KARACHI: Coke Studio has denied accusations that they stole the tune for Tu Jhoom, the first release of their ongoing season, from Umerkot-based artist Nirmala Maghani, citing video proof. The programme claims that season producer Xulfi and associate producer Abdullah Siddiqui began working on the song in May, a month before Maghani reportedly shared her demo with Xulfi, in a statement accompanied by a WhatsApp screen recording published on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, reported that Maghani, 20, had accused Xulfi of lifting her melody for the show’s latest release. Maghani claims to have shared a demo with the Coke Studio producer in June, six months before the song featuring Abida Parveen and Naseebo Lal was released. Xulfi had denied the claim, saying that he did not borrow from any samples that he had received.
The news sparked widespread debate, with many industry bigwigs weighing in on public and private forums, tying the incident to larger issues of intellectual property and the exploitation of underprivileged artists. While some found the two tunes to be too similar, others accused Xulfi’s detractors of starting a smear campaign against him.
“As I shared with you earlier, I produce and collaborate in the spirit of inclusivity and my work with Coke Studio holds the same philosophy,” Xulfi is quoted as saying in the second statement issued by the show within two days. “My work is not borrowed or without credit, given that what I share with the world is work that relies on the very essence of partnership and collaboration. I hope this to be evident in my entire body of work produced in my career.”
He further said that Coke Studio 14 was planned with the goal of making Pakistani music heard worldwide. “The aim was to present our music, our young talent and our icons in a way that shows the world what we are capable of, what we stand for as a nation. Our aim was to create a cultural moment of glory for Pakistan.” The producer reiterated that Coke Studio is Pakistan’s biggest cultural export that has consistently brought people together. “And that power is very dear to me and one that I’ve absorbed heavily this season … I look forward to continue working with our brilliant artists, from all over the country; for they truly are the present and future of Pakistani music!” he concluded.
The WhatsApp recording shows that Xulfi had shared a video with his deputy in May, in which he is humming the asthai of Tu Jhoom over an instrumental track and asking for the latter’s opinion. It is pertinent to mention that has not been able to verify the accuracy of the screen recordings shared by both Maghani and Coke Studio. When asked why the screen recording from Xulfi’s phone was not shared when Maghani’s claims were first reported, a Coke Studio representative refused to comment.
Music producer and curator Yousuf Salahuddin, who is a mentor of Maghani, said only the courts can decide who is in the right. “Anything can be manipulated, be it time stamps or something else,” he said. “The only way out of this situation is a forensic audit of the phones of all parties involved.”
Khalid Khan, CEO of Digital Entertainment World, the company that manages Salahuddin’s digital properties, said their lawyers are assessing the matter and will soon file a complaint in court.
Maghani, an upcoming artist, has been approaching some of the leading names in the industry for several years in hope of a big break. A few months ago, she collaborated with Laal band to produce her composition of a Faiz Ahmed Faiz poem.
Since at least the start of 2021, she has shared vocal demos of her songs – including the composition in question – with a number of artists and promoters, some of whom were trying to connect her with those working on different projects. Junoon front man Salman Ahmed said he had introduced Maghani to Xulfi long before the summer.
Ahmed, who has been using social media platforms to raise a voice for the young musician, said exploitation of artists at the hands of large corporations is a longstanding issue. “They make billions by using music to sell their products and pay a pittance to the artists. The industry must be regulated,” he said.
Educator and musician Beena Raza, who has also been in touch with Maghani for a while, confirming that the singer had sent her the composition in question, along with other samples as well, before May. “I try to keep in touch with as many from the upcoming lot as I can and Nirmala did send me this sample among others sometime in April 2021,” she said.
Maghani, who has been overwhelmed with messages of support, thanked those who spoke out for her. “I will accept whatever the court decides,” she said.