Duur comes from the two-member Pakistani band Strings, which follows in the footsteps of compatriots Junoon, best known in India for their track Siyonee. Strings was formed by four boys -- Bilal, Faisal, Rafiq and Karim - who released a single Sar kiye yeh pahar in 1992.
They remained inactive for eight years. Now, two members
from the original band, Bilal and
Faisal, have returned to release this 10-song album. Bilal plays the keyboard and the guitar, wihle Faisal is the band's voice.
Duur features their old hit, Sar kiye pahar, in a recast version. This love song rocks along with a pulsating, and almost trance-like, string backup. This is perhaps the only hint of "strings" on the album, although you could hear Indian "strings", the sarangi, in Ankhen, the last song. (Lest their name
confuse you, Strings is not a violinist band; you will hear a lot of the guitar in their music.)
The opening track gives you an idea of what is
in store: strong bass, pleasant, not-too-ambitious melodies,
predictable harmonies, and a singing style that is a mix of
"regional" inflexions and the progressions of "international" rock
and pop styles. Many Pakistani artistes have made a name for
themselves in India, from the genius-level Nusrat Fateh Ali to
one-song wonders like Jahangir Khan (of Hawa Hawa fame). Let's also not forget the
great ghazal singer Ghulam Ali, and younger pop stars like Adnan
Strings makes its appearance in India through Magnasound, which the band describes as a label keen on promoting non-film music.
Duur is the second track, and catches your
attention with some very Indian turns of phrase. (Pakistanis might object to this expression, and prefer to call it "subcontinental turns of phrase"!) Faisal sings confidently throughout the album, going up and down the octaves with ease (don't know if he did those low and high parts in separate takes). Trained in classical music, Faisal says modestly that he only executes Bilal's ideas.
Kuch to ho gaya changes the style of orchestra arrangement in the beginning, while Anjane exudes a rock energy in its guitar runs.
O jaane wale goes strong on beat, and the techno rhythm supports a rather more conservative style of music composing and singing. Perhaps without the techno beat, this would have touched the hearts of even listeners who don't set much store by machine-generated music.
Duur (Reprise) opens Side B, and is followed by Khwaab. The third number, Jaane do, is slower and is accompanied by the bansuri, which is led all the way by the guitar chords, and does not play any interlude music that is distinctive or composed specially for it. The song opens and closes with rain sound effects.
Khirki is a simple melody with simple words. The guitar goes off now and then into dissonant rock chords.
The opening in Ankhen, marked by distant sarangi sounds, makes you long for more quiet passages, but soon enough the track breaks into an unremitting beat.
Strings, like many new bands, seems tied down by the assumption that all songs must be "foot-tapping", which makes them load this album with heavy beats which turn even tender love songs into pounding dance numbers. With a lower drum level, this album could have showcased their considerable melody-making abilities. Their tunes sound intimate enough to lovers of good Indian film music, but the loud orchestra creates a distance.
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