Friday, July 13, 2007

The good ol’ summer days…

cover story

No tension of waking up early in the morning. No school. No homework. No tests. No tuition. In short, no worries at all. Lots and lots of free time. Playing around. Watching movies. Picnics with family and friends. Going on leisure trips. Reading books. In short, having fun round the clock.

Summer vacations! All fun and no worries – yes folks, that’s what summer vacations are all about. It’s indeed the time of the year most of Us yearn for. The school and college going lot, especially, embrace summer vacations with open arms, as after remaining busy with their studies for the whole year, it is, after all, their time to enjoy!

For the grownups amongst Us, summer vacations bring in a lot of memories – some good, some bad – which we cherish nonetheless. So this week we asked some of your favourite celebs how they spent their summer vacations during their childhood, the places they visited, any incident they particularly remember and the difference between summer then and now. Read on and find out how the celebs spent the good old summer days…

Ali Zafar
We used to go off to some hill resort for a week or so with the university trip that went every year, which my father used to lead with others as a teacher. Was great fun! When the vacations were about to start, we would count seconds as to when they would… but in the middle we would start wishing to meet our schoolmates again with a new spirit. As for the difference… yes, in childhood we could not afford air conditioners so had to bear all the heat; could not afford a car so I used to ride back home in the heat from school – now I can! :)

Atif Aslam
The daytime was spent doing summer vacations homework mostly, but the nights were fun – watching cartoons and playing video games. Our family used to visit the northern areas of Pakistan during our vacations. A good memory is that in the summer vacations, we were strictly advised to remain in the house due to the scorching heat outside and our parents used to lock the main door. But when everyone went to sleep, my brother and I used to jump the boundary wall of our house and play cricket in the ground nearby. The best part was that we use to come back home and be in our beds before our parents woke up!

Farhan Saeed Butt
We used to go somewhere with the family, mostly northern areas or sometimes abroad. I was supposed to go only after I was done with my homework (hunh!) which I never did in my vacations! ;) About the places that we visited, as I’ve mentioned, it was mostly northern areas like Murree, Bhurban, and I went for Umra twice (when I didn’t know the worth of what I was doing; I hope I go again soon) and England, Dubai etc. The most memorable thing was that first of all my whole family used to be together as my brothers are now abroad working so it’s been a long time since we’ve gone on vacations together. And secondly, the vacations used to be full of incidents – innocent sneak-outs from the rooms just to go and play; one thing I used to do since childhood is that I used to admire natural beauty a lot; I remember just sitting and watching the moon even when I was a kid, so there was something since childhood. :)
The difference? Ask what is not different from childhood! It’s all different now: work, tensions, nothing is that way now. Actually, answering this question made me realize that it’s really different now – no more innocent sneak-outs (there are sneak-outs but not innocent anymore! :p).

Goher Mumtaz
In my childhood, I was in Faisalabad, so we use to wait like hell for that moment to go to Lahore, cuz in the summers, all the cousins used to gather at nano’s place back in Lahore. That was the best place ever to pass summers cuz all the families used to gather over there. The most memorable thing was hanging out with cousins on dad’s or mamu’s cars in the hot noons when they were all sleeping and we didn't know how to drive the car. :)
And how are summers different now? In childhood, we didn’t feel the heat of the summers and it was easy to spend that time with cousins by doing a lot of fun things, even if the load shedding ever happened, but now its unbearable! ;)

