Saturday, December 30, 2006

Music and 2006

farewell2006

Year 2006 and the Pakistani music industry

We asked the musicians about the music scene in 2006, their activities during the year, and what they have planned for 2007. Here's what they had to say:

Maaz Maudood (Kaavish, co-vocalist)
As time is progressing, the music industry of Pakistan is reaching new heights of creativity and success. 2006, in my eyes, was the best musical year ever, with the advent of so many different channels - like Play TV, Aag TV, and MTV Pakistan - who are promoting musicians not only in the mainstream, but also in the underground scene. All these factors prove to be a source of motivation for musicians because when we started off, there used to be one music channel and there was a major lack of exposure.
2006 has produced a lot of new and extremely talented artists who have come out with their debut videos, like Siege, Ali Khan, etc. The best part is that the quality and standard of our music videos has improved tremendously this year as well. Overall, it's been a good year for the musicians as well as the music lovers.
The year has proved to be a lucrative year for Kaavish. We came out with our second video, and the major source of motivation for us was the TMA's, where we got the award for the 'Best Rising Stars'. Our perspective towards work totally changed after that. We started taking it more seriously and totally dedicated ourselves to this purpose. This year, we managed to almost complete the entire album and are looking forward to the next year for the launch. At the beginning of the year, we plan to release our third video, and right after Muharram, we plan on launching our album. And after that, we hope to look forward to a good year.

Junaid Khan (Call, vocalist)
The start of year 2006 was very crucial as our album was just two months old in the market, and it was the time when the fate of the album was actually going to emerge. It's a good thing that we got through that quite well, as 'Jilawatan' topped the charts for eight consecutive weeks and is still among the top five albums. 2006 gave Call the place that we wanted in people's minds, and we are planning to reach more hearts in the coming year.

Atif Aslam
Our music industry has definitely touched new heights in terms of technicalities and videos, and now the international market knows that Pakistani music is second to none. In 2006, I recorded my second album for international launch, and apart from this, I performed at various concerts and went on two world tours. In 2007, I'm planning to grab more love and appreciation from my beloved fans.

Musti (Roxen, vocalist)
The year 2006 with respect to our music industry was not bad actually. Lots of new talent came up, and even when channels weren't supporting them, they still did their best. But let's just hope for the best, as channels like MTV and Aag are here now. As far as good albums are concerned, 'Jilawatan' by Call was too good, especially for rock listeners like me.We released our new video 'Sapnay', revamping Roxen, and had loads of studio recordings, and finally released our debut album, 'Rozen-e-Deewar'. In 2007, we plan to release our new video, and we have a Dubai tour scheduled for January. The band also has a couple of Bollywood projects lined up, scheduled to be released in February. We have an India tour in March, with loads more to follow, InshaAllah.

Sam (Akash, lead vocalist and guitarist)
2006 in terms of business was bad for most of the artists/musicians. Though some new music channels were introduced, the music scene wasn't very active; only a couple of albums were highlighted throughout the year, and most of the other albums never got any projection.
Akash released two videos in 2006 - 'Ji Liya' directed by Asiph Mahmood and 'Hum Aazad Hain' directed by Murzie - and both were quite well received. In 2006, we spent most of our time in our studio (PMR Studios) working on our debut album 'Aks'. We have tried to experiment a lot in our album by recording live Harmonium, violins, sitar and flute. In 2007 we plan to release our debut album, and then have concerts/gigs/tours. We hope 2007 is good for all our musicians in terms of business.

Farabi Hassan (Raeth, guitarist)
Basically, we did it all in 2006! We launched our first single 'Bhula Do' in early June. It started moving up the charts pretty quickly and topped the charts for a while. We became the first and the youngest band to be signed by Universal Records. Our album was launched in September in parallel in UK, USA, Canada, UAE, India and Pakistan, and, according to authentic charts, it has been topping all non-film acts all over the sub-continent. Raeth was artist of the month on both Channel V and MTV India last month. We also released our new single 'Tumharey Liyeah', the video for which was shot in India. The song is already the 'Top Gana' on MTV, just a week after its release. In 2007, Raeth plans to release the third video and finalize tours.
The Pakistani music scene is growing and is becoming more competitive day by day, and it's hard to make a mark these days. Raeth is currently promoting their album in Pakistan as it has already captured simultaneous platforms on all four music channels, including MTV Pakistan, Play TV, The Musik and Aag.

Nausher Javed (Inteha, guitarist)
2006 was promising and progressive in various respects. First of all, a lot of new talent has come up this year, thus creating an atmosphere of competition and progress, which is a positive sign for the music industry. Also, the emergence of new music channels was seen this year, which shows the growing strength of the music scene in Pakistan. In 2006, Inteha's main focus was the recording and completion of our debut album, which has been titled 'Kehna Chahta Hoon'. The album is now almost completed and all the production and mastering is being done at the Xth Harmonic studio by Xulfi. A couple of videos supporting the launch of the album have also been shot from which the video of the track 'Anjaana' will be released by the end of the year. Inteha has planned to release their debut album world wide in the first quarter of 2007 and has also scheduled a concert tour programme in the second quarter. Also, the band will be making music for an Indian movie, details of which will be finalized in early 2007.

Farhan Ali (Call, bassist)
In 2006, we performed in Qatar and Dubai. We were supposed to tour America, Canada and India, which we ultimately didn't. The response we got to the first Call album, which was released at the end of 2005, was great. We also did a song for an Indian movie, and had many gigs in Pakistan. The band won the TMA award for 'Most Wanted Band' of 2006. Next year, a lot more is planned, including the Channel V summit in India.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 29th December 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

Bright Idea

album review

Album
: Bright Idea
Band: Orson

Consisting of Jason Pebworth on vocals, George Astasio and Kevin Roentgen on guitars, Johnny Lonely on bass, and Chris Cano on drums, Orson are the latest American band to have achieved success in Britain. Orson’s sound? Think Maroon 5 meets the Scissor Sisters by way of the Rolling Stones, and Bright Idea has proved that this combination is pretty likely to land you a place on the British charts.

So what exactly is Bright Idea like, you ask? It’s catchy guitar-pop – shamelessly radio-friendly, a tad overproduced, and undeniably addictive. It’s the stuff they play to death on radio and TV channels. It’s what you find topping every second pop chart. And it’s the kind of thing that rock critics thoroughly disapprove of.

Sing-along-able choruses and sunny melodies, powered by a rather contagious enthusiasm, the album hosts the (very) catchy hits No Tomorrow and Happiness, the mellower Robbie Williams reminiscent Look Around, the more upbeat Save The World, and the somewhat New Radicals-ish Tryin’ To Help. In most parts, it’s fun and catchy, but look not for innovation and/or depth, for yours will be a futile search. The band hasn’t tried anything particularly groundbreaking and the lyrics aren’t exactly pearls of wisdom. So, in short, it’s an enjoyable guitar based pop-rock record, and that’s about it.

– By S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 22nd December, 2006

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?

rewind

Album: Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?
Band: The Cranberries
Released: 1993
Roundup:
- The first full-length album by the Irish band fronted by singer Dolores O’Riordan; probably their best effort to date.
- Tuneful pop – simple, distinctive, ambient.
- Hosts Linger, one of the most memorable tunes of the 90s.
- A bit samey. Lacks variety.
Best bits: Dreams, Sunday, Linger, Wanted, and How.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 10th November, 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

How To Save A Life

album review

Album: How To Save A Life
Band: The Fray

With the massive success of their single 'Over My Head (Cable Car)', The Fray have earned comparisons to the likes of Coldplay, Keane, and Jimmy Eat World. Give their debut album, ‘How To Save A Life’ one listen and you’ll know why. The band offers piano-driven mid-tempo pop with hints of alternative rock thrown in for good measure, and their first full-length album hosts music that has managed to win over the MTV audience and has also been featured on shows like Scrubs and Grey's Anatomy.

