Friday, July 27, 2012

Inspiring a Generation - 2012 Summer Olympic Games


Once every four years, the best athletes from all over the world get together at a chosen location to showcase their remarkable physical abilities, and remind the rest of us how we seriously need to consider joining a gym. For the latest session of these convergences, an estimated 10,500 sportspersons have come together in London this year, participating in 302 events in 26 sports. Prepare for round-the-clock coverage as the Games of the XXX Olympiad commence, and London attempts to “inspire a generation”, as per the Games official motto.


Many logos – Olympic or otherwise – receive criticism, but few cause a furore quite like the one triggered by the 2012 London Olympics emblem. The jagged 2012 design that reportedly cost £400,000 – yes, that’s four hundred thousand pounds! – was unveiled in 2007 to an avalanche of criticism. A representation of the number 2012 with the Olympic Rings drawn within the zero, the logo comes in shades of orange, green, pink, and blue, and “aimed at reaching young people”. Instead, it ended up receiving attention for all the wrong reasons; it was derided for resembling a distorted Swastika, appearing to spell out “Zion”, and for being just plain hideous. Others still feel that the design is modern and edgy, and that the £400,000 – yes, four hundred thousand pounds…really! – was money well spent.


One of the more unusual ideas for a mascot, London 2012 has chosen to embrace two drops of steel as its official mascots. Wenlock – named after the town of Much Wenlock, which held the forerunner to the current Olympic Games – and Mandeville – named after Stoke Mandeville, a village which held the forerunner to the Paralympics – are created from droplets of British steel used to build the Olympic stadium. The one-eyed creatures that have cameras for eyes supposedly “reflect the personalities and appearances of the people they meet”, and Wenlock wears five friendship bracelets on his wrist, one for each colour of the Olympic rings. As for their unusual appearance, what can display the Olympic spirit better than a pair of mutant Teletubbies? They’re a hit with children, and both locals and visitors seem to have warmed up to them after giving them a less than enthusiastic initial reception.


Fans of British music have plenty of reasons to get excited. The region that has given the world some of the best musicians of all time now gets to showcase its musical talent by tying up music with the Games in various ways. The most prominent tune that will emerge in the coming weeks comes from alternative rock band Muse, who have composed the official song of the Olympics. Sure, the Olympics aren’t the first – or second or third or fifteenth – thing you would think of when you hear Muse, but wait till you listen to their new song ‘Survival’… and then hear snippets of it about a gazillion times again in the next two weeks. A rock anthem armed with a rousing intro and suitably cheesy lyrics, ‘Survival’ will be broadcast at the events and sessions as well as during Olympic reporting and other coverage. Also keep an ear out for alt rock band Elbow’s ‘First Steps’, which was written for the BBC coverage of the Olympics. But that’s not all! Expect some live music to accompany the Games. Sir Paul McCartney is slated to perform at ‘The Isles of Wonder’ opening ceremony as well as the ‘A Symphony of British Music’ closing ceremony, which will also feature performances by Take That and The Who. Additionally, the likes of New Order and Blur are expected to appear at a closing ceremony concert at Hyde Park.

So watch the sports, enjoy the festivities, and keep hoping that this will be the year we end our medal drought! May the force be with us!

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 27th July, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

“We have finished our second album and have titled it Inteha-e-Rock”

interview: music mix

Lahore-based rock act Inteha talk music, India, and load shedding

Lahore-based rock act Inteha usually stay out of the news unless they're making new music. The group that was formed in 2005 and released their debut album, Kehna Chahta Hoon, in 2009, however, is looking at a comeback. They have finished their new album and have named it Inteha-e-Rock. Like Noori, Inteha is a sibling-act with Naukhez Javed taking on the role of vocalist and Nausher Javed serving as guitarist for the band.

The release of Inteha's second album is imminent, and Inteha-e- Rock, “will be released in Pakistan, India, and in the US in October 2012,” reveals Nausher. “This is a more commercial and more fun album than the previous one.”

And the band recently proved its mettle as a live act at the launch of Omore's Buzz ice-cream a few days prior to Ramazan. “The performance went really well,” vocalist Naukhez Javed said after the show. “It was our solo show, but a couple of performances by underground bands took place to open the event. To date it is the hottest performance by Inteha because of the superb crowd and a very hot and humid evening!”