Maaz Maudood
I always wanted to travel. For me, the picture of a perfect vacation was to go places…but sadly that wasn't the case…never actually got a chance to live that dream when I was a kid. Used to go over to my nani's place every Friday…that used to be SO much fun! She lived far far away and I just loved the long drive. The best part about my house was living in a joint family, which meant having loads of cousins running around. So when the summer vacations came, ALL the schools got off and there was total chaos at my place, but that was just amazing because even though I never got to travel, I used to have a ball every single day doing absolutely random things. I remember we used to play so many games – baraf paani, khokho, sticky toffee, Simon says – and even actual sports: hockey, badminton, table tennis…oh and card games! Can't forget card games, especially UNO!! Needless to say I had a great childhood, even though being the youngest was a pain most of the time, but hey, that's life. Now it's different because the same house that used to have 20 kids running around is empty. Everyone has their own lives. Most of them left the country, half of them got married. Times change and we really can't do much about that, but as the song goes, “memories give me the strength I need to proceed / the strength I need to believe”, so here I am now, busy saving the world. =)

Natasha Saleem
My dad’s a pilot, so I spent a lot of time traveling all over the world. Lots of fun! And I got to see the greatest places! Also, I have a lot of family abroad, so eventually we’d end up having a family reunion on the western side of the world with a million cousins and we did everything from snowboarding to going to water parks, depending on if it was winter or summer vacations. :)
We visited any and every place! We went to China, Greece, Switzerland, Dubai, Canada, Turkey – the whole nine yards! The most memorable incident would be from the time when I was in China with my family; I was a teenager back then, so I was dying to go on my own but my parents wouldn’t let me. Instead, they forced me to go to dinner with them to a Turkish restaurant where I discovered that at the end of the night they remove your plates from the table and everyone at the restaurant has to dance on their tables for a prize!! Needless to say my dad and I danced ourselves silly and even won! :D
How are summers different now? EXPENSIVE, considering I have to fund them on my own now, hehehe!

Faisal Kapadia
I was very lucky in the sense that I used to visit the USA and India during summer vacations every year. We visited these places as my siblings lived in the US and most of my relatives lived in India. Unlike today, visiting the US was considered something of great importance back then. There we used to go to various places, parks, malls etc. and going to Disney World was indeed the biggest attraction for me as a kid. Other than that, what fascinated me most during those visits was the CB radio system on the highways through which people used to alert each other if they saw a cop.
Time has brought many changes in my life. When I was a kid I used to wait for the start of vacations. It was the time when there was nothing to worry about, no workload, no tension of the hectic schedule. Unfortunately, summer vacations mean nothing to me anymore. I wouldn’t even notice the start of vacations if I don’t see my kids around. Now, it’s their time to enjoy, I think.

- Compiled by Sam and Jay

Us Magazine, The News - 13th July 2007

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Behind the name

cover story

Ever wondered how your favourite band got their name? Well, wonder no more! This week, we take a look at the meaning behind the names of bands and how they got their monikers.

Aaroh: The word ‘aaroh’ refers to the “ascending scale in the eastern vocals”, reflected in the band’s music: a fusion of classical eastern music and rock.

Akash: “Akash means sky, that is the highest peak and we want to achieve that peak,” says the band’s frontman Sam. “Our music is all about the feel and soul and most of our compositions are of a darker mood. As we know the colour for sadness or loneliness is blue, which is and also the colour of the sky, the name ‘Akash’ kind of depicts our feelings for music.”

Call: Danish Jabbar Khan, who was in the initial line-up of the band, came up with the name and ideology behind the name Call. The term signifies the call of ones inner self, as in the Urdu word ‘pukaar’, in an effort to make one realize and listen to that call that “we all have but ignore” and that could “take us to the right path”.

Inteha: “The name Inteha came up spontaneously when we decided to pursue music,” explains Nausher Javed, the guitarist of the band. “Naukhez and I listen to very different types of music. We both are very different nature-wise also. We wanted to make the kind of music that people with all moods and tastes could relate to easily. We wanted a name that could represent our ability and range to cover all forms and extremes of music, and as musicology has no limits, therefore go for ‘inteha’. That is why this name came into my mind.”

