How Pakistani musician Faisal Kapadia remains true to singing

The composer, singer-songwriter, and guitarist talks about his new album and what he has in store for his fans

By Sadiq Saleem

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Published: Thu 21 Mar 2024, 4:19 PM

In an industry where many musicians diversify their careers by stepping into acting or other entertainment realms to maintain relevance, Faisal Kapadia has remained unwaveringly true to his first love: singing.

His passion to his craft is evident in his three decades long journey with 'Strings', a band that became synonymous with pioneering pop music in Pakistan and across borders. Following the band's breakup, Kapadia embarked on a solo venture with his album Zindagi Jahan Le Jaaye. The album marks a new chapter in his illustrious career, receiving widespread acclaim and proving that his magic touch in music continues to resonate with listeners. Faisal Kapadia's story is not just one of musical genius but also of a relentless commitment to his art, making him a revered and enduring figure in the pop music landscape. The Dubai based pop icon recently spoke to City Times.

Excerpts from an edited interview:

In today's world, success is often quantified by the number of downloads, likes, and shares. Do you think it’s the right way to gauge a song’s true impact?

You’re right. The world has changed and so have the methods. Top 100 Billboard charts were the gold standard before. While these metrics offer a glimpse into a song's immediate impact, I believe they don't fully capture the slow organic success because music has this unique ability to evolve and deepen its connection with listeners over time. For me personally, if my music touches the lives of those who listen to it; if my work can find a special place in someone's heart or become a part of their life's soundtrack, then I've succeeded.

Do you ever face a creative block when it comes to compositions? How do you overcome it?

Surrounded by inspiration, from internal ideas to external observations, and with a wealth of existing music to draw from, I rarely encounter creative blocks. Sometimes, a single line, word, melody, note, or instrument can spark inspiration. In today's vibrant world, there's always something to fuel creativity, you just need to be an avid observer.

Listeners are already showing admiration for the songs Dheema Dheema and Ankh Mori. Tell us a little more about the songs and the collaborations you did with other artists.

Dheema Dheema is a personal favourite. Basically, it is the highlight of this album. Initially I was inclined to name this album Dheema Dheema but then I felt Zindagi Jahan Le Jaaye feels more appropriate. Aankh Mori is a raag based song and I always wanted to work in this raag and I experimented it with modernity so it is relevant in today’s time. I had a great time working with my co-artists Zohan and Amna Rai. They were just amazing. I also worked on La Takhoun with Krystel Dib from Lebanon and on Hum Na Rahay with Zoha Zuberi and had a great time collaborating with these amazing artists. There's always so much you can learn through collaborations.

Faisal Kapadia with Abida Parveen
Faisal Kapadia with Abida Parveen

Seasoned musicians have the ability to craft a tune almost instinctively. When you settle in to compose, how do you decide that this particular tune is the one that truly stands out?

Whether I'm with my instrument or just humming along to the rhythm in my head, tunes tend to emerge almost effortlessly. It's the magic of being a composer, I suppose. However, the real challenge lies in choosing which tunes to develop further. It's a bit of a dance, really—sometimes you step in perfect time, selecting the tune that resonates deeply, and other times, you might miss a beat, choosing one that doesn't quite fit. But that's the beauty of music; it's not about right or wrong. It's about being true to yourself, pouring your heart into the melody. And just like that, with a dash of honesty, a song comes to life.

For someone who is used to so much noise, do you crave silence sometimes?

We all crave it, don't we? In the midst of noise, finding clarity and focus becomes a challenge. Silence, on the other hand, offers us the space and chance not only to disconnect from the immediate distractions but also to dive deeper and reflect. Given the nature of our work, where we're either performing in front of an audience or lost in music through our earbuds, silence becomes a precious commodity in our lives.

A lot of Pakistani pop songs are lifted without being given due credit. What are the steps one must take to ensure that it doesn’t happen?

In the past, there were numerous instances where songs were used without proper attribution. However, in today's digital age, it has become significantly harder to borrow a song without giving credit. Digital platforms such as YouTube employs software to detect borrowed compositions. People are now legally obtaining rights to redo a song. For example, the song Pasoori from Coke Studio was re-recorded by T-Series, but only after they had acquired the necessary license.

The Gharana culture has diminished over the years. How do singers nurture themselves without having mentors in person? Do veterans like you not feel the need to intervene?

I think today's generation is benefiting a lot more than before. Earlier, there were just few Ustaads around us but today we have unlimited coaching and information available online. Whether you are interested in classical music or western classical, rock or jazz, its all out there. People who have the will and dedication to learn, will find the way to brush their skills.

You are based out of Dubai. Does it hinder or support the creative collaborations in your home country?

Dubai is very close to Karachi. It’s like you are living in Lahore or Islamabad. All my life I’ve lived in Karachi so it’s a two-hour flight. And in today’s digital era, even if you are in the same city, sometimes you don’t meet and get your job done virtually. Back in 2003, Hariharan Sahab contributed his vocals from Mumbai to our track Bolo Bolo via a wave file. Two decades later, technology has advanced so much that distance hardly feels like a barrier. Additionally, living in Dubai offers unparalleled security, making it a wonderful place to be.

Sadiq Saleem is a Dubai-based writer and can be contacted on his Instagram @sadiqidas


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