In many ways, Rohail’s personal journey parallels the transformations that Pakistani music has gone through.
In the 1990s he could be seen playing the keyboard in the Vital Signs, a band of young, dashing and rebellious musicians wearing jeans and leather jackets. This was when the new breed of Pakistani pop had arrived on the scene, eager to change the world with a song. In his latest incarnation he is the uber-producer and musician-manager, the mastermind behind Coke studio — a concept that is redefining music production in Pakistan.
Rohail reserves his true contempt for those he sees as the villains of the music industry — the record labels. The musicians have evolved, he says, but the labels remain as they were — exploitative and unreasonable.
According to Rohail, the whole concept of Coke Studio is that the artists, the audience and the brand all get something out of the experience.
“I went for Coke Studio because in the record label format only the middleman benefits, but if you do things the Coke Studio way, it’s a win-win situation for brand consumers and the artists as well … I knew I couldn’t pull off a win-win situation unless I was a millionaire, so I got Coke on board. This is the same thing Uth Records is doing and they are doing a great job too,” Rohail says.
Asad Ahmed — Guitarist
Ahmed has previotusly worked for bands like Vital Signs and Awaaz. Along with fellow musician Sameer Ahmed, in 1997 Ahmed formed one of the first alternative rock bands in Pakistan called Karavan.
Babar Ali Khanna — Eastern Percussionist
Khanna has travelled across the world to play for international bands like Rochdale-based Shola. When he returned to Pakistan, Khanna worked extensively in the Pakistani film industry. Now Khanna runs his own music academy in Lahore, where he teaches students the dholak.
Jaffer Ali Zaidi — Pianist
Jaffer Ali Zaidi has been playing the piano for more than twenty years. Besides playing for Coke Studio consistently since Season 2, Zaidi is also the lead singer and pianist of Kaavish.
Javed Iqbal — Violinist
Iqbal started his career as a professional musician playing the violin for film songs. He later secured a place as a musician on the “Alamgir Show” which aired on PTV. Here he worked with the likes of Fareeda Khannum, Iqbal Bano, Adnan Sami and Nayyara Noor. In 1984 Radio Pakistan advertised a vacancy for violinists; Iqbal auditioned and was selected. He has been working at Radio Pakistan ever since.
Louis J ‘Gumby’ Pinto — Drummer
Gumby, with his passion for drums, came to the attention of guitarist Amir Zaki when he was 14, started doing live gigs with him. He has been on the professional circuit for over 20 years, and Gumby’s portfolio includes bands like the Vital Signs,
Junoon and Strings to name a few.
Zoe Viccaji — Backing Vocalist
At 16, Viccaji joined an underground band called Ganda Banda, and sang covers at gigs. Zoe did not start showcasing her own compositions until later, when she teamed up with guitarist Shehzad Mukhtar. Her latest cover of “Mera Bichra Yaar” with Strings has gone viral on the internet.
Omran ‘Momo’ Shafique — Guitarist
In 2005, Shafique received an invitation he could not refuse: to come to Pakistan and play with the band co-VEN. It took him a year to uproot himself from Texas and move back. He has not regretted the decision. Popular for his work with co-VEN and his own band, Mauj, Shafique describes his affinity with the guitar as an “escape from the mundane”.
Rachel Viccaji — Backing Vocalist
She first sang on stage when she was 12 years old and began performing at concerts and musicals soon after, fronting underground bands like Rachel’s Plan B and The Big Cheese.
Her introduction to a wider audience came when she bagged the lead role in the musical Mamma Mia.
Raheel Manzar Paul — Percussionist
In 2003 Paul and four of his friends who often jammed together decided it was time to form a band. Wreckage quickly became popular within the underground music scene. One year later he joined the band Kaavish along with Jaafer and Muaz. Paul quit to join his family business after four years. He did not, however, quit music and continued as a freelance drummer, recording with Arieb Azhar and Aamir Zaki amongst others.
Sikandar Mufti — Percussionist
In 1993 Mufti played drums for an award-winning high-school jazz band ensemble in Louisiana, where he lived with his family for five years. After moving back to Lahore, Mufti joined the band co-VEN, a grunge band that he plays for till today, and The Trip, an underground classic-rock band. In 2007 he joined Mauj.
Kamran “Mannu” Zafar — Bassist
Zafar was offered a job in the backing band “Night People” and played with them for almost 10 years. Zafar first entered
Pakistan’s mainstream pop music scene in 2008, when he drew the attention of Ali Azmat who invited him to become a permanent band-member of his concert line-up.
Zulfiq ‘Shazee’ Ahmad Khan — Percussionist
Shazee has now been playing percussion for the past 17 years. He has been a member of a backing band called We-Five for 14 years. International tours have taken him to 22 countries.