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Pop Band from Karachi



Strings is an internationally acclaimed Pakistani pop band comprising two members. The band was formed when four college students-Bilal Maqsood, Faisal Kapadia, Rafiq Wazir Ali and Kareem Bashir Bhoy-decided to form a band in 1988 in Karachi. In 1992, the quartet disbanded only to make a comeback with two of its members, Bilal and Faisal later in 2000. While the initial band was riding on the new wave of Pakistani pop music, the later formation ushered a new revival in the music industry of Pakistan.

Kapadia and Maqsood followed in the footsteps of Junoon and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and took their act across the border to India only to realise they already were a recognised band in the country as remixes of one of their earliest songs were played in clubs. As ambassadors for Pakistani pop music, the duo set out to conduct concerts all over the world henceforth.

Acclaimed world over for their stringed rhythms, their songs are praised not only for being melodious but having a strong poetic sense to them. Penned by Anwar Maqsood, Bilal's father, the lyrics of their songs always carry a deep meaning with them. Anwar has been writing lyrics for the band since its re-formation.

Where Kapadia is the lead vocalist for the band, Maqsood acts as the composer, guitarist and at times does vocals for a few songs. To play live at concerts, both the members have hired Adeel on the lead guitar, Shakir on the bass guitar, Haider on keyboards and Qaiser on drums, an entourage ensemble that travels with them to various international concerts at times.

The initial quartet (1988 - 1992)

The late-1980s saw pop music in Pakistan grow by folds and newer artists began emerging on the scene. Shalimar Television Network (STN), the only channel in the country, other than Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV), launched a show titled Music Channel Charts to highlight new talent. In Karachi however, things were shaping up rapidly and people idolising veteran singers like Nazia and Zoheb, Alamgir and Muhammad Ali Shehki were keen to ride the new wave of Pakistani pop music.

At the Government Commerce College in Karachi, Maqsood, Kapadia, Rafiq and Kareem, four classmates formed a band. With influence from Maqsood's father, the well-renowned Anwar Maqsood's pen, the band performed songs on his lyrics. By the mid-1990, with help from Mansoor Bukhari, head of EMI Group in Pakistan, the band had come up with a self-titled album Strings under the EMI label. Their initial effort experimenting with synthesized sounds and rhythms was not recognised instantly although it is reported that their first album sold 20,000 copies in its first week on sale. The band however had other things on mind, and they fixated their focus on finishing their studies.

Maqsood joined an art school, while Kapadia traveled to the Houston, Texas to continue his business studies. Little is known of the other two members of the band but it is understood they continued their studies as well. The disbanding of the group came as a mutual decision amongst all the members. Two years later, the band members were to meet again and give their passion for music another try.

First breakthrough (early 1990s)

In 1990, the band came up with a follow-up album titled String 2. Maqsood realising that the band needed more exposure, advised that a music video be shot. He himself took charge of the direction of the video for the song, "Sar Kiye Yeh Pahaar" and handed it to the STN to be aired on their show. The video was played for a minute on the channel in their hour long show and with not many new videos from competing artists, Maqsood's directorial debut was an instant success. This decision proved beneficial and Sar Kiye Yeh Pahaar became a nation-wide hit overnight. In its most primitive form, the video and the song created a phenomenon in the local music industry and the band scored hits after another, played shows and enjoyed the lifestyle of the post-80s pop stars. The hype was short-lived and the quartet soon disappeared from the face of the Pakistani pop. Kapadia returned to USA while Maqsood got himself a job in an advertising agency as the creative director.

Comeback and Duur (2000)

Strings third album Duur was an instant hit in India where their reputation preceded them.

It had almost been eight years since the band had last seen fame and their prolonged hibernation it seemed had erased the marks they had left on the music industry disappeared. Maqsood continued his work as a creative director at the advertising firm and had also involved Kapadia in the creative process as well. Kapadia served at marketing department for a production cell in the same company. Both had married and had children; they had forsaken music for family lives still sharing a passion for it.

The year 2000 saw another shake in the Pakistani music industry and the duo saw an interest in joining the bandwagon. Rafiq and Kareem weren't accessible and decided not to continue with the band not because of in differences but because they had settled down in their new lives. Maqsood and Kapadia then decided on forming the band within themselves. Reforming the band meant they could not continue with their respective jobs. Upon counsel amongst each other, they placed their resignation in pursuit of music.

They recorded a song, "Duur" and the duo asked their friend Jamshed Mehmood, known to them as Jami, to direct the video for the song. In the events to follow the later years, Pakistan banned channels from across the border broadcasting from India and only allowed the few Pakistani channels to be broadcast on the cable network. In the aftermath private television networks took on the task to fill the void and soon new music channels were introduced in the country. The video for "Duur" was distributed to all the stations that aired on the tube and became an instant hit hailing their comeback.

Ushering a new revival (2001-2003) and Dhaani (2004-2007)

While Strings enjoyed huge success in Pakistan, they were oblivious to the fact that their earlier hit Sar Kiye Yeh Pahaar was being played in India in a remixed version in clubs and had gained them a repute over the years. When their new video was played on music channels in India, they were easily recognizable as the two who performed the earlier song and the song "Duur" became even more famous across the border. They launched Duur under the Magnasound label, who had previously launched pop stars like Baba Sehgal and Remo Fernandes.

The realization that Pakistani pop songs had a cult following in India ushered a new sense of revival and encouragement for the now established artists in the country. The local Pakistani music channels boasted this appeal and soon singers from every corner of the nation stood up to participate in collaborating with their counterparts from the neighboring nation.

