KARACHI: Coke Studio has been around for three successful seasons now, and the promo of the first episode of the fourth season does have a hook in it. Coke Studio sessions have the strength to revitalise even the greats, like Saaen Zahoor and Arif Lohar, and present them in a fresh light.

This time around it seems that the team conducted a rather thorough filtering process before getting artists onboard: Rumour has it, that the legendary Amir Zaki was rejected after Coke Studio auditions.

The producer of Coke Studio, Rohail Hayat, denies any rumours of Amir Zaki being rejected from Coke Studio,

“Not true. We were about to experiment with a new concept and I approached him (Zaki) for that. Unfortunately, the idea didn’t materialise due to the shortage of time. We don’t go around ‘rejecting’ talent, and that too, of the caliber of Amir. I’m sure we will work together on the same concept sometime in future,” Rohail told The Express Tribune in an exclusive interview.

On the contrary, when Zaki was contacted by The Express Tribune, he remained a man of few words: “No one from Coke Studio contacted me. I really wanted to be a part of the venture, but no one asked me.”

Zaki and Rohail, who once played together for a brief time with the Vital Signs, have contradictory statements about Zaki’s involvement with the venture. Industry speculation remains that either Zaki got rejected because of poor vocal quality, or that it had to do with something more personal.

However, sources close to Zaki told The Express Tribune about what actually happened.

“Back in October 2010, Amir Zaki and his session players were called up by the Coke Studio people to their pre-production house in Defence. They came there and played four songs , which included the very popular “Mera Pyar”, “Saaen Wadero”, “Mohabbat Blues” and “Jaana”.”

Sources also revealed that after Zaki’s auditions, they never got a call from any of the Coke Studio officials.

In the past year and a half, Amir Zaki was all set for making a proper comeback. Be it The Second Floor, Base Rock Cafe, the Pak-American Cultural Centre (PACC) auditorium or anywhere else, he had brought the crowd to their feet in all his recent live gigs. In the recent two day long Tehzeeb Sitar Festival, Amir Zaki became the star of the show on the second day, as he did a fusion of his phenomenal jazz guitar playing with Ustaad Rais Khan’s son, Farhan Khan, on the sitar . He has also recently released his comeback music video “Tumhari Aankhon Mae”, which is currently playing in the top ten lists on TV channels.

Amir Zaki is more than a maestro of his art form; he is an asset for the Pakistani music industry, and for him to get rejected from a forum on which someone like Komal Rizvi qualifies to stand next to Akhtar Chanal, doesn’t make sense at all.

True, his vocal prowess has been ebbing for quite some time, but he was never known for his vocals. One would say he could have easily been a featured guitarist in “Coke Studio 4”, like he has been featured in some local festivals.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2011.

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