The phenomenal turn out at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rally astounded many, but what stood out amongst that sea of supporters was a concert of sorts by Strings.
Social media was abuzz with both Strings and Shehzad Roy’s performance live at Minar-e-Pakistan. Strings has been largely apolitical in their music and stance, so it was surprising to see Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia come out again, they also sang at the dharna in Karachi, to make their voice heard (quite literally!) with their most poignant and socio-political song to date: “Mein Tou Dekhoonga”. The song seems to have become not only an anthem of hope but also, given its repeated play back at the PTI rally, an anthem for Imran Khan’s party as well. Gimic, strategy or heartfelt support, The Express Tribune catches up with Strings to ask if this shift in stance is here to stay.
When your song “Mein Tou Dekhoonga” initially got used by the PTI, you had stated that you were not part of the party and the song can be used by anyone hoping for change. Now the song is like an official anthem for the party. What made you guys change your mind? Are you officially members of PTI now?
No, we are not associated with any party and this song is not their official anthem. It’s just that Imran Khan really believes in the content of this song and wants it to be played in all his rallies. We support him because at the moment he seems to be our only hope. He might not be perfect but, one thing is certain, he is not corrupt and that’s the reason people are supporting him.
How different was the experience of the dharna from the Lahore Minar-e-Pakistan rally?
Minar-e-Pakistan was an entirely different experience. I was getting goose bumps while playing the song. The energy from the crowd was phenomenal. I was almost in tears, thinking that Inshallah tonight will bring about a change that will go down in history and Strings is a part of it.
Critics may slam your performances at rallies stating that this is real politics, not a mass entertainment event. How would you defend that claim?
The world has seen art as a very strong medium to bring about change. This is exactly what we are hoping for. Was Madam Noor Jehan entertaining our soldiers with “Aay Watan Kay Sajeelay Jawano”? Please critics, wake up! All these critics have their vested interests. We made this song for the people of Pakistan and that night we were singing it to them. The connection was immensely strong, we never felt anything like that before.
Do you think it is right for artistes (be it thespians or musicians) to participate in political activism so manifestly like Strings has in recent times?
We think it’s important for every Pakistani to take interest in Pakistani politics. Our country is going through tough times and only the people of Pakistan can pull it out of this turmoil. That night was a symbolic night. There was nothing theatrical about it. Whatever we did, came right from our hearts. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, if you believe in the cause. If we were charging to sing “Mein Tou Dekhoonga” at all the party jalsas, we would surely lose our respect and that is totally unacceptable for Strings.
There seems to be a sudden youth centric shift within Strings. Is this a conscious move, and to what end?
Yes it is true, the reason being that music cannot be made in isolation. It’s a product of your environment. We are all deeply affected by the current condition of our country. Right now our youth needs us. They need a direction. In these hard times of utter confusion and uncertainty, we hope to give them a direction through our songs.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2011.