Jal: Urdu for ‘water’, Jal was chosen as the band’s name as it “affirms the intimate connection of water to the rhythms of our lives, and how it is something to be celebrated, revered, and preserved for all times to come”. According to the band’s website “the name ‘Jal’ is the product of the band’s vision to recognize music as the artistic extension of this natural unity. Water is truly one of the most sacred parts of our existence and the band’s music celebrates that concept by orchestrating a symphony of lyrics and music that is as limitless and timeless as [water] itself.”

Junoon: According to this oft-repeated account, Junoon, the Urdu word for ‘obsession’, was chosen by the band as their name after it came to Salman Ahmad in his dream in which he saw one of his teachers saying “tumhey mousiqui ka junoon hai”.

Kaavish: The band came up with a lot of names but weren’t satisfied with any of them. How they actually came across Kaavish was totally random; Maaz explains: “We started off with quite a few different names, but a couple of years ago, Jaffer and I were just sitting in his room, thinking of a name, so I got his dad’s Urdu ki lughat and randomly turning pages, we came across ‘kaavish’, liked the way it sounded and liked the meaning as well - ‘struggle to reach the highest point’ – and from that day on we made it a point to start the struggle and till this day we are and we always will, to reach higher grounds.”

Mizraab: The name Mizraab was suggested by band frontman Faraz Anwar’s father. The word refers to “the thing that one wears while playing the sitar”.

Mushk: “The general meaning of Mushk is fragrance or ‘khushboo’, but its actual meaning is very deep,” says Farhan Shah, adding that they just came up with the name randomly. “Mushk is basically a fixating effect jis ko khushboo main milaya jata hai to make it long lasting. And fragrance itself is something you can “feel”… I mean, you can only “feel” fragrance and you cannot “touch” it, just like music.”

Paradigm: One half of the now-defunct EP, Paradigm got its name after the band members “short listed a couple of names and just selected it because the other ones were too out of the box in terms of people to understand.”

Raeth: Raeth, the Urdu word for sand, was chosen by the band as their moniker because of its significance. According to the band’s guitarist Farabi, “It’s a sufi belief that humans are made out of sand. It reflects colours if exposed to light. Sand spreads in the air and it cannot be totally gripped and so will our music. And we compose much of our music sitting on the beautiful beach near Wajih’s house!”

Roxen: Derived from the Urdu word Rozen-e-deewar, the band’s name was the idea of the band’s vocalist Mustafa Zahid (a.k.a. Musti) and his friend Kashan. Rozen-e-deewar refers to “the light penetrating in a prisoner’s cell,” according to Musti. “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”.

Rung: Rung, who announced their disbandment earlier this year, came up with their moniker after thinking of various options. The band had initially thought of a name in English: True Colours. This was later changed to ‘Two Colours’, and eventually got translated and squeezed to a simple name, ‘Rung’. The word was reflective of “verve, colour, musical energy, creative diversity and life itself”, the very attributes that the band wanted to portray in their music.


Band name: to have or not to have?

Some, like Sajid and Zeeshan, prefer not to have one. As Sajid explains, “we didn’t keep a 'band' name because people didn’t know us that well and we wanted to market our individuality as musicians as well as our working together as a band.”

But others think it’s important to have a moniker. “I guess it’s extremely important to have a band name,” says Somair Rizvi, “coz the name brings all the different musicians – no matter what they play – under one umbrella, so they are no longer singers or guitarists or drummers, but just musicians, bringing out a collaborative combined art which is music”. Somair and Tahir are currently trying to come up with a name for their band. “We never really thought of doing music seriously and the three projects we did were totally for fun and experience, but now that we feel we might do something, so we are thinking of naming the band.”


