Bilal Maqsood shines a light on upcoming digital music series

November 15, 2020

Bilal Maqsood is doing what many musicians throughout the world have done. He is helming a new music series sans Strings brand and co-member Faisal Kapadia. But Strings is still intact. This is just a project Maqsood is helming by himself.

Funded by Velo Pakistan, it will be a digital music series and will not air on television. However, that shouldn’t matter given the ideas and the man behind the show as well as our proclivity to watch content online.

The last Strings album proved to be a success despite no corporate backing it or its music videos running endlessly on television. Nonetheless, it had good pop songs, beginning with ‘Sajni’ and ending with the underrated ‘Raat Shabnami’. It was a lesson in how Strings can still produce pop music after four years helming Coke Studio (from season 7 to 10) that has its own ethos.

Scheduled to release later this month, Bilal Maqsood spoke to Instep about what the digital show will entail. Rest assured, this will be the antithesis of the Coke Studio juggernaut that is threatening to appear later this year.

Also a co-judge on Pepsi Battle of the Bands during season 3 and 4 before moving on, Bilal Maqsood has pretty much seen it all.

Noted Bilal Maqsood when asked to delve into the new digital show, Bilal explained that the focus of the show will be on bringing back pop music that took a backseat with Coke Studio releasing certain kind of music.

“I was contacted by Velo about doing a music show. In Pakistan, a music show is almost always about imitating Coke Studio. But there was a genre in Pakistan called pop music that has vanished. It’s time for a revival. The last decade or so has been about fusion and folk.”

As Bilal explained, pop music has been a strong contender within Pakistani music. He added, “The upcoming show is about pop music and is very audio-visual in terms of dynamics. Pop fashion, for instance, is an underlying theme. The songs have a very performance-based element to them. There’s movement on the stage. There’s crowd all-around the stage and there’s energy.”

As for the artists and producers featured on the show, the focus is on a balance between emerging acts, popular artists and those who have not gotten enough limelight, irrespective of being seasoned artists/producers.

Every episode will include three songs per week. Among artists who are featured on the show include Shamoon Ismail, Abdullah Qureshi, Natasha Noorani, Sara Haider and Uzair Jaswal, confirmed Bilal.

Several songs are composed by Bilal Maqsood while some songs were brought to the show by the artists. Bilal noted that he had a team of producers with whom he worked on the songs. Among them are producers Sarmad Ghafoor, Shamoon Ismail, Haroon and Usman (from the band Aag) and Ahsan Pervaiz.

The landscape, according to Bilal Maqsood, is what Pakistani music used to be in the eighties but adapted in modern fashion. “You know, the sound on albums like the first two Strings albums, Vital Signs, Nazia and Zoheb Hassan albums but very current and modern.”

“It is not a complete reiteration of the eighties; it’s updated but the present music being made is also taking inspiration from the eighties.”

– Watch out for the digital series that is scheduled to launch on November 20, 2020.

A for Aleph launch Originals; publish
Doomsday Astronaut via A for Aleph Records

A for Aleph, the state of the art music facility that also offers an in-residency program, and is founded by musician Umair Dar, is always up to something interesting, almost groundbreaking. After launching the studio, they provided two weeks residency to Takatak during which they recorded their debut album, Acrophase.

Since then, A for Aleph has also launched A for Aleph Records, founded by Umair Dar and Anas Alam Khan with a slew of artists on their roster including the much cherished Malang Party.

Just recently, A for Aleph Records published Doomsday Astronaut, an instrumental debut album by “guitar virtuoso” Waqas Ahmed. It also features Sarmad Ghafoor, Irtaza Shafaat, Ovidiu Ban and Hassan Omer. With all music composed, arranged, programmed and produced by Waqas himself, watch this space for a review of the album.

This facility, which was setup by Bilal Nasir Khan (Rudoh) over a period of 8 months, has also launched original content. Their YouTube page is a treasure trove. Apart from introductions to several bands working with A for Aleph, there are videos of live music featuring The Sketches, Natasha Baig, Ali Akbar Razi Qawwal, Hamza Akram Qawwal, Ahsan Bari, Mirage (the band), Irfan Ali Taj and Aziz Kazi.

There’s also a video of Cosmic Fluid’s New Year’s Jam. If that doesn’t sound enticing, Aleph also has launched an initiative called Aleph Originals.

So far, two tracks have been released called ‘Qurb’ and ‘Rivers’ with both tracks featuring legendary drummer Gumby. The latter features poetry by Allama Iqbal and the two songs feature a combination of some of the brightest musicians in the country. There are also BTS videos for those who are curious enough. 

Bilal Maqsood shines a light on upcoming digital music series