Strings had been traveling to India for quite some time and playing gigs alongside established bands like the New Delhi-based band Euphoria. It was when after 14 years the Indian cricket team toured Pakistan that the electronics major Samsung invited Strings to record a song with Euphoria in India titled Jeet Lo Dil that they got their first major cross-border breakthrough. The song became the official anthem for the tournament. Toured all over India with Channel V performing on songs from their album Duur and the new anthem with Euphoria. They were warmly received by the Indian crowds and in the course of their time in India, the band members got in touch with some of the most reputed singers of the nation to feature them on their next album. In the process, Strings affiliated with Hariharan and Sagarika daCosta to work on songs for their next album Dhaani. With their success in India, Columbia Records approached them to launch their new album and they accepted their offer.

In a show called "Jammin" on Channel V, the duo were invited to join alongside Sagarika to perform on a song called Pal. Just like the earlier venture Jeet Lo Dil, this song was written, composed, recorded in both audio and video formats in a matter of three days. The duo later recorded their song Bolo Bolo but thought it would be nice if they could invite Hariharan to sing on the track as well and they then rerecorded the song to include Hariharan. Both the collaborations were eagerly awaited for by their fans and were cheerfully received.

Their efforts payed off and they were invited to play at the Hard Rock Cafe in Dubai for an unplugged session which rose them to fame outside India and Pakistan. Their biggest endeavour was yet to come though.

From Spider-Man to Zinda

In June 2004, before they could record their next song, Najaney Kyun, Strings were approached by the heads at Columbia TriStar Films of India, a sister company to their record label company to include the song in the soundtrack of the Urdu version of the epic Hollywood blockbuster Spider-Man. With their massive presence in the Indian pop music scene, Strings were mistaken for an Indian band.
Screenshot from their music video of Koi Aanay Wala Hai.

Soon afterwards, they were approached by an Indian director shooting Zinda, a remake of the classic South Korean film Oldboy to do a soundtrack. Maqsood composed a song titled Yeh Hai Meri Kahani for the movie. For the video, the duo had to act alongside two A-list actors from Bollywood. It was here that the duo became good friends with John Abraham and Sanjay Dutt and would later appear in more ventures together.

Gibson deal (2007) and Koi Aanay Wala Hai (2008-present)

Late in 2007, Strings struck a deal with Gibson Guitar Corporation, becoming the first South Asian band in history to create a working relationship with the famed guitar manufacturers. According to the deal, Strings will exclusively use Gibson guitars during concerts, studio recordings and music videos. Furthermore, Strings will act as brand ambassadors to Gibson. In return, Gibson will sponsor the varied endeavors of the band and also provide concert halls and equipment as and when required.

In 2008, Strings come up with their fifth album "Koi Aanay Wala Hai" which was a hit in both Pakistan and India. Their video the single, of "Koi Aanay Wala Hai" featured Bollywood actor John Abraham.

The Pakistani version of the album also contained the soundtracks from "Shootout at Lokhandwala" and "Zinda", the two Bollywood movies, which were "Aakhri Alvida" and "Zinda Hoon".
Popularity outside Pakistan

Strings is one of the few Pakistani bands/singers to achieve international fame. Their popularity is attributed to the significantly different approach to their music and lyrics. Other singers of international repute include the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Junoon, Nazia Hassan and Vital Signs.

Where Fateh Ali Khan was actively promoting Qawwali music and Junoon rock music, Strings approached their music with a little tint of Pakistani pop with classical music and combined with rhythms from stringed instruments. Junoon and Vital Signs had only been famous in the United States of America with a significant following in Europe, whereas String took their gigs to India, all over Asia and the Middle East, and the rest of the world making Pakistani pop music a truly remarkable genre.

Even in areas like Nepal that are dominated by influence from their neighbouring India, Strings proved to be the most favourite band amongst crowds. So were they popular in Asia that they were given an award for being Asia's most favourite band at the MTV Asia Awards.

Strings won "Best Band Award" - MTV Music Awards 2009.
Strings won "Best Album Award" - MTV Music Awards 2009.
Strings from Pakistan have been nominated Torch Bearers for The Olympic Games, 2008.
Strings have become Motorola Brand Ambassadors for Pakistan.
Won an award for the "Best Live Act In Music" at Lux Style Awards 2008.
Won an award for the "Most Wanted Band" at The Musik Awards 2008.
Won an award for the "Best Lyrics AAKHARI ALVIDA" at The Musik Awards 2008.
Won the "Best Artist Award" at MTV Asia Awards. They were nominated as an Indian band as they sang the title song "Zinda" for an Indian film Zinda.
Won "The Musik Icon of 2006" award.
Won an award for "Best Video" for their video of the song "Anjaane" at the Lux Style Awards 2003.
Won an award at the Lux Style Awards 2004.
Won an award for "Best Band" at the first Sangeet Awards ceremony held at Royal Albert Hall.
Won the Indus Music Award 2005 for extensive contribution to the pop music industry.
Won MTV Asia's "Most Favourite Band" award 2005.
Won an award for the "Best Band" at the Third Jazz Indus Music Awards.
Won an award for the "Best Lyrics 'Zinda'" at the Third Jazz Indus Music Awards.

Other Projects

"Beirut", an anti-war video. Launched 28 September 2006
Soundtrack for Shootout at Lokhandwala (2006)
"Zinda Hoon" as Original Soundtrack for Zinda (film) (Sung by Faisal Kapadia, Bilal Maqsood, Sanjay Dutt and John Abraham. Composed by Bilal Maqsood)
"Najanay Kyoun", Original Soundtrack for Spider-Man 2
Hai Koi Hum Jaisa (Pakistani cricket team's Official World Cup Song) 2003
Tu Hai Kahan (A project by PepsiCo featuring Junaid Jamshed, Haroon and Strings) 2001

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