'Over My Head (Cable Car)', the band's biggest hit, is by far the best moment of the album. Title track 'How To Save A Life' is strong on melody, and has powerful lyrics influenced by vocalist Isaac Slade's experience as a mentor at a camp for troubled teens. Songs like the more upbeat 'She Is' and 'All At Once' are catchy and enjoyable, while tracks like the mellower 'Trust Me' and 'Heaven Forbid' are easy on the ears and manage to captivate the listener. But where the album fails is in the quadrants of variety and originality. Isaac Slade's vocal delivery shows little variation from song to song, and most of the tracks on the album make you wonder if you've already heard them before.

So, yes, the band knows how to put together a melody, but loses points on originality, and even that wouldn't have been such a bad thing had the entire album not sounded like the same song over and over again. While tracks like 'Over My Head' and 'All At Once' have the potential of getting stuck in your mind, you'll have to listen to the album a couple of times before you can tell the songs apart. That said, if you like melodic slow rock, then you probably won't mind the monotony. Each song by itself isn't half bad; it's just that put together, the disk fails to offer anything new or different, and comes off as average at best.

- By S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 27th October, 2006

Friday, September 15, 2006

And then there were eight...

cover story

Poor Pluto had always been the odd one out – it was just too little, too far away, and unfortunate enough to share its name with a Disney cartoon character. Still, we’d embraced it as one of our own, accepting it as a member of the planetary family despite its small size and eccentric orbit. But the evil scientist people had other plans, and after more than seven decades of being listed as a planet, little Pluto was demoted to the position of (gasp!) a dwarf planet. Now, textbooks will need revision. Star charts and universe displays will need adjustment. And pro-Pluto groups might have to resort to therapy. All this because of a few hundred guys and their rather silly decision.


Astronomy

“Personally, I don't think there's intelligent life on other planets. Why should other planets be any different from this one?” - Bob Monkhouse

Astronomy, the study of celestial objects, is one of the oldest sciences, and continues to fascinate humankind for many reasons: it helps us in understanding mysteries like the nature of the universe and its contents; it attempts to find the answers to queries, like the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe; it is one of the few sciences where amateurs can play an active role, especially in areas of discovery and observation; it opens the door to an intriguing world, showing us where we stand in the grand scheme of things; and, most importantly, it gives rich countries an excuse for wasting billions of dollars. The science has come a long way from its naked-eye observation and prediction days, and scientific advances have led to more data about the universe, primarily focusing on our cosmic neighbourhood.


Planets

“After one look at this planet any visitor from outer space would say, ‘I want to see the manager’.”- William S. Burroughs

Comprising of planets, moons, dwarf planets, asteroids, meteoroids, comets, interplanetary dust, and the star known as the Sun, the Solar System can be defined as the portion of the universe under the gravitational influence of the Sun, which might be just an ordinary star with respect to the rest of the universe, but to our Earth, this fiery ball of hot gas helps to support almost all life on the planet, while serving as a brand name for everything from newspapers and tabloids to TV channels and cable services, and providing a source of income to the nice folks who make sunscreen.

For centuries, planets (planet: Greek word for ‘wanderer’) were simply objects that moved in the sky with respect to the background of fixed stars, and for decades, just as sure as we were of the facts that there are twenty-four hours in a day, twelve signs of the zodiac, and seven dwarfs who gave refuge to Snow White, we’d known that our Solar System was home to nine planets.

- Nine

“Not only do we not understand the universe, if someone explained it to us, we wouldn't know what he was talking about.” - Isaac Asimov

Since the discovery of Pluto in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, the Solar System was considered to have nine planets, typically subdivided into the inner terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars), and the outer gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto). While some planets were discovered by sightings and telescopes, others were discovered as a result of calculations rather than observations, and since the start of the space age, a great deal of exploration has been performed by unmanned space missions and landings. It was the calculations, however, that would give science fiction writers something to harp on about.

- Ten

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” - Carl Sagan

For all anyone knew, the tenth planet, a.k.a. Planet X, a.k.a. Persephone, a.k.a. Proserpina, a.k.a. (insert whatever name you want here), might have been nothing more than a figment of our collective imagination, but it sure added some zing to those otherwise zing-less astronomy lessons. From measurements to myths, astronomers and the general public alike had speculated the existence of a tenth planet for many decades. Believed to be a fifth gas giant beyond the orbit of Neptune according to a hypothesis first put forth in the late 19th century, Planet X was intended to explain perceived anomalies in the orbits of the outer planets, especially those of Uranus and Neptune. But the discrepancies were largely resolved by more accurate calculations and caused the anomalies to vanish without the need for an extra planet, hence ending any chances for the success of the ‘Planet X for planetary presidency’ campaign. (The said campaign, however, was bound to fail anyway, as it never really existed in the first place.)

The discovery of the Kuiper belt, which is a vast population of icy objects that orbit the Sun beyond Neptune, led the nerdy types that make up the astronomical community to speculate that some other Pluto-like object might be awarded the tenth planet title. But the astronomers needed to do something else first: agree on a scientific definition of the word ‘planet’, and that’s what started the chain of not-so-eventful events that let to little Pluto getting kicked off the planet list.

- Twelve

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” - Douglas Adams

In recent years, the discovery of new bodies, which are comparable to Pluto in terms of size and orbit, led to a situation where “either the minor bodies would be added to the list of officially recognized planets, or older ones would need to be removed in order to ensure consistency”. The need to categorize and name the recently-discovered bodies, and probably because the members of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) had run out of things to argue over, ultimately resulted in proposals to redefine the term ‘planet’.

The IAU met in August 2006 in Prague, and initially proposed a definition according to which any body that had “sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium shape, and is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet” was to be considered as a planet. This definition would have led to the number of planets going up to twelve with the inclusion of three celestial bodies: Ceres, Charon, and 2003 UB313. The more the merrier, you’d think, but the proposed redefinition was criticized as ambiguous and did not make the final cut, and a further revision of the definition resulted in the number of planets being cut down to eight.

- Eight

“I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.” - Jack London

The final definition, as passed by the IAU on the 24th of August read:
“The IAU...resolves that planets and other bodies in our Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:
(1) A "planet" is a celestial body that:
(a) is in orbit around the Sun,
(b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and
(c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.
(2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that:
(a) is in orbit around the Sun,
(b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape,
(c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and
(d) is not a satellite.
(3) All other objects except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies".”

Pluto fails to meet the third condition (1c) – its highly elliptical orbit overlaps with that of Neptune – thus concluding it’s reign as a planet and ending up in the dwarf planet category. The pro-Pluto folks, however, say that no planet ever fully clears its orbit. What did poor Pluto ever do to those IAU people? And is it not our responsibility to stand up for those who are smaller and weaker than us, etc. etc.? Although, to be fair to the IAU committee, debates on the whole “clearing its orbit” issue have since clarified that the term refers to the “process that happened during the formation of the planets, and does not talk about the presence of bodies that later strayed into the orbit after the accretions took place.” Oh well.


Controversy

“We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.” - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

So Pluto was voted off. The IAU had spoken. But the announcement resulted in a considerable amount of bickering and astronomer backlash. Many astronomers had been unable to make the trip to Prague and, thus, cast a vote, and the orchestration of the final vote came under criticism within hours of the announcement because of the lack of participation from conference participants. Apparently, the final vote was taken on the last day of the 10-day conference, after many participants had left or were preparing to leave; of over 2,700 astronomers who attended the conference, only 424 remained on the last day. Why everyone had been in such a hurry to leave, I’ll never understand.

Only a week after the conference, astronomers who were dissatisfied with the new definition and the resulting Pluto demotion, launched a campaign to have the decision reversed. Currently, many petitions exist online asking the IAU for reinstatement, and it remains to be seen whether anything will come about as a result of the protests by Pluto well-wishers.


Impact

“The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don't have a space program, it'll serve us right!” - Larry Niven, quoted by Arthur Clarke

How fair is it to tell a planet 76 years after it's been discovered that ‘hey, we’ve changed our minds, we aren’t called a planet anymore’? The decision to strip Pluto of it’s planet title has raised quite a few issues about humankind’s prejudices and discriminations, and has led to efforts to protect the little ones from insults hurled against them by the inhabitants of a somewhat larger lump of rock.

