Cultural awakening is as intrinsic to entertainment as drama is,” feels singer-songwriter Rohail Hyatt. Unknown in India, Hyatt, besides his interesting famous last name, is the cause of a revolution in Pakistan. Well, he is the man responsible for a television revolution in his nation and is leading the way to scout new music talent in the country.
Producer of popular televised jam session called Coke Studio, Hyatt is the reason why Bollywood directors have discovered Pakistan music talent like Atif Aslam, Ali Zafar, Josh and even Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.
Earlier, Hyatt would often record sessions with known Pakistani bands and put them out on YouTube, and using the Internet to get more shows for the artistes, whereby Indian filmmakers found their music. “When I started out, no one was doing this. These were already big names and gradually, the bands started getting feedback,” says Hyatt.
“Mahesh Bhatt, in fact, was one of the first people to contact us,” adds Hyatt, who took his talent hunt a step further three years ago, when he started the TV show, Coke Studios.
Having run two successful seasons in the past two years, Coke Studio, season three premiered on June 6 in Pakistan. “The show (Coke Studio) is about giving established talent in Pakistan a platform. It’s an opportunity to create new music and rework old anthems,” reasons Hyatt, who was previously part of a ’90s Pakistani rock band, Vital Signs.
The mainstay of the televised performances is the live Jugalbandi and Pakistan’s way of getting access to concerts, passed, censored and aired legally. “We don’t have venues that will host performances and the Pakistani musician finds himself starved for shows. This is our way of ensuring the music never dies and there is always a stage for those who want to sing out loud,” Hyatt says.
Bollywood’s newest singers could very well be the female Pakistan duo, Zeb & Haniya, who sing Sufi and Jazz Rock. While having visited India last year, post their performance on Coke Studio, the two are apparently flooded with offers. “I can’t confirm yet, but yes, we will be giving our original tracks for a Bollywood production,” says Zebunissa Bashar of the duo.