Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jaded: Aerosmith revisit old magic

album review

Aerosmith release their new album after more than a decade in hopes of reviving their former glory

Band: Aerosmith
Album: Music from Another Dimension!

Based on the events of the last few years, it was anyone's guess whether Aerosmith would still be together in 2012. The band that found stardom four decades ago with the release of multi-platinum albums like Get Your Wings (1974), Toys in the Attic (1975), and Rocks (1976), has since battled internal feuds, splits, hiatuses, squabbles, and health issues, often leaving their status in turmoil. So the release of their long delayed new album is a bit of a triumph - they've overcome personal issues (and even more impressively, they've overcome American Idol) to once again reunite in the name of good old fashioned rock 'n' roll, which is exactly what they deliver on Music from Another Dimension!

Years in the making, their fifteenth studio album and first set of original material since 2001's fun but inconsequential Just Push Play (the 2004 follow-up to which was mostly a set of blues covers), Music from Another Dimension! sees the band produce more of their trademark sound, undeterred by the fact that their luster has waned over the last few releases. There is more blues tinged hard rock on offer here, powered by Steven Tyler's distinctive vocals and Joe Perry's searing riffs.

The album puts together sounds from their entire career with varying results. The rollicking 'Lover A Lot' proves that these veteran rockers haven't entirely lost their swagger. Perry's guitar licks shine on tracks like 'Out Go the Lights' and 'Street Jesus' (and he also lends his vocals to the songs 'Freedom Fighter' and 'Something'). But for a band as eccentric as Aerosmith, a couple of non-descript power ballads (which include 'Can't Stop Lovin' You', a duet with country pop singer and former Idol champ Carrie Underwood) turn out to be far less exciting; these tracks are clearly aimed at the audience that gobbled up 'I Don't Want to Miss a Thing', an intention that becomes completely transparent when you see that Diane Warren has penned one of these tracks, titled 'We All Fall Down'.

Aerosmith have worked - and somehow survived - for decades to amass a vast catalogue and fan following, and whether you got into their music in the '70s or '80s or '90s (and whether you continued to be able to listen to them without wincing after you had to hear that Armageddon song so many times that it made you want to root for that darned asteroid instead), you'll find components of their sound from each of these eras spliced into some of these songs. It, however, is hard to refute that their more recent output hasn't been at par with the material of their heydays. If you see Tyler's time on American Idol as a struggle to find relevance, then Music from Another Dimension! is Aerosmith setting out on a quest for relevancy but not quite sure how to get there. The set doesn't sound contemporary, and they might think that the presence of an Idol alumnus will make them seem more current and make their appeal wider, but the guest appearance fails to achieve this or any other significant effect.

For the most part, Music from Another Dimension! sounds like you've heard it before and you've heard it done better by the very same musicians. At its best, the set offers the kind of raunchy version of bluesy rock 'n' roll that Aerosmith perfected in the '70s and have henceforth been known for, and serves as a reminder of what the band is capable of; at its worst, you have to contend with damp squibs in the form of power ballads, the kind that brought them commercial success in the '90s; and on the whole it showcases a band the seems to be way past its prime. Ultimately, there is a sense that this album, and perhaps even the band that made it, belongs in a bygone decade, and Music from Another Dimension! simply makes you nostalgic for Aerosmith's glory days.

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 27th January, 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

Educational websites


The Internet hosts some wonderful resources for learners that offer boundless knowledge to anyone who is willing to make use of it. Here are some such websites that students can benefit from:

Book Boon
Having trouble trying to understand a concept in your course book? Need extra material to help clarify a topic? Want concise notes to assist you in revising the theories that you have already learned? Then head on over to Book Boon, a website that provides hundreds of textbooks online for you to download and peruse. These books, available as PDF files, are “focused and to the point”, and have been written by “highly respected professors from top universities in the world and cover topics such as economics, statistics, IT, engineering, and natural science”. There isn’t much extraneous text wrapped around the core concepts to obfuscate the topic under discussion; the books get right to the point and plainly explain the concepts or theories at hand. And best of all, they’re all available for free! You do have to enter your email address to download the files, and you have to put up with a few advertisements that appear in the books, but that’s hardly a problem when you’re getting all this material for free; you don’t need to dole out more cash on buying additional textbooks if you can find what you need here for gratis. So whether you’re struggling with chemistry, biology, programming, calculus, finance, economics, accounting, management, or a number of other subjects, then visit Book Boon to help you out by supplementing the material in your course books.

Course material
OCW Consortium
The OpenCourseWare (OCW) Consortium is a “worldwide community of hundreds of higher education institutions and associated organizations committed to advancing OpenCourseWare”, which is “a free and open digital publication of high quality college and university‐level educational materials, organized as courses, and often includes course planning materials and evaluation tools as well as thematic content”. You can find course material from a lot of sources, put together in one portal that you can search through to get what you need in a diverse range of subjects. You might need a little patience to plough through the links, but if you stick with it, you can find many useful resources in the subject(s) of your choice.

Learning tools
Initially founded by a student as an easy-to-use tool for learning vocabulary for his own use, Quizlet has since grown into one of the largest educational websites in the world. The service offers “simple study tools that let you study anything, for free”. Students can define what they need to learn, and the website provides the tools to facilitate the learning. There are six different study modes that you can make use of: Flashcards allow you to flip through and familiarize yourself with the material; the Learn Mode lets you track your progress and review the things you got wrong; the Scatter section asks you to match words to their definitions and try to finish faster than your friends; Speller makes you type what you hear and works in 18 different languages; the Test mode prepares you for the actual test with an automatically graded quiz; and Space Race encourages you to earn points by typing in words before their definitions vanish off screen. You can search for material on the topics of your choice or create your own study sets. So whether you want to study art, science, management, or language, visit Quizlet and join millions of students and teachers from all over the world and enjoy the process of learning.

Useful Charts
Some of us find it easier to learn through text, others find it easier to absorb information visually through diagrams and charts. If you fall in the latter category, then Useful Charts was made especially for you. The goal of the website is to “present useful information in the form of charts so that students, teachers, or simply those interested in increasing their general knowledge can absorb the information quickly and visually”. It doesn’t cover everything under the sun and you won’t find a depth of information on every subject, but there is a lot here for visual learners who want to improve their general knowledge and learn about history, science, psychology, and philosophy.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 18th January, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

movie review: in the picture

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ***1/2

Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis
Directed by Peter Jackson
Tagline: From the smallest beginnings come the greatest legends.

Book to film adaptations can be a tricky business. When done right, they have the power to bring enchanting worlds and adored characters to life on the big screen. When messed up, they mangle beloved stories and leave the filmmakers facing the wrath of countless fans.

It was, therefore, a relief when The Lord of the Rings trilogy fell into the first category. Peter Jackson's adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's epic masterpiece was a complex and well crafted cinematic adventure that pleased viewers and critics alike, and in doing so, the movies set a very high bar, making it a daunting task to revisit this universe in another project.

So when the two part adaptation of The Hobbit was announced a few years ago, it was met with a mixture of excitement and trepidation - there was comfort in knowing that with Peter Jackson, the material would be in safe hands, but seeing the length of the book, it wasn't entirely clear how they would manage to generate two riveting films (three hours or so a pieces) out of it.

Then came the news that the adaptation would actually be a trilogy, and the level of concern went up a notch. Why was a film based on a relatively short children's book being released in three parts, and how was this story (even with the appendage of material from Tolkien's other writings) going to yield so many hours of film? The answer, we now find out, is by stretching it thin and fluffing it up with padding. Lots and lots of padding.

With a familiar tune, we return to Middle-earth, as the project's first installment, An Unexpected Journey, reunites us with some familiar faces. The film begins as Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) decides to write down the full story of his adventure for his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood), just before the events of The Lord of the Rings commence. We go back six decades as a young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) meets Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellen), and is thereby, despite his many objections, selected for an adventure. The hobbit's cozy home is thereafter invaded by a group of dwarves, led by Thorin (Richard Armitage), who, it turns out, are on a quest to march to Lonely Mountain and reclaim their homeland from Smaug the dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins the mission as they set out on the journey, which, of course, is riddled with peril.

After a sluggish start, the adventure does, eventually, get going, as the group encounters trolls, orcs, goblins, and stone giants, testing their commitment and courage. “Out of the frying pan, into the fire,” the characters remark, as Peter Jackson tries his best to turn everything into a CGI drenched action sequence. “All good stories deserve embellishment,” says Gandalf at one point, and that is clearly the manifesto of the crew behind this adaption of Tolkien's novel. Passing mentions are expanded into sizeable roles and detailed storylines; extraneous material is added to meet the requisite battle quota; and a simply tale with a straightforward plot is bloated to amplify its epicness. Some of these embellishments pay off, others don't. Some are understandable, others feel superfluous and unnecessary. Either way, the extraneous material, extra characters, and added sub-plots slow down the process.

