Saturday, October 25, 2003

Get real

cover story

A few decades ago, the concept of a little wooden box with a screen that showed 'pictures in motion' was the center of a lot of ridicule. Soon it changed into awe, as the same people who'd been making fun of it, now stood (or rather sat) glued to it! As time went by, sitcoms, soap operas, movies, sports and even the news took command of the waves…but things were about to change!

And before everyone even knew what had hit them, the reality television trend was in full swing…airing at all time of the day…on all channels…in all countries!

No really!

Survivor, The Amazing Race, Idols, Big Brother, The Real World, 1900 House…they come with all sorts of weird names and double it up with totally weird ideas! But, for most of such series, the people on these shows aren't celebrities…at least at the time when the show starts. They are just ordinary people, 'plucked from obscurity' who will be known country wide, if not world wide, by the time it ends!
It is generally observed that a movie or show with a star-studded cast is, more often than not, a hit. So if there are no celebrities in most of the reality TV shows, then just what has made these shows so popular?

The Real Deal

A reason for reality TVs success could be that the whole idea was new and fresh and a change from the same old rut of the regular TV shows was a welcomed change! Another reason could be all the hype that came as a result of the first reason! And, well, the absence of celebrities could've helped in making these shows a success. How? People view the contestants of these shows as 'real' people, not someone playing it out for the cameras (though it can be argued that these people ARE playing it out for the cameras but we'll just leave it at that!). The viewers can relate to the people they see on the screen. With some of these shows having 24 hour or daily coverage, the viewers get to be a part of the experience…

But there's another major cause why reality TV has been so immensely popular around the globe…it's interactive! Though this may not hold for all of these shows, but with series like Idols and Big Brother, the viewers get to vote for the people they want in the show and the people they want evicted! Neat, don't you think?

So which reason is it? Or is it a bit of all of these? Whatever it maybe, no one can contest the fact that reality TV is big all around the world! All around the world, that is, except maybe in Pakistan!

Ground Reality

So many countries have organized reality shows and now these shows have even been held on a continental level, but just why didn't the whole reality TV trend kick off in our country? The main reason could be the kind of interaction (like for instance 12 strangers living together in one house sharing rooms and all) that cannot be acceptable in this country…and even in some other countries for that matter! (Malawi went as far as banning Big Brother Africa earlier this year - a decision that had to be overturned later!)

The amount of investment and the security measures that would have to be taken could be another factor for no reality TV in Pakistan. Is any channel willing to risk heaps of cash to start a reality show when they aren't even sure the public will respond to it? Apparently not…

And there has been the long-standing accusation again these TV shows, which has been going against them: Rigging! It is generally believed that all such shows are fixed. Ever since Survivor 1, we've been hearing that the management of the show told some contestants whom they should vote to evict. Did they rig the show? Is Big Brother fixed? Who checks which part of the world voted for which contestant? Do they even tally the votes anyway? Same with Idols…do the viewers choose the idols or is it the record company that will give them the recording deal in the end? So who knows what's actually going on? It is television no matter what name you give to it…is there any reality involved anyway? Should we just watch the news if want to see something real? Wait…is the news real?

As 'real' as it gets

Real or not, reality TV is here and it looks like it's here to stay! So, how long do you think it'll be before we have Survivor Pakistan? A friendly advice: don't hold your breath! ;)

Reality Check

Some of the most popular Reality TV shows are:

  • Big Brother: A group of people, who are complete strangers before the show, are locked up in a house for a certain number of days (usually a couple of months) and asked to do tasks that range from entertaining to totally wacky! The viewers vote to evict one housemate every week (or whatever the interval has been set to) and in the end one housemate walks away with loads of cash while other have to make do with *the experience*! Big Brother (Netherlands, 1999) is in the Guinness World Records 2001 for the most interactive drama-documentary!
  • Idols: Thousands of hopefuls come for auditions and have to face the criticism (and sometimes the wrath!) of the judges. The selections narrows down until about a dozen (ten in some cases, twelve in others) are left. After many hearts break, the person that everyone (or was it no one?) likes, becomes the idol!
  • Survivor: A group of strangers are stranded on an island (or some isolated piece of land!) without stuff like fire and shelter. (The latest twists include no food!) They are divided into two tribes. The tribes have to take part in challenges to get 'immunity'. The tribe that wins immunity is safe. The tribe that doesn't has to evict a member. The tribes merge as the game proceeds and the immunity moves to a personal level. In the end we're left with the 'sole survivor' who wins the cash!
  • The Bachelor: A bachelor who doesn't want to be single anymore gets to meet women that he can *choose* from. After lots of 'rose giving ceremonies' and his parents endless you're-ruining-your-life concerns, the bachelor chooses one woman that he becomes engaged to…apparently!
  • The Bachelorette: Same as the bachelor…only this time the bachelorette is looking for Mr. Right!ü Fear FactorPeople do totally unbelievable things (like eating worms…eww!) to conquer their fears…and, well, to win the ca$h!
  • The Osbournes: The show revolves around the life of Ozzy Osbourne and his clan (the people who take part in the show are Ozzy, his wife Sharon, son Jack and daughter Kelly). 'The Osbournes' has literally made the Osbournes a household name!
  • The Amazing Race: People race around the world so that they can…you guessed it…win money! The show…er…shows teams (one team=two people) go around the world, traveling different countries and the last team to reach a stop in eliminated. In the end, the first team that gets to the destination (which is the same place they started from) *win$*!