How (not) to come up with a name for your band

The proper way of coming up with a band name would involve rational thought and analysis, but that would, of course, be the boring approach. Inspired by the very innovative monikers of bands all over the world, here are some alternatives you could try:
  • Go the Cheap Trick way. Refer to the Ouija board for assistance. On second thought, don’t!
  • Choose word. Ruin spellings. Attribute it to coolness. Probably won’t work, but it’s worth a try.
  • Green Day, Deep Purple, White Stripes, Shocking Blue, Black Sabbath, Maroon5, Silverchair, Vendetta Red, Yellowcard … enough said?
  • Learn from Panic! At the Disco, Oh No! Oh My! and !!! – use punctuation marks and visit typographical extremes!
  • Simply use your name. It worked for Bon Jovi and Daughtry … might work for you too.
  • Or use someone else’s, a la Travis (named after the main character of ‘Paris, Texas’), Orson (Orson Welles), Pink Floyd (Pink Anderson and Floyd Council).
  • Seek inspiration from poetry, (like Our Lady Peace, who took their name from a poem by Mark Van Doren), or prose, (like Collective Soul - a term used in Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead, and Savage Garden - a phrase from Anne Rice’s novel ‘Interview With The Vampire’).
  • Misuse the umlaut. If Mötley Crüe can do it, then so can you!
  • Use an online band name generator. Choose from gems like Cynical Axis, Neverending Barbie And The Chaos, Defiant Head, and Face Of The Detox Agony.
  • And if all else fails, ask someone else to pick a name for you. You will, however, need to remember that Fall Out Boy is already taken.
- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 25th May, 2007

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Young Modern

album review

Album: Young Modern
Band: Silverchair

After an almost four year long hiatus and seemingly endless speculation about the future of the band, Silverchair have returned with their new album ‘Young Modern’, not only putting an end to the break-up rumours, but also proving that they are still one of Australia’s finest exports. Since the release of their debut album ‘Frogstomp’ in 1995 (when the band members were in their early teens), Silverchair has come up with a string of hugely successful albums. Along the way, they have traded some of their post-grunge sound in favour of more psychedelic flavours; in doing so the band has appealed to a whole new audience, but has ended up alienating some of its original fan base. So while the album continues to reside atop the charts, ‘Young Modern’ is likely to garner as much praise from critics as it is disapproval from old school Silverchair fans.

The album kicks off with the rather uptempo ‘Young Modern Station’ which showcases frontman Daniel Johns’ vocal ability while displaying the new direction the band is taking on this record. The very catchy first single ‘Straight Lines’, along with tracks like ‘If You Keep Losing Sleep’, ‘Reflections of a Sound’, ‘Mind Reader’ and ‘Insomnia’, make ‘Young Modern’ an interesting blend of alternative rock and synth-pop. The highlight of the album, however, comes in the form of the three-part track ‘Those Thieving Birds (Part 1)/Strange Behaviour/Those Thieving Birds (Part 2)’, which goes for epic, and doesn’t fall short. The album does take a few missteps with songs like the somewhat disconnected ‘That Man That Knew Too Much’ and the bland album closer ‘All Across The World’, but the majority of the material on the album (even when it harks back to the sound of The Dissociatives) is exciting enough to more than makes up for these shortfalls.

So while this reviewer has nothing but praise for the album, here’s what it really comes down to: if you’re looking for ‘Frogstomp’ part two or a remake of ‘Freak Show’ or ‘Neon Ballroom’, then ‘Young Modern’ is bound to disappoint you. ‘Young Modern’ is an ambitious record, worthy of being praised for what it is instead of being put down for what it isn’t.

– Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 18th May, 2007

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Music in 2006 - a summary

music roundup

- Everyone went crazy over Gnarls Barkley’s song 'Crazy', making it the first single ever to top the UK charts on download sales alone. The single was subsequently pulled from UK stores by the band and their record label in May after nine consecutive weeks at number one, so that people would 'remember the song fondly and not get sick of it’.

- People did, however, get sick of James Blunt, so much so that Essex FM announced that it had banned all his songs from being played after listeners said they were 'fed up with them’.

- Justin Hawkins left The Darkness. If you’ve heard 'One Way Ticket To Hell...And Back', you’ll agree that this was a sensible thing to do.

