Celebrity infidelity
Licentiousness and show business seem to go hand in hand. Do the rich and famous sleep around because it's in their genes?
His Bigness
Fasi Zaka
We adore actresses, but we don't want to marry them. Even if they promise never to act or walk the ramp again.
It's because we suspect their past, but most importantly prospective grooms doubt the ability of their spouses to remain monogamous in the future. The same goes for the men in the industry who sing, act or model.

Introducing the spokespersons
As Pakistan's two fashion councils get their respective houses in order, Instep gets the lowdown on what's next on their respective agendas
By Aamna Haider Isani & Muniba Kamal
PFDC's wonder boy
Hasan Sheheryar Yasin will always be 'Sheru' for his friends but to the buzzing world of fashion he's HSY, an acronym that makes him sound like a YSL parallel in Pakistan. And it wouldn't be wrong to say that his method of operation is just as savvy. 

Mozart of Madras
At a time when A. R. Rahman is fighting a battle for the rights of musicians and composers over the music they make, Instep gives you the ten best A.R.Rahman tracks of all time; well, it was hard to pick the best, so we give you the most groundbreaking…
By Rahma Muhammad and Maheen Sabeeh
Musicians in India have historically been taken for a ride. Record labels keep the rights of all the songs with themselves irrespective of the fact that ultimately it is a composition by a musician. He is entitled to earn royalties via it and should have the right to perform it without taking permissions from them. It is a known factor that Bollywood has the biggest share in the music market in India. And yet, no film producer is willing to give a music director rights to songs that belong to him.

Diversity thy name is Sabya
If any designer understands the difference between practical clothes and costumes, it is Sabyasachi Mukherjee. The designer who first made an impact on the fashion world with his Lakme India Fashion Week debut in 2002 has come a long way since wowing fashion makers in New York. Unlike his usual collections, which are more about ready-to-wear than creating drama on the ramp, this collection – which he has especially designed for the upcoming Hindi film Babul (Rani Mukerji, Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, John Abraham and Hema Malini) - is very Indian.

starbytes
Don vs Jaaneman
It is Jaaneman and Don that are running neck in neck at the moment. Shahrukh versus Salman, Priyanka versus Preity, and of course the prodigal son Farhan Akhtar versus the debutante husband Shirish Kunder. From the reviews it seems that Jaaneman is coming out tops. 

What is Salman Ahmed's end game?
Salman Ahmed has always been more than a musician. UN Goodwill Ambassador, AIDS fighter and social activist – it has been a long journey for him. But when you scratch the surface, what really lies beneath?
By Maheen Sabeeh
Go back in time
A few weeks ago, Salman was invited to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2006 as a speaker. Between President Bush and former President Clinton, one realizes that Clinton is indeed the lesser of two evils. The idea behind CGI is also very noble. Eradicating poverty, reconciling religious and ethnic conflicts, understanding energy needs and improving health – it's all very impressive. They raise money and help make the world a better place.

Musical Notes
Aaroh is alive!
When it comes to videos, Aaroh has never been able to make an impact until… 'Raag Neela' happened. Yes, Aaroh has come out with a spanking new video, 'Raag Neela', the final video before their album releases. Directed by Jalal and Amir, the video works in two backgrounds – bright red and blue (the neela raag effect) with all four dudes dressed in colorful jackets, leather and all with big eye wear. 

Vibes CHARTS
"The memory of things gone is important to a jazz musician. Things like old folks singing in the moonlight in the back yard on a hot night or something said long ago." --Louis Armstrong
Pakistani
1. One Light Year At Snail Speed
-Sajid and Zeeshan
2. Sun Re
- Abbas Ali Khan
3. Overload - Overload
4. Sawal - Rushk
5. Jalpari - Atif Aslam

 

  Celebrity infidelity

Licentiousness and show business seem to go hand in hand. Do the rich and famous sleep around because it's in their genes?

His Bigness

Fasi Zaka

We adore actresses, but we don't want to marry them. Even if they promise never to act or walk the ramp again.

It's because we suspect their past, but most importantly prospective grooms doubt the ability of their spouses to remain monogamous in the future. The same goes for the men in the industry who sing, act or model.

No one wants someone who makes their living in the public eye as a potential son/daughter-in-law. This sounds like old fashioned prejudice that comes from a society that cordons off performers into their own separate and ostracized quarters, most famously in red light districts.

But it's not, there is actually a grain of scientific truth in this simplification to which I will come later.

The business of infidelity and promiscuity is huge, but not just in terms of modified prostitution. Most magazines in the west (and especially tabloids) make their money off celebrities cheating on their spouses or conducting torrid and quick affairs because that's the content that whips up the public's voyeuristic appetite.

Even though general reading has declined for major newspapers, tabloids continue to make money. There is now serious pressure on newspapers to have more masala than real reporting because that's what the public is buying. It's the same in Pakistan, though thankfully the newspapers exercise some degree of self restraint when they report who is with whom. But almost all the major Pakistani English dailies now have a daily page devoted to salacious reporting of the lives of international stars. They make do with Indian gossip in lieu of the Pakistani.

If papers really did report the rumours about most of our celebrities, there is a chance they would be horded by an angry mob of the reactionary elements that need a reason to justify their existence.

Pop stars in Pakistan are ageing but there is no sign of a good deal of them marrying, be they women or men. It's no surprise that they aren't celibate either, or even faithful if they are married. There is no need to name them because that's beside the point, plus they have every right to privacy of the choices they make.

So where is the scientific reason for this behaviour? It comes from the field of evolutionary psychology.

Let's take an example of Pakhtuns generally. They are considered a martial race that is adept at violence and extreme individuality that prevents easy governance, which is why we still have inadequate presence of Pakistani law and institutions in the tribal areas, which operate under their own more autonomous laws.

But if you look at the geography of Afghanistan and other areas it's easy to see why. Sparse agriculture, barren hills and little in the way of trade because of the harsh terrain have made the people adapt to survival through brute force if necessary. Obviously no central government will form easily if the people are spaced out with such low population densities. In the absence of the rule of law and sufficient agriculture martial race characteristics begin to develop. The rich culture and poetry tends to come disproportionately from the settled areas that had excess of natural resources that allow for the luxury of the birth of thought.

In a way, America's entrepreneurial spirit comes from the same principles but from different forces. It's relatively a young country that was inhabited by settlers with nothing who had to resort to ingenuity to survive from a land with abundance.

That's evolutionary psychology simplified, it helps explain why people behave the way they do because of centuries of environmental conditioning.

But all men and women of power, whether celebrities or not, are more prone to cheating than averagely successful people. It's been statistically measured to have a significant correlation. CEOs of companies are more likely to be unfaithful than average performing employees.

Even great intellects who have acquired significant power with the public have proved this (who we would assume would be above this); Einstein, Bertrand Russell and even Martin Luther King were all chronically unfaithful in their marriages. Even in the spotted past of US Presidents, the most famous and dynamic were those who were most licentious (Clinton, JFK and Roosevelt).

In ancient societies men with the most physical power dominated their tribes and kept most of the resources, of which women were one of the staples. From a survival of the fittest perspective they were spreading the most viable sperm available to ensure the continuity of the race.

Men of average ability had fewer women to choose from because the most of the highly desirable would be kept by the dominant male, and because these men were less successful fewer women were attracted to them. So less successful men had a huge incentive to remain faithful and establish a lasting bond because they had no alternative. But even these men had an urge for more and that is what fueled prostitution.