And the rights of small cold gaseous planets aren’t the only cause for concern here. Up until a few weeks ago, Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes (which are being carried on the New Horizons spacecraft) were traveling towards a planet. The ashes are now heading towards a dwarf planet. I guess it would be safe to assume that he won’t be too pleased about this.

Other than that, you will have, by now, realized that distant planet-like-bodies don’t make for particularly interesting dinning-table conversation. And whether we like the decisions or not, it looks like we will all have to put up with “if it looks like a planet and orbits like a planet and has moons like a planet, then it must be a duck” jokes for quite some time to come.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 15th September, 2006

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Get Behind Me Satan

album review

Album: Get Behind Me Satan
Band: The White Stripes

This garage-rock duo earned mainstream recognition with their minimalist approach to blues-rock in the form of their breakthrough album 'White Blood Cells' and it's critically acclaimed follow up 'Elephant', rehashing the sound that they offered in their self-titled debut, and second set 'De Stijl'. After four records, you'd be inclined to believe that you know what The White Stripes are all about. But if 'Blue Orchid' - the first single from their fifth album - had you fooled into thinking that the Stripes plan to stick to their tried and tested formula in 'Get Behind Me Satan', then you're in for a surprise. The album might have the same roots, but it branches into something that's totally different from their previous releases.

'Get Behind Me Satan' sees The White Stripes trade their predominantly guitar-and-drum-reliant style for piano-driven melodies, and shows the band experimenting on a whole new canvas. And the results are extremely interesting, to say the least. There might not be a 'Seven Nation Army' or 'Fell In Love With A Girl' on this album, but the chart success of songs like 'My Doorbell' and 'The Denial Twist' has proved that Jack and Meg White haven't lost any of their red, white and black charm.

The album finds betrayal and loneliness running through as the main theme, and retains the band's credibility while showcasing their newfound versatility. There's the Led Zeppelin reminiscent 'Instinct Blues', the bluegrass-tinged 'Little Ghost' (which doesn't come as much of a surprise seeing Jack's work on the 'Cold Mountain' soundtrack and on Loretta Lynn's 'Van Lear Rose'), and the piano-based ballad 'I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)'.

'Passive Manipulation' features Meg on lead vocals and seems to end almost before it starts, although one can (quite convincingly) argues that thirty seconds of Meg's singing are more than enough. 'Forever for Her (Is Over For Me)' goes to show that the marimba can indeed be used to good effect. And even though the absolute randomness of parts of 'The Nurse' might make it sound like a recording session gone wrong, but it is, nonetheless, one of the best songs on the record, and perfectly captures the feel of the entire album: it's raw, it's different, at times it's nothing short of strange; yet, it's weirdly pleasant and doesn't fail to capture the attention of the listener.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 4th August, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006

The colours of music

interview

In an exclusive interview, Rung vocalist Iftikhar Habib tells Us about the band, their debut album and what they have planned for the coming months.

Current line-up:
- Iftikhar Habib (Ifu) - Vocals
- Sarmad Ghafoor - Lead & Rhythm Guitar
- Zulfiqar-ul-Hassan (Zulfi) - Rhythm Guitar
- Wasim Kamal - Drums

Us: Rung's debut album 'Green' has finally been released. Tell Us about the album.
Iftikhar Habib: Generically, Rung's music is pop rock. The album comprises eleven original tracks plus the karaoke versions of two of our songs. The album features the two hits 'Hum Na' and 'Meri Dunia', and it also includes tracks that are very different from what the audience had heard before the album was released. In terms of song writing, it is a highly versatile album and we take a lot of pride in what we have come up with. We hope people really enjoy it.

Us: The album was originally slated to be out in 2004. Why the delay?
Ifu: Rung had to work with a lot of limitations. The band came into existence as a result of my initiative and then my collaboration with Sarmad Ghafoor. The two of us have always been in two different cities, so the song writing, jam sessions, recording and video making - all came with considerable time intervals in between. We also wanted to pitch in at least three to four videos and then release the album, but unfortunately we took a lot of time to do that.

Us: Any plans for releasing the album internationally?
Ifu: We are already negotiating a contract with record labels in India. Let's see how that turns out.

Us: The band has opted to go with a safe sound on the album instead of trying something different. Why so?
Ifu: The band has opted to write music which is commercially accessible, but at the same time also original. Being a mainstream act is not a negative thing for any band in any part of the world. What is negative is when bands don't sound very original and their music lacks artistic direction. Rung, we feel, has its own characteristic sound, which is more important to us as artists. We do think that we are different in this sense from other bands in the contemporary music scene.

Us: So is the sound what you want it to be? And how would you want it to evolve with the next album?
Ifu: Personally, I am very happy with the way we sound on this album. I don't know how things would be on the next album, because we have two very talented musicians (Wasim and Zulfi) added to our line-up who would bring their own ideas into what we make.

Us: How is the band's current line-up different from the one that played on the album?
Ifu: Like I said, Rung came into existence as a result of the collaboration between Sarmad and myself, which made us just a duo in the beginning. We wrote and recorded the entire album without any other musician being a part of Rung. Of course we had the pleasure of working with various talented artists in the studio while the album was recorded. We later started looking for musicians to complete the band's line-up because we are a totally live act. Hence, we were lucky to find Zulfi and Wasim.

Us: And where did the second 'g' go?
Ifu: It is probably lost in a crossword puzzle - we are still looking for it! (Laughs) Actually, the spellings were changed because the band members jointly agreed that one 'g' looked aesthetically better.

Us: The band's website is still accessible at rungg.com. Why wasn't the URL changed?
Ifu: This is the most unique question I have ever answered for an interview. My management sees to such affairs. I was told that for technical reasons it would be better that we do not change the URL. My only concern is that it should not create any confusion among fans.

Us: But then why not change the URL if you think it might cause confusion?
Ifu: Because if we change the URL, then our website's ranking in the major Search Engines will go down and we didn't want that.

Us: What kind of music do you listen to? Any influences?
Ifu: Personally I have grown up listening to the infamous glam-rock scene from Los Angeles. I was really into Guns'n'Roses, Aerosmith, Extreme, Dream Theatre and a bit of Bon Jovi. As my musical taste evolved I was listening to almost anything and everything that sounded good to me. Sting is an all time favourite. So is George Michael in the latter stages of his career. I have been a huge fan of Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam. I have been into Nelly Furtardo, Matchbox 20, Tori Amos, Incubus, John Mayer, and Coldplay. Lately, I have been listening to Korn. I am also a huge fan of Ustaad Salamat Ali Khan and Mehdi Hasan.

Us: How do you guys come up with your songs? Melody first or lyrics?
Ifu: There is no formula. We wrote some songs that came out as a result of jamming interactively. There were tunes where I had a certain melody in mind for example 'Hum Na' and 'Naye Rung'. Then there were also songs that were written with Sarmad writing the guitar parts first. 'Saath Saath' and 'Tu Mila' are good examples of this sort of output.

Us: Which video will be released next? And when?
Ifu: The next video that will be out is called 'Bin Kahe'. It is going to be directed by Zeeshan Parwez. The video should be on air in July/August 2006.

Us: What kind of training do you go through for your vocals?
Ifu: I follow a routine whereby I start my day early and have a two-hour vocal session with my guru or ustaad. Such sessions mainly focus on the development of my vocal technique, voice-culturing methods within the parameters of eastern classical music and vocal improvisation to develop expression in my singing. I also am a staunch believer of practising the western vocalizing techniques. I have a couple of good books to help me with that plus my vast experience of listening to great British and American singers since I was a kid. Listening to good artists is a great way to learn and improve.

Us: You guys have been using marketing strategies like putting up billboards across Lahore to promote the album. How effective have such marketing strategies been?
Ifu: We have been asked this question in a lot of interviews lately. Such ground level marketing activity is effective anywhere in the world, but it might look a little unusual in Pakistan. You see countless billboards, mega electronic signs and magazine ads in the US, Europe, Australia, India and the UK. All this is done when a new artist is launched, or when an existing artist launches a new album. The only difference is that in more developed markets all such marketing activity is funded by the artist's record label. Here, in Pakistan, our management had to take the initiative and get such activities funded by corporate sponsorships.