It is only after we meet Gollum (Andy Serkis) that we are rewarded for slogging through the first half of the proceedings. Easily the most fascinating character in the film (and perhaps the whole series), and played (motion capture and voice) to creepy perfection by Andy Serkis, it is Gollum whose encounter with Bilbo very emphatically steals the show. It is sharp, crisp, focused, riveting, displays an impressive use of the CGI, lacks the contrivances that burden other parts of the movie, and is gripping in the way that one would wish the whole film was. There is tension here that other parts of the film lack; we're captivated by both Gollum's inner conflict and his conflict with Bilbo - it's these struggles that are more rewarding than the physical conflicts of the repeated fight/flight sequences that Jackson wants to rely on.

The acting in the movie is one of its strengths. Martin Freeman is as effortlessly charming as always in the role of Bilbo; Ian McKellen returns in all his glory, reprising the part of the gentle but wise Gandalf; but eventually it's Andy Serkis' riddling Gollum that makes the movie truly worth watching and the actor deserves all the praise he gets for this role. And of course New Zealand's majestic landscapes are, once again, on display in all their splendor, and their familiarity is comforting.

In the end, however, we are nearly three hours into the story, and we have a year's wait ahead of us to resume the adventure and get to a more substantial stage with the second installment; that, somehow, seems a little unfair. Yes, it is a preamble to the adventure that lies ahead, and in the end things might tie up neatly, and no, we weren't expecting the pace and charm of LotR here, but was stretching The Hobbit so much really necessary?

Still, after years of delays, changes, and production woes, we finally have a film, and that in itself is something to rejoice about. Plus the film is quite entertaining despite its shortcoming, and even these shortcomings are mostly a matter of taste and preference. Those who can't get enough of this series and want to spend as much time as possible visiting Middle-earth will be thrilled by An Unexpected Journey and will be glad that there are two more installments (The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and There and Back Again (2014)) that they can look forward to. For viewers with less patience, the movie will probably seem overlong and inflated; with a swifter pace, greater sense of urgency, and a less meandering narrative, the film could have been a lot more captivating.

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 13th January, 2013

The life and times of Cheryl Cole

book review

Cheryl opens up about being a judge on The X Factor UK, getting sacked from The X Factor US, and her subsequent feelings towards music mogul Simon Cowell

Author: Cheryl Cole
Book: Cheryl: My Story

A young girl fulfills her childhood dream of becoming a pop star, only to realize that fame comes at a price, in Cheryl: My Story, the autobiography of the Girls Aloud singer. The book details the British entertainer's transition from Cheryl Tweedy to Cheryl Cole to just Cheryl over the course of 29 years, discussing some of the highs and lows she encountered along the way.

My Story follows Cheryl's life and the events that took her from living in a council estate to becoming one of Britain's biggest pop stars, as well as the aftermath of her success. She talks about her upbringing and formative years in Newcastle, the troubles that crept up in her family when she was a child, her aspirations of becoming a performer fuelled by her conviction in her own abilities, and the tumultuous relationships that almost derailed her dreams. The singer says she knew early on that she wanted to “dance and sing and entertain people”. No matter what was going on in her life, she never had any doubts about her eventual success; for her, it “was not a question of 'if' I was going to make it, just 'when'.” Living in a town ravaged by drugs, she watched as the young people around her wasted their lives after falling prey to addiction, but music eventually helped her find a way out.

Cheryl recalls the story as she becomes a part of the reality television singing competition Popstars: The Rivals which leads her to a place on the female pop group Girls Aloud. After that, it's a revisit to the things that have been tabloid fodder ever since - criticism in the face of the rising success of the pop group, her marriage to footballer Ashley Cole and its subsequent dissolution amidst cheating allegations, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of Comic Relief, contracting malaria while on a safari in Africa with Derek Hough, being a judge on The X Factor UK, getting sacked from The X Factor US, and her subsequent feelings towards Simon Cowell. All the while the tabloids are delivered a hefty hammering by the singer for hounding her and invading her privacy.

Cheryl is particularly candid about Ashley's cheating and its aftermath (and her heartbreak over the break up is clearly obvious), plus it's interesting to read her perspective on Simon Cowell, but while she opens up about some issues, other things - like the internal rifts in Girls Aloud, for example - seem glossed over. Much of the book feels guarded and sterilized to dissuade rumors and controversy and present a favourable image of the singer.

There is a lot that still remains in the shadows; for instance, if you were unsure about the nature of her relationships with Derek Hough and, you will come out none the wiser after perusing the book. The focus of My Story doesn't seem to be on discussing interesting anecdotes and details from her life, but on retelling the tales that are already out there. This isn't so much her story, but her version of the events that you've already read about elsewhere. Plus the privacy angle seems less convincing based on some of her own decisions; she seems to be drawn towards fame, then despise the publicity, and simply does not come across as an artist concerned with the art of music. And while her Geordie dialect makes her writing more personable, we never really get a proper sense of her personality.

On the whole, My Story isn't exactly the most fascinating autobiography you will ever read. It isn't as exciting and captivating as reading about the life of a rock star or music industry insider who is sharing decades of anecdotes and experiences that you will be fascinated by even if you're not a fan of that particular musician. Instead, it is a guarded look at the singer's life that aims to air her perspective on all the media hoopla surrounding her. The main purpose of the book seems to be to present Cheryl's take on events, and if you are a fan or have been following the tabloid stories and want to know her side of things, then the book might interest you; but if you don't belong to either category, then this autobiography is probably not going to be high on your must read list.

- By Sameen Amer

 Instep, The News on Sunday - 13th January, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

Remembering Amy

book review

Book: Amy, My Daughter 
Author: Mitch Winehouse

Amy Winehouse’s rise and fall were both meteoric, and both unfurled in public view. The British singer who saw international fame after the release of her album Back to Black (2006) became a tabloid fixture because of her personal ups and downs. Between her rise to fame and her untimely sudden death in July 2011 at the age of 27, things like her marriage to and subsequent divorce from Blake Fielder-Civil, struggle with drugs, and uneven live performances became constant gossip column fodder.

Now, in a tome released a year after her death, her father Mitch Winehouse shares memories of his daughter in his book Amy, My Daughter. The book - the author’s proceeds of which go to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which aims to “help children and young adults facing difficulty and adversity in their lives” - offers an account of Amy’s life from birth to death, and all that came in between.

We follow Amy’s journey as she deals with her parents’ divorce, struggles through school, and finds her way to a music career. Mitch describes her as a strong willed, attention seeking, wild spirit, who “always had to go one step further than anyone else”, and shares incidents from the time they spent with each other. He also sheds light on how her albums came together, and how her songs were shaped by her own life when she wrote from experience. ‘Rehab’ actually recounts a real incident; her relationship with journalist Chris Taylor formed the basis of her debut album Frank; and her relationship with Blake became the basis of Back to Black, or as the author puts it “one of the biggest-selling UK albums of the twenty-first century so far is all about the biggest low-life scumbag that God ever put breath into”. Yes, Mitch Winehouse’s issues with the Fielder-Civil clan often come to the forefront many times in the book. They’re not nice at all, he thinks, and he really, really wants you to know that.

By the second half of the book, the tedium of addiction has set in. It’s monotonous. It’s frustrating. But apparently so is addiction. “It seemed that we were going round in circles,” he writes. “When Amy wasn’t high, she wanted to get clean. Then she would get high and forget she wanted to get clean.” The people around her are subjected to a rollercoaster ride when Amy falls into the cycle of relapse and recovery as she struggles to give up drugs and alcohol, while her family and friends try to figure out how to deal with an addict.

Mitch Winehouse talks about trying to support his daughter, what it was like when she was falling apart, and the efforts he made over the years to help her. While it may be about Amy, the book, in fact, isn’t so much an account of what it was like to be Amy Winehouse, but a reflection of what it was like to be her father. And yes, the material might be skewed - it is, after all, only one side of the story written by someone who clearly loved the person at its centre - but still no one comes out looking particularly good. Also, it doesn’t explore Amy’s early life and upbringing as much as it could have, it gets repetitive, and it doesn’t offer deep insights into what caused her behaviour and why she was so attracted to the people and things that ultimately caused her problems. Still, Amy, My Daughter is a sad and heartbreaking account of a talented but troubled artist, as seen through her father’s eyes, that gives us an intimate look at the singer as well as the cruel cycle of addiction. It’s a book that Amy’s fans, in particular, will appreciate, although it won’t be a very good idea to rely solely on this text if you want a deeper understanding and analysis of her choices and behaviour.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 11th January, 2013

Sunday, January 06, 2013


movie review: in the picture

Looper ***
Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, and Pierce Gagnon
Director: Rian Johnson
Tagline: Hunted by your future. Haunted by your past.

In a dystopian 2044, society is facing decline and the world has been thrown into turmoil. A part of the population has developed a telekinetic mutation, only to discover that there isn't much they can do with this power other than levitate coins and impress people. And while time travel technology hasn't been invented yet, it is already playing a role in the lives of a certain set of people, the loopers.

Upon its invention in the future, time travel is immediately outlawed, but that doesn't stop criminal organizations from using it to send individuals back to the past to a specified time and place, where hired assassins, known as loopers, are waiting to shoot and kill the targets and dispose of the bodies, which is something that is difficult to do in the future because of “tagging techniques and what not”. The loopers are well paid and live comfortably, but there's a catch: when the mob wants to terminate a looper's contract, they send his future self back to be killed by his past self, thus “closing the loop”. Successfully closing the loop gives the looper a hefty pay and 30 years to enjoy it; failing leads to a dire aftermath.

This is the predicament that befalls Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - a looper who works as a hit man with a syndicate in Kansas - after a new crime boss, the Rainmaker, takes over in the future and starts closing all the loops. Confronted by his older self (Bruce Willis), Joe falters, and sets off a series of events that lead to some intense and thought provoking consequences.

Helmed by Rian Johnson - who also worked with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his directorial debut, the offbeat Brick (2005) - Looper is an intriguing science fiction thriller that is both well crafted and well executed, and it helps that its acting talent is pretty solid. Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers, in spite of what the makeup artists have done to his face, and Bruce Willis continues to kick butt and is at the top of his game. The supporting cast - which includes Paul Dano as Joe's troubled best friend, Piper Perabo as a showgirl, and Emily Blunt as a single mother, raising her son Cid who is played by Pierce Gagnon - all give convincing performances. And Jeff Daniels is memorable as Joe's boss Abe, delivering some of the film's most amusing lines.

Throughout the movie it is pretty obvious that Johnson's focus is on presenting an intriguing story via an imaginative storytelling device while focusing on the characters instead of the science, and in that he succeeds. But nitpickers beware: there are details that aren't fully explained in the film and a certain degree of suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite to appreciate and enjoy the movie. While the missing information can be a bit distracting, wading through the intricacies of time travel doesn't seem to be the intent of the filmmakers. We only see a slice of the world portrayed in the film, and don't explore the minutiae that would help clarify how some of the elements in the story work. Rian Johnson may be intent on closing the loops, but he leaves enough loopholes open to ensure that the logical inconsistencies of time travel and the butterfly effect are never fully answered, but in doing so he lets the characters and the actual idea at the core of the film take center stage.

By the end, it's fairly clear that he doesn't want us to fuss about the details of time travel but wants to leave us pondering existential quandaries and thinking about the role of nature versus nurture and the futility of violence. The stylized nihilism presented in the tale that he has conjured up is both exciting and engaging; at times the developments feels like something that Christopher Nolan would concoct, and the film is an impressive addition to Johnson's resume.

All in all, Looper is a fast paced, action filled ride, fuelled by an interesting premise that ultimately leaves the viewer with an invitation to contemplate the role of destiny and free will and the cycle of violence … given that you don't get bogged down by the technicalities that are blatantly skirted by its narrative (in which case you might be left with an impulse to watch it all over again, if only to try and piece the whole thing together). But if you give in to its ideas and accept its “cloudy” and “messy” premise, then Looper promises a satisfying payoff.

– Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 6th January, 2013

Robbie Williams stages a confident comeback

album review

Take the Crown is mostly a retreat to the safer territory of anthemic pop rock

Artist: Robbie Williams
Album: Take the Crown

Since the release of his previous solo studio album, Reality Killed the Video Star (2009), Robbie Williams has released a greatest hits compilation, made amends with Gary Barlow, reunited with Take That, made a record and an EP with the band, gotten married, and embraced fatherhood as he welcomed his daughter into the world. It would be safe to say that the last few years have been quite eventful for the singer, and it appears that these changes have done him good, as he now makes a confident return to reclaim his position atop the charts with his ninth solo album, Take the Crown.