Women accepted their subjugated position because physically they were easily dominated by men. Plus biologically they needed protection of their offspring from those who could provide.

This is why women are attracted to powerful men and why men happily take advantage of it.

Those with average success stand less of a chance. Even in the animal kingdom wherever the male of the species (like man) is larger physically than the females (also in the case of lions and gorillas) the species is not monogamous, and the less powerful males are starved of mates.

Women in the performing professions are ostracized because history has kept them within the domain and control of men. The independent woman is seen as a threat to the traditional order because they are within the public sphere where "ownership" becomes threatened. Marriage solidifies support, ostracization makes it difficult to engage in that institution which is why women in this sphere flitter between men who provide them the most resources.

When society became industrialized and there was more than enough for men and women to sustain themselves individually of one another, traditional attachments broke down because the lack of incentive to partner (and the birth of contraception) added to the spurt of wanton sexual liaisons.

That's why successful celebrities who are on top of their game and have greater income are more likely to stray; it's the new form of power in the media age.

Even our politicians (who have a different form of power from celebrities) aren't an exception to the rule. Many of our presidents and prime ministers have had affairs that actually influenced government appointments and policy.

But this doesn't explain some other phenomena in the Pakistani media. Take the casting couch where female models and actresses sometimes have to sleep around to find work, or even in the case of male models that make themselves available to the older gay men in the fashion and style industry of Pakistan; that's just criminal exploitation.

But even if we took this simplified version of evolutionary psychology to be slightly true, it doesn't offer an excuse for any kind of errant behaviour, because happy monogamy helps you achieve the longest life span. Sometimes the problem with the kind of studies that I am referring to do (from evolutionary psychology) is that some believe it gives people a blank cheque to behave in any way they wish.

The reason we have humanistic ethics, philosophy and religion is to act as the balancing force to the hedonism of our genetic code, which comes from the imbalance of historical power as evidenced from evolutionary psychology. And that hedonism is most common in the world of the rich and famous because they are the new alpha species of our evolving world.

 

Introducing the spokespersons

As Pakistan's two fashion councils get their respective houses in order, Instep gets the lowdown on what's next on their respective agendas

 

By Aamna Haider Isani & Muniba Kamal

PFDC's wonder boy

Hasan Sheheryar Yasin will always be 'Sheru' for his friends but to the buzzing world of fashion he's HSY, an acronym that makes him sound like a YSL parallel in Pakistan. And it wouldn't be wrong to say that his method of operation is just as savvy. He operates with smoothness, right from his carefully cultivated fashion persona to the HSY logos on kurtas, the self portraits he frequently updates for the press and his society pictures that generously pepper the pages of fortnightlies. If military trends are hot this season in the west, he'll make sure he's seen in his new knee length Armani military jacket with an upturned rabbit fur collar and his newly purchased Louis Vuitton military backpack once winter kicks in. Sending out the right image, he understands, is vital. Pakistan Fashion Design Council could not have chosen a better spokesperson and here's what HSY has to say about progress - personal and where the council is concerned.

What HSY is up to?

This month HSY will reopen his revamped studio in Lahore and then head out for Bahrain where he's showing on November 22 for the Queen with Sanya Muneer from Karachi. Then he's jetting off for New York again to meet design houses interested in sourcing embroidery from Pakistan. "We're networking in New York. They like our craft. We've already got a contract from a huge fashion house in New York to recreate embroideries on 800 jackets," says HSY making it clear that he cannot reveal the name because he is under contract.

Internally, his fashion house is expanding. He has taken young PSFD graduates on his team who will now create collections around his directional pieces.

HSY marketing

The HSY studio is a building you cannot miss if you move around Lahore. The three storey studio indulges in opulence in its three bridal rooms: red, white and black where even the tea service is colour coded. On the other hand it is highly technical in its accessible computers that'll give you the HSY company profile and archives at the touch of a button. Huge plasma screens line the conference room, giving clients a feel for what they're ordering. There's HSY jewelry, HSY accessories, shoes and bags, menswear and finally on the third floor there's ready to wear. The label is also available in Karachi at The Designers and stocks in several different cities around the world.

HSY is a marketing genius and makes his presence noticed wherever he goes. "I live fashion and I want to look it. For me fashion is about an entire lifestyle, not just creating a couple of clothes. Fashion is also the way you run your business."

HSY never wavers in constant publicity and promotion. He believes that fashion means selling a lifestyle and you have to be in the market, especially the foreign market. "No one is going to come running after you. You grab the opportunity. If a door opens, step in. I'm never choosy. I never ask who else is showing. If I think the opportunity is worth it, I step in."

PFDC

The Pakistan Fashion Design Council held their first elections in early October. Owais Mazhar, industrialist and Chairperson, PSFD, was unanimously voted in as Chairperson. A 22 member board of governors was also elected. It consists of people like Roshaney Zafar who manages the micro-finance NGO, Kashf Foundation and has worked extensively with GAP so is aware of the quality control and administrative issues. "Ronak Lakhani from Karachi comes as such a huge force as does Rehana Saigol," says Hasan. The council also takes on board Azfer Hassan who owns one of the largest buying houses in Lahore.

The council has managed to strike a balance between designers and professionals who come with an understanding of the business of fashion. "To function properly we need their help," says Hasan. "We need the finances. Designers do not come with an understanding of the business. The corporate sector will bring that to the council. We're sharing our strengths with one another and our main focus now is Pakistan Fashion Week."

The council presents the vision of the youth. HSY and Karma, Nomi Ansari, Sara Shahid and Tazeen Hasan are young blood and despite being forces in their own way, they lack the voice of experience to assist them. Lahore has a very young fashion industry that only came into being with the PSFD.

The council's synergy with the Pakistan School of Fashion Design in Lahore, however, more than makes up for that weakness. The fashion school has churned out many talented contemporary designers and brings valuable expertise to the fashion industry. Being an affiliate of the Chambre Syndicale of Paris it comes with priceless links with Paris. It was through the school that Premiere Vision sent Lutz Keller to educate the council members on next year's fashion forecast. The man who gives forecast to Europe and America was invited to Lahore and he gave the council a four hour lecture explaining next years trends for prêt, streetwear, knit and weave. "You'll see that synergy at Fashion Week," says Hasan. "Lahore designers will know what colours to strike, which to avoid. Even now they have started changing the colours they were putting out for the winter season."

The council-school relationship also creates loyalties amongst batchmates. This was, after all, the main reason why Karachi-based Nomi Ansari decided to stick by his friends and join PFDC. The council is now concentrating on relocating and upgrading the campus.

Council hiccup

The seemingly smooth flight of PFDC began with intense turbulence when the council launched itself in Karachi with a Sehyr Saigol-led press conference that was a disaster. This resulted in massive confusion regarding the chairperson-ship issue between Sehyr Saigol and Zubair Kumman who spoke virulently against her to the press. Today, Sehyr is on the Board of Governors and Zubair who later resigned from the post of Chairperson today stands as a defunct member. He doesn't attend meetings, neither did he participate in the elections.

Initial aims of the council

According to HSY, PFDC will give fashion direction and help bring it out of the mismatched image that goes out today. "We've started fashion forecasting now. Our members know the international fashion trends for 2007. We'll provide trendlines for the local market as well. That's when creativity will kick in. There will be one vision and each designer will present it in their own individual way. Like right now, military is hot in New York. No matter where I went; Gucci, Gap, Armani, it was all military handled in different ways. The buyer is directed towards the trend and that dictates what you see on the streets. Designers don't dreamt up the same trends. CFDA (Council of Fashion Design of America) hands out the forecast. Then those trends are available at every possible price range. Even the most average guy on the streets can pick up a t-shirt that follows the trend and he becomes part of the lifestyle."