Us: How has the response to the Rung StreetTeams [RST] initiative been?
Ifu: The RST idea is actually a fabulous idea. I was personally quite excited to know about it when my management introduced me to the concept. I think that we are actually the first Pakistani band to launch this concept in Pakistan online. Once again it is a rapidly growing idea for all bands and solo artists internationally. It is actually a step further from just having a fan club. In order to get a flavour of this we invite all our fans to visit our official website and log onto www.rungg.com/streetTeams.

Us: What can we expect from Rung in the coming months?
Ifu: There are two main priorities. Playing live throughout Pakistan as much as possible, and shooting more videos with regular intervals of time. We are also looking to release 'Green' internationally.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 14th July, 2006

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Call

band profile

Band
: Call

Current line-up:
- Junaid Khan: Vocals
- Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan (Xulfi): Guitars/ Backing Vocals
- Sultan Raja: Bass

“Our visit to India was a lot of fun. From the beach to the cinema, we enjoyed every moment of it. It feels just like home because the people are so warm and helpful,” says Xulfi, the guitarist of the Pakistani rock band Call.

All set to conquer the other side of the border, the band recently visited India to record a show for MTV after being chosen as the music channel’s MotoAlert Artists of the month for May. Call’s brand of alternative rock has already won over a legion of fans, and with the release of their debut album, the band has cemented its status as one of the most popular rock bands of the region.

Call was originally started by three brothers – Khurram, Danish, and Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan – as an experimental rock band in 1994, and continued to perform both original material and covers with different line-ups for nearly 7 years. After a brief hiatus in 2001, Call returned to the music scene a year later, moving from underground to mainstream, and conquering the Pakistani audience with their first official release, ‘Nishaan’. Hits like ‘Pukaar’, ‘Shayad’ and ‘Sab Bhula Kai’ subsequently followed.

2005 saw the release of Call’s highly anticipated debut album ‘Jilawatan’, an eleven-track modern rock set that revolves around the theme of mental exile and isolation, and merges angst-ridden lyrics with slick guitar work. The album offers everything from power ballads in the form of ‘Sab Bhula Kai’ and ‘Bichar Kai Bhee’, to tracks of the more hard-hitting variety, like ‘Shayad’ and ‘Jilawatan’. A venture in the post-grunge realm, Call’s sound falls somewhere between Creed and Lifehouse, a blend of meaningful (albeit self-pitying) lyrics and radio-friendly rock tunes.

Earlier this year, the band had visited India to record their song ‘Kal Hamara Hai’. “Going to India has always been a great experience,” says Junaid, the vocalist of the band. “You get to learn a lot as India is full of culture and traditions, which is the major thing that both the countries share. The people are so friendly, and professionally they really put all their effort into the work they do.”

Call has been quite active in the local concert circuit, and has also performed outside Pakistan. The band has previously had shows in Dubai, Doha and Qatar, and the guys plan to perform in India very soon. “We will be having a concert tour of India in two months time. There will be concerts in Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta. Nowadays, we are preparing for the tour – practicing and all.” And the band is also planning to venture into Bollywood: “We have almost finalized the deal for a song for an Indian movie,” explains Xulfi, “so you are going to see Call in Bollywood pretty soon. The song is done, and it will hopefully be released with the movie.”

When asked about their upcoming tour, the band says they’re looking forward to it. “We hope to be back in India real soon,” says Xulfi, “Till then, we will carry fond memories of our visit”. “Plus,” Junaid chimes in, “it’s always good to spend some time with your neighbours!”

- By Sameen Amer

JAM Magazine (India) - June 2006

Saturday, May 27, 2006

"Uniquely Portable Magic"

cover story

book /buk/
noun
1. a set of written, printed, or blank pages fastened along one side and encased between protective covers;
2. a printed or written literary work;
3. that thing people used to love to read before television and the Internet took over the world.

A long, long time ago - back in the days when rational thought and proper diction still prevailed - reading used to be the world's favourite pastime. But unknown to mankind, somewhere in the vast expanses of the globe, conspiratorial forces - envious of the attention being garnered by those printed words - were hard at work, determined to do away with any interest in all things readable. Sure enough, the bounded sheets of paper were soon replaced by rectangular boxes of varying sizes, boxes that were designed to emit insanely addictive radiation that would enslave anyone the moment they were exposed to it.

As time went by, mankind ended up addicted to technology and trapped behind a pile of work, with little or no time left for reading, and fascination with books slowly started dwindling. While interest in the activity was somewhat revived by books like The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series, bibliophilia still resides in the endangered list. Most of us might go through an occasional paperback, but the number of avid readers is on the decline.

Not just the mere following of words on a page, reading entails actually processing what you read. Whether it's a piece of fiction, a religious documentary or a historic account, you won't understand it by merely scanning the words, and there's no better way of understanding anything than by actually 'reading' about it. In addition, reading not only enhances your expression, but researchers also claim that it develops the 'ability for concentration and imagination, and enhances culture and civic involvement'.

So here's what we suggest you do: read!

Thou shall read

From classics to contemporary literature, the written world is vast enough to offer something that would cater to everyone's taste. Classic literature includes works by writers like Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Daniel Defoe, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. The vast folds of genre fiction encompass everything from science fiction, which holds books by the likes of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, to the horror fiction genre, popularised by the authors like Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker. And even though a bestselling paperback might get nothing more than disapproval from critics writers like Stephen King, Jeffrey Archer, James Patterson, John Grisham, and (on rare occasions) even Dan Brown knows how to spin a gripping tale. Also, boasting of prolific names like Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal, Saadat Hasan Manto, Shafiq Ur Rehman, and Naseem Hijazi, Urdu professes a treasure of literary gems.

And if fantasy isn't your cup of tea, then go for non-fiction. Read The Diary Of A Young Girl and see what a teenage girl had to go through while in hiding during the holocaust. Venture into the accounts of history, religion or the world of mythology. Or delve into a biography - the biography of a leader, an entrepreneur, a sporting legend, or even a rock star - and see what made that person great enough to have a book written about him.

Thou shall not judge a book by its movie


Hollywood has become so fascinated with cinematising everything from books and short stories to video games and comic book characters that they fail to see that not all adaptations make good movies. Not to say that all adaptations are bad; while some of the films can be really good, the book is almost always better.

Sure the James Bond movies are hugely successful, but, for many, the Ian Fleming books still hold a lot more charm than the movies. And while Isaac Asimov fans are left to recover from the shock of a mess that was 'I, Robot' (although, it wasn't strictly based on Asimov's work), many of us will be praying that our favourite books never go the big-screen way. Why? Because so much of an author's voice is lost in the book-to-film transition.

Many books have been turned into movies, stripping away the thought process for the audience, and enforcing boundaries to the imagination, whereas a book tries to do the exact opposite. So, sure, watch the movie, but don't forget to take a look at the work of the author who actually came up with the idea. Read how Robert Ludlum penned down the character of Jason Bourne, and what Alexander Dumas chose as the ending for The Man In The Iron Mask. And don't wait for them to transform His Dark Materials to film. Give the books a chance!

Thou shall allow yourself to experience the wonderful world of words


Whether it's the adventures of a silly old bear, the story of a girl chasing a rabbit into the world of endless imagination, an inspired-by-real-life account of football obsession, or a non-fiction cautionary tale of self-destruction, books can take you on a journey like no other medium can. Plus you can always count on a book to be there for you when you need it the most.

So whether you're reading a play by Shakespeare or the works of Ghalib, appreciate the power of language. Whether you read for fun or to write a book report for school, don't skim; peruse. And whether you're reading the works of the greats like D.H. Lawrence, P.G. Wodehouse and George Orwell, or modern fiction writers like Annie Proulx, Charles Frazier or Helen Fielding, allow the words to open the door to your imagination.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 26th May, 2006

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Roxen - shining through

interview

Roxen stepped into the spotlight with the release of the videos of their songs 'Yaadein' and 'Sapnay'. The band's debut album is now ready for release and is scheduled to be out this summer. We caught up with the band's vocalist Mustafa Zahid to ask him about the band's music and their forthcoming album.

