Pakistani music happened to me back in 1989 when I was hardly 5 years old and living with my mother in Karachi because my father was and still working in Jeddah. My broken memories of watching PTV in 1989 are a Puppet Show featuring Uncle Sargam, TV drama Jangloos, and songs of Allan Fakir and Mohammed Ali Shehki.
Pakistani pop music culture has always been rich. Many notable music bands became globally known among the South Asian communities like Junoon and Vital Signs. My last fondness towards Pakistani music was in the first decade of this century when many new musical bands emerged like Aaroh, Entity Paradigm, Fuzon, Noori, Mekaal Hasan Band, and Call.
In the recent times, Coke Studio and Nescafé Basement aided and gave favor to the global listeners to observe the quality, richness, and creativity in Pakistani music culture. A further addition to scrutinizing more upcoming talents, Battle Of The Bands has given the nation another musical platform to take the center stage and sought the attention.
Battle of the Bands, sponsored by Pepsi began back in 2002 in one of the local channels. It took 15 years to repackage the whole new competition under the same name and sponsor. Why season two came that late? I really don’t know but I will say it was a musical tragedy given the fact that the toppers from the inaugural season were Aaroh, Entity Paradigm and Mekaal Hasan Band and such competition didn’t return in the times when Pakistani music was beginning to decline. Imagine if PBOTB was happening every year, how many brilliant bands had emerged.
With two fresh seasons in two years, the audience has realized that Pakistani music is knocking the global doors and they have talent enough to mesmerize the listeners. Kashmir and Bayaan have deservingly won their respective seasons and hearts. And with such a magnitude of success, PBOTB has a lot of promises to attract the viewers.
But the producers/show-runners of PBOTB need to focus on this whole arrangement of the show. There are a few issues which they need to work on if they have to grab and attract more viewers and collect more critical appreciation.
This blog is about the factors which can make this show more impressive and raise its rank. I am forwarding 10 important points PBOTB needs to focus on when they begin working on the fourth season.
10. NO BIZARRE AUDITIONS
This point is not meant to fume insult nor I am encouraging to mock the participants. But this is everywhere. Some performances really come up contrary to our expectations. The performance could have been better but sometimes turn out to be actually funny or weird.
We like to see the reactions of the judges and how they respond to the artistic disaster. From the marketing point of view, such auditions can be covered in the episode to make the viewers observe how the platform didn’t enjoy the justice and the band miserably failed to perform. Millions of viewers love to watch funny auditions or funny moments in a musical show on the social media no matter how old those videos are.
09. CHANGE THE HOST AND THE DIALOGUES
I may be taken rudely by the readers to reflect this point. Ayesha Omer is a very popular name in Pakistan showbiz but I strictly believe that she hasn’t done justice with the hosting role in both the seasons. The problem is not if she lacks glamour as she is a very charming personality. The problem is that she looks very under qualified or unfit for hosting a musical series focusing on the bands. This is not her cup of tea.
Plus the dialogues written for Ayesha Omer are very flat, old and monotonous. She states the obvious. Some buddy please change this phrase, “Don’t Go Anywhere, We Will Return After A Short Break”. How is this tiresome line still acceptable in 2018?
If the show presenter fails to serve the viewers and get their attention, it will be boring to listen to her and wait for her departure to enjoy the show. In my opinion, Anoushey Ashraf or Mathira will do more justice hosting a musical show.
08. RESTRICTED MUSICAL VARIETIES
Alright, this is the battle between the bands. And we have discovered numerous promising bands on this platform who will give their fans pleasure on their beats. But I have observed that every band who is showing up is restricted to the understanding of the musical band. Under the inception of bands, no one is trying to do something different.
The bands either turned Western, performed rock and tried to be loud or went completely opposite i.e., either went Eastern Classic or focused on Sufi. How many musical instruments have been tried by all the bands in these two seasons? Almost every musical band have their members on the set of different guitars, keyboards, and drums. Fine! I am not complaining. These are the basic instruments for helping in composing any track. But why most of the bands do not think out of a parameter. How many bands came up with the idea of playing the flute, violin, mouth organ, trumpet, bongo, or harmonica?
