More than 2,000 Pakistanis and Indians gathered under one roof in Dubai on Frida, November 28, taking turns cheering for their own teams. This wasn’t another cricket match, however. Instead it was quite possibly the most epic musical battle that the city had ever witnessed.
The Red Bull Soundclash in Dubai World Trade Centre brought together two of the most popular bands from India and Pakistan: Euphoria and Strings, respectively. Set up on opposing stages, they took on a series of musical challenges in a contest for crowd approval.
The musical facedown lasted almost four hours and left the crowd screaming for more. Somewhere around 2am, with the last bows taken, it was time to announce the winner of this musical clash. But before the evening’s MCs could do so, Palash Sen, a founding member and the lead singer of Euphoria, and Bilal Maqsood, the singer/guitarist from Strings, jumped in to say it would instead be a draw.
“Music can do what no amount of politics or diplomacy can do,” said Sen. “It unites people. That’s what it’s doing today.”
“And that’s why the only winner today is you guys,” concluded Maqsood, to deafening cheers from the crowd. “All of you who came to the concert today and who cheered for both Strings and Euphoria, whether you are from India or from Pakistan.”
After warming up, the pop rockers Strings and veteran rock band Euphoria played off each other for four rounds. The MCs for the evening, RJ Siddharth Vohra from the Indian music radio station City 101.6, and the Pakistani singer/actor Fakhr-e-Alam, measured audience response by the strength of their applause.
The bands serenaded the audience with some of their most popular numbers, as well as a few cover songs in their own distinct style. During the first round, "the bands took turns playing their own version of the popular Sufi qawwali Laal Meri Pat. For the second round, the bands cut back and forth to create an interesting medley of songs from their repertoire.
A round dubbed "The Clash" was perhaps the most well-received. The bands were given three genres each, to which they moulded and performed three of their most popular numbers. Strings brought the house down with an acoustic version of their original super hit, Sar Kiye Yeh Pahaar. The band asked management to turn off the concert hall lighting and the audience to fire up their mobile phone flashlights, so that "everyone can enjoy the song in the light of a thousand stars". Euphoria, known for mellow music, followed this act with some pretty impressive alternate versions of their songs, venturing into electronica and reggae.
The final round featured a surprise guest artist for each band. Both were female singers: India’s Sagarika for Strings and Pakistan’s Quratulain Balouch for Euphoria.