The much-awaited Coke Studio 2020 premiered on Friday with three original tracks by the veteran as well as emerging artists. Unlike most seasons of Coke Studio, which kick-started with a patriotic song, the 13th season opened with an all-women anthem Na Tutteya ve. It is rendered by Fariha Pervez, Sanam Marvi, Meesha Shafi, Zara Madani, Wajiha Naqvi and Sehar Gul Khan, penned by Asim Reza and composed by Shuja Haider. Dil Khirki by Coke Studio debutant Mehdi Maloof follows with an Indie vibe. The episode wrapped up with Jaag Rahi, a classical thumri in the voice of Fariha Pervez and Ali Noor.
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 is back this season with an addition of Turkish artist, Volkan Öktem, on the drums.
2020 will be the shortest season in the history of Coke Studio with 12 originals by 12 artists released over a month and a half. The line-up includes experts Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sanam Marvi, Meesha Shafi, Ali Noor, Bohemia, Umair Jaswal, Nawazish, Fariha Pervez and Shehroze Hussain and emerging artists Mehdi Maloof, Ali Parvez Mehdi, Wajiha Naqvi, Sehar Gul Khan, Aizaz Sohail and Zara Madani.
Due to the circumstances created by the pandemic, all the rehearsals were done remotely using recording software on phones. For the final recording, the musicians and vocalists were recorded separately. "I had a mobile recording unit that I would've sent to everybody's homes, which they would've recorded [their final takes] on and then send forward," says Rohail Hyatt, musician and producer in an interview with Dawn. Initially, the plan was for the artists to record themselves separately for the video, but the lockdown was lifted and the final takes were completed at Hyatt's residence in Karachi. Owing to the practical difficulties of putting the show together in the pandemic, the show features all urban artists this season and no regional artists or languages.
Sponsor Coca Cola had almost cancelled the show this year, but Coke Studio was committed to making this happen to keep the hope alive in these dark times. Coke Studio 13 was earlier planned multiple times larger than the present season with multiple producers, but post the pandemic it was redesigned to fit a smaller budget.
"This is season 2020, not season 13. If that doesn't say everything, I don't know what does! It's actually being called season 2020; it's not part of the series," added Hyatt. Hyatt himself is playing all of the acoustic guitars this season.