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Text: Bijoy Venugopal. Photographs: Jewella C Miranda

From Duur to Dhaani

"With India it's different. Ek tarah ki responsibility aa jaati hi aapke upar to help promote the peace process. Because you come from Pakistan, you become the centre of everybody's focus. People expect a lot from us here, and likewise when we go back to Pakistan. When we come here we interact with a lot of Indians and give them a true picture of Pakistan -- not what you see on television, but what Pakistan [really] is." -- Bilal Maqsood (left)

"If you rewind ten years and talk about India to any Pakistani, he will not know about economics or about places in India because there were no ties between our countries. All he would know are Amitabh Bachchan and Bollywood. Even in India, when we ask people what they know about Pakistan, they know [the television dramas] Tanhaiyaan or Ankahi or

  [actor-comedian] Omar Sharif and [singers] Mehdi Hasan and Ghulam Ali. These people are our cultural ambassadors. There is always cricket, but for the last eight or ten years we have had no major series, until recently. Music, drama and television -- these are the common factors that will bring about peace between India and Pakistan." -- Faisal Kapadia (right)

Thirteen years before their latest album Dhaani was released, Maqsood and Kapadia met as collegians in Karachi. As teenagers with a passion for composing and performing their own songs, they formed a band. Strings then included two other members -- Rafiq Wazir Ali on keyboard and Karim Bhashir Bhoy on bass. They released two albums as a quartet.

Sar kiyae yeh pahar, from their second album Strings 2 (1992), became a rage in Pakistan. Satellite television sneaked it across the border to India, where it was merrily pirated and became widely popular.

The band soon parted ways to pursue other priorities. Kapadia went on to study business in Indiana, USA, and Maqsood went to art school in Karachi. Later, Kapadia got involved in the family business while Maqsood pursued a career making television commercials. The others opted out of music.

"In 1992, Bilal sold his guitar. We sold all the equipment we had," recalls Kapadia. "We were in constant touch, but we were not making music."

Eight years later he sat listening to Maqsood, who still composed for himself, as he sang the first bars of Duur. "It was just that initial melody... Du-uuu-uur!" he says. "Soon, we were sitting together and singing again. I felt we had the dedication to make a new album. We found that this was something that could give us dedication to make a new album. This song was the destination, the path we wanted to take."

Duur, the album, shot them up the charts in Pakistan. "People understood we were not one-hit wonders. We were now more comfortable with each other. We were more focused, more mature," says Kapadia.

"And we had tremendous support from our families," Maqsood chips in.

Duur: The distance. Maqsood and Kapadia knew they had come a long way.

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