Current lineup:
* Mustafa Zahid a.k.a. Musti - Vocals, Lyrics and Compositions
* Jawad Muhammad a.k.a. Jodi - Guitars
* Haider Haleem - Guitars and Compositions
* Omar Haleem - Bass

Website: http://www.rox3n.com/

Us: How and when was Roxen formed?
Mustafa Zahid: Roxen was formed in 2004. I used to perform as a solo artist on different gigs and events. I met up with Jodi at a concert and we synchronized together as artists. Then I asked my friend Haider to join the band but since he was occupied with some other projects, he offered his elder brother Omar to be a part of the band. Omar joined the band as a bassist and now Haider himself is a band member too and is on guitars.

Us: Why is the band called Roxen? And who came up with the name?
MZ: Roxen, actually pronounced as Rozen, is derived from the Urdu word Rozen-e-deewar. It refers to the light penetrating into a prisoner's cell. The reason why the band came up with the name Rozen is because the name itself symbolizes hope and freshness and this is what the band's music is all about - liberation and emancipation. The name was decided by my friend Kashan and me.

Us: How would you describe the music that you guys make?
MZ: Frankly speaking, our objective is not to aim at one genre only. The word music and the totality in its range are varied. And this is what our band is determined to achieve. We want to reach out to people with our music on a day-to-day basis. If you see our compositions, they are related to what people go through in life. Music ought to be diverse, and that is what the listeners will get to hear from Roxen.

Us: Some people think that many of the new bands have a very similar sound and aren't offering anything new to the listeners. Any comments?
MZ: We believe that music goes through a timeline, an era. For example, the 70s had a different trend in music in each genre. Similarly, this age features a trend which everybody seems to follow, and especially when you're beginning and taking a start, you like to experiment less, and then, in later stages, you tend to explore your diversities. But it doesn't mean that new bands don't have anything to offer. We think a couple of albums from the new bands will make it clear where everyone is heading.

Us: Tell Us about your upcoming album.
MZ: The album is all set to reach the masses and will hit the market in May, InshAllah. It has been recorded at Xth Harmonic (Xulfi's place). It'll be a blend - with a tint of pop and some shades of rock music as well, and when we say rock, then it's the harder side of rock.

Us: So far, you've released the videos for 'Yaadein' and 'Sapnay'. How was the experience of working on those videos?
MZ: It was great. We learned so many things, and the kind of professionalism both directors showed along with all that friendship was amazing. Can't thank Xulfi and Ahmed enough for making such nice videos for Roxen.

Us: Which video will be released next? Anything you can tell us about it?
MZ: We have another video in the pipeline which is 'Tau Phir Aao". It will be out very shortly with our album, so all our fans out there watch out for that.

Us: How important is the music video medium for any band?
MZ: The music video for any band is the most significant medium. Apart from music, video portrays the vision of the band and their ingenuity towards their intention - to produce good music. For instance, webzines are the best medium for a band when it's underground; likewise, video is the only way to gain the attention of the masses whilst coming to the mainstream.

Us: How hard is it for the new bands to establish themselves in the industry?
MZ: A lot of new and very talented bands are emerging and are trying to etch their way into the mainstream. The stakes are high and everyone is competing to reach the number one position. The only possible way to establish ourselves as a band in the industry is to get out there, be true to ourselves and the music we create, and lastly leave it up to God Almighty.

Us: Were there any difficulties you guys had to face as an upcoming band?
MZ: It has been a great journey so far. Mashallah, we have achieved a lot of things since last year or so when we started. We won't say it was a smooth ride because you have to work hard to achieve something and yeah, there was a lot of leg pulling and useless propaganda against us, but see, here we are, all set to rock the market with our album soon, Inshallah.

Us: You guys are based in Lahore. Do you think location influences or hampers a band's success in any way?
MZ: Success comes from hard work, that's for sure, and that's what we have learnt, too. We would definitely say that yes, Lahore based bands have to suffer because all of the media is located in Karachi, but then again EP is from Lahore, Noori is from Lahore, Jal is from Lahore and now Call is from Lahore too. It's totally up to what you offer to the general public. If it's worth listening to, then even if you are jamming in Afghanistan, people will come and listen to you.

Us: Do you feel that people treat you guys differently now that you're members of a well-known band?
MZ: Funny question actually, we think we've just started the journey and we have a long way to go, Inshallah. Yes, sometimes we receive surprising reactions from people who listen to our music and it makes us feel really good and makes us work even harder to satisfy them with our album.

Us: What kind of music do you all listen to? Does it influence the music that you make?
MZ: We listen to all kinds of music. The music field is vast, even the sounds of fingers tapping can be music to the ears. As far as the international acts go, we listen to Bryan Adams, Vertical Horizon, Joe Satriani, Iron Maiden, Dave Mathews Band, Lifehouse...you name it. Locally, we're into Junoon, Fuzon, Hamid Ali Khan, Karavan and Call mostly. Yes, the music we listen to tends to influence the music we make, because they inspire us to create good music - music that can be heard by anyone and everyone.

Us: What can we expect from Roxen in the next few months?
MZ: Our debut album will be out soon. We have been working hard and have put in all out efforts to create some good pieces of music for the listeners as they will be the ones deciding our fate and will mark our niche in the market as entertainers, so watch out for our album and expect something fresh!

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 19th May, 2006

Friday, May 12, 2006

She's The Man

movie review

'She's The Man' is a teen comedy inspired by William Shakespeare's play 'Twelfth Night, or What You Will', revolving around Viola (Amanda Bynes) who is a tomboy obsessed with soccer. To Viola's disappointment, her school, Cornwall Academy, cuts the girls' soccer team, and the coach of the boys' team refuses to allow her to try out for his team, stating that girls can't play soccer as well as boys can. When her twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) decides to skip his first two weeks of school at Illyria Academy to perform with his band in London, Viola disguises herself as him and goes to his boarding school, hoping to join the Illyria boys' soccer team and eventually playing against her own school.

In the process, she makes friends with her roommate Duke (Channing Tatum), the captain of the Illyria team, and this is followed by the mess which is concisely summarized in the movie's tagline: "Duke wants Olivia who likes Sebastian who is really Viola whose brother is dating Monique so she hates Olivia who's with Duke to make Sebastian jealous who is really Viola who's crushing on Duke who thinks she's a guy."

So, who will end up with whom? And will Viola's disguise hold? Will she be able to make the team? What will happen in the Cornwall-Illyria fixture? The results don't come as much of a surprise as the storyline is highly predictable (and, at times, ridiculously unbelievable), but the movie is still pretty enjoyable. Amanda Bynes is likable in her role as Viola/Sebastian, and the rest of the cast supports her quite well while bounded by the somewhat hackneyed plot. It might not be as good as '10 Things I Hate About You' (with which it shares quite a few characteristics), but as far as teen movies go, 'She's The Man' isn't half bad.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 12th May, 2006

Friday, April 21, 2006

Sing, sing, sing!

cover story

It was artists like Nazia and Zoheb Hassan, and bands like the Vital Signs, Awaz, and Junoon that gave the Pakistani music industry the much-needed boost that time warranted. And eventually, the mainstream success of bands like Noori and Call has given our music scene a whole new outlook, and inspired many acts to follow in their footsteps and try to make their mark in the world of music.

What?
For decades, it was classical, folk and filmi music that ruled our local music landscape. But even though the seeds of pop music had been planted by the mid-'80s, it wasn't until much later that we saw the pop music industry take proper shape. It was quite a while before Pakistan's first music channel was launched, and bands and musicians including the Strings, Jal, Ali Zafar, and Atif Aslam not only conquered the local canvas, but also earned global recognition for Pakistani pop music. Riding on this wave, many new artists have emerged, some offer a good and refreshing sound, while others offer nothing more than auditory torture. In any case, the Pakistani music industry is expanding at a rate faster than ever before. Our airwaves regularly introduce us to new voices and faces, showing us both the good and the not-so-good results of this development. People are trying to take up music for a myriad of reasons, and are receiving varying degrees of success.

