Friday, May 30, 2014

It’s the grumpy cat!

book review

Book: A Grumpy Book: Disgruntled Tips and Activities Designed to Put a Frown on Your Face
By: Grumpy Cat

If you’ve been anywhere near the Internet during the last few years, then chances are that you’ve seen at least a few pictures of Tardar Sauce. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with the name, because it is very likely that you are familiar with the face, and the fact that it belongs to a feline doesn’t make it any less notable. Yes, Tardar Sauce is a cat, more famously known to her devotees as Grumpy Cat, and her grumpy mug has generated a plethora of memes, graced the cover of international magazines, endorsed merchandise, and amassed a million dollar empire. And Tard has even made the leap from the Internet to paper with her tome A Grumpy Book: Disgruntled Tips and Activities Designed to Put a Frown on Your Face.

The famous frowner (who gets her distinct countenance because of feline dwarfism) has “written” a coffee table book to share her grumpiness with the world and to help her minions develop a grumpy mindset.

Ever since becoming an Internet sensation after her owner Tabatha Bundesen’s brother Bryan posted her photo on Reddit in September 2012, Grumpy Cat has taken over the Web with amusing memes that have statements like “I had fun once, it was awful” superimposed on her pictures next to her sullen face. Many of these memes have been compiled for the book, and a few of the same, familiar images appear multiple times in the pages with amusing captions. Some new pictures (and yes, the book is mostly pictures) from Tardar’s life are also shared with the readers.

Other than photos and memes, A Grumpy Book also comes with activities, games, and sarcastic guidelines. Tard offers snarky pointers on how to enhance your grumpiness, and you can benefit from her tips on how to be grumpy and how to get in a grumpy mood as well as a guide on how to host a grumpy party. Other things in the book include demotivational posters and several puzzles (including connect the dots, crossword, maze, and word search), all of which are designed to put a frown on your face (but obviously have the opposite effect).

A Grumpy Book is very short and a super quick read (primarily because it comprises mostly of images with very little text), and you’ll be done with it within minutes. Its size combined with its reliance on a handful of photos that are already available on the Internet makes it seem like a hurried attempt to cash in on the Grumpy Cat phenomenon, capitalising on a funny idea but not giving us anything too original or different from what we have already seen online. The book could have used some more information about the kitty at its centre, and it would have been nice to read about Tardar Sauce’s background. As it stands, sure its content is funny, but there isn’t too much variety on offer here, and this material is not exactly worth spending money over; you’ll be better off if you borrow the book or pick it up at a sale or even look for Grumpy Cat memes online. That said, despite its limited substance and range, A Grumpy Book really is amusing, and is likely to offer some assistance when you need a quick laugh.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 30th May, 2014 *

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Flying solo

interview: music mix

Since parting ways with Call in 2012, Junaid Khan has been busy with small screen acting and jingle humming, but that doesn’t mean he’s not taking his music career seriously. Call fans have been treated to a single every few months while Junaid finishes his debut solo album, and the singer has recently returned to belting out his rock ditties on stage. Junaid recently took to the stage for his first solo show with a new backing band, and has more performances planned for the coming months. In a chat with Instep, Junaid talks about his live shows, upcoming releases, and acting projects.

Instep: You have truly branched out as a solo artist with your first solo live show. How did it go?
Junaid Khan:
It felt great to be back on stage! In fact, I didn’t even notice that I hadn’t performed for almost a year because the crowd was so loud and pumped up! The show was held at Karachi Medical and Dental College (KMDC) and even though I was put up on stage as the closing act at 2:30 a.m., the crowd was excited enough to stay up and jumping till the last song I did. Karachi impresses me every time.

Instep: How is it a different experience to perform without your usual band mates?
A performance loses its magic when the people on stage don’t gel well together. But thankfully my new backing band has the same passion for rock music that my ex-band mates had, hence the energy is the same as before. Plus we’ve jammed plenty of times, so they’ve grasped the essence of my songs to be able to play them comfortably.

Instep: How did you recruit the members of your new backing band? What can you tell us about them? And will the line-up remain the same in the future?
I’ve jammed with lots of musicians recently and found some great talent. The ones I played with at KMDC are amongst the finest. I played with Shahid Rehman on rhythm guitars, Faraz Rizvi on lead guitars, Hassaan Sohail on bass, and Bilawal Lahooti on drums. The line-up so far is the same but might change depending on their availability for a particular tour.

Instep: Which songs are part of your live set now?
The set list hasn’t changed much from my Call days – a few originals, a few of my solo tracks, and somecovers which I like performing. 

