On July 22nd, three days before the election, Coke Studio released a rendition of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s ‘Hum Dekhenge’ sung as an ensemble by many of the artists in the line-up for season 11. Many media outlets praised the song for it’s apt timing and message. The Nation praised Coke Studio for spreading “the message of unity, hope and peace through the words of Pakistan’s most revered poet and intellectual Mr Faiz Ahmed Faiz.”
Interestingly, though, the gigantic multinational decided to remove two lines from Faiz’s nazm:
sab taaj uchhāle jā.eñge (The day Crowns will be hurled in air)
sab taḳht girā.e jā.eñge (The day thrones will be toppled)
Instead, the rendition focuses on a message of unity, showcasing musicians smiling earnestly into the camera while the branded red lights of Coke shine upon them.
But by removing these lines, the studio removes the intense revolutionary core of the poem. ‘Hum Dekhenge’ was written as a reassurance to those waiting for radical change and was considered a response to Zia’s military dictatorship.
The toppling of thrones and the removal of crowns is a vital part of the nazm. It is staunchly anti-establishment, anti-status quo, and forces us to question power dynamics in society. Faiz implores us to ask: who has all the power? When Coke Studio removes these lines, we are not given the opportunity to ask this question.
The revolutionary red of Faiz is corporatized into the branded, establishment red of the Coke brand. This is a corporation using our most radical artists as a mouthpiece for its own agenda. It tries to be political while simultaneously depoliticizing the art itself.
If you don’t have the guts to recite the whole poem, don’t bother reciting it at all.