New York Fashion Week

HSY knows that the biggest potential market is America and being in New York around NY Fashion Week was an opportunity he was not going to miss. "I met Simon Lock (CEO IMG Asia Pacific) at the Royal Palm get together in Lahore. He was kind enough to help me get invites to some of the major shows. Every bit of information I come back with is beneficial to the council. NY fashion week opened my eyes to so much. I saw Gucci and Dior last year but fashion week was another world. It was so organized that it ran like clockwork. It was all about designer culture. D&G were everywhere though they weren't even showing. Donatella too. The buzz was fantastic. Seeing the drama unfold was stunning. Anna Wintour, Andre Leon Talle, editor Italian Vogue the celebrities, they were all there. Just being there, I felt empowered and I felt Pakistan being empowered. I was like a little kid in a big candy store."

"I took an assistant and we had our brochures and cards ready. We handed them out to absolutely everyone we met. A lot of them went back and logged onto our website. We were ready. We did not want to miss the moment and we did manage to generate interest. Many of them, the Japanese and Chinese buyers, wanted to know what else we made and what the market was like in Pakistan. I told them, 'come for Fashion Week next year!'"

Fashion Week

The excitement for Pakistan's first Fashion Week is palpable and most PFDC designers are now gearing their collections towards what they might be able to show at this platform. "HSY will show a mixture of everything at fashion week," he reveals. "Pakistani fashion will not happen yet. They will come to buy our embroideries, our workmanship and our colour sense but not our patterns. You need to have a finger on the pulse of the western market before you begin designing clothes for them. Sabyasachi didn't do his western collection sitting in Delhi. He sits in NY, he designs in NY. Elie Saab doesn't live in Lebanon anymore, he lives in Paris. Occasional trips here and there can't give that exposure. We need to know what's happening on the streets. We need to step out of our cocoon."

Fashion week in Pakistan will need multiple stylists and multiple event management organizations. The post parties will have to be planned meticulously. The buyers need to be wowed with wine and caviar and gifts. That's the way it's done. But we should not be scared. We should not shy away from what we are, from the embroideries and the embellishments. Do what you want to do. Do it for the prêt market and the world will open up to you. Take your chances."

FP's voice of reason

Samyra Rashid is the spokesperson for Fashion Pakistan, more popularly known as the Karachi Council. Those who know her well call her 'Sammy', but as a designer she sticks to the name of her label. She is simply Samyra. Upbeat, frank and super smart with a Master in Economics from the London School of Economics under her belt, Samyra juggles her blooming career as a fashion designer along with being a single mother. Paying attention to both the demands of her business and the needs of her daughter is not an easy task, but Samyra with her penchant for organization is very good at compartmentalizing her life That is why she took on responsibility as the spokesperson for Fashion Pakistan with gusto. "I don't let anyone beat around the bush," she smiles, "because frankly I don't have the time!"

What is she up to?

Samyra has grown by leaps and bounds. Apart from clothes that she does very successfully, she has also branched off into importing furniture. Next in line is getting a new workplace where she will house both her clothes and furniture. Just like Sana Safinaz, Samyra is all set to become a lifestyle. In her kaarkhana, I am introduced to two fashion school graduates who are working with her. And Samyra plans to turn into a fashion house soon. Fashion graduates can design for her under their own name. "It will be so and so for the house of Samyra," she says. "I want to give young designers a chance and asking them to design for your label creates so much friction that it's not worth it. I'm not insecure, come design for me and take credit for it."

She was chosen as the spokesperson of Fashion Pakistan because with a Masters from LSE under her belt, Samyra has been working all her life. She has designed clothes in India, furniture upholstery in Nigeria and worked on a documentary for the BBC. Samyra is a doer. She prefers that actions speak louder than words.

Marketing

Samyra relies totally on word of mouth as far as marketing is concerned. She does not have a retail outlet in Karachi, even though she is stocking at Asad Tareen's retail outlet The Designers in Lahore. In Karachi Samyra relies more on word of mouth. She has had two shows but they have been small, once in cousin Abbas Sarfaraz's garden and the other at a hotel. Only one photographer and selected clients and media people were invited. Like most other Karachi designers, especially women, Sana Safinaz, Imrana Ahmed and Sonya Battla, Samyra too keeps a low profile. However, her entry into Lahore via The Designers shows that she is keen to grow, but she will take it one firm step at a time.

Fashion Pakistan

Fashion Pakistan gets its strength from its members. The list of members does read like the who's who of the Pakistan fashion industry. Amir Adnan, Bunto Kazmi, Deepak Perwani, Faiza Samee, Maheen, Rizwan Beyg, Sana Safinaz. Apart from Nilofer Shahid who is a founding member, many Lahore designers like Ather Hafeez, Aasia Saail Khan, Beejee, Misha Piracha of Crossroads, Saadia Mirza and Toshkhana have also opted to join Fashion Pakistan.

The founding members of Fashion Pakistan are in talks with the Export Promotion Bureau to set up the Karachi Chapter of the PSFD, but that will be another five years in the making. Once it is established, it will take another four years for the first batch to graduate. Karachi does have the Asian Institute of Fashion Design (AIFD) but it is not of the same calibre as PSFD, Lahore. Neither are the links between AIFD and Fashion Pakistan as strong as the links between PSFD and the Pakistan Fashion Design Council.

Council hiccup

Nadya Mistry and Usman Dittu going to town about the unfairness of the fashion council and broke away from them in the process. Nadya's diatribe against Fashion Pakistan made headlines and the worst was that AIFD diploma holder Riaz Usman got caught in the storm, which indicated that the council would serve established names more than struggling or budding new designers. Now, Nadya Mistry is out and Riaz Usman is working for FP founding member Amir Adnan.

Initial aims of the council

Samyra informs Instep that Fashion Pakistan will hold elections later this month between November 16 and 20, after which they will start acting on their agenda which is already in place.

"We are working on taking out a coffee table book that will feature all the council members and will give details of the designers, the kind of work they are doing, their presence in the market and their speciality. This book is being done in collaboration with senior fashion journalist Samina Ibrahim and it will be of huge help to anyone who wants to know about who does what in our fashion industry," says Samyra, pointing out that this book would be a great resource for people looking to outsource work to Pakistan. The book will be based on the same format as fashion journalist's Hindol Sen Gupta's book Indian Fashion that is the definite guide to the who's who of fashion across the border.

The next most important thing on Fashion Pakistan's agenda is to raise funds, which they will generate by holding fashion events in the country. "We need to raise funds for the council to do things like holding seminars and workshops and printing pamphlets and periodicals to help the industry out," she says and goes on to give a rundown of the issues that designers in Pakistan have to deal with and which never make it to the press.

"We want to start by tackling the most fundamental issues that every designer must resolve so that we can do what we are actually supposed to do. Whenever a designer sets up shop, the first thing that happens is that they are approached by some official looking for a bribe. They walk into our kaarkhanas and our shops and make their demands. We want to invite tax specialists, accountants, lawyers, government officials and other specialists to brief designers on the taxation liabilities due to the government,' says Samyra pointing out that these procedures are so complicated that many designers don't know how to tackle them. Fashion Pakistan will hold seminars that will help designers understand these issues. "Designers would rather pay taxes to the government than bribe officials, says Samyra. "If designers are confident that they are in the clear legally, then they can just tell anyone knocking on their door for a bribe to take a hike."