- Panic! At The Disco released singles, some of which had mindbogglingly long titles.

- Many of us were extremely surprised when Mary J Blige won 9 Billboard music awards. We know she’s amazing and all, and we could’ve made peace with something like 7 or 8 awards, but 9??

- Most of us were somewhat surprised to see U2 and Green Day do a single together, but only because we couldn’t figure out why no one had come up with this idea earlier!

- And absolutely none of us were even slightly surprised when Britney Spears filed divorce papers and ended her two-year marriage to Kevin Federline, who released an album that no one bothered to buy.

- My Chemical Romance started looking a lot like The Smashing Pumpkins, started sounding a lot like Green Day, and started making music that was inspired by Pink Floyd and Queen. The results were surprisingly good.

- The Pipettes released a really nice pop record that everyone failed to notice.

- Fergie released some singles that were totally, utterly and completely irritating. Needless to say they sold a gazillion copies and topped charts everywhere.

- And just when we thought that nothing could possibly be more irritating than Fergie, Gwen Stefani proved us wrong by releasing 'Wind It Up'.

- Ok Go were completely ignored by everyone everywhere till they released the clips for 'A Million Ways' and 'Here It Goes Again', which can be summed up as brilliantness in video format.

- Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, The Killers, Robbie Williams, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Pink, Christina Aguilera, and lots of other artists released albums.

- Guns N’ Roses’ did not release an album. This shouldn’t even count as news anymore.

- Paris Hilton released an album that she said was so good that it made her cry. It made the rest of us cry for a completely different reason, and apparently even led The Guardian (a British Newspaper) to comment: "She sings like a woman who has heard of something called singing, can’t be sure of exactly what it might entail, but is fairly certain you do something a bit like this."

- Madonna adopted a Malawian baby boy, and people didn’t seem to like that very much.

- Not many people had heard of Nerina Pallot before 2006. Not many people have heard of Nerina Pallot after 2006.

- Take That reunited and that pleased us old-timers by bringing back lots of memories of the 1990s.

- All Saints reunited and that didn’t really please anyone.

- Kanye West made no secret of the fact that he thought his video 'Touch the Sky' should’ve won the 'Best Video’ award at the MTV Europe Music Awards. He went onto the stage as the award was being presented to Justice and Simian for 'We Are Your Friends', argued that he should have won instead...and was later sued by Robert 'Evel’ Knievel for trademark infringement in the 'Touch the Sky' video.

- Music show Top of the Pops ended after 42 years on British television.

- Italy lifted the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The Italians celebrated by singing 'Seven Nation Army'; the White Stripes’ song (originally released in 2003) reentered the Italian singles chart at the third spot. Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi. Sebastien and Emmanuel Lipszyc made a song about it. The song topped the charts in France.

- Lily Allen expressed her 'opinions’ about other musicians. Other musicians didn’t like that too much.

- Muse continued to be their amazing self by making another amazing album that everyone loved.

- Tool continued to be their generally boring self by making another generally boring album that everyone loved.

- Pamela Anderson married Kid Rock. Pamela Anderson divorced Kid Rock.

- 'Rockstar: Supernova' proved that Tommy Lee wasn’t nearly as cool as we’d thought.

- Some American Idol contestants released singles and albums and stuff. Most of it was quite rubbish.

- Carrie Underwood won awards. Faith Hill got it right when she mouthed the word "WHAT?!!" at the CMAs when Carrie won for 'Female Vocalist of the Year'. But she says she did it as a joke. We do the exact same thing every time we see Carrie win something. We don’t do it as a joke.

- Artists including Shakira, Nelly Furtado, and Justin Timberlake released songs that became insanely popular.

- Aaaaand a lot more happened during the year, but we seem to have run out of space (actually, we ran out of space some 200 words ago), so I will now bid you all farewell with the wish that you guys have a very happy and blessed new year! Ciao!

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 5th January 2007