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Coke Studio 14 now faces plagiarism charge. Pakistanis back ‘underdog artist’

Sung by Abida Parveen and Naseebo Lal, 'Tu Jhoom' song had Pakistani fans excited until an emerging artist accused season 14 producer Xulfi of 'lifting her tune'.

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As if it was not enough that Pakistan’s Coke Studio season 14 ‘Tu Jhoom’ song was already being criticised for its less-than-scintillating tune and lyrics, now there is also a plagiarism accusation. Sung by Abida Parveen and Naseebo Lal, the song’s tune was allegedly sent to guitarist and music producer Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan, popularly known as Xulfi, who then “changed the words and sold this as his own to Coke Studio”.

Coke Studio’s 14th edition premiered on 14 January, with Xulfi replacing Pakistani record producer, keyboardist, and composer Rohail Hyatt as the show’s producer.

The release of the first music video ‘Tu Jhoom’, written by Adnan Dhool, excited fans who are especially gushing over veteran Sufi singer Abida Parveen and folk singer Naseebo Lal.

The song has gone viral on social media with over four million views since its release.


Also read: Coke Studio Season 14 is out and Pakistanis are gushing over Abida Parveen


‘Tu Jhoom’ in controversy 

But now, the song as well as co-producer Xulfi are mired in controversy with an emerging singer from Umarkot, Nirmala Maghani, accusing him of ‘lifting her melody’ in the song.

A report published in The Express Tribune said Maghani had sent a sample to Xulfi in June 2021, while eyeing a slot as featuring artist in Coke Studio 14.

“Xulfi didn’t reply to any of her messages, which she thought was expected from such a senior musician being suddenly reached by a singer he doesn’t know via WhatsApp. But the moment she heard ‘Tu Jhoom’ she realised that one of the melodies she had sent has been used in the song without any acknowledgment,” the report says.

“I kept calling Xulfi since I heard the song and after a day he finally responded by saying ‘I didn’t even download your audio file,’ which isn’t true because all my messages were received with blue ticks,” Nirmala has been quoted as saying in the report.

Curator and a ‘mentor’ to Maghani, lyricist Yousaf Salahuddin backed her claims.

“She had sent (the composition) to Xulfi for consideration in the then-upcoming season of Coke Studio…Zulfiqar (Xulfi) instead changed the words and sold this as his own to Coke Studio. This is highly inappropriate and legal action will be taken very soon,” he added.

Nirmala’s sample

‘Tu Jhoom’ on YouTube


Also read: Iqbal Bano, whose voice made Faiz’s poem ‘Hum Dekhenge’ a protest anthem for all time


Xulfi denies the ‘theft’ claim 

Zulfiqar Jabar Khan has denied the accusations levelled against him.

“I am grateful and humbled to receive many talented artists’ requests for collaboration from all over Pakistan, as have many producers before me. However, I can’t say my work for Coke Studio borrowed from such shared samples I received,” he said in a written statement to The Express Tribune.

“I do hope to have the fortune of listening to Nirmala Manghani’s songs in person and to possibly come together for collaboration ahead: our young brilliant artists across Pakistan are our future,” he added.

Coke Studio too has refuted the charges and claimed that season producer Xulfi and associate producer Abdullah Siddiqui had begun working on the song in May, a month before Maghani had allegedly shared her demo with Xulfi, according to The Express Tribune.


Also read: Ko Ko Korina: Why Pakistan is decrying a Coke Studio cover


‘IP theft, underprivileged artists, exclusivity of Coke Studio’

Meanwhile, the news has got Pakistani citizens divided over whether the two tunes are similar, whether music can or cannot be completely original and the general issue of violation of intellectual property and exploitation of underprivileged artists.

Several social media users, including Coke Studio’s former producer Rohail Hyatt, defended a melody sounding similar to another work, citing the raag-based folk tunes, and asserting that it’s the lyrics that matter more.

Another user made the similar argument and suggested Xulfi to acknowledge the same. “(As) eastern classical melodies mostly derive from raagas, there are recurring chord progressions & scales, so it makes sense. But if it is indeed a coincidence of parallel creation, Xulfi should acknowledge it.”

“Credit must be given where it’s due,” said user Junaid M Alam, even if “not done deliberately”.

Some Pakistanis on social media strongly supported Nirmala Maghani’s claims, terming other remarks like ‘music is not 100 percent original’ as idiotic.

User Raza Beena calls it a “strange coincidence” that the two melodies sound similar.

With this controversy, people also raised the larger issue of young and underprivileged artists getting exploited.

Pakistani-American musician Salman Ahmad asked Xulfi to give credit to Nirmala Maghani.

The reactions were not just limited to the alleged plagiarism of “Tu Jhoom” but also questioned the growing ‘exclusiveness’ of Coke Studio.

Several users demanded a serious investigation in the matter.

Some also accused Xulfi’s detractors of starting a smear campaign against him by questioning the veracity of the news report.

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