The time is now

Only a few existing bands can boast of a career spanning two decades in the Pakistan music industry. Though thick and thin, and lifetimes of many rock bands, Strings have been a venerable force at the heart of our modern music industry.
 Similarly, Atif Aslam has set himself apart from the rest of the pack. After a tumultuous breakup with Jal the band, he has gone on to make his own mark in the music world — in Pakistan and beyond. Now the two powerful entities join forces to release Ab Khud Kuch Karna Paray Ga, a music video (or anthem) describing the current situation and state-of-affairs of our country.

The band wrote the song keeping in mind that it would be a collaboration, and the only person that they had in mind was Atif Aslam. It was his broad appeal as a musician which created the interest — and working with the young musician proved to be worthy experience. Speaking of collaboration, there was one more person Strings was very eager to work with: director Jami.

Both Bilal and Faisal praise Jami’s understanding of the vision of Strings, “Jami is a part of Strings. He understands our ideas and tastes; and most of the time our concepts are very similar,” said Bilal.

Jami reciprocates by saying, “Strings are family, I just can’t say no to them.” He added that they approached him with an idea about doing something for Pakistan in terms of an anthem or a message. “We decided to go completely basic with this video because that’s the only way the concept could have come across. The video features powerful imagery that we haven’t re-created — and instead got from news channels.”

The video of Ab Khud Kuch Karna Paray Ga is very simple but hard-hitting in terms of content. The band and Atif are shot in and around Karachi buildings. It’s kinda old-school like that which is pretty reminiscent of the times when music videos were just that — shot around Karachi with just the band singing along.

The truly stirring stuff is when we see the news footage: suicide blasts, violence, corruption, etc. Granted it may be clich├ęd but that is exactly what the band wanted. “We always show the pretty side of Pakistan in most of our music videos and never the real stuff,” said Faisal. “I think we need to face reality and face our problems,” Bilal added. “Strings have always been a very romanticist band, we’ve never been politically charged — until now.”

“Currently we have quite a few problems which led to the decision of what to show and what not to show. We didn’t want it to be overtly graphic that people would just be turned off by it,” said Jami. “So we selected a couple of shots just to get the message across.”

And what about the message? “The video itself doesn’t have a concept — it’s a neeyat for all of us. The band had this idea of what it was going to be and it was pretty clear to them; we need to do something for Pakistan and we need to do it now,” said the director.

“The easy way out right now,” Bilal added, “would be to go abroad and make music. We’ve done that. But now because of what’s happening here, we’re staying right here.”

However the band admits that because of the current conditions of the music industry, it is now relying on the most powerful medium of them all: the music video (and in part television) to spread their music. “Our focus is music videos now. Simply because it is more effective than churning out a 10-song album. With albums you tend to spread yourself too thin, so we’ve decided to focus on releasing singles — and it is better to have your attention on one project or song at one time so that you get a better results.”

Faisal Kapadia added, “Also the current situation is very bleak. On all levels, whether it’s the music industry or the political landscape. All we hear is people talking about change and not actually taking that first step to change. Music videos like these can inspire a first step in people. And it doesn’t have to be a violent first step.”

In Ab Khud Kuch Karna Paray Ga the content featured is from actual footage which might give it an extra edge in terms of credibility — but will it do good with the masses? The initial response to it is mixed; some love it outright whereas others call its rawness as mediocre.

However, Strings, Atif and Jami are very serious about this music video and its message. Are we seeing a music revolution in the making? Only time will tell. “We’re working on another single at the moment,” said Bilal. “It’s going to be even bolder in terms of concept.”

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