Why You Can’t Help But Love Strings

What set the Pakistani pop rock group — which disbanded after 33 years — apart was a fortuitous blend of timing and talent.

Imaan Sheikh

April 15, 2021

Why You Can’t Help But Love Strings
Strings performing live at Lahore University of Management Sciences in 2011 (Dewaar, via Wikimedia)

In a 2019 interview, musicians Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia of the Pakistani pop-rock band Strings revealed that they had added one of their most popular songs, “Sar Kiye Yeh Pahaar,” to their 1992 album, 2, as a filler. “It was very important for cassette tapes to have 60 minutes of music on them. We had 54,” said Faisal. So Bilal added a song he had written for someone he was in love with at the time. Even though Faisal was the lead vocalist, he let Bilal sing it. “It just sounded better in his voice,” he said.

Strings approached MTV Asia with the song and its music video, which they had shot and edited in a few days. MTV Asia loved it, and the band’s ascent to global popularity began. In neighboring India, the track took off swiftly and had people hooked. “People looked at us like we were U2 or something,” Bilal said. “They were playing it in all the clubs.”

It’s rare to find critics, and even rarer to find haters when it comes to Strings’s body of work. Strings’s magic appealed to an extraordinarily wide array of listeners — classical music lovers, pop-rock fans, those who gravitated towards softer sounds, and those who loved heavy electric. Men, women, and children; none were spared. Faisal and Bilal struck the balance of being just edgy enough for the youth, but also so tehzeeb-yafta (cultured) for older generations; the kind of boys your mom would want as her sons-in-law. And though women adored them, they weren’t aggressively, rockstar-ishly masculine. What set Strings apart was a fortuitous blend of timing, technique, and public personas that matched their musical ethos.