The other issue is to teach young designers how to set up a kaarkhana or factory and help them deal with the issues that will crop up. "There are all sorts of labour issues, lunch breaks, Eid bonuses, who is paying who what that keep on cropping up," says Samyra. The idea is to streamline kaarkhanas so they are working according to a certain set of rules and there is some uniformity to the way they operate.

"The third most important item on our agenda is to collaborate with training institutes that work with stitchers, cutters and tailors. We don't have proper stitchers. Our tailors don't know how to cut fabric from a pattern. They cut the fabric directly, which is not standard fashion practice anywhere in the world. Then, we need production supervisors. There is no concept of that here. We've decided to get in touch with training centers directly, and call in specialists who can train them in what designers need so these labourers can get the necessary skills and be absorbed into the fashion industry."

"This has to happen for fashion to become an industry to be reckoned with, says Samyra pointing out that the difficulty with conducting workshops and seminars like these is that nobody wants to sponsor them because they are not glamourous enough. Therefore, Fashion Pakistan will start holding events to fund the workshops they want to hold and to pay for the booklets they want to come out with to guide young designers.

Fashion Week

Samyra thinks that Fashion Week happening is a good thing but she is guarded about it. "Fashion Week happening is great, but realistically it will take a very long time to really get off the ground. Right now, we do not have the infrastructure in place to meet buyers orders or the required standards. A lot of young designers are excited about the fashion week to get their fifteen minutes of fame, but that is not what it is about. The fashion week is about selling. And the all international checks on quality and control will apply," she says but she does lay to rest all the rumours of Fashion Pakistan boycotting the Pakistan Fashion Week that is set to roll next year under the aegis of IMG.

"There is no question of Fashion Pakistan trying to stop any individual designer who is our member from entering Pakistan Fashion Week," clarifies Samyra. "That is a separate event, which will boost individual designers. But Fashion Week will be a once a year event. As a council Fashion Pakistan's aim is to provide a solid foundation for fashion designers in Pakistan so we can build ourselves into a legitimate industry that can make its mark on the international fashion scene."

 

At a time when A. R. Rahman is fighting a battle for the rights of musicians and composers over the music they make, Instep gives you the ten best A.R.Rahman tracks of all time; well, it was hard to pick the best, so we give you the most groundbreaking…

By Rahma Muhammad and Maheen Sabeeh

Musicians in India have historically been taken for a ride. Record labels keep the rights of all the songs with themselves irrespective of the fact that ultimately it is a composition by a musician. He is entitled to earn royalties via it and should have the right to perform it without taking permissions from them. It is a known factor that Bollywood has the biggest share in the music market in India. And yet, no film producer is willing to give a music director rights to songs that belong to him.

But A.R. Rahman begs to differ. It is this reason that made him bow out of the next Farah Khan production, which is being produced by Shahrukh Khan. There were rumours that a fallout had happened between SRK and Rahman on publishing rights issue. Some even said that Farah and Shahrukh were unhappy with the songs and thus opted for Vishal-Shekhar. But Rahman has cleared the air. It is not Shahrukh who has an issue with Rahman getting the official rights to the songs but the record label T-Series. In a recent interview regarding this controversy, Rahman commented, "I realise I've a huge fight though I don't see it as a fight. It's not like the British rock band Queen, which owned sole copyrights to all their songs. But I won't run to music companies in Mumbai for the rights for my songs every time I want to perform them at concerts. Music companies must recognise the changing ground reality. Today the conventional outlets for music sales are drying up. Soon all music will be free while the performers and performances will be paid for." But Rahman is flexible when it comes to certain films. Even as he walked away from Om Shanti Om and another untitled Aamir Khan film, he is still working on Ashutosh Gowariker's Akbar-Jodha. Now, Rahman has said that this break from films will give him time to work on a non-music private album. This does not mean that he won't do Hindi films anymore but that it would be on his terms. Considering how music publishers and labels work globally, the step taken by Rahman is only natural. In Pakistan too, the new labels coming out are paying royalties to musicians. It is the new face of music. And as it progresses, both Indian and local music labels have to realize that the terms should and will be dictated by an artist. And we sincerely hope that Rahman gets his way. After all, it is no fun watching a Mani Ratnam film without Rahman composing the tunes!

For now, check out the list that features the ten best songs of Rahman. If you haven't already heard them, the time is now. In India, it doesn't get bigger or better than Rahman…

1. 'Rang De Basanti'

Film: Rang De Basanti (2006)

It is rather difficult to decide which Rahman song should be on top. The man has done some absolutely fantastic work. But if one were to take all the elements that make a song worthy, 'Rang De Basanti' would top that list.

Lyrically, it's playful and wild as well as patriotic. But remember, 'Rang De Basanti' is not your average bhangra song. It's layered with a sound that is a mélange of instruments, varying from dhols to subtle piano and some serious orchestration. And it must be said that both Daler Mehdi and Chitra Singh have done a fantastic job singing this track. If Daler sings in an almost wild, hyper demeanour, Chitra has kept it simple and subdued. Together the combination rocks!

Visually, 'Rang De Basanti' just comes off as a very genuine video. The dancing of the rebellious revolutionaries, road trips and drama lessons – there is just a lot of colour and wild flavour in that video. Collectively, the song and the video make 'Rang De Basanti' the best song on Rahman's music sheet!

2. 'Chaiyan Chaiyan'

Film: Dil Se (1998)

Many films before Dil Se have shown actors dancing on trains. But what makes this song so special are its poetic lyrics, powerhouse singing from first time singer Sukhwinder Singh and a beautiful outdoor location. That is if one has forgotten Shahrukh Khan and Malaika Arora in the frame.

A.R. Rahman showed true composition genius with this song. Most Indian songs have a knack of being predictable. Most often, they stick to a single mood. 'Chaiyan Chaiyan' on the contrary was far more interesting. It starts off slowly, builds a momentum and keeps chugging along harder and faster perfect sync with the train Shahrukh is dancing on. In the background, a beat always remains intact. The bass makes the song haunted at times and when the chorus hits, one can hear electric guitar as well as a flute, giving it a very melodic feel.

Complimenting this tune throughout is Gulzar's intense wordplay. As a love song, it is hopeful and yet there is a hint of obsession as Sukhwinder sings, "Taveez Bana Key Pehno Ussey, Ayat Ki Tarah Mil Jaaye Kahin." And it should be said that Sukhwinder Singh made this a memorable track. Again like Rahman, he too had many undertones in this song. He sings with conviction with just the right dosage of masculinity. Farah Khan's upbeat choreography gave this song the perfect visual treatment.

Footnote: 'Chaiyan' means shade.

3. 'Kehna Hai Kya'

Film: Bombay (1995)

A haunting melodious track shot to perfection by Mani Ratnam on his muse, Manisha Koirala, 'Kehna Hai Kya' is the star track on the OST of Bombay. The score was originally done in Tamil, and later in Hindi only to be a super hit and make Rahman a music director the Indian film industry took notice of. It was only after the resounding success of Bombay that Rahman began to receive major assignments in Bollywood.

'Kehna Hai Kya', sung by Chitra, has a confusing qawaali beat that A.R. Rahman uses creatively; the music has the familiar tune to the songs of Roja but is stunning nevertheless.

