It is the return of the two infallible Pakistani musicians, Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia, collectively known as Strings. Their new album is even better than their previous outings and is already sizzling up the charts all over the sub-continent.
Mag4you.com thought it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with the band and get an update on their latest achievements.
You have released your new album, Koi Aanay Wala Hai, after a hiatus of 4 years. Why take such a long break?
It usually takes us around three years each time. After Durr, it took us 3 years for Dhaani and now around 4 years for the new album. The main reason for such a delay was that we were doing a lot of concerts. We like to perform live songs from our album for our audience all over the world. Also, one needs to get into the mode of working on the new album. So we were making songs while we were touring and after the melodies were ready, we went into the studio to record them. We know it took us quite a while but we are happy with the results.
Describe Koi Aanay Wala Hai in your own words.
We wanted to explore new avenues with it so that's why we wanted to have a new sound. A new sound doesn't mean that we are totally away from the Strings' sound but it's very important for us musicians to grow and that's what we have tried to achieve in this album. This is a positively hopeful album and has very uplifting songs. Earlier tracks such as Zinda, Akhri Alvida, Najane Kyoun and Beirut were very dark songs and as musicians, we wanted to go in a different direction. The lyrics in this album are amazing and you will also find a difference in arrangements. Koi Aanay Wala Hai has a very strong ”Strings” feel, but tracks like Aik Do Teen and Jago are very different. Then numbers like Titliyan, Kehdia, Humsafar and Sone Do have an entirely different feel to them. We wanted to try something new and we are thankful to God that we were able to achieve that.
How has the response to your new album been?
Who has written the lyrics?
Anwar Maqsood has written all the lyrics. He is the best and we are really fortunate to have him with us. It’s our third album with him and, over the years, we have formed a great relationship with him as a band/team together. It's always fun working with him.
How is it different from your last two albums?
Duur was recorded in a phase where we hadn't recorded an album in 8 years. Hence, it had a pure studio feel to it. After the launch of Duur, we got back into the music scene and that resulted in an interaction with our fans. It was a big change for us as it broadened our scope. After Dhaani, we traveled so much that our personalities experienced a massive change and so did our interaction with the fans. All these changes had a great impact on our music and that began to show in it. You will definitely realize our optimistic approach in this album as compared to the last two.
How many videos do you plan to shoot this time around?
Videos have become very important these days because television is the most popular medium. There was a time when radio used to be very popular. It was followed by a phase where cassettes were very popular. Nowadays, people like to watch videos on TV so it's very important to make videos. We find it important to make a maximum number of videos to stay on screen. We have already shot three videos and are planning to shoot another three in the near future.
How was it working with John Abraham on the video of KAWH?
Over the years, we have become great friends with John so it's always enjoyable working with him. It's always good fun.
Beirut was a satire on the brutal bloodshed of innocent people. How did you come up with the idea of the track? Did you actually visit the city?
Beirut was not only about Beirut, the city. It was basically about the whole world where innocent people are suffering and dying. It related to all the places like Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kashmir, etc. As a popular figure, it is the responsibility of every individual to reach to the masses with a message through music. We really don't know what sort of lives our children will be getting after 20-25 years due to the lack of peace and harmony.
After the massive success of title tracks for the movies, Zinda and Shootout at Lokhandwala, are you planning to compose melodies for any other Bollywood movies?
Actually, we wanted to take a break after both these movies as we had to focus on our album. For any band/artiste, it is very important to work consistently on their albums, which are their sole purpose. Due to these movie soundtracks, our attention got diverted and hence we took a lot of time to complete our new album. So we gave these projects a break and worked solely on our new album and videos. Once we are done with all this, we shall definitely work on other projects.
You were a part of the Olympic torch bearing ceremony held in Islamabad. How was the feeling?