I am not asking to bring a grand piano to the stage and play. But what my ears want is to be seduced by a composition which gives freshness, a new feeling. They are selling the same product in different ways.
The upcoming bands must learn from Meesha Shafi! Unorthodox and giving music a new space, a new dimension. In the finale of season 2, she performed with a speaker and had a guy on the saxophone. In the finale of season 3, Meesha Shafi, in one of the darkest and the deepest tracks ever composed, introduced Tibetan bowls in Pakistani music.
Then there is a performance factor. Most of the performances by the bands on the stage were dull. The craziness and excitement were generally low. Tamasha band in the season 3 was the rare case who performed with the needed passion.
07. REDUCE THE EPISODE MINUTES
Why the episode has to be of at least 80 minutes? Why not reduce to 40 minutes? Do the bands need to perform a full song? Let’s assume if every band comes to the stage to perform for 5 minutes that means approximately 13 or 14 performances are covered each episode which is quite less. And this is what I am talking about an 80-minute episode.
The format and the continuity needs a helping hand, an idea or an approach to construct an episode with more ingenuity. In your limited presentation, you sometimes lose the purpose. I would rather agree on 16 episodes of 40 minutes instead of 8 episodes of 80 minutes. The other reason for keeping the episode that long is because the participants are less. But why less?
06. LIMITED CONTENTS
The hype you build among the viewers, the sources applied to the show are very limited. Only 8 episodes in almost 45 days! Each episode of at least 80 minutes! There were a host and a quartet of judges. The bands came and gave a full performance. The judges judged, off the bands went, “meet you in the next episode”, and curtains. That’s it?
The creative team should work and bring more ideas in the programming to add more content in such a lengthy episode. Not saying to make the show fake and dramatic as it happens in many musical shows. But the audience today need add-ins. Show the audience behind the scenes, reactions, their stories, from where they came from? How difficult has been this journey? What were they before they stepped to this platform? Show the discussions between the judges on and off. Between the screen time, share some past memories and achievements in Pakistan music culture. Give some interesting facts about the show and the judges with time.
Why did we only meet the families of the toppers in the grand finale? Why not give a couple of minutes of personal segments from some of the bands? Some musical stories are painful, some band members have a few lines to say. They can be covered, why not? Give some feeling, put some money on the contents to make the episode more exciting.
05. ADD MORE LOCATIONS
Apologies if my knowledge is incorrect but I think most of the participants from the different cities have traveled to Karachi to perform in the auditions. I think it is better if the panel of jury tour themselves to 3-5 most important cities. Not all the musical bands are financially stable enough to travel the city for the auditions. But Pepsi can afford expenses, right? The concern should be that Team PBOTB cover most of the bands in their cities. There is every chance that those bands who are financially poor are more talented than the toppers.
If Team PBOTB tour to the cities, there is a chance that those bands who had excuses to travel can save the expenses and participate straight to their city and try their luck. With more opportunities open, the judges will get to catch more attention and make their selections more easily.
In my opinion, the five most important touring cities should be Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta, and Peshawar. Bring three of the best bands from each center. Then do your general proceedings with 15 best talents in your show.
04. RIDICULOUS FINALE WIND-UPS
I am sure many of the readers will agree here with me that the ending of the finale episodes of both season 2 and 3 was pretty ordinary. With such a tremendous hype built in the show and on the social media, millions of viewers watched the grand finale of the seasons and impatiently spent their 80 minutes and waited for the grand announcement. When the winner was announced; multi-colored paper confetti were released, the prize cheques to the toppers were handed and the trophy was lifted by the winner, and then the hosts concludes the show. This all happened in two minutes.
We noticed even the families of the toppers stepped to the stage after the announcement to meet their loved ones. The hosts could have bothered asking hardly a couple of questions on the stage to them but didn’t.