Even though Bombay had extraordinary musical gems like 'Humma Humma' sung by Remo Fernandes, and 'Tu Hi Re' beautifully rendered by Hariharan and Kavita Krishnamurty, 'Kehna Hai Kya' is the undisputed classic from the soundtrack.

4. 'Tanha Tanha'

Film: Rangeela (1995)

Rangeela was A. R. Rahman's first composition for a Hindi film and what a smash hit it was. Rangeela won Rahman his first Filmfare even though he was nominated against the OST of the runaway hit of the year, Dilwale Dulhaniya Lay Jayengay. The entire album is full of hits but 'Tanha Tanha' stood out like no other song. Who can forget Urmila's sexy wet on the beach moves from this song?

The song had an odd quirky mournful vibe and was rendered to perfection by 62-year-old Asha Bhosle. Rangeela is said to be Asha's comeback. At the time she was struggling with her career, along with half the playback industry . Songs like 'Tanha Tanha' and 'Rangeela Re' were chartbusters. She and Rahman went on to record more hits like 'Mujhe Rang De' (Thakshak), 'Radha Kaise Na Jale' (Lagaan), 'Kahin Aag Lage' (Taal) and 'O Bhanware' (Daud).

5. 'Mitwa'

Film: Lagaan (2001)

A. R. Rahman's third period film after Zubeidaa (2000) and 1947 - Earth (1998), Lagaan is arguably the best of the lot. Mixing sounds from Indian classical, folk, and Western classical music – Rahman succeeds in creating a fitting mood for the film that went all the way to the Oscars.

'Mitwa' has a great melody and powerful percussion that carry the chorus through with nice romantic interludes in between. Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik (supported by Sukhwinder Singh and Srinivas) are at their best.

The song alone won Javed Akhtar a Filmfare for his beautiful lyrics, Udit Narayan Filmfare and National Film Award for his moving vocals and of course Rahman for absolutely brilliant music direction.

6. 'Nahin Samney'

Film: Taal (1999)

As an album, Taal had a very clear and cohesive sound. Picking one song is a daunting task. But if one really were to pick, 'Nahin Samney' would be the perfect choice. This song is one of Rahman's softer compositions. It is just a beautiful ballad. Musically, it works primarily because of its simplicity. Unlike other Taal numbers, this one song starts off with piano chords and a tabla beat and in the middle works its way through subtly layered orchestration. Added to a visual of a rainy, deserted street with mist amongst the clouds and Akshaye Khanna crooning to Hari Haran's "Meray Haath Mein Hee Tera Haath Hai…" and you have a winner! Another reason why this track works is because of its lyrics. They are simple, somewhat ambitious and 'oh so romantic'! This is a song that stands out in Taal and that in itself is a huge accomplishment!

7. 'Chupke Se'

Film: Saathiya (2002)

There are few songs that are as beautiful and melodic as this one. Saathiya had a bunch of songs that were simply outstanding. But we pick this song because it has a level of freshness to it that no other track possesses. And that is its diversified musical structure. 'Chupke Se' is based in two formats: one is the beginning and the chorus that works as a qawwali while the rest of the song simply works as a romantic ballad. Qawwali in this track is not just tabla and harmonium. The treatment is subtle, very delicate and one can hear acoustic guitars in the backdrop, giving it a very contemporary feel. The song works on the shoulders of Sadhana Sargam who sing in such a sonorous undertone that one just gets taken back by her power. The overall feel of the song is intricate and visuals given to this song blend very well with it. Rani Mukerji and Viveik Oberoi under a black sky with a dull moonlight, locked in an embrace works wonderfully.

8. 'Fanaa'

Film: Yuva (2004)

Yuva had three sounds within one album: the club night sound, the revolutionary sound and the melodious sound. One reason why we pick 'Fanaa' from this album is purely because of Rahman's venture into club music. He does moody numbers, even qawaalis but 'Fanaa' marked a new territory for Rahman. It showed his prowess as a complete music director.

Coming back to the track, it is a number you want to dance to. A fast paced beat remains in the background throughout with Rahman himself singing, "Ho Ney Do Dil Ko… Fanaa." Musically, it is simple for a man who experiments with instruments as much as Rahman. However, it is within the bounds of simplicity that he has churned such an effective sound. And with lyrics that are simply about letting go of everything and swaying in one moment only adds zing to this upbeat tune.

The first time pairing of Kareena Kapoor and Viveik Oberoi in a club dancing, made the video a bigger success and a whole lot of fun.

9. 'Yunhee Chala Chal Rahi'

Film: Swades (2004)

Even though Swades, the movie wasn't a hit, its sound track was a breath of fresh air in a year resounding with Sonu Nigam crooning 'Kis ka hay ye tum ko intezar main hoon na!' What else could one expect when Ashutosh Gowariker and A. R. Rahman join hands in a film? Swades' music was composed from the soul, with songs like 'Yeh Jo Des Hai', 'Saanwariya' and 'Eik Tara' taking your breath away. Of course 'Yunhee Chala Chal Rahi' was the icing on the Swades cake. Without any masala touch, this song with its meaningful lyrics (Javed Akhtar again) and a soulful melody worked well with the masses. And therein lies A. R. Rahman's genius.

There is something about 'Yunhee Chala Chal' that makes Rahman the irresistible composer that he is. It is the luminously infectious guitar backdrop that sets your fingers tapping. Udit Narayan is the highlight of this song and the long heard from Hari Haran's appearance is also appreciable. And of course Kailash Kher putting in his brilliant two pence.

The Sufi and folk touch in the composition of this track makes it a classic A.R. Rahman number.

10. 'Mehndi Hay'

Film: Zubeidaa (2000)

A true story, Zubeidaa is based on the life of film director, Khalid Mohamed's mother. Making music for a period film that spawned from the British Raj to the '80s full with rich culture in a royal setting must have been a little difficult. But Rahman shines, once again.

From all the songs from this movie, 'Mehndi Hai' has a special appeal, maybe because of the Alka Yagnik honey dripping vocals shot on the equally sweet innocence of Karisma Kapoor. The proverbial glowing bride, ecstatic about the rich colour of her mehndi, this is a classic wedding song.

'Mehndi Hai' is nostalgia galore and Rahman revels in the opportunity to come up with a clean song infused with all the starry-eyed hope that belonged to brides of that era.

 

If any designer understands the difference between practical clothes and costumes, it is Sabyasachi Mukherjee. The designer who first made an impact on the fashion world with his Lakme India Fashion Week debut in 2002 has come a long way since wowing fashion makers in New York. Unlike his usual collections, which are more about ready-to-wear than creating drama on the ramp, this collection – which he has especially designed for the upcoming Hindi film Babul (Rani Mukerji, Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, John Abraham and Hema Malini) - is very Indian. Sabyasachi has designed for another Indian film before this, namely Black in which he shone as a costume designer. This time around, he shows his Indian roots without being pedestrian and over the top. Ultimately, it is designers like him who will take Indian fashion forward. Because the word on the ramp has been ready-to-wear all over the world. Buyers are not looking for theatrics anymore, but film certainly is. Sabya gives each what they want!

 

The operative word in this collection is layering and volume as per the stringent diktat of Indian tradition. The ghagra is truly Indian. The blouse paired with it has a perfect fit. The overall feel of the collection is very contemporary, as Sabya has stayed away from 'over' embellishment but given a jhil here and a mil there. It's filmi but with his stamp!

