While many of the songs went viral and trended on social media platforms, this song crossed more than 200 million views on YouTube. The track also embraces unity in diversity as it features Pakistani dancer and activist Sheema Kermani performing bits of Bharatnatyam. The Turkish baglama (string instrument) features in the video while Shae Gill, who’s from the Christian community, is joined by Sethi, a Muslim, as they sing in Punjabi, a language spoken in both India and Pakistan. The song embraced the singularity brought on by art and music in its production.
These comments put it aptly and beautifully:
Music is a feeling and has the power to make you feel emotional. And live music is one of the best kinds to give you literal goosebumps. The show not only brings people together but also inspired Coke Studio India and Coke Studio Bangladesh. The trend of wedding videos, trailers and Instagram reels further present the cultural impact of music.
Hopefully, Pasoori can bring world peace and unify nations.