When?
It's hard to identify the exact point that led to this surge, but one can roughly accord it to the advent of music channels in Pakistan. These channels not only served to showcase the already established musicians in the country, but also played a pivotal role in encouraging new talent to come forward, as well as alluring artists that had been resident in the underground for years to join the mainstream.
Perhaps there was a different stimulus that inspired each of these newcomers, but a common precursor that has been identified by musicians, producers and directors alike came in the form of the hype that was surrounding some of the other new talent. Take 'Aadat' as an example. 'Aadat' and the resultant success of Jal and Atif Aslam, led many to believe that it's very easy to gain fame in the music industry, and one can hardly blame them. There has perhaps never been a more powerful debut in our industry. The song and its video not only managed to establish the artists and the director of the video in the process, but also served as motivation for others. "For me it started when I saw the video of 'Chaye Chaye' by the Strings," explains Umar Anwar, the director of 'Aadat'. "That was the day when I was like, 'if Jami can do something so good, then why can't I?' For that, I had to start somewhere, so I tried. One should take risks in life in order to gauge his/her potential, and then leave everything to Allah."

Who?
Kaavish, A.W.S., Roxen, Visaal, Irtaash, Zoak, Needlework, and so many others! "It is amazing to see many new artists finding their way into our music scene everyday," says Iftikhar Habib, the vocalist of Rung. But have the new artists got anything new to offer? "Some of them, in my view, are highly talented while a considerable number, I feel, are not very original, and sound similar to each other. One also feels that at times there is more emphasis on presentation through videos rather than the presentation of quality musical skills. As an aspiring young musician, I just feel that while being optimistic, we also need to be modest and remain committed to the improvement of our musical skills as musicians. Another unfortunate aspect is an unhealthy sense of negative competition amongst artists from all genres of our country. This leaves a poor tradition for upcoming talent. I just think we all need to work on our musical skills as growing musicians because we are all learning. We also need to be more original and try to bring out our own unique sound."

Where?
'Where', you ask? Well, everywhere would be a good approximation. They're on the radio, they're on the tube, most of them have their own websites, and you can even catch them performing live at various venues.
So which medium helps them out the most? The opinion on that varies:
- Some think it's television: "TV, radio, internet and live performance are all important for an upcoming band," says Hassan, the lead vocalist of Xeal, "but the most important of all is video, because TV is the most important medium. Everybody has a television at their homes. In comparison, a very small number of people listen to the radio, so it doesn't have that much importance. Live performance is a good medium too, but it works when you are already on TV and people know who you are. Internet is also important, but the drawback is that the people who don't know about the related websites can't listen to the band, so TV or video is the key medium in my opinion."
- Some lean towards the world wide web: According to Bilawal, "Well, as a new band every aspect of publicity counts, but in my opinion, first of all, the Internet is the basic medium through which a band or artist is recognized because nowadays every new band or solo artist gives their song on Internet to create a hype before the album is released or video is launched, just like Jal. They uploaded their debut song 'Aadat' and later on that song took the country by storm. People from all over the world downloaded that song and liked it very much. So, the same goes for any new band or artist because if people like their song, then it's good for that band. Otherwise they don't bother listening to that song again or buying the band's CD."
- And some think it all comes down to how one uses these mediums: "For us, we consider that all medium are of equal importance," says Nausher Javed from Inteha. "It's just that they should be used intelligently and only when they are required. Like, we launched our debut song 'Daastaan' first on the Internet, then on the FM radio channels, and when we felt that some demand has been created by these two mediums, we launched 'Daastaan''s video on different channels. Live performances are the backbone for these mediums."

Why?
Just why has half our population decided to become musicians? Many reason: talent (of which there is no dearth in our country, and which should be - but generally isn't - the main reason), fame (the most desired derivative of releasing a song), money (the root of all evil, sigh!), trend (and here's where we say hello to our good old friend 'wannabeism'), media (the resultant exposure, and the evolution of the video medium), and freedom of expression (which is, now, a lot more than the last decade).
And then, of course, there's the overconfidence: they all think they can do it. Yes, some of these bands really do know what they're doing, but then there are those whose musical outputs are just as pleasant as the sound of nails on a chalkboard. One can only hope that the former manage to outweigh the latter.

So...
They come with varying levels of skills and potential, but are all trying to make their presence felt in the music scene. And whereas some believe that these new bands will be better and more mature, as they will keep all the previous bands and their mistakes in mind and learn from them, others aren't so optimistic. The general opinion comes down to the fact that 'without basic training, some of them can't perform or play or even sing well'. So if you feel like buying a guitar and jumping onto the musicians bandwagon, here's why you shouldn't quit your day job just yet: music isn't everyone's forte, and it's not as easy as it looks! "This ain't a game or something," warns Xulfi, "It's a serious business. You never step into a business until you know its ins and outs. But, the job of the music producer has become quite weird. Me being one, I think I do more than I should be doing for a band. Even helping the band with melodies and ideas about structures more than I should help," observes Xulfi and adds: "They should know how to play in the studio."
And will these bands be successful? That's one question that only time can answer.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 21st April, 2006

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Rising stars

interview

Band: Kaavish
Band members:
- Jaffer Ali - Lead vocals, keyboards, arrangement, composition, lyrics
- Maaz Maudood - Vocals, lyrics
- Raheel Manzar - Drums
Official website: www.kaavish.com

Us: How did you guys come together as a band?
Maaz: Jaffer and I had been in the same school since the first grade, but we got to know each other in the ninth grade. Both of us have been working together since then. Over a span of eight years, quite a few people came in and out of the band. But now, finally, it's down to the three of us: Jaffer, Raheel and myself.

Us: Tell Us about your song 'Bachpan'.
Jaffer: 'Bachpan', I guess the name says it all. The song is about innocence of childhood and the memories of the good moments we've spent in our lives. We made this song almost three years back and initially the name of the song was 'Khwabon Mai Tu'. I remember we were having our exams those days and the paper went really bad. Both of us were sitting in the car, the traffic signal light was red and there was this kid right in front of us, sitting on a motorcycle, munching on some chips. He was so lost in his own world, so happy and content just by having a bag of chips. That actually led us to the creation of this song.

Us: But then why such a depressive approach to the song's video?
Maaz: We just wanted to do something different, something other than the same old guy-girl story that has been told over and over again in every single video. The credit for the video goes to Umar Anwar, as it was his 'dark' idea. Hehe!

Us: How was the experience of making the video?
Maaz: Two days shoot, 36 hours straight - hectic! But the experience was beyond words! It was great working with Umar Anwar, and since it was our debut video, we were filled with excitement. Or at least I was; Jaffer fell sick the night before the shoot and he really wished the shoot could've been done some other day.

Us: Anything you can tell Us about the video of 'Choti Khushiyan'? How soon will it be aired?
Jaffer: The video has been directed by Umar Amanullah. It's going to be the total opposite of our first video. It's filled with colours, happiness and all the beautiful things in life that can bring a smile to your face. The cast of the video consists of well-known faces from the screen. The video will be released within a week's time, Inshallah.

Us: When will your album be released?
Maaz: We are currently working on our album and Inshallah we plan to launch it in summer 2006. Keep logging in to our official website for updates.

Us: Do you work on the lyrics and the compositions of the songs yourself?
Jaffer: All of us sit together and work on our music together; it's a team effort. The main sequencing and arrangement is done by me.

Us: Is it difficult for new bands to establish themselves in the industry? Is the media helping?
Jaffer: Not anymore, it's not. Since the advent of all the new TV channels and radio stations, it has become really easy for new bands to get heard. The media industry has taken a 180-degree turn, which is a good thing!

Us: Do you guys see Kaavish doing well outside Pakistan, and would you like to release your songs internationally?

