Coke Studio and Dreams of The End
- I think identification with art is a desire for wholeness. When we find a song that seems to express something fundamental about us we say “yes, this is so me.” It’s a conscious sort of provisional feeling: in this moment, this thing out there represents or stands for this indefinable thing in here. It is, in a way, a desire for an end point to the dialectics of subject constitution: an end to the ongoing performative production of the self. This aesthetic object manifests my desire to become my whole self. It bears noting that this ‘resolution’ occurs in the virtual space of the imagination.
- With a new season, I’ve once more become obsessed with Coke Studio. It is a strange sort of obsession, one where my emotional response seems “inappropriate” or, at least, incommensurate with the material. Something about it strikes a deep, almost uncomfortable cord – though strangely, it is one touched far more by jouissance than fear or sadness.
- According to some, the hybrid postcolonial subject is always-already an impossibility. If the hyphen of Indo-Canadian reasserts the solidity of the two pure, un-corrupted halves, then there is always some kind of incompatibility at work. There is always a falseness to the hybrid, always an incompleteness. This is old hat and probably outdated theory, but let’s roll with it for a bit.
- Coke Studio Pakistan’s defining trait is the signature style of producer and musical director Rohail Hyatt: the fusion style that, in a way that I think is truly remarkable, “blends east and west”. Yes, you are probably right to roll your eyes at that phrase, but the more you watch, the more compelling the statement becomes. If it’s fusion that asserts the primacy of the west or dilutes its constituent elements, goddamn does it do well.
- Let us return to identification. What does it mean to identify with fusion aesthetics? The important thing, I think is this: the anti-referential nature of music makes the false appearance of wholeness possible. And furthermore: only in music’s internal system of signification that doesn’t “actually” signify can hybridity function because aesthetics is the production of a false appearance of wholeness and completeness. This is one of the things that defines the art object, yes?
- Now you can perhaps guess where I’m going with this: the craving for wholeness of the hybrid postcolonial subject finds an interesting locus of desire in fusion aesthetics like Coke Studio Pakistan. It asserts that the false wholeness of a fusion aesthetic object can stand in for a wholeness that is always-already lacking.
- Now, music of course isn’t as immune to signification as I’ve initially suggested. We connect instruments and modal progressions etc. to cultures and history. Good, fine. We should keep this in mind. But what I’m arguing is that a virtual a-referential unity is produced by the combination of the ‘significatory’ elements of music – instrumental texture, lyrics etc. – and the internally coherent system of music – scales, chords etc. – that, because of the experiential impossibility of separating them as one listens, become a kind of whole. Not an actual whole, of course. Simply something that cannot be but experienced as a whole.
- This is where I think Deleuze goes wrong with the virtual. In his ontology, the virtual is akin to the Real, an always out-of-reach epistemological field. But because aesthetics and the digital give us some kind of here/not-here presentation of something, the virtual–or what I call the holographic–can still have “material” effects. Princess Leia can still communicate her message to Obi-Wan even though she is not there.
- So all I mean to say is the fusion of the Coke Studio, in the production of a false whole, offers a site of identification for the hybrid subject to experience a virtual wholeness of an identity that ‘exists out there’.
- Oh, Viccaji sisters! Wait, what? Who mentioned them? Stupid desire!