Strings Light up Many Hearts in Northern California
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Glimpses of the fundraiser organized by the San Francisco Chapter of the Developments In Literacy (DIL) and their junior partners, Your DIL, in the San Francisco Bay Area
The Developments In Literacy (DIL) organization’s San Francisco Chapter and their junior partners, Your DIL, collectively hosted a fundraising event in the San Francisco Bay area city of Palo Alto at the Spangenberg Theatre on Saturday, June 27, 2009. Over 500 people from all walks of life, predominantly of Pakistani descent but with a sizable Indian community presence, gathered here for a good cause; raising funds for DIL schools in Pakistan. The schools specifically target education for girls, especially in remote areas of the country. And with the inclusion of a performance by Strings, one of the premiere musical bands from Pakistan today, this effort also became a great deal of fun.
Strings have recently accompanied cricket legend Imran Khan on his latest quest in the US towards raising funds for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre. After performances in New York, Washington, and Texas, this Strings appearance in California was the end of this tour. And California Pakistanis and South Asian fans were more than happy to receive them since their last appearance here was in 2006.
Representatives from the Your DIL organizations welcomed everyone to the event. Singer, composer (and filmmaker) Fahad Ahmad from New York and his brother Faraz entertained the crowd as the opening act. A short video was also shown (Books Not Bombs) prepared by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times on education in Pakistan which focused in part on DIL schools, but ultimately the stage belonged to Strings.
Faisal Kapadia and Bilal Maqsood who make up the Strings core are two individuals that audiences have grown to take seriously (musically speaking). After the Vital Signs and Junoon, few Pakistani origin bands have caught our attention as Strings have. But none has yet surpassed the recognition that the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan had earned in America as the most successful entertainer from Pakistan.
A charged audience enjoys the performance by Faisal Kapadia and Bilal Maqsood
Strings put on quite a show. In the midst of dry ice-induced smoke, Bilal was commanding on guitar and Faisal on vocals, and kept everyone including themselves moving for over two hours. They started off with Akhri Alvida and journeyed through all their favorite numbers including Anjane/Na Janay Kiyoon, Yeh Hai Meri Kahani (Zinda Hoon for which there were several requests), Sir Kiye, and Durr, a special remembrance for the late Michael Jackson who had an incredible fan following in Pakistan. Koi Aanay Wala Hai was also played extremely well.
Strings did two other interesting things of note. Their tribute to the history of Pakistani pop music (from Nazia Hassan, Alamgir Sajjad Ali, Vital Signs, Junoon, etc.) through short presentations took listeners through quite a bit of memory lane. The other effort they made was a message of peace “Shanti” for all people of the world, especially Indians and Pakistanis.
It was quite hot in the theatre and Strings must have felt as if some kind of load-shedding had been arranged for everyone present who may be missing “back home”.
One missed the gannay ka ras (cold sugarcane juice) on the hot sultry evening amidst all the excitement of young Pakistani Americans, but for us old folks the musical salute to Pakistan’s cricket team which was recently crowned Twenty20 Cricket World Champions, was just as sweet. To the show sponsors, the Pakistan cricket team in absentia, and to Strings, a well-deserved thanks from all of us here for keeping the “DIL” (heart) lit.