What the show-runners should do is give some respect to the toppers and let them speak some lines about these moments. Show their celebrations behind the scene after the conclusion of the show. Allow or request the toppers to send a motivational message to the coming bands and future participants.
03. RAISE THE PRIZE MONEY, FFS!
To be perfectly honest with you, any figure in the prize money less than a Crore rupees is awful, contemptible and revolting, keeping in mind that this musical series is produced by none other than *drum rolls* PEPSI!
The runner-up gets 25 Lac (0.25 Crore) rupees and the winner gets 50 Lac (0.50 Crore) rupees with an album deal, concerts across Pakistan and lifetime royalties. 50 Lac? What is 50 Lac in 2018? And remember, this 50 Lac is not for an individual but for the band. No matter how many members exist in the band, this amount will definitely be divided.
The producers should consider this matter and improve the figures. Because when the viewers across the world notice and realize how much amount the toppers are winning in their currency, their jaws will drop.
02. LACKS FEMINISM
It is a sorry state that despite 71 years have crossed to the country’s inception, most of the women still do not have the freedom to make their own decisions, choose their careers and ambitions, befriend a man, go in a relationship, choose or wish someone her husband. And when it comes to the art, more objections are compelled and the doors are closed by their own families. Singing, dancing, and modeling for a woman in many houses become a family issue with the hashtag #LogKiyaKahenge (what will people say).
And this is the very critical reason, that only 4 women have participated in a total of 2 seasons; Mehek from Naksh Band and one from Roots in season 2, and Ifra from I.F.R.A and one from Kaghaz. Only 4 women!
If mixing with men into a band is making them insecure or putting their families in an uncomfortable position, or raising eyebrows in their concerned mohalla, then why a group of women is still not coming up with the idea of forming their own band? Just like the All Girl Band or The Cheapmunks in Pakistan. Sometimes I wonder how Benjamin Sisters marked their presence on the national television to the viewers in the late 70s and early 80s.
The show producers cannot do anything about this matter. Women in Pakistan are equally capable like men in arts and need no references from me as there is an open treasure of vast talents. If the education can really change the way of thinking, if the thinking among the people can change with time, then time will tell how many women will be stepping ahead to the platform and how many families will be in an agreeable position to support their women.
01. WHERE IS THE AUDIENCE?
My number 1 issue with the show is that despite being a musical competition between the bands, it is terribly silent. Whenever the bands finished performing, it was awkward to listen only 5 pairs of hands clapping in the studio like the raindrops knocking your window. It was a musical tragedy for not adding the audience when it needed the most.
Season 2 HAD audience straight from the 3rd episode once the judges were done with the auditions in the first two episodes. But the whole season 3 gave you the theatre rehearsal feeling. It is always exciting to listen to the boos and hoots and roars in a musical show. Audience repeatedly shouting and chanting the names of their favorite bands or their favorite lead vocalist.
How exhilarating and sensational was listening and watching Asrar perform Lajpaal Ali or Call perform Jilawatan on TV in season 2. Imagine the environment installed during these numbers in the studio last year. The attendees with uncontrollable adrenaline in a captivating ambiance.
Imagine if the audience was allowed this year and were to be blessed with the performances by Tamasha. The show-runners should not attempt this gaffe when the show returns for season 4 next year.
Through this blog, I would like to congratulate both the toppers of this season, Xarb and Bayaan, and wish them all the best in the commencement of their promising careers. Also, the bands who lost in the knockout phases, this is an experience to take with you for a lifetime memory. And is also not the end of your musical expedition. You are blessed with a platform which millions have watched and observed you. Continue doing wonders, some wise financiers will surely ring you in the near future. Those who left in the auditions, never mind and return next year strong with more improvement. The other musical doors and platforms are also opened to try their luck.
If any of the 10 points are taken seriously and are considered to work on, I hope the show will improve more and acceptable with further positive critical reception.