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Strings, up close, and personal

Currently on a break, Pakistani band Strings recently played against Euphoria in a sound clash concert in Dubai. In an email interview, the band talks shop, and opens up about the reason for their comeback, and why they will never stop making music

Q. What made you sign up for the Red Bull Soundclash? Would you be open to doing a similar gig in India or Pakistan?
A. You get tired of doing the same kind of stuff, so when we heard about this, it sounded interesting. The concept is unique. It was very important that we felt comfortable with the organisers and their ability to ensure that all technical factors are in place to execute this kind of event. We've worked with Euphoria on several occasions — we even did a song together way back in 2003 — so we share a good relationship, on a friendly note. Our music is pretty much along the same lines too — they're more Rock probably, and we are more Pop, but we meet somewhere along that line. We love making music and everything related to it, so yes, why not! We'd love to do something like this in India or Pakistan!

Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia during a gig in Mumbai. File Pic
Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia during a gig in Mumbai. File Pic 

Q. You have played with Euphoria before, and now you have played against them. What was the mood like in the band?
A. Our first ever live concert in India was with Euphoria. And, we were pleasantly surprised when Palash (Sen) took out a Pakistani and Indian flag stitched together at the end of the show, for the grand finale. So, we have known Euphoria for the past 10-12 years and are good friends. We see Euphoria as an extremely energetic band on stage. In case of Palash, you see him hopping all around the stage. If Palash is all about the energy, Faisal (Kapadia), I guess, holds the stage together like a rock; they counter each other pretty well.

Q. What was special about the concert in Dubai?
A. We played our songs unlike anything we've done before. It was a new experience for all those who have seen our earlier concerts. It was a new experience for us too, because this challenged us to do something out of the box.

Q. Making a comeback is never easy, especially when there are new players in the market. But Strings did it (read box). What is the secret to your success?
A. Well, we always intended to make a comeback. But coming back is never easy. You leave a space, and it's hard to return to that space. "Sar Kiye Yeh Pahar" was so big that there was always that fear we'd never match the point where we left our career. But even though Bilal and I were both fine financially, with our non-music careers, there was always that question: 'Do we really want to live our lives like this?' We were always passionate about music. But, of course, we weren't sure what the outcome would be (when we re-grouped). But one always needs to try, instead of letting your hopes die. If you don't try, you will never achieve anything. So we wanted to try and we did work hard on our third album.

Q. In the music industry, fans' choices change often. So, when you came back together, what were your main challenges?
A. We worked in a closed room — away from music. We didn't want any outside interference. You know, when you've been away, there's a lot of people who're saying, 'Hey! Do this on your new album. Things have moved on while you've been away.' We didn't want to listen to anyone. We simply wanted to do something that we felt strongly about. So, we closed the doors and started recording. When we released the album — it was the first time that we did the same in India too — we got a great response.

Q. What has been keeping you two busy? Are you writing new songs?
A. We're working on the popular TV show, Coke Studio Pakistan. We're producing it this year, so we're finalising the editing. It's very involved, time-wise, but we're loving it. It's a different domain for us. It feels great to be in that zone right now. We're learning a lot.

Q. It seems as if Strings is staying away from Bollywood projects. Why?
A. As of now, we want to take a break. And this concert is a part of that break. We want to chill, relax for couple of months and shall resume work again.

In sync with Strings

> One of the most popular bands to come out of Pakistan, Strings started way back in 1988 with Bilal Maqsood (vocals and guitar), Faisal Kapadia (vocals), Rafiq Wazir Ali (synthesiser) and Kareem Bashir Bhoy (bass). They rose to internatinal fame with the song Sar Kiye Yeh Pahar, which was part of the second album, Strings 2. The band, however, disbanded in 1992 to complete their education.

> The band made a comeback in 1999, but this time as a two-member piece featuring Bilal and Faisal. They released two more albums — Duur (2000) and Dhaani (2003), which were very popular in India. But it was their fifth and last album (so far) — Koi Aanay Wala Hai (2008) that made their comeback a success.

> Strings has a huge following in India, especially among college-goers and has performed at several college festivals. They have also sung for several Bollywood films.

> The band is currently the producer of the music-based Pakistani TV show, Coke Studio Pakistan.

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