Instep: Do you have any other gigs planned for Pakistan or abroad in the coming months? 
Junaid: Yes, I have a few shows lined up in Pakistan and a U.S. tour later this year.

Instep: When can we expect new tracks from you?
I really want to release this one particular track titled ‘Besakoon’ which is one of my favourites from my upcoming album. Its dark melody will remind you of my compositions from the early Call days. I have a few tracks ready to shoot, but I’m trying to find the right director who can translate the imagery in my head to reality.

Instep: In a previous interview you said your album will release in the end of 2013. How close is it to completion? And do you plan to release it this year?
My album is almost complete and I am planning to release it this year for sure.

Instep: You have also been acting on TV. What can you tell us about your television dramas?
I am currently shooting two serials. In Rasam, which is about a couple driven apart by a misunderstanding, I’m playing the lead with Sumbal Iqbal as my co-star. Sumbal also acts with me in Najany Kyun, in which I play a young, careless guy who suffers in life because of his attitude. Both plays are directed by Asim Ali.

Instep: You said previously that you’d like to act in films. Has there been any development on this front?
There have been a few offers but I haven’t locked them as yet, though I am a part of an upcoming feature film titled Bin Roye Ansoo in a guest appearance.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 24th May, 2014 *

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The new YouTube for Pakistan?

music mix: interview

Farhad Humayun launches Riot Arts as music’s alternative to the banned YouTube

The ban on YouTube in Pakistan has deprived musicians of a recognized platform for showcasing their talent, and left viewers without access to the world’s biggest online entertainment portal. Farhad Humayun is now attempting to fill that void with his new website Riot Arts (

Touted as “Pakistan’s first music web channel”, Riot Arts is a service that hopes to help Pakistani musicians reconnect with their audience. “It’s a channel where both new and established artists can showcase their music and videos,” says the Overload front-man who self-funded the endeavour. “You can just upload your content while sitting at home. We have our own server and cloud space where you can upload high resolution videos. We are not hosting content on another site. It’s all on Riot Arts.”

And why is the project called Riot Arts? “Riot is my brand name and the umbrella corporation which houses Riot Productions (film plus audio and lighting design for high-end events and applications) and Riot Studios (a recording studio for bands, voiceovers, dubbing, and film scoring). We are expanding into showcasing more talent and are developing original content. Plus the word ‘arts’ represents more than just music. Hence, Riot Arts,” Farhad explains.

Establishing the platform wasn’t easy, but the musician thinks this project is well worth the effort. “(The website) was hard to set up because a person like myself had to take out time to organize all of this. I believe ‘if you build it, they will come’. We’re at a very basic and preliminary stage but this summer we plan on marketing this full throttle and putting out great content. I’m certain we will get all the attention and be regarded as the authentic place for a feel of a progressive and modern Pakistan.”

Now that the website is up and running, Riot Arts is hoping to attract both content creators and consumers to its folds. It also aims to be a haven for artists who are being ignored by the mainstream media, while potentially giving them global exposure. “It’s common knowledge that TV channels and radio stations hardly have a one hour slot for Pakistani content. I want to develop a community of musicians and creative people who can say what they want, the way they want to,” he elaborates. “I also want to establish a destination for people all over the world who want to see and hear Pakistani music and want to buy it. Someone sitting in South America or Australia or anywhere remote doesn’t know what to search for on YouTube if he wants Pakistani music. I want him to know that Riot Arts is the place and in due time we will get there. We are setting up an online shop too.”

The project will also help deserving artists, who have limited financial resources, by giving them a chance to display their potential. “I aim to create more original content at Riot Studios where I’ll be recording deserving artists for free,” Farhad promises. Plus, Riot Arts aims to minimize corporate influence in the Pakistani entertainment industry. “Last year, Pakistani corporations spent about 80 million dollars on music driven campaigns. Not even two percent of that went to the artists who made those campaigns successful,” he continues. “Riot Arts will help showcase real talent, not campaigns driven by corporations who are producing tailored music to sell a beverage or ice cream or coffee. When brands approach an artist to work on a campaign to sell their product, they also dictate their agenda and terms, and frankly they only want the numbers and results. They’re not interested in quality or merit. I believe in creating content and generating traffic first, and then inviting brands to be ‘patrons’, not sponsors.”

Within days of its launch, the website has amassed over a hundred videos, attracting content from the likes of Strings, Noori, Qayaas, Siege, Billy-X, Char Payee, Abbas Ali Khan, and, of course, Overload. “The reception so far has been very warm and encouraging, and this is just the beginning,” Farhad enthuses. “I aim to make Riot Arts the primary source for quality Pakistani music and videos.”

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 13th May, 2014 *