Celebration is in order for Rani as she takes to the stage in an old world peshwas. Sabya it seems has gone totally festive with Babul. The colour palette is a mixed bag with emphasis on proper 'bridal' colours such as pinks, rusty orange and dull golden. And to think this is the same man who was behind the look for Black!

 

A model twirls an outfit made to move with the body. Form fitted till the torso and billowing till below the knee, revealing the perfect tung pajama as only and Indian can cut it. This is fun at its Mughlai best! Sabyasachi uses number of fabrics for Babul: chiffon, velvet, and vintage brocade, all make an appearance and how!

 

 

House M.D.****

*ing: Hugh Laurie, Jennifer Morrison, Jesse Spencer and Omar Epps

Created by: David Shore

Often times, doctors on the telly tend to be overtly kind (or so it seems) no matter what they do. So when it comes to patients, they always have a thing to say, something kind and sweet, and mostly nauseating. But in real life, doctors aren't all that nice, all the time! After all, saving lives gives some a god complex. Some brilliant doctors are actually egomaniacs while others keep patients at arms length to preserve their own sanity. This is what makes House M.D. such a wonderful show.

House is easy to relate to because as human beings we all tend to loose our tempers. We are often rude to others for no good reason. There really is no rhyme or reason and when a show highlights it by way of a medical drama, it makes total sense.

Our introduction to the show begins with Gregory House, a talented physician who walks with a cane, pops painkillers like chewing gum, hates meeting patients and has no manners when it comes to dealing with the administration or his patients (that is when he does meet them). House is supported by a bunch of young doctors, who do everything for him – starting from CT scans and MRIs to any operation etc. This team comprises of Dr. Allison Cameron (Jennifer Morrison), Dr. Robert Chase (Jesse Spencer) and Dr. Eric Foreman (Omar Epps).

House is like no other doctor. He is honest to the point of being brutal and rude. In one scene where he grudgingly meets a patient, he convinces her for an operation by saying, ""What would you want: a doctor who holds your hand while you die or one who ignores you while you get better?"

The head of the Diagnostics department, his main goal is to deconstruct mysterious diseases that no neurologist or any other doctor can figure out. His favourite line is: "Differential diagnosis people." And House is funny as hell too. He refuses to wear lab coats so people don't mistake him for a doctor and ask for help. And he always finds himself in the oddest of situations under which, the only thing he will ever do is watch a soap (General Hospital and OC are his favourites).

The belief that House M.D. works because of its characters is false. Apart from Dr. Cuddy (Dean of the hospital), the other doctors don't have spark. For example, Grey's Anatomy has a star cast that despite being new is now under constant media watch. Some actors just have star matter written all over them and they shine on screen. None of the supporting characters in House M.D. have that quality. And here it must be said that Hugh Laurie is simply fantastic as Gregory House. It's not just the acting, even his gestures and expressions leave one spellbound. The fact that he is 'oh so good looking' only adds extra charm to his eccentric character.

Despite its flaws, House M.D. deserves a watch because of its fresh take on medicine. Often times, it is not the patient or the doctor that keeps one hooked but the case at hand. What is making that patient sick? It is the level of suspense behind every case that makes one wonder and sometimes even marvel at how science has grown in the West. House M.D. in a bizarre way is like CSI meeting medicine.

Another interesting thing to see is how the writers etch House's character out. After all, doctors can't always be patient. The medical guidebook might say it but it isn't applicable to real life all the time. His craggy, dark suits, cynical and obscure demeanour, sarcasm that finds its way in every scene – it is just a whole lot of fun watching this character unravel itself. Never has following one man do his job been more fun since William Petersen took over as Grissom in CSI.

All in all, for all its quirkiness and misbehaved doctor demeanour, House M.D. is the latest sensation on the television block and it deserves a watch!

– Maheen Sabeeh

 

Ratings:

*YUCK

**WHATEVER

***GOOD

****SUPER

*****AWESOME

 

starbytes

Don vs Jaaneman

It is Jaaneman and Don that are running neck in neck at the moment. Shahrukh versus Salman, Priyanka versus Preity, and of course the prodigal son Farhan Akhtar versus the debutante husband Shirish Kunder. From the reviews it seems that Jaaneman is coming out tops. Fans of the old Amitabh Bachchan classic have given Shahrukh's interpretation of Don a resounding thumbs down. Jaaneman is a well made spoof on the romantic comedy in the tradition of Farah Khan's Main Hoon Na (husband Shirish Kunder edited that film). His skills are on full display in Jaaneman "The film unfolds neatly, with almost every set layering into the other. Walls fall back, rooms open into college campuses, contexts change, and a liberal dose of flashbacks helps disparate moments fuse conveniently together," raves one critic. On the other hand, Farhan Akhtar's Don is being praised for stylized filmmaking, but he is also being chastised for taking too much away from the original. There are umpteen new twists that some say wreck havoc on the entertainment value of the original. "Switching the venue from congested Mumbai to glossy Malaysia and casual clothing to Aki Narula's designer wardrobe hardly qualifies as revolution," wrote one Amitabh buff on Don's new avtar. Yet, as far as the box office is concerned, the SRK magic has worked overseas. Don notched the highest ever Eid / Diwali opening in the UK and UAE. As as far as India is concerned, considering it is Shahrukh, every Indian will go and see the film at least once. So what is bigger? The whole thing is that ke bhaiyya sab se bada rupaiyya!

 

Ash, Abhi and the Swami

Speaking of Bluffmaster, the rumours have started again! The marriage of Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai is certain to take place in February 2007, according to Bachchan family astrologer Chandrashekhara Swamiji who plays astrologer to many film personalities. According to sources, Aishwarya and Abhishek visited the Swami several times during the Karnataka schedule of their film Guru, directed by Mani Ratnam. Swamiji has revealed that Aishwarya will probably make an announcement of her marriage on November 1, her birthday. According to the Swami, the marriage was likely to face roadblocks in 2006 because the number eight is not compatible for her and marriage in 2006 -- which adds up to 8 -- would have led to trouble for the couple. 'That is why I advised them to marry in 2007,' he explains, 'which adds up to 9, a lucky number for both Aishwarya and Abhishek.' Now it remains to be seen, if they do get married. One obvious hint Abhishek dropped was by doing an special appearance in Lage Raho Munnabhai where he decides to marry the girl he loves despite knowing that she is a manglik. For the uninitiated, a manglik is a woman born at such a time that any man she marries will be unlucky. Some months ago there were rumours that Aishwarya is a manglik (remember both Salman Khan and Vivek Oberoi hit a downturn when she went out with them, said Indian papers). Ash and Abhi are masters at the media game. One fact is that they look like a match made in heaven. Another fact is that Dhoom 2 and Umrao Jaan are about to be released. So despite what the Swami says, lets take all this with a pinch of salt, even though it must be said that it makes a great story.

 

Indian baby for Angelina's rainbow family

Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie plans to adopt an Indian baby to add to her growing international brood. The big-hearted actress and partner Brad Pitt have already applied to adopt a tot from an Indian orphanage. The celebrity couple, currently in India for filming Jolie's latest movie, A Mighty Heart, hope to be able to bring the child home by Christmas. "Brad would prefer a boy no older than 18 months to even out the sexes, but Angie has told him she can't guarantee she won't fall in love with a little girl," said a reliable source. Between them, 31-year-old Jolie and 42-year-old Pitt already have three children to look after -- 5-year-old Maddox, who was adopted from a Cambodian orphanage in 2002, Zahara Marley Jolie, an Ethiopian baby girl adopted last year, and their biological daughter Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, who was born in May this year. "Whichever they end up with, they'd like to name the child to honour its homeland." Angelina has said in the past that she wants to have one big multi-cultural family, "I want to create a rainbow family. I believe I'm meant to find my children in the world and not necessarily have them genetically," she said. Angelina has always been far more enigmatic than Brad and she has always made better copy too. Here's to rainbow families and orphans finding a home!