-By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 24th October, 2003

Saturday, June 07, 2003


concert review

The Band: Noori
The Date: 3rd of May
The Time: 6:30 pm
The Venue: Defence Auditorium (Lahore)
The Atmosphere: Totally Electrical!

The stage was set (literally!) for the long awaited Noori concert at the Defence Auditorium in Lahore. A big black banner emblazoned with the words ‘Noori Fanatix Presents Noori’ indicated that everyone who had wanted to come to the Noori concert had come to the right place. The capacity crowd jam-packed the auditorium and listened to an assortment of tracks playing in the auditorium waiting for Noori to take the stage.

So the fans waited…and waited…and waited…and at long last, Enigma’s ‘Return To Innocence’ was (not that Enigma will be all too flattered by this) cut short for the announcement reassuring fans that the band would be onstage in a couple of minutes…and then the fans waited a little more…

And Noori (finally) appeared onstage at 34 minutes and 28 seconds past 8 (they say I’m impatient…I say I’m just bad at waiting!) but once the concert started, there wasn’t even a shadow of a doubt that it was all worth the wait!

Noori kicked off the show with an animated ‘Dil Ki Kassam’ and the fans wasted no time in joining in the singing. The noise in the stadium transcended from thunderous to totally deafening and it was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think and even the band said they couldn’t hear a thing and were singing ‘andaze sae’! ‘Dil Ki Kassam’ was followed by ‘Dobara Phir Se’. Next came ‘Tum Hans Diyay’ and ‘Jana Tha Hum Ne’.

After‘Neend Aye Na’, Ali Noor called the band’s biggest fan Sunshine (who is the main force behind the Noori Fanatix) to the stage and gave her a bouquet (that’s one lucky gal there!). She in turn called Rozaire and both of them thanked the entire Noori Fanatix team for all the effort they had put in the arrangement of the concert and thanked Noori for being there!

The band went on to sing ‘Bol’ and ‘Ja Re’ and then left Gumby to do a drum solo. After Gumby finished up, Ali Noor announced that the entire band way moving to Karachi! After much commotion in the crowd, he added that the Lahorites could make them stay by…(Lahorites pay close attention here please!)…by having more Noori shows in Lahore! (Yo…people in Lahore…anyone listening? Hello? Wake up people!) The band then sang ‘Suno Ke Main Hun Jawan’ and Ali Noor told the fans that his parents were also there and the band said that the best shows they have are in Lahore!

More than half way through the show came the remarkable surprise – the band took on ‘With Or Without You’ and shaped a version that even U2 would have approved of! Needless to say the crowd loved every second of it!

Ali Noor dedicated a revamped version of ‘Manwa Re’ to his ‘Nano’ with an enthusiastic ‘Nano Zindabad’, and said that it would be the last song of the show…but we all know that the last song of the show is never really the last song of the show, don’t we?

So, ‘Gana No. 1’ was (ironically) the final song of the show, (how can anyone even imagine a Noori concert without that song?) but (unfortunately) that’s not where it ends…

As the band was winding up ‘Gana No. 1’, a fight erupted onstage between Ali Noor and a fan (a very unusual ‘fan’ I must say!) who had exchanged a prolonged stare with Ali Noor earlier on in the show. As security guards flocked the scene, fans were asked to leave the auditorium immediately (they didn’t even as much as budge and the announcement was repeated many times before the first signs of movement emerged) and, so the concert ended on a much lower (or was it higher?) note than what it had started at…

Still, on the whole, the concert was a treat for all the Noori fans. It was very well organized and the efforts of the Noori Fanatix were appreciated by all and really paid off. A mega thanks to the Noori Fanatix for organizing such a great event! Oh and more power to Noori!

