Striking a chord

From Dhaani to Mein tou dekhoonga, the music of Pakistani band Strings has matured from melodious romantic songs to those that address important socio-political issues finds Sravasti Datta

They charmed with the catchy “Dhaani”. Won even more hearts with the soulful “Duur” and went onto floor thousands with “Najane kyun”, the soundtrack of “Spider-man 2” and their 2008 album “Koi Aanay wala hain”. Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia, founders of the Pakistani band “Strings”, were in Bangalore to perform for the IIPM fest, Amaze. Amaze they did; not only by their performance but also by their impeccable conduct. As thoughts about what they would be like crossed our minds, an unassuming Bilal and Faisal entered, greeting everyone they passed with respectful glances and warm smiles.

The duo first began playing with a four-member band, with Rafiq Wazir Ali and Kareem Bashir Bhoy in 1988. The band disbanded, but in 1990, Bilal and Faisal got together and formed a band and released their first album “Strings”, which they adopted to name their band. Their rise to fame happened with the single “Sar Kiye Yeh Pahar”, which was aired on MTV Asia. In 2000, their album “Duur” and later “Dhaani” set them on the course of success and critical acclaim.

String’s journey has been one of creative highs, despite hiatuses between their albums. “We’ve always been an original band, ever since we began playing in college. We’ve always written and composed songs that can be sung on stage. Our music has hence evolved and today has grown to the extent that we never imagined!” explains Faisal, the vocalist of the duo, in his characteristic steady and baritone voice.

The quality of rhythm used and sounds incorporated are important for the duo. Bilal and Faisal think carefully over the writing of lyrics too. “Bilal’s father, Anwar Maqsood helps us in writing the songs, simultaneously, both of us contribute to composing the song,” says Faisal. Bilal and Faisal enjoy performing live because of the heady response they receive from the audience. “A live performance is controlled by the audience. For the band, everything remains the same: the instruments, the band members etc. But it’s what the audience gives that transforms the performance. They play a crucial role,” says the duo.

Strings has used their music to address social and political issues, particularly those affecting their country. Their songs “Mein tou dekhoonga” and “Ab Khud Kuch Karna Parega” ring with a passionate spirit of inspiration. “We realised we needed to give back to society. We never thought we’d be writing songs on political issues. ‘Beirut’, in 2007, was our first song on a socio-political event of Israel attacking Lebanon. 20 to 30 years ago, we hadn’t seen as much instability as we see now. As musicians we had to think, ‘what next?’ as we are surrounded by these problems, it is our duty as artists to speak out on them.” Apart from composing songs on these issues, the duo is the ambassador for spreading awareness on HIVAIDS for UNICEF. “As artists, this is our responsibility,” say the duo. Needless to say, Strings has as much of a presence in India as they do in Pakistan. Their music has defied boundaries to create musical bonds between the two countries. Bilal contends that a 26/11 happens everyday in Pakistan. It was the song “Jeet lo dil” that they recorded with Indian-band Euphoria when the Indian cricket team toured Pakistan in 2004 after a gap of many years that garnered a new-found respect for the band. “We deeply regret the 26/11 attacks that occurred in Mumbai. We are aware of the grief and pain it caused to the people here as we have an exposure to the Indian media in Pakistan. But realistically speaking, Pakistan is battling equally with terrorism. We hope that this gets settled.”

Bilal and Faisal are satisfied with the steps both countries are taking to promote cultural exchange. “Both countries have been scarred by the horrors of Partition. The governments of both countries have been very supportive in furthering are relationship through culture.”

Keywords: Strings band


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