Strings in California
By Ras H. Siddiqui
It has been almost three years since the musical duo of Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia popularly known as “Strings” last visited us here in the United States.
It seems that they have beaten the odds against two’s in music and have stayed together for over a decade now. The closest comparison to them would be “JoSH” the Canadian India-Pakistan duo who have made their impact worldwide, and the popular 1970’s and 80’s American performers “Hall and Oates” (we will ignore Milli Vanilli here for obvious reasons). Single acts and larger bands are the vogue in the music world today where duos remain a rarity especially in South-Asia. Strings have managed to buck that trend, are staying different and successfully so.
Since rejuvenating themselves in 1999 Bilal and Faisal have been busy indulging in a number of positives. Their album Duur in the year 2000 and Dhaani in 2003 established their permanent presence on the Pakistani music scene. But it was their impact in and from India that launched them within the Desi Diaspora worldwide. First and foremost was a “little song” that they sang for the Bollywood movie Zinda in 2006. One cannot comment too much on the movie (reportedly a copy of the South Korean Film “Oldboy” which itself had some Japanese roots), the song “Ye Hai Meri Kahani” was on our minds and lips and in our ears for quite a long time in both India and Pakistan. The song’s haunting lyrics written by Bilal’s father the legendary Anwar Maqsood still move some listeners.
Over the years the Karachi-based Strings have played music with Hariharan, Euphoria and Indian Ocean from across the border (just to name a few) and in Pakistan with just about every big name including Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Zafar, Shafqat Amanat Ali and Atif Aslam. Their performance at the Aman Ki Asha (a peace effort by the Times of India and Pakistan’s Jang Group) gathering in 2011 in Ahmedabad, India alongside Indian Ocean was certainly a memorable one.
Strings represent South Asia’s pop music genre. There is some infusion of classical trends but they have so far kept their music refreshingly light without overpowering the lyrics in their songs. But theirs is certainly not the diet version of pop. Neither Heavy Metal nor Bhangra, it is somewhat like fusion cuisine, made more delightful when the Eastern ingredients or spices take over the Western guitar and keyboard. Either way, it can be an enriching experience.
To conclude, Strings will be in California playing at least two concerts here in March. They will be performing at a charity event in San Jose on the ides of March for The Citizen’s Foundation, San Francisco Chapter ( http://www.tcfusa.org/San-Francisco-Chapter.php ). Their latest big hit is bound to be a major attraction there, a sad commentary on the current state of affairs in Pakistan. It offers much to ponder in its lyrics “Mein To Dekhoon Ga, Tum Bhi Dekho Ge, Jab Roti Sasti Ho Gi , Aur Mehngi Ho Gi Jaan” (Translated from Urdu: “I will see and so shall you, a time when bread will be cheap and human life much more expensive”).
Strings will certainly be pulling on many heartstrings with this one.