“And the sound was good too,” adds guitarist Nausher Javed, “which is a source of relief for every live artist. The venue was Engro Foods Limited Regional Office Lahore. Almost two thousand people were present and the best part is each of them was responsive, so it was a memorable event for us with the miracle of no load shedding or power failure, thanks to the generators!” The country's power crisis has left everyone frustrated, and musicians are no exception. “Currently the load shedding crisis is really creating hurdles in the productive work of an artist or musician,” he vents, “because when you are making something creative and the electricity goes off, you are left in the middle of nowhere.”

Since their formation in 2005, they have performed in various cities, and have even had successful performances across the border. So how did Inteha become involved in this commercial event? “As Inteha has been working with the corporate sector for the last couple of years regarding jingles and music production, we were approached by Omore's brand team for a rock night as part of the launch of their new ice-cream, and they wanted us to perform at the event, keeping in view our growing fanbase,” explains Naukhez. “Considering the dying music scene in Pakistan as compared to yester years, I think [the organizers] did a fabulous job making an effort to revive concerts in Lahore. We did it for the fate of music and I think it was a good boost for the band's image.”

The setlist comprised of a wide array of tracks, including originals, covers, and even mash-ups. “We kicked off the concert with 'Bolo Bolo', a cover of Sajjad Ali's great [image]hit,” says Nausher. “Then we performed 'Daastan', our debut track along with 'Jaan-e-Jaan' a famous Bollywood classic. Then came 'Pappu Yaar', a Junoon classic and the crowd was totally rocking, followed by 'Ye Pyaar', our greatest hit to date, along with 'Pyaar Humain' which is, again, a Bollywood classic from the film Satte Pe Satta. After that we performed 'Anjana' with a combo of 'Bulleya', and then 'Rahon Main', which is a new song from our upcoming album, and ended the concert with 'Lal Meri Pat'.”

The group says the crowd particularly enjoyed 'Daastan', 'Pyaar' and 'Pappu Yaar' the most. But why did Inteha choose to do covers instead of sticking to material from their own catalogue? “We chose these songs as during our last India tour in December 2011 we performed our songs in combination or medley with Bollywood and Pakistani classics, and I must say it was a killer combination for the Indian crowd. They were over-excited so we tried this new idea in Pakistan and the response was awesome,” explains Naukhez. “We perform covers as we think that these were songs made by legends. We grew up listening to them, dancing to their beats, and now it is our time to pay a tribute to their efforts. In our view, performing their covers is the best way to make them live forever.”

The brothers admit that having only two members in the band has its challenges, especially when it comes to live performances and training session players, but they are very pleased with how their band performed at the Buzz launch. “On the second guitar, we have Shakib; on the bass guitar, we have Mobeen; and on drums, we have Raza.  They performed exceptionally well considering they were all new, except Shakib, and were performing with us for the first time,” says Naukhez. “I must say that all the band members did really well,” compliments Nausher.

The group is proud of what they have achieved so far, and are pleased with the success of their first album. “Our debut album, Kehna Chahta Hoon, was released in 2009 by The Musik Records,” says Nausher. “It was the top seller of 2009 and remained at the number one slot for three months. Also, we were given the Rising Star award by BBC UK, and our track 'Ye Pyaar' was declared the best rock song of 2009, courtesy of The News, Mag, The Nation, etcetera.”

In addition to their upcoming album, fans in the subcontinent can also look forward to live performances by the group, as they plan to tour the region soon. “We are going to India again in July for concerts in Delhi, Noida, Lucknow, and Mumbai,” says the duo, “and we also have a few concerts lined up in Dubai, then in Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore after Eid.” A new video is also on the cards. “The video of the track 'Rahon Main' is scheduled to be shot in August and will hit the screens in September 2012.”

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 24th July 2012

Friday, July 06, 2012

“We are really excited to learn that we already have lots of fans in Pakistan” - A chat with pop group A1


The ‘90s were a great time for boybands, and British-Norwegian pop group A1 were one of the many acts that emerged during this era and dominated the airwaves. After joining forces in 1998, Ben Adams, Mark Read, Christian Ingebrigtsen, and Paul Marazzi (who left the group in 2002) had a number of hits, including ‘Same Old Brand New You’, ‘Caught in the Middle’, and a cover of a-ha’s ‘Take on Me’. A hiatus followed Paul’s exit from the group, until the remaining trio reunited to once again continue their musical journey. Last year, the group collaborated with Pakistani pop singer Annie Khalid on the song ‘Just 3 Words’, which has now been released. The group was nice enough to chat with Us about their music, working with Annie, and their future plans. Here’s what they had to say:

Background and music

Us: How did you guys come together as a group?
Mark Read:
Christian came over from Norway and was living in Liverpool studying at the Paul McCartney Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), when he was recommended to a top UK manager putting a new band together. He met up with the management and landed a place in the band. Myself and Ben were in a band previously, trying to break into the business at the ages of 19 and 16. We also met with the management and were invited to be a part of the band as well. The main focus was on songwriting and musicianship. Paul was chosen through an earlier audition process.

Us: Why did you decide to part ways? And what prompted you to get back together?
After five years of nonstop travelling and promoting, we felt it was time for a break, and what was originally intended to be a short break ended up being seven years. But the three of us remained active in the music business during those seven years, [working on] solo projects, songwriting, and producing for other artists.
We got back together because Christian was asked to perform some A1 songs on a big TV show in Norway, so he asked us to come along just for fun. It got such a great response that it sparked off a series of comeback concerts, new album, and tour, and it’s just snowballed from there.

Us: How would you describe your music?
Our music back in the day, was fresh energetic pop with a British sound to it, which reflected what was going on in the UK pop scene at that time, but over the years developed into a more universal, timeless sound with big international hits like ‘Caught in the Middle’. Now it’s very contemporary pop rock, but without being pigeonholed into one category as we each bring something very different to the writing process.

Us: Which of the songs in your catalogue do you feel would be the best introduction to your music (for listeners who aren’t familiar with your work)?
‘Caught in the Middle’, ‘Don’t Wanna Lose You Again’, ‘Waiting for Daylight’, ‘In Love and I Hate It’, and ‘The Life That Could Have Been’.

Us: How have you guys changed since you first started out in the music business, both as people and as musicians?
We’ve obviously grown a lot as people in the 14 to 15 years since we first appeared on the scene, with a lot more life experience to draw upon when writing new material. Plus we’ve gained so much experience as a live band and since reuniting our live shows have been on a completely different level; we’ve had some of if not our very best shows since coming back, particularly in Asia.

Us: And how has the industry changed?
It’s a totally different industry, which seems to be less dictated by record labels and more about social media and igniting your fan base by more innovative ways. When we were first around, there was no X-Factor, no illegal downloading, or even YouTube, so there’s a lot more competition, but you just have to adapt, and we’re more passionate now about what we’re doing than we’ve ever been.

Us: The concept of boybands has various negative connotations associated with it. How do you feel about that?
Ben Adams:
To be honest, we have never received negativity in that respects. Probably because we aren’t really a boyband in the traditional sense. Yes we all sing, but we also all play our instruments on stage in a band set up and write and produce pretty much everything. Same as Coldplay, The Script, The Beatles, and any other group of guys making music.

Collaboration with Annie Khalid

Us: How did the collaboration with Annie Khalid come about? How do you know Annie, and how did the idea of a collaboration come up?
We met Annie at a charity event in Oslo for the floods and hit it off straight away, so we originally set up a few writing days in London for her, but loved the vibe so much we wanted to do something more, so ‘Just 3 Words’ was born and we laid it down as a duet.

Us: How was the experience of working with her?
Annie is a great performer, great singer, and most importantly a really nice person to work with. We had a great time recording the track and recently did our first performance of it at the Norwegian Grammys which went down amazingly!

Us: Please tell us about the song ‘Just 3 Words’
‘Just 3 Words’ is a song about a single moment of somebody saying three words to someone that changes their lives. What are those three words? Listen to the track and all will be revealed! It’s not what you would first think!

