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The biggest market for any Pakistani music act is India, says the rock-pop band from across the border

Faizal Kapadia and Bilal Maqsood: set to capture Indian hearts — Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

FAISAL KAPADIA and Bilal Maqsood, better known as Strings, shot to fame with their album Duur. After two collaborations with renowned Indian artistes, the pop-rock duo from Pakistan is sweeping the country with its new album, Dhaani, released by Sony Music.

Clarifying the first obvious doubt that comes to the minds of listeners, Bilal says: "There is an interesting reason why we call ourselves a pop-rock band. Before Strings was formed in 1989, I used to be a key-board player. It was after I met Faisal in college and we decided to jam together that I began strumming the guitar. Thus, I was always into mainstream pop and my root lies there, and it was during the jamming sessions that I developed an interest in rock." Faisal adds: "When Strings was born, the only market in Pakistan was for mainstream pop, so we had to gradually condition the listeners to rock, and this took a while."

Dhaani, the name of the new album, means the light green colour. Faisal explains the title: "When you think of the colour, a sense of freshness and beauty comes to your mind." The title song, he says, is a tribute to a woman and dhaani is the colour that blends with the idea. But where does the inspiration for their songs come from? "Whenever we are on a tour, we end up having lot of free time. When we just sit together and relax, we end up humming a tune or coming up with a mukhda out of nowhere. We try to transfer the tune to our voicecoder, and when we go back home, we recreate it with our instruments. We then take the song to our lyricist, who is Bilal's father, and come up with a theme that blends with the music."

After their album Duur, Strings teamed up with Sagarika (Shaan's sister) for a duet called "Pal", which was recorded as part of the Channel V Jammin' programme, and with the Indian rock band Euphoria for a song called "Jeet Lo Dil", released as the official anthem of the recently-concluded India-Pakistan cricket series. With Duur, the band fused elements of rock music, maintaining a pop flavour, and making their songs danceable. The new album Dhaani takes this concept a step further by adding jazz and funk accomplishments to the vocals. "We have collaborated with Hariharan for a song called "Bolo Bolo". It has turned out to be an amazing number that reveals Hariharan's vocal range to the fullest," says Bilal.

Strings is not the only music act from Pakistan that has made it big in India. Bands such as Junoon and Fuzon have been received well by Indian listeners. "The biggest market for any Pakistani music act is India. Back home, we have our own censorship laws we need to look into. Also, India is such a huge country and the remarkable reach of cable television here has enabled people all over the country to listen to our music," says Bilal.

"The musical tastes of the two countries are very similar and a system of interaction between musicians of both countries can do miracles. It has started to happen, and as musicians, we are looking ahead at a bright future where bands from both countries would jam together and get worldwide recognition. And that day is not too far away."

As a message for upcoming music talent in the country, the guys say in unison: "Follow your heart and don't try to slot yourself into any particular category of music." Bilal adds: "When I was in Hyderabad last week, I happened to meet a wannabe rock singer who told me how rock groups feel it was `uncool' to sing in Hindi. I was taken aback with that statement. People of this country have grown up speaking Hindi and listening to Hindi music in various forms. It is the best possible language of expression here. If we need an independent identity in the world music scene, we need to be different, and do our own thing."

Friendly duo

AS PART of the promotional tour, Strings performed in Bangalore for fans and media at the ITC Windsor Sheraton. Old favourites such as "Sar Kiye Yeh Pahar" and hit numbers from the album Duur, including "Anjaane", received foot-tapping response from the audience, who thronged the venue on Wednesday night. The friendly duo guided their fans to sing along a couple of songs from the new album, making the programme a pleasantly informal one.

Fans who were eager to shake hands and click photographs with the duo were visibly impressed with the singers' friendly attitude. Pramila, a college student, was heard screaming: "I can't believe I'm standing at an arms' length from the same guys whose posters I've stuck on my wall!"

Among the crowd was seen Santhosh `saggy' Gnanakan, an RJ and guitarist of Document Done. "The popularity the band has got in just a couple of years in amazing. I was happy to hear some good, foot-tapping tunes this evening," he said.

The show culminated in the band singing the title track from Dhaani, and on audience request, an "unplugged" medley of five songs. The boys from across the border may not have performed in a big arena, but the fans felt satisfied, judging by the broad smiles on their faces.


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