Shikwa Jawab-e-Shikwa
Screengrab from YouTube video

Coke Studio season 11 started yesterday with its first four songs and the highlight of the episode was no doubt Shikwa/Jawab-e-Shikwa. The powerful modern rendition of Allama Iqbal’s poetry is currently trending at #1 on YouTube in Pakistan, however, a lot of people are hating on Coke Studio’s take of the two classic poems.

I for one have been listening to the song on repeat since this morning and I am all for the modern treatment of Iqbal’s ‘kalaam’! I first read both Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa in 9th or 10th grade – I believe that the latter was part of our Urdu Literature curriculum. I rot-learned the whole thing for the sole purpose of passing my exams without really paying attention to the real meaning behind the poetry. I was really not the biggest fan of Urdu literature back then and my sole interest was to know enough about the poem to enable me to pass my exam. However, this morning when I heard Coke Studio’s version of the poetry, I read the lyrics again, tried to understand them better and researched the meaning behind the two poems. It gave me a whole new appreciation for Iqbal’s work and the thought process behind writing the two pieces.

For those who do not know, the central idea of the poem ‘Shikwa’ is that God is not fulfilling his promise to protect Muslims and a decline in their fortune. In ‘Jawab-e Shikwa’ God answers directly that he has not broken his promise; instead it is the Muslims, his followers, who have turned away from the right path.

People may not agree with putting a ‘rock twist’ on Iqbal’s poetry but I personally believe that it is a very effective way of bringing classic Urdu literature to a whole new generation of viewers whose main source of knowledge and inspiration these days is the internet. Young people nowadays consume content mainly when it is presented to them packaged in an interesting and entertaining way so, for this reason alone, Coke Studio has done a commendable job in bringing Iqbal’s poetry to life and making it more ‘current’.

You can listen to the song here: