A Great Pop Group
"The album was not as difficult to make as was spelling it" Bilal laughs. "The word 'Duur' meaning 'far' in English took us weeks of brainstorming to spell it right".
"I am a big fan of yours," said the Bollywood biggie Hrithik Roshan to Strings in a party at Javed Akhter's residence in Mumbai. The duo's jaw dropped at the revelation! Jeetendra, Anil Kapoor, Rakesh Roshan and Shabana Azmi present at the gathering also admired this band that has just recently become a sensation across the great Wagah divide. So have the Strings made inroads and started to penetrate the Indian cine industry yet?
"No," says lead singer Faisal Kapadia. "We are extremely lucky to be known and identified by the cine people, but Anu Malick has not yet asked us to work with him," he said smiling.
Lucky they are to have persuaded Javed Akhter to do lyrics for their album.
"Javed saheb has expressed his willingness to write the words for us, but the only hitch is that he works on complete albums and not just a few songs. Still we will see how this can be worked out," Faisal added optimistically.
When the quartet disbanded in '91, to the dismay of its fans, a reunion was destined with a more mature outfit. As teenagers Strings created ripples, by creating hits. But personal affairs led them to split and go their ways.
"We were young and confused," reminisces Faisal. "But just like our triumph was a collective group effort, the decision to break up also came from each one of us. Education was a priority, we shelved our musical instruments to become bookworms again. It was an agonizing decision but we all had to take that step!"
Faisal flew off to Houston to study business. Bilal, at that point in time, a budding painter, went to an art school to polish up his talent on canvas with paint and brushes. The next chapter after education was employment, and once employed, came along the hectic schedule and long working hours. Chances for a reunion seemed grim! Two of the earlier bandmates, Rafiq and Karim, decided not to continue with the band as they settled down to a new life. Had education and employment not intervened, would one be looking at a much bigger band today?
"I don't think so," says Bilal. "The time spent String-less has gone into maturing and learning more about dynamics of music. Frankly, the disbanding helped me acquire a broader spectrum and vision of life."
Faisal doesn't disagree either. His sheer drive never withered even when the band ceased to exist.
"I had a harmonium, tabla and a classical ustad building up my voice, morale and dreams (in this order) for a slow but sure re-entry into the business."
Music is an extension of Strings diverse personas. Their capacity for a comeback is testimony to their enduring power. When they struck again with a vengeance earlier this year, their detractors were startled. After weathering the seasons and after nuptials and parenthood, the Strings with the apparent lack of fire of youth, today are mature, hard-shelled musicians.
"We both gave up are respective jobs in pursuit of music," reveals Faisal. "I worked in the marketing department of a production unit where Bilal was serving as creative director. Soon after re-forming Strings both of us realized that this sort of work was neither our strength nor did we have time to dedicate ourselves to it." Signed resignations were then immediately left behind on tables from where Bilal and Faisal left for Duur.
To market Duur, their pessimistically titled third album, Strings are going round the world with Dame luck on their side with part free road shows for satellite channels and part-paid full-length concerts. Duur is doing phenomenal business.
"The album was not as difficult to make as was spelling it" Bilal laughs. "The word 'Duur' meaning 'far' in English took us weeks of brainstorming to spell it right."
They yet may not have been able to spell it a hundred per cent correctly but they have captured the success charts. Duur has taken Strings pretty to far flung lands such as England, America, Middle East and India! They have already performed alongside Adnan Sami Khan, Nitin Bali, Euphoria, Sukhdev, Hans Raj Hans, Baba Seghal and others on different occasions in Delhi and other cities. "Also we made it to the preliminary round of Govinda's Chapper Phar Ke but lost." Strings got a chance to express their versatility when Channel V approached them to record a song and video with singer Sagarika.
"It was a random affair," says Faisal. We composed, recorded and played to the rolling cameras with Sagarika." The video was later put on air by Channel V and grabbed second place on the Top Ten chart.
Strings mercurial rise to fame can be gauged from the fact that even Amitabh's parents came in person to meet them. Bilal cites it as the most hilarious incidence of his life.
"Namaste. I am Amitabh's father and this is Amitabh's mother" said an old man pointing towards his old wife to Bilal backstage before a concert in Mumbai. "We both are your fans," he added and Bilal leaped out of his skin in excitement. He immediately ran over to Faisal to tell him the news. "Yes I know they are Amitabh's parents," Faisal replied grinning, "Amitabh is one of the dancers of our entourage and not Amitabh Bachchan the actor."
He should have known better that nobody gets to know Mr Crorepati's folks so easily!
Bilal and Faisal of Strings claim that their wives don't get green with jealousy, blue with depression or red with anger when fans of the opposite gender approach them. On the contrary Bilal's wife Tina and Faisal's better half Seema, like their hubbies to mingle with female fans as they consider it the essential part and parcel of Strings stardom. Both the Strings men like to attribute every note of their success to their wives, kids and loving parents.