The album showcases a musically tamer and mellower Robbie, which shouldn't exactly come as a shock considering how much flack he received for his more offbeat releases like the widely slammed Rudebox (2006). That said, some of his more recent work leading up to the new record (including his efforts with Take That) has actually been more electro- and synth-pop oriented and sonically diverse; Take the Crown, however, is mostly a retreat to the safer territory of anthemic pop rock. This isn't the Robbie of Rudebox and Progress, but the record does feel like a logical follow-up to Video Star.

The singer offers a set of confessional and self-reflecting musings through 11 songs, all but one of which he has co-written. The playful lead single (and massive hit) 'Candy' is crafted for commercial success and sees him collaborate with fellow Take That member Gary Barlow, as does the second single 'Different'; the demo of Take That's melodious 'Eight Letters', performed entirely by Robbie, also finds home as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of the album. Elsewhere, Australian songwriting duo Tim Metcalfe and Flynn Francis, and producer Jacknife Lee share writing credits in varying combinations on songs such as the U2-esque 'Hunting for You' and 'Into the Silence'. Robbie teams up with Boots Ottestad to pen the perky 'Hey Wow Yeah Yeah', which despite its “boy boy boy, girl girl girl, clap your hands, clap your hands if you wanna wanna” lyrics still manages to be fun and enjoyable somehow. And the standard edition of Crown comes to a close with a charming cover of Belle Brigade's 'Losers' that features American singer Lissie who accompanies Robbie on vocals.

The compositions are well crafted and his lyrics still retain bite, but musically some of the songs seem a little middle of the road. Predominantly the album isn't adventurous, which comes as a bit of a disappointment seeing how he scored electro-pop winners with Take That on Progress and Progressed, and the disc's by-the-numbers approach makes it less exciting and less memorable.

Ultimately though, Take the Crown is a Robbie Williams album, and that's exactly what it sounds like. This is solid, albeit safe pop music meant to please the mainstream audience. The peppier tracks on the record stand out more easily and carry more commercial appeal, while the other songs offer competent pop melodies that are driven by Robbie's trademark confidence and delivery but don't offer much in the way of innovation or experimentation. The album doesn't seem particularly concerned with being crisp and modern, and isn't nearly as distinct as Rudebox (although based on the reception that record got, almost no one is going to be upset about this). It would, however, have been more interesting if Robbie had retained some of the bolder and more diverse elements that he has previously experimented with, and found a way to still incorporate them into his music instead of going back to his comfort zone. As it stands, the gradual variations in his sound here will perhaps only be noticeable to his fans; the album is similar to what he's done before, but as a fan you probably won't mind that anyway. For casual listeners, most of these songs won't be instantly memorable, and the set isn't very likely to impress his detractors.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 6th January, 2013

Friday, January 04, 2013

“The song ‘Jinnah’ is unquestionably the voice of every patriotic Pakistani alive.”


Lahore based band Soch discuss singing about Mohammed Ali Jinnah, performing at Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf rallies, being a part of a music show and more

Lahore based band Soch have been operating just below the mainstream radar for the last few years, but have managed to amass a considerable fan following in the process. Comprising of Adnan Dhool on vocals and Rabi Ahmed on guitars, the group is now revving things up and planning to release a number of new songs and videos over the next few months. Instep Today caught up with the band to find out more about their current activities and upcoming releases.

Instep Today: How and when did you guys come together as a band?
Adnan Dhool:
Five years ago, I was looking for a session player for my concert. That is when I met Rabi. He played for the concert, and after that I met Rabi on and off. We hit it off right away; we liked all the same things, and we're both on the same wavelength, so that is when I offered Rabi to join Soch, and Rabi very willingly accepted.

Instep Today: How would you describe the music that you make?
Rabi Ahmed:
I enjoy jazz and blues, usually western, while Adnan, on the other hand, adores eastern beats and he is inspired by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahib, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Kailash Kher, Sonu Nigam, and Rabbi Shergill. We always sit together while composing, so it is never just one of us alone working on our compositions. To our listeners, it may seem like we are a pop rock band, but I think it will be unfair if the music Soch does is pigeonholed to a specific genre. We experiment with our sounds to create something fresh and experimental.
Adnan: Yeah. Who knows, Soch might even come out with a dubstep track next!