Fighting for the future

Remember Michael J. Fox? The cutie from Back to the Future, Teen Wolf, High School U.S.A., Poison Ivy and many more teen movies an entire generation grew up on is now defending political ads he filmed for candidates who support stem cell research ahead of US congressional elections. The campaign ads in which Fox's body jerked uncontrollably (he has Parkinson's) were criticized by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who accused Fox of acting or deliberately not taking his medication. Fox responded to Limbaugh in an interview with CBS, saying: "Understand that nobody in this position wants pity. I could give a damn about Rush Limbaugh's or anyone else's pity. I'm not a victim," said Fox, who twitched and rocked throughout the interview. Fox, who was diagnosed with the debilitating disease in 1991, said the tremors could result from a lack of, or too much of, the medication Parkinson's sufferers take to allow them greater mobility. In the run-up to the November 7 elections, Fox taped ads for Democratic U.S. Senate candidates who back stem cell research. President Bush has limited federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells and issued his first-ever veto against legislation to expand it. Fox hopes that the ads would get the nation talking about stem cells prior to election day. "If bringing the message means the messenger gets roughed up a bit, I'm happy to be that guy," Fox said. A poll released late on Wednesday showed that U.S. voters' support for stem cell research jumped 5 points Fox's television ads. Star power has never been better used!

 

 

Nadeem Farooq Parach

Waiting for Godot

For the past four years I have travelled extensively across Europe. Being a Pakistani post-9/11 goes beyond being just a tourist. The moment you utter the words "I'm from Pakistan," you are at once given a second, more thorough glance. Usually this has nothing to do with racism or any other kind of discriminatory fanfare, but a concerned curiosity. A glance that becomes even more curious when you agree to have a tipple with the glancing subject.

One almost wants to burst out laughing when faced with the next logical question: "Do Pakistanis drink?"

One wants to say "Yes, many Pakistanis do, especially after a tough day riding their camels and perfecting their homemade exploding devices!"

One ends up telling them something far more sinister: "We also have one of the biggest populations of heroin addicts." Of course we can always blame the Afghans for this (and we rightly do), but the question Westerners find most pressing is, why does a country so steeped in religion have millions of people looking for an escape through one of the deadliest drugs known to man? This question has been on my mind as well.

Here in Pakistan nobody seems to want to answer it. Our urban, middle class religious folk always have a Jew-related, blame-America theory for all our follies. That's scary, because most of them are educated; yet everything is conveniently simplified. We are a great, pure nation of Muslims under social, cultural and political attack by the Jews and their western allies. Here, few listen to the many social and cultural hypocrisies should you point them out. If you do, you are ultimately banished as a part of the great "conspiracy" against Islam and Pakistan.

The minority report

The government's efforts to take the image of Pakistan beyond being a mass of violent, exhibitionist Muslims, is that it is a huge task. They may be a minority but since General Zia took over 30 years ago, it is this minority that has shaped the country's mindset through media, literature and mosques.

It is not really the archetypal mullah who has done all the damage, it is that part of the urban, educated middle-class which suddenly 'rediscovered' religion. Members of this class have been the most active in the direct and indirect evangelization of a hotchpotch version of Islam.

Ever since the '80s these people were encouraged to seep deep into institutions that are at the forefront of moulding a nation's psyche; institutions like universities, colleges, electronic and print media and evangelical concerns. What's more, in the last ten years or so, many of them have even made it to multinational organizations and advertising agencies. So don't be surprised if you find a employee talking about "Islamizing advertising" and, busy firing mass numbers of evangelical emails to his/her colleagues at an agency.

 

Working class blues

The so-called common Pakistani is just too busy trying to make a living to have the pleasure of having a solid, constant political or religious view and angle. But when approached by the 're-converted' bourgeoisie to comment on these, chances are he feels belittled; as if he is being put under the microscope by an entity questioning the authenticity of his religious beliefs and patriotism. He gets out of this dilemma by repeating what he has heard on the many religious shows on TV and of course at sermons in the mosque. These are not really his views. How much time does he have to study religion? And realistically, if he ever really starts following the nitty-gritty peddled by these shows and his local tableeghi, he will have no time to earn his next meal. Even so he is susceptible to come out sounding and behaving like a myopic compulsive-obsessive, too concerned about the size of his beard, the correct approximates of his wife's/daughter's veil, the right length of his shalwar, the appropriate dua (out of the many) for a situation, et al ...

It is not the masses the government should be concerned about. They are just pawns for the religious whims (mostly related to the economic interests) of the re-converting bourgeoisie. And this (growing) section of the middle-classes are not hermits. Far from it. They are active in almost all modern spheres of life. In fact they will make a living exactly from the same sources their mostly "non-religious" and "liberal" contemporaries are making, even if these sources and avenues of employment (to them) constitute the "corruption of man and society."

So how do they tackle that imminent feeling of hypocrisy? Simple. Evangelize to "Islamize" the source. Thus do not be surprised to find an ad copywriter attacking "Jewish capitalism" or a "liberal" business channel or a 24-hour music network deciding to run a parade of naats in Ramazan, or when a capitalist company's session on how to grab more markets (and make bigger profits), opens with the tilawat.

 

Nothing to gain, but chains (and profit)

Re-converted businessmen, politicians, teachers, TV personalities, executives and traders have institutionalised hypocrisy. Religion in Pakistan has become an excuse to do anything from tormenting a threatening employee to wanting to assassinate the President. Bombing public places come into the equation as well, especially when the common man's lack of knowledge (or interest) in religion is taunted and his economic problems are painted in a religious light. His economic problems, he is told, stem from what takes place in the Pentagon and "lack of Islam in this society." How very convenient.

Of course, all capitalist and feudal institutions in our own backyards are conveniently forgotten. This is because they are these re-converts' own source of income and, of course, their owners pray five times a day! Capitalism, feudalism, bourgeois economics and the state have become so intertwined with this growing, intolerant strain of Islam, I do wonder what it will take to come out of it.

The intertwining has become so complex that the moment one even attempts to question the inherent hypocrisies that come with it, he is or she is attacked ruthlessly. It is like questioning and threatening the re-converts' economic interests. Come to think of it, what do you expect in a country where religion has become a thriving economic industry?

Sympathy for the devil

One of the products of this industry is the institutionalizing of the veil. It is becoming increasingly important for women in Pakistan to wear one, especially if they have to go out of the house to work. One reason one sees so many veiled women is that in these times of rising inflation, women have to strike out and earn money! The veil thus has an economic aspect here, making it much more than just a personal issue. But it suddenly goes outside this realm of economics when it is exported to Muslims living in secular countries. Obviously its economic role halts in a country where the intertwining of economics and religion is not so complex. So the veil there becomes a huge social problem.

I was in France when the veil (along with symbols of various other religions were banned), and I was in Holland when recently the veil again became a huge debate sparked off by former British Foreign Minister Jack Straw's comments. All the while I thought why the hue and cry over the banning of overtly exhibiting religious symbols at schools?