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 6th June, 2003

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Radical sound, raw energy


[eP], an innovative band from Lahore, took the country by storm during last years Battle Of The Bands. Comprising of eight multitalented lads, [eP] was able to win a place in the final of the show (finishing off as the runners up) as well as the hearts of fans around the nation. We caught up with the guys for a tête-à-tête to find out more about the band and what they have planned for the future…

The members of [eP] are:
§ Fawad Afzal Khan (Lead Vocals)
§ Ahmed Ali Butt (Rap/ Backing Vocals)
§ Xulfiqar J Khan (Lead Guitars/Composition)
§ Hassan Khalid (Rhythm Guitars)
§ Salman Albert (Percussions/Backing Vocals)
§ Sajjad Ali Khan (Bass)
§ Waqar Ahmed Khan (Percussions)
§ Ali Khan (Keyboards/Sound Effects)

Us: [eP] is actually two bands (Entity and Paradigm) merged together. Tell Us how this set up came about.
Hassaan: The two bands, Entity and Paradigm, had been separately playing music for quite some time now. Entity had been in the scene for 8 years, in fact they are the founders of the Lahore Underground scene. Paradigm had been consistently performing in Lahore since 2K. Entity and Paradigm made the soundtrack for the sitcom "Jutt And Bond" and from there [eP] came into being.

Us: How did Battle Of The Bands happen?
Hassaan: The Battle of the Bands was a project by Pepsi to promote young talent. It all happened early in the year 2002. We got registered in the contest and in about a week our band got selected.

Us: Were you guys expecting the enormous success you had in BOB? With all the tough competition, being the runners up is no mean task…
Hassaan: BOB was totally a different experience. We had no idea that we would actually reach the finals, as there were so many tough competitors, but we had one thing in mind that our music has the potential to be the best.

Us: [eP]’s sound seems like a blend of rock and hip-hop. How would you classify [eP]’s music?
Xulfi: If you look at it that way, then [eP]'s sound is not just a blend of rock and hip hop, it's basically alternative rock which is just quite a huge category in its own right.
I do not classify (it) as such, but yeah, I am inclined towards a certain range of sounds that I like…I love the 'guitar' sound the most, so [eP]'s music basically comes out as Rock, but then it has a softer touch to it as well, cuz I am quite fond of the keyboard oriented sounds and then I like all kinds of weird sounds (footsteps, nature, traffic, azaan, etc) as well. The 'blend' that you are talking about is quite spontaneous; it’s not intended to be that way. It just comes out that way during the process of composing the song.
But I would surely like to add here that [eP]'s music is not only what u have heard till now. Right now, the two new tracks that we have just completed, "Waqt" and "Rahguzar", both are more experimental than the previous ones, we just felt the need to open up a bit more in order to express ourselves in a better and a more personal fashion.

Us: There’s a unique fusion of English and Urdu in your lyrics. How did you guys come up with this?
Ahmed: Well to be honest, it was nothing we planned on; I just didn’t like the fact of forcing Urdu rap in a song. When we were recording "Hum Ko Azma" and the rap was done in English we were aware of the fact that it was new and different mixing the two. But it sounded good and worked.

Us: Any personal influences that reflect on the band?
Xulfi: There is a side project of mine by the name of ‘Silence’, (I) had been working on it quite before [eP] came into existence. But its shelved right now, but, the music I made during the time I was completing my instrumental album for Silence, I learned a lot about composing music, and how to relate my moods to the music I create. That process that I went through during that phase influences the way I make music for [eP] as well.
The kind of music I listen to is quite diverse if you start categorising it. I don’t hate any kind of music. But even my favourite ones are quite different from one another. Some of the music I like is of Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, Tool, A Perfect Circle, Filter, Disturbed, Peter Gabriel, Linkin Park plus many other rock and alternative bands (Linkin Park cuz I love the way their instruments sound on the album, it’s one of the most perfectly produced sound that they have on their album, for the rest of the bands in the list, the music speaks for itself).
With influences so diverse, the music is bound to get experimental, and so it does! And both me and Fawad are really willing to visit that side of music and ourselves in our next tracks.

Us: Which song are you guys going to make the video of? Has it been decided yet?
Hassaan: We recently released the video of "Kahan Hai Tu". It’s been aired on Indus Music. The video was an effort by the entire band. Ahmed Ali directed it while Xulfi and Ali contributed in the postproduction along with Ahmed. We’ll soon be coming up with the video of "Hamaysha".

Us: When will the album be released? And what kinda stuff can we expect off it?
Hassaan: The new millennium has brought new sounds to listen to; electro-folk, pop-country and last but not (the) least, alternative rock. Our goal since we've been a band is always to fuse our different influences together as symmetrically as possible so that when you listen to an [eP] song, you're not listening to something, which is not of your type.
Basically our aim is to cater a wide vista of listeners, so that all sorts of music lovers like our work. [eP] is in the studio these days. Inshallah in a month we'll be ready with the album.

Us: Any message for the readers of Us and for all your fans out there?
[eP]: WOW! We have fans (out) there too :) We are glad that you people are listening to [eP] and liking it. Inshallah we hope that one day we will perform for you guys too and rock the hell out of ya! :)

By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 21st March, 2003