Maaz: We really don't know much about what's happening on the other sides of our border, but my cousins who live abroad keep telling me about how all their desi friends listen to our tracks. It's good to hear that our music is being appreciated outside the country as well. We wouldn't mind releasing our songs internationally; it would be an honour to do so.

Us: Jaffer, your mother, Nayyara Noor, is a very famous singer. Did she make you want to go into music? Has her work influenced the music that you're making?
Jaffer: No. She never forced me into doing anything. It was my own passion that drove me towards music. My mom's work has influenced it in a way that it is from there my music actually originates.

Us: Have you guys had any formal music training? How much importance do you think such training holds?
Maaz: No, but Inshallah right after the completion of my MBA, I'll take some formal music training because if you've taken up this field, you should know it inside out.
Jaffer: It's just been a year since I've joined NAPA. It holds a lot of importance because it enables you to converse your ideas musically, globally.

Us: What kind of music do you guys listen to? Any favourite artists/bands?
Jaffer: I listen to all sorts of music.
Maaz: I can listen to anything except trance! Cannot stand trance! These days I'm hooked onto James Blunt - what an artist!

Us: What do you think about the current music scene in Pakistan? And where do you see it a couple of years down the line?
Jaffer: The music scene in Pakistan is good and in the upcoming years I hope to see it in better grounds.

Us: What can we expect from Kaavish in the next few months?
Maaz: To start off with, our second video will be aired soon on music channels around you, so keep watching! We'll be launching four cover tracks on our website pretty soon. We plan to have a couple of performances in the following months. And Inshallah by the summers, our album will hit the market.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 31st March, 2006

Monday, March 20, 2006

Make Believe

album review

Album: Make Believe
Band: Weezer

Even though they appeared on the music map at a time when the grunge movement was in full swing, Weezer found home in a different section of alternative rock. The band’s take on indie emo in their self-titled debut album, commonly referred to as The Blue Album didn’t go unnoticed, primarily because of the single Buddy Holly and its accompanying video.

Although their sophomore album was named the “second worst of 1996” by Rolling Stone magazine, Pinkerton has now become a standard of sorts, not only for the newer bands which are trying to embrace that sound, but more so for Weezer itself. All of Weezer’s albums since 1996 have been continuously compared to their second set and under that light, have ended up bearing the “not good enough” tag. Make Believe, their fifth studio album, is suffering the same response as all other post-Pinkerton Weezer releases.

Make Believe is an enjoyable record, pleasantly different from the more serious rock albums that can be found on the modern rock charts. It is lined with some infectious melodies, sealed off with Rivers Cuomo’s (often sardonic) take on fame, life and drugs, and his ongoing quest to find peace — something that seems to be just as elusive to him as his Harvard degree.

The album opener and first single, Beverly Hills, sees Cuomo walking down the (by now familiar) path of self-depreciation, the very thing that has endeared Weezer to their fans and, at the same time, made them so infuriatingly unbearable for their detractors. The single, which reminds one of The Good Life days, was an instant commercial success and deny it as we may, the song is insanely addictive. Song two, Perfect Situation, is one of the stand-out tracks on the album, offering that classic Weezer feel, that too in perfect rhyme. Next on the disc is This Is Such A Pity, followed by the rather melancholy Hold Me and the introspective musings of Peace.

We Are All On Drugs, or We Are All In Love — as MTV would want us to believe — is supposedly an anti-drug song, completely ruined by the lyric change, no thanks to the American censorship policies. But this is where the album starts to derail. Halfway through the disk, the monotony starts to set in: everything from The Damage In Your Heart to Haunt You Every Day offers little surprise. While not necessarily of the bad variety, the songs that follow are somewhat predictable, and it’s probably this monotony that has resulted in listeners filling in the complaint forms. Plus, at times, it becomes a little too saccharine to swallow. Case in point: My Best Friend, the track that is said to have been written for the Shrek 2 soundtrack but was later replaced by The Counting Crows Accidentally In Love (and thank heavens for that!).

On the whole, Make Believe offers some good moments and some not-so-good ones, and although the disc might not be the best album that came out in 2005, it certainly isn’t the worst either. If fans can only stop comparing everything to Pinkerton for, like, a microsecond, they’ll see that Make Believe isn’t such a bad record after all. As for those of you who can’t stand Weezer’s previous releases, stay as far away from this album as possible!

- By Sameen Amer

Images, Dawn - 19th March, 2006

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Conquering the world - Atif Aslam

interview

After the massive success of his debut album Jal Pari, and after his music was included in the soundtracks of Bollywood movies, Atif Aslam's songs have now been featured in the international production 'Man Push Cart', the film that was recently premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and also won the 'FIPRESCI Critics Award'. We caught up with Atif to ask him about his latest ventures...

Us: How does it feel to hear your songs in Indian movies and be recognized on the other side of the border?
Atif Aslam: Alhumd-o-lillah, it feels great. People call me from across the border and say that when they are sad my music relaxes them and helps wipe off their tears, and it's a blessing if you can make people happy and make them forget their sorrows. Secondly, it makes me feel that I have done something for my nation; beside your own recognition, people also recognize your country, and this has proved that our pop industry has the potential to create waves in Bollywood. I also feel that music has no boundaries and the more music markets you explore the more you learn, so it was a wonderful experience. According to their local channel Zoom, my song Woh Lamhay, is among the 'ten most evergreen songs of Indian film industry', which is an honour for me. The remix version is being played all over the world in all the clubs, discos, and theatres, which makes me feel very satisfied.

Us: How did the 'Man Push Cart' project come about?
Atif: We were approached by Ramin Behrani, the director of the movie 'Man Push Cart', from Hollywood. He got hold of my album through the hero of the film, and listened and understood my songs. The movie is basically the story of a singer, so I thought we must go for it. The story basically revolves around a Pakistani guy trying to settle in USA, who gives a positive turn to his life by exploring his talent of singing and that's where my songs come into the movie. The film got a tremendous response at the Venice film festival and was greatly appreciated by the president of the festival. Almost all the Hollywood celebrities attended the film festival which gave an extended exposure to my voice, and of course it's a matter of great pride for our nation as well that after Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Strings, God gave me this opportunity to show my talents there.

Us: New album: progress? When will it be released?
Atif: I'm working on it ... don't have a precise release date yet.

Us: Your videos have received a lot of criticism. Is there anything you want to say in response to that?
Atif: Well, I admit that the quality of my videos was not that good. Some people were stealing my songs, so I had to make the videos in a rush in order to save and register my other songs. But Insha Allah you will see some good videos now.

Us: Any particular directors you'd like to work with?
Atif: I think everyone is doing a great job. I don't have any priorities; anyone who can handle the subject of the song artistically would be a good choice for me.

Us: Looking at the music industry right now, where do you think it stands?
Atif: I think everyone is doing great right now. Our industry is just flourishing. It will take another five years or so for it to have a proper professional shape. Channels are helping newcomers in establishing their careers. But I would like to say to the newcomers that don't come in the industry just for fame and other benefits; try to satisfy your inner passion for music if you really have it.

Us: Are you interested in acting? Any chance we'll see you in a film or TV drama/play anytime soon?
Atif: Right now I'm concentrating only on singing. No ideas about acting yet, but I guess if I receive a good role, I may try it.

Us: Rumour has it that you've sold the rights of some of your songs. Is there any truth behind this whatsoever?
Atif: Rumours are rumours. Just don't trust them. My songs are mine.

Us: You've won the award for 'Best Upcoming Singer' at the Sahara Sangeet Awards, and the Indus Music Awards for 'Best Song', 'Best Composition', and 'Best Lyrics'. How much importance do awards and award shows hold for you?
Atif: It feels great to have won these awards. But I guess the biggest award and reward is your personal satisfaction and the love of the people you get in response to your music. Awards are a great tool to encourage artists, but I guess awards should have some merits and authenticity to some level through some experienced and honest judges.

Us: Any message for your fans?
Atif: Love you all! Keep praying and continue supporting me like this. We have to go a long way together. Your prayers have led me to this height and place. And I would like to express my profound wishes to my parents, brothers, friends, and fans.

