Sign, Simulacra and the Hyperreal in Coke Studio Sufi Sing


  • Kalsoom Qaisar PhD Scholar, NUML, Islamabad


Spiritual Signified, Physical Signifiers, Simulation, Theatrical, Hyperreal


This qualitative research seeks to inquire into the nature of the spiritual signified in Coke Studio (CS) Sufi singing (Pakistan). It examines CS singing as a site whereby sign is important for its materiality and not spiritual substance or the message it carries. The study inquires how and why CS singers admix (semi)romantic and worldly lyrics in their Sufi performance pivoting more on physical signifiers such as visual locale or heavy instrumentation. The selection of 10 songs is made out of a total of 32, rendered by CS singers on various Pakistani TV channels within a span of 9 seasons and 9 years. Assimilating insights of three theoretical views, a method is devised to analyze CS Sufi singing performance as a representational sign, one type of signs suggested by Dyer. The study demonstrates that CS singing, via its use of New Age discourses such as spirituality, genre fusion and plurality of style and text, portrays Sufi music as a discourse that may be adapted for any material end. The study has identified three main aspects of the problem of spiritual signified in CS Sufi singing: sign in this singing is largely (1) simulated in that it distances itself from the sacred ambience of Sufi music and demonstrates from mild to intense degrees of concealment and masquerading in its performance and thereby confuses the real with unreal or sacred with secular (2) it is fake, theatrical and entertaining and (3) it is largely exoteric with its focus on form, causing split between signifier and signified and thereby hyperreal.