There are no billboards on the streets. For the last four years, a week or so before the new season of Coke Studio is launched, most of the important billboards in major Pakistani cities are taken up by snazzy advertisements announcing the featured artists of the season. It’s the biggest annual ad campaign for any TV program and this is Season 5. It’s being touted by many to be the mother of all seasons, mainly on the basis of a wildly circulating promotional video of Episode 1 of the new season. The first artist on the promo video is a rapper: Bohemia. The video shows him in a hoodie and dark glasses, slamming out a rap number in Punjabi. ‘This is an opportunity for me to tell you what rap is — it’s poetry, it’s a message,’ he says in a close-up shot of his three-second interview. The video cuts back to the song. By his side are the Viccaji sisters – Zoe and Rachel – who do backing vocals and harmonies but they appear to be in a more prominent role for this number.
The clip is followed by Hadiqa Kiyani, among Pakistan’s leading female vocalists, singing what sounds like the hard rock version of an AR Rahman’s composition. She is singing the Sufi poetry of Bulleh Shah. She’s followed by Atif Aslam, arguably Pakistan’s biggest rock star, also a sensation in India for the last four years. He has teamed up with ‘Qayaas’, an underground band, to do a version of a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan qawwali. The last singer on the promo is of Humayun Khan’s who is singing Larsha Pekhawar Ta, a popular Pushto folk song.