Us: And our readers have chosen you as their favourite artist of 2005 in a poll that we conducted a few weeks ago...
Atif: Thanks a lot! Thank you all for your consistent support. Young people are the most energetic in their response in any concert at any performance. I love performing for the kids - they scream a lot, and that's the real enjoyment of a concert. Most of my audience is related to the age group that read this magazine. Just follow your passion till you master it!

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 24th February, 2006

Monday, February 06, 2006

Atif goes international

After making his mark in Bollywood, Atif is all set to show his talent across the globe as his songs become part of the soundtrack of an international production

No matter what anyone says, the fact remains that the inclusion of his songs in Zeher and Kalyug soundtracks gave Atif Aslam substantial recognition in India. Ultimately, they ended up playing those remixes so loud that one could easily hear them from across the border. But now things are about to enter a whole new level and his voice is going to reach an even wider audience, as Atif's tunes have been featured in the movie that won last year's 'FIPRESCI (La Federation International de la Presse Cinematographique) International Critics Award'.

Atif's songs ended up in Man Push Cart after his album landed in the hands of the film's director. "The actor who plays the lead role in the movie (Ahmad Razvi) gave my CD to the director. Man Push Cart is an art movie on a Pakistani immigrant trying to settle in USA and how he rebuilds his life through his talent of singing. That's where my part comes in. The director, Ramin Bahrani, thought my music would be appropriate for the film, so he sent me an invitation and after the negotiations, three of my songs were included in the film."

The film depicts the life of a Pakistani immigrant who now sells coffee from his pushcart on the streets of Manhattan. The former rock star struggles for survival, eventually returning to music to get his life back on track. "The film was scheduled to be premiered at Rafi Peer Theater and Film Festival," Atif explained, "but due to some time scheduling issues, it wasn't. But it will be available here on DVD after some time." Man Push Cart is among the sixty movies (chosen out of some three thousand) selected for premier at the Venice Film festival.

When asked if he'd gone through the script of the movie before accepting this offer, Atif's very candid reply was that he hadn't. "As it was a matter of more exposure for Pakistan and for me, I signed it at a decent cost." But then, would he allow his music to be used in a film that he didn't like? He says he's at an early stage of his career, too young to be choosy when it comes to Hollywood movies. "I decided on this film keeping in view the story, but I guess if the production team is sound, then I won't have any objections to it, as they are more professional than we are."

The film uses the songs 'Aadat' as well as portions of 'Ehsaas' and 'Yaqeen', and for all the songs, Atif has been given credit. "They have mentioned my name along with all others who have been a part of the film's music in one way or another." And how does he feel about this project? "I feel very thankful to God and at the same time, I also feel a kind of responsibility and added pressure for my second album". His sophomore set is currently a work in progress and "raw version of some songs have been recorded."

And Man Push Cart isn't the only addition to his already impressive resume. "Recently, BBC sent me a letter, asking for permission to use my music in one of their programs about South Asia. It's a documentary of some kind on South Asian music and is scheduled for February–March 2006. I have allowed them to use my music."

So after success in the Pakistani music scene, Bollywood, and now even a touch of Hollywood, what's next? "To be very honest, I have never set targets. It's all just a blessing of God coming my way but I will be extremely happy if I can do something good for my country in terms of fame. I would like to do some projects with international artists, to learn more music and expand my horizons. I would like to add," he continued, "that people should learn to accept new things. Experiments will craft the shape of music in Pakistan. Encouragement will help artists to do their best and be in their best form."

As for those who think 'Aadat' has already been overused, redone and remixed to death, Atif doesn't agree. "I guess music doesn't have any boundaries. Only the audience in Bollywood has heard it so far. It should be spread more, as it is a 'generic' song." And at this rate, one wouldn't be surprised if they're playing 'Aadat' on the moon in a couple of years. Alert NASA, should we?

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News - 5th February, 2006

Saturday, January 07, 2006

2005 - A look back

music in 2005

The year 2005 saw a lot of activity in our music scene, including some great new songs and videos. Not only did the Pakistani artists try to make their presence felt on the local canvas, but many of them also worked towards gaining international recognition. Here are some of the highlights of the year.

Albums
- Ali Azmat released his debut solo album 'Social Circus'. The videos of his songs 'Deewana', which was directed by Jami, and 'Na Re Na', directed by Saqib Malik, gained heavy rotation on music channels. Salman Ahmad also released his first solo effort, 'Infiniti', and the music video for his song 'Al Vida' became the first HIV/AIDS awareness music video ever released in South Asia.
- Call's debut album 'Jilawatan' was released in November. The album includes the songs 'Nishaan', 'Pukaar', 'Shayad', 'Sab Bhula Kay', and 'Bichar Kay Bhi', the videos for which are in the works. Call announced a lineup change earlier in the year, and Xulfi officially joined Junaid and Sultan as a member of the band.
- Noori's second album, 'Peeli Patti Aur Raja Jani Ki Gol Dunya' was released in September, and the album has yielded the videos for '(Kuttay) Te Tho Uttay' and 'Nishaan'.
- Other notable album releases included Shehzad Roy's album 'Buri Baat Hai' that hosted the song 'Sali', and Shiraz Uppal's 'Jhuki Jhuki' which has spawned the videos for the title track 'Jhuki Jhuki' and the song 'Bolay Mahi'.

Success
- The Strings won the 'Favourite Artist (India)' award at the MTV Asia Awards 2005, performed during the charity concert held at Mumbai as part of a fund raising telethon for the victims of the Asian tsunami, and released the videos of their songs 'Kahani Mohabbat Ki', 'Hai Koi Hum Jaisa', and 'Mera Bichara Yaar', all of which were directed by Umar Anwar. The band was appointed as UNICEF Pakistan's national ambassadors for HIV/AIDS, and performed in New York at the United Nations Secretariat to launch the global campaign 'Unite for Children. Unite Against AIDS'. The band also released the video for their new song 'Zinda Hoon'.
- Ali Zafar won the award for the 'Best Pop Music Album in Pakistan' at the Asian Bollywood Music Awards that were held in Dubai. Ali was also nominated for the MTV Style Awards in the 'Most Stylish Person in Music' category, and directed the video of his track 'Aik Pal'. He also performed at the Dubai Rain Dance Festival (and was the only Pakistani artist performing at the show), and in Norway, drawing one of the biggest Pakistani turnouts in the history of the country.
- Faakhir won the awards for 'Best Pop Singer' and 'Best Pop Song' for his track 'Mahi Ve' at the Sahara Sangeet Awards 2005 that were held in California. Atif Aslam won the 'Best New Voice' award for the song 'Woh Lamhey', and Jal won the 'Best Band' award.

Exports

- Atif Aslam's 'Bheegi Yaadain' appeared on the soundtrack of the Bollywood movie 'Zeher' for which he performed as a playback singer. His first international concert took place in Mumbai in May, and Atif also recorded a new version of 'Aadat' for the Indian movie 'Kalyug'.
- Jal released their debut album 'Aadat' in India.
- EP's album 'Irtiqa' was released in India. And the video for the song 'Irtiqa 3' also came out this year.
- And Ali Zafar also released his album, 'Huqa Pani', in India this year. He co-hosted the MTV Immies 2005 that were held in India last month.

Unity
- The 'Umeed-e-Seher' concert, a show organized for collecting funds for the victims of the earthquake that hit Pakistan on the 8th of October, was held in Lahore and featured performances by Jal, Call, Roxen, EP, and a special appearance by Ali Zafar.
- Salman Ahmad announced that the album sales from 'Infiniti' would go to the earthquake relief fund. His earthquake relief concert in Boston marked the first time a Pakistani artist had ever been invited to perform at the Harvard University.
- Faraz Anwar released the song 'Mere Khuda' which was dedicated to the quake victims.
- And many other artists including Fakhr-e-Alam, Abrar-ul-Haq, and Shehzad Roy, helped out greatly in the earthquake relief efforts.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 6th January, 2006