After the overwhelming response of the first two episodes of Coke Studio, the third episode was released on Friday. The third episode featured an exciting mix of budding artists and industry veterans including Umair Jaswal and Sanam Marvi singing a duet, Sehar Gul Khan making her solo debut on the platform and Zara Madani performing an original from her debut album. The first song of this episode is a powerful solo performance by Sehar Gul Khan, written and composed by lyricist Asim Raza. Ishq da Kukkar has a spiritual message with a prayer of love towards God. The song is an early morning call to prayer being given by a bird deeply in love with the Almighty and in profound devotion it beckons the believer to come say a loving prayer alongside. This has been a turbulent year for many, marked by losses, be it of loved ones, jobs or independence, a lot has been put into perspective. Confinement of a lockdown has given many time to reflect and to be grateful for what they have. This has evoked a sense of spirituality, subsequently bringing them closer to the Almighty. This song celebrates a man’s devotion and gratitude for his Creator, for all that still exists, for all that existed and was never accounted for. Ishq da Kukkar has a spiritual message with a prayer of love towards God. The song is an early morning call to prayer being given by a bird deeply in love with the Almighty and in profound devotion it beckons the believer to come say a loving prayer alongside Speaking about how much the song touched her, Sehar said, “As I sang the song, with each verse, I felt like I was being transported, elevated into a completely different world. I’ve tried my best to share that experience through the song.” Pardesiya, the second song of this episode is an eastern classical inspired raga rock track performed by classically trained singer Zara Madani. The song is about one’s search for God, and the longing for peace which one prays to the Almighty for in times of distress. Explaining the concept of the song, Zara Madani said, “In life, as humans, we are constantly in search of something. We await the arrival of something bigger, some form of an answer. This thirst for an answer or an impending destination is common to us all.” This experimental song has a bluesy feel and has been sung in Raag Bhimpalasi in madh layaof eastern classical music. Raag Bhimpalasi has originated from thaat Kafi and is considered to be the Shanti Rasa of Indian classical music. The third song for the episode, Har Funn Maula, has been written by Shuja Haider and is a Sufi dhamaal power track with Western drums giving it a rock elemen. Har Funn Maula has been performed by contemporary rock-star Umair Jaswal and Sufi stalwart Sanam Marvi. Despite the upbeat music, this song curiously touches upon the chords of one’s soul with its spiritual message. It is man’s quest to make him better at everything he does, it is his prayer and longing for perfection. While the song starts off in Jaswal’s rock musician voice, it borrows elements from the dhamaal, a devotional dance/music practice that honor qalandars or Sufi saints, and departs into Marvi’s majestic voice, bringing in a Sufic flair to the message. Marvi’s departure is sung from Shah Jo Risalo, written by Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a Sufi saint and one of the greatest Sindhi poets of all times. Talking about the song, Marvi said, “When you set foot on the first step of love, without even realizing it, you take a step in the direction of Ishq-e-Haqqiqi (love for God Almighty). Somewhere along the way you feel the pain of heartbreak, loss and you realize that only prayer can give you a sense of peace and calm.” Coke Studio 2020 also marks the return of the house-band, with Asad Ahmed on the electric guitar, Kamran ‘Mannu’ Zafar on bass, Babar Khanna on eastern percussions, Shehroze Hussain on the sitar, Nawazish Nasri on rabab, and Abier ‘Veeru’ Shaan on percussions. On backing vocals, this season will feature Nimra Rafiq, Wajiha Naqvi, Kumail Jaffery, Shahab Hussain, and Zara Madani. Given the new format and advantages of technology, this season has also collaborated with international musicians from across the world including Turkey, Nepal, Lebanon and Serbia. In fact, Turkish artist, Volkan Öktem, has also joined the house-band this season featuring on the drums. Coke Studio 2020 was administered under a careful management and maintenance of COVID-19 SOPs which resulted in both singers and musicians being recorded separately. Despite these challenges, Coke Studio was committed to releasing a season as an opportunity to keep hope alive amidst difficult times. Given the extraordinary circumstances under which this year’s season has been produced, it will be deliberately referred to as Coke Studio 2020 and not Coke Studio Season 13. The core values of the Coke Studio platform have always been to explore, experiment and share the unique music of Pakistan and the sub-continent with the rest of the world. Hence, with this evolving discovery of the Pakistani identity also continues the journey of Coke Studio and its music.