Saturday, May 27, 2006

"Uniquely Portable Magic"

cover story

book /buk/
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


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


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, 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