It was superb. The Olympics is one such event that we've been watching since our childhood. We remember we used to watch the ceremony at whatever country it was held and would be excited to see people holding the legendary torch. And one day we got to know that the same torch is coming to our homeland and we have been chosen amongst the few people who'd be holding it. It was a big achievement for us.
You've dealt with the Indian market most sensibly. What advice would you give to other young bands moving to India?
It's important for any band to first have a strong hold in your own country and then go to any other country. If an artiste is appreciated in his homeland, he gets respect wherever he performs in the world. International focus is necessary but one should first focus on the local music scene.
How did you get involved with the endorsement of a guitar company?
It was a great honour for us as a band when they signed up Strings as the first sub continental band on the opening of their office in India. They have now signed many other bands/solo acts and I think it's great to see an international guitar company working in this part of the world to promote young artistes and their music.
And Bilal must be enjoying this to the fullest?
Bilal: Oh yeah! (Smiles)
Strings are also an ambassador for HIV-AIDS. How do you feel about it and how did this collaboration come into being?
This is also a big honour for us. UNICEF is a very big world organization which deals with HIV-AIDS and many other social problems. They approached us in the summer of 2005 as they wanted us on board. Again, it becomes a social responsibility for anyone who has the power to reach the masses to spread a social message. If we don't do so, then the popularity is no good. When UNICEF approached us with the offer, we immediately decided to do it. Since HIV-AIDS is a global threat, especially to the youth and our fan base is mostly the youth around the world, we decided to go with it. Our role is to create awareness about HIV-AIDS in simple words. We go to small towns, schools all around Pakistan where we provide awareness of this disease.
What is your view of the current music scene?
The Pakistani music scene will hopefully have a rocking 2008. Unfortunately, we couldn't see much of music last year because of a lack of album releases but this year promises to be very special as many albums will be releasing. I think it's a very important year and fans will be listening to some really good music.
What are your views on the launch of so many music channels? Are they serving music positively?
Absolutely! The Pakistani music scene is definitely benefiting from the launch of these channels. When music channels play Pakistani music, its reach increases. Although last year was quite dull, this year, channels will have more software content to play.
What is your stand on piracy?
Piracy is definitely illegal and is something that no one should encourage. It's sad that digital piracy is growing very fast and somehow people don't realize that digital piracy is also a crime. When we are downloading a song from a website, it is the same as a theft.
Do you believe in competition?
Absolutely! Competition is very important. However, there is no competition in music. Even if there is competition, it's very healthy!
How was the experience of performing at the recent SAARC Music Festival in India?
It was tremendous. The crowd was young and energetic and enjoyed a lot. We have performed at a lot of shows in India and worldwide but this show was special due to many reasons. The first obviously was the fact that we were representing Pakistan officially, having the national flag behind us, and secondly, the crowd response was simply irresistible and we thoroughly enjoyed our performance.
How important a role does music play in bringing peace and harmony between India and Pakistan?
We think music is playing a major role in spreading the message of peace. At the SAARC event, there were around 10,000 people at the venue and when we urged them to shout "Pakistan", they all chanted in unison. This is the strength of music and a band like Strings has achieved a feat that a politician using his politics hasn't ever!
What is your opinion about the joint efforts of the government of Pakistan and India in bringing peace and harmony through music, sports etc?
We have seen a lot of changes in the past 8 years after the release of Duur. There is so much exchange happening in music and we find it great. Both the governments are doing a phenomenal job in strengthening relations.
What is Strings' biggest professional achievement?
There are so many of them that it's hard to choose amongst them. However, a few are very close to us, such as the Spiderman soundtrack, UNICEF, the Olympic Torch relay, etc.
Who are your favourite artistes/musicians?
Kishore Kumar, R.D. Burman, Coldplay, U2 and Abida Parveen.
You have performed all across the globe. Where have you enjoyed yourselves the most?
There are so many to name! But one of the most memorable ones would be the Dhaka, Bangladesh, concert which had an attendance of 45,000 people.
What are your future plans?