Instep Today: Has breaking into the music industry been easier or harder than you expected?
Harder! In fact, much harder than we thought it would be.
Rabi: For the last three to four years, we have just been waiting for the right moment to break into the main music scene, and honestly there was no right moment. Breaking into music for artists like us is tough, and having limited resources makes it tougher. But what we have learned is that if you have the potential and your content is worth listening to, you get noticed anyway.
It has really been a rough ride for us and our management to break into music. We have faced a lot of criticism for not releasing our videos earlier and delaying the release of our content. But we decided as a team to wait, and in the meanwhile focus on gigs, concerts, and public performances.

Instep Today: How did the chance to do 'Uth Jawana' for PTI come up?
Our major breakthrough was the unplugged version of 'Uth Jawana' that we did for Geo News's Choraha with Mr. Hassan Nisar. He praised our lyrical content and encouraged us to write more such thought provoking and inciting songs. We got a lot of praise and appreciation for 'Uth Jawana', and that was when we received a call from the General Secretary of PTI, Karachi. They rung us to appreciate 'Uth Jawana', and later Madam Andleeb Abbas, through a mutual friend Madam Ramma, introduced us to Mr. Imran Khan. It sure was a great honour to perform 'Uth Jawana' for him at his home and get appreciation from him. He encouraged us and said such songs are needed to inspire the youth of today. After this, 'Uth Jawana' was taken officially for their campaign 'Jaag Utho' and we performed it in different cities with PTI on stage to spread the underlying message of 'Uth Jawana'.
Rabi: Everything is not about making money, and getting fame. It is very gratifying to contribute to history and to do something for Pakistan and the coming generation.

Instep Today: Do you guys support PTI? And do you think music and politics should mix?
Everyone has the right to have an opinion. Considering the business perspective, many may say that musicians shouldn't be political and may diplomatically answer that we support change but never mention a political party and be precise. Our stance on this is pretty simple: we, Soch, are common people and are suffering like any other, and at this point if PTI has come up with a new wave of positivity and change, so far we see no harm in supporting and spreading their message of wanting a change in the current system.

Instep Today: You recently released your new song 'Jinnah'. Please tell us about it.
'Jinnah' is unquestionably the voice of every patriotic Pakistani alive. It is really heartbreaking to see the devastation of Jinnah sahib's vision and all the more shattering to see all his struggles and determinations going right down the drain.
Adnan: 'Jinnah' is a tribute from Soch to our great leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It's just another thought of how Quaid-e-Azam would feel if he was alive today. It's about how we have forgotten everything Quaid did and the ideology on which the very foundation of Pakistan was laid.
We had planned to release a video of 'Jinnah' too on the 25th of December, but we ended up releasing the audio only and decided to delay the plan and release the video in some other month on any other normal day, just to make a point that we don't have to remember Quaid in August, September, or December only.

Instep Today: Is a full length album also in the works?
Yes, we are working on our album. We are hoping to complete it by May 2013, and then release it probably in June or July.

Instep Today: Adnan and Rabi, you were also on Nescafe Basement, which aimed to groom undiscovered musicians. Why did you choose to be on the show even though you guys already have some mainstream recognition and experience under your belt?
Xulfi bhai approached us for Nescafe Basement, and the only thing that came to our mind was the learning experience. Working along with an exceptional musician like Xulfi is a remarkable learning experience. Playing music with 13 other young, fresh, and talented musicians as a team was awesome. We learned a lot about music and team coordination. Nescafe_ Basement helped us get massive recognition too, which we believe is going to help us in the long run.

Instep Today: You also performed your song 'Awari' on Nescafe Basement. Please tell us about it.
'Awari' is a bold step taken, to convey the terribly difficult, painful life the girls in the profession of prostitution get to live. It depicts the emotional trauma lived by the girl forced in this gruesome, deadly, unchosen profession. This is one sensitive issue that is ignored but not unexposed in our society.

Instep Today: What can we expect from Soch in the coming months?
Lots of songs, videos, and concerts. We want to work as much as we can and share our content with our fans on a regular basis as much as possible.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 4th January, 2012