Us: Can you please tell us about the writing and recording process of the song?
We recorded it at Planet A Studios in London and produced it at the same place. We have been writing and producing for some of the world’s biggest artists there since the studio started, and we’re all pretty excited to have had Annie there too to add to the list of big names!

Us: How has the reception to the single been so far?
Christian Ingebrigtsen:
The reaction has been overwhelmingly good!  Everyone who hears it seems to get excited and want to dance. Great feedback from our fans, as well as industry people so far.

Us: Is there going to be a video for the song?
There are plans for making a music video very soon.  More info will be announced through our Twitter and websites.


Us: What is your perception of Pakistan?
Our perception of Pakistan is that it is a country with a lot of people with a rich culture and great food! Getting to know Annie, we learn more and more about Pakistan, and we’re really excited to visit and experience it for ourselves.

Us: Have you ever been to Pakistan? Do you plan to visit the country or perform here anytime soon?
We haven’t been to Pakistan yet, but there are plans to visit with Annie to promote this single.  Again, more info about this will be released through our Twitter and websites as soon as we have concrete dates.

Us: What can we expect from A1 in the coming months? Is a new album in the works?
A1’s newest album, Waiting for Daylight, is only recently released in the Asian territories, so we will continue to promote that this year.  But we are simultaneously working on a new album, which will be out next year.

Us: Any message for the readers?
We are really excited to learn that we already have lots of fans in Pakistan, and we can’t wait to meet everyone and learn more about what we understand is a unique and wonderful country.

- Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 6th July, 2012

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Men in Black 3

movie review: in the picture

Men in Black 3 ***

Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Emma Thompson
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Tagline: Back to the past… to save the future

When the agents of the “secret government organization that polices and monitors alien activity on and off of planet Earth” first took over the big screen in 1997, the world simply couldn't resist their charm. Men in Black was a huge summer blockbuster, and in many ways, it deserved to be; it was amusing, exciting, inventive, and altogether entertaining.

But that was 15 years ago.

A sequel, MIB (2002), missed the mark on most counts, and was all the more disappointing because of the standard set by the original. So the news of a third Men in Black film was understandably met with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, although the latter outweighed the former when it was revealed that production had to be halted midway to finish the script. Was this going to be another subpar attempt to capitalize on the success of the sci-fi comedy series? Or would they manage to salvage the franchise with this third offering? The result, it turns out, lies somewhere in the middle.

The story begins when an alien criminal, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), escapes from a prison on the Moon where he has been locked up for 40 years. Seeking revenge, he goes back in time to kill Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), who shot off one of his arms and captured him in 1969; the repercussions of his actions alter the present. It is now up to Agent J (Will Smith) to follow Boris back in time, stop him from killing K, and save the world from an alien invasion.

The time travel premise may seem standard for a science fiction film, but it is made interesting by two stellar acting performances. The first one comes from Michael Stuhlbarg who plays Griffin, an alien with precognitive powers, who is probably the most fascinating, and perhaps even endearing, character of the movie. Tangled in a web of possible futures and alternative realities, Griffin guides our heroes who seek the optimum timeline. The second and most impressive performance in the film comes from Josh Brolin who portrays young Agent K. His deadpan take on Tommy Lee Jones' laconic K (Jones himself is missing for much of the movie) is simply impeccable, and ultimately it's his performance that steals the show.

Barry Sonnenfeld's third time at the helm of a MIB project, the film can't compete with the original, but it's certainly an improvement on its predecessor. As always, lots of special effects are on offer, and there are a number of retro-futuristic gizmos and interesting aliens (courtesy of makeup expert Rick Baker) that will please the fans of the series. MIB3 keeps the viewer engaged for its 106 minutes runtime, and to offset the predictability, it even delivers a surprise payoff by way of a touching ending. And not only does it invoke nostalgia, but it also gives us a new perspective on our favourite MIB agents. It isn't the most original film ever made and it may require you to suspend your disbelief on occasion (and ignore a few plot holes), but the film does benefit from some impressive performances by its cast, and for those who are willing to give in to the premise, MIB3 offers a fun, enjoyable ride.

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 1st July, 2012