I think it was mighty intelligent of the French government to extend the ban from the Muslim hijab and across Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Sikh symbols.

France is a secular state. So what's the big deal? All secular countries should do so. This religious fashion show is going beyond the personal self. If countries and society can (and should!) heap scorn at swastika-wearing neo-Nazis, so should they at people trying to make religious statements with hijabs and crosses and stars of David, especially at schools. The original idea behind Western secularism and Marxism was to separate the state and religion completely. For Muslims there it is a strange situation.

Unlike their contemporaries in Pakistan, who are usually part and parcel, often at the top of the heap of economic activity, strict Muslims in western countries are at the other end of the spectrum. They are very much a minority and not an affluent one at that.

Democracy in the West, driven and influenced by capitalist dictates, has only managed to create cycles of prosperity and sudden economic devastation. These end up generating disillusionment and a mistrust of the whole idea of material profiteering, making the human mind and ego strive for a less 'dog eat dog' existence. Ironically, capitalism is equally responsible for encouraging religious extremism as an alternative. During the Cold War It spent much of its political energy and recourses to undermine and defeat Socialism, and for this many capitalist democracies did not hesitated in allying themselves with movements of the extreme right to ward off Socialist sentiments. But suddenly with the end of the Cold-War and little enthusiasm for Socialism, religion (especially Islam), has now become the next best alternative.

We are learning, now more than ever, that democracy run by capitalist economics can only offer numb consumerism on one end or blind religious extremism on the other. The implementation of Secularism as a thought and ideology (and not a sidekick buzzword for capitalist democracy) is the way to find a balance between aggressive manifestations of ones religious beliefs and a more progressive and democratic one. I believe France's move in this respect is anything but "undemocratic."

If western democracies had allowed secularism's ideological sides to take root more firmly, western societies would not have begun to look like a bundle of contradictions. Neither would their "third-world" counterparts react by looking at bygone times as exemplary situations in the face of the mad capitalist (so-called "liberal") onslaught.

The said French law is perhaps the most progressive act emerging from a secular state in a long, long time.

 

'Jugni' was always a song that stuck in your head and now that Arif Lohar has gotten funky, 'Jugni' has truly started rocking!

By Rahma Muhammad

Arif Lohar is back and what a comeback! Looking very hip, the Punjabi folk maestro has made a very stylish return to the local music scene with a rocking video of his illustrious father, Alam Lohar's hit 'Jugni', a classic Punjabi folk song. Re-produced by a British musician and producer Mukhtar Sahota, the song is from Arif Lohar's latest album also titled Jugni.

Jugni is basically Arif's and his father Alam Lohar's old classics with a smashing modern sound. Comprising of ten tracks, and two bonus mixes the album is Arif Lohar saying he can still be a hit is this era of stylised pop, where glamour sells more than musical expertise. Who better to make this statement than this legendary folk artist, with an immense fan following world over. Now Arif also has the oopmh to match his powerful music.

Arif is not the first one to rework his traditional music and make it more Western audience friendly. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan did it before him. Where the great qawwali maestro did not change his look to appeal to a wider audience, he did remix his music.

Arif Lohar remixing his songs was probably inevitable given the rapid evolution of Punjabi music world over. Whether it's USA or Europe, the Punjabi diaspora from both India and Pakistan, living in foreign lands have adapted their traditional folk sound to the sound of the land they live in. Punjabi MC, Stereo Nation, Apache Indian and many other such bands and musicians have taken their original musical heritage and fused it with great success with rap, hip hop, reggae, R 'n B and even rock. This genre of modern Punjabi folk is not just popular with second or third generation Asians living in the West, but also with Westerners themselves.

Bhangra clubs or Bhangra nights in regular clubs are all the rage in UK, the most happening place apart from Punjab for Punjabi music. The extent to which Punjabi music has penetrated into the musical psyche of the West is evident from the many high profile collaborations Asian musicians have done with western artistes. Whether it is Nelly Furtado's hit remix of 'Powerless' with Josh and Jay Z rapping on Punjabi MC's 'Mundian To Bach Kay' or 'Beware of the Boys' as it is more popularly known - Punjabi music, once 'underground' is now taking over the mainstream music scene in the West. So even if Missy Eliot or Dr Dre can't sing along to Punjabi lyrics they still think it worth their while to put a hypnotic Bhangra loop on 'Get Ur Freak On' or an entire Lata track on Truth Hurt's 'Addictive'.

Therefore it comes as no surprise to see that it is not just Punjabi musicians but also Punjabi record companies that have become all the rage in the west. Arif Lohar's Jugni was released worldwide in the last week of October by Mukhtar Sahota's record company Internal Music, a British outfit. The record company is also responsible for Arif's look and his video.

Dressed in true R 'n B style, complete with a fur coat and necklaces, Arif's look is completely fresh. The only thing missing is a customised bling bling chimta! From fluorescent dhotis, crooning his brilliant folk songs in lush green fields of rural Punjab Arif Lohar has come a long way. A performance based video with a very Lara Croft inspired storyline running in the background, 'Jugni' was shot in Canada. The sound is rock with electric guitars jarring through the widely popular folk riff. Even though Arif Lohar, the rock star may be perceived like an oxymoron by many, it is a fact that Arif does not look out of place. It can be a combination of us becoming accustomed to the western packaging of our local music and the fact that being a strong performer is crucial. And Arif, even in a dhoti and kurta has always had tremendous entertainment value. Arif and his father were popular in those times when musicians could not bank on backup dancers or extraordinary lighting and stage or theatrics to woo and impress an audience.

According to Arif, who is basking in the glory of his new hit, this video has introduced him to a new audience. The idea was to merge his very folk music with that of the West to keep up with the changing times. "I had to be careful that I do not lose the originality of my vocals. So my vocals and lyrics are the same but the beats are new and slightly rock-ish," he says.

Mukhtar Sahota was probably the best man for the job as he has quite an experience mixing Punjabi folk with reggae, hip hop, dance and rock. Mukhtar started his musical career at a very young age, playing the harmonium in a band, The Sahotas with his brothers. Apart from doing his own music he has produced a number of albums, and has done both traditional Punjabi songs and fusion. He approached Arif Lohar with the idea of redoing his classics with a modern sound. Arif agreed to shining results.

So it is not surprise that the new look and the fresh sound are catching on tremendously well with his fans who Arif promises will witness him live in concert soon. Now this is an artist, staying true to his art form and yet adapting it to changing styles and still not losing that edge.

Salman Ahmed has always been more than a musician. UN Goodwill Ambassador, AIDS fighter and social activist – it has been a long journey for him. But when you scratch the surface, what really lies beneath?

By Maheen Sabeeh

Go back in time

A few weeks ago, Salman was invited to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2006 as a speaker. Between President Bush and former President Clinton, one realizes that Clinton is indeed the lesser of two evils. The idea behind CGI is also very noble. Eradicating poverty, reconciling religious and ethnic conflicts, understanding energy needs and improving health – it's all very impressive. They raise money and help make the world a better place.

Then again, the United Nations was formed in 1945 to promote international peace and justice, but one has yet to see the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay being released! Of course, UN investigators have been frowning upon this detention facility for months but substantial steps have yet to be taken. The point is that global organizations can never be trusted, because they depend on political powerbrokers for their survival.

Coming back to Clinton, he is no saint either. He bombed Afghanistan and Somalia when terrorists attacked US embassies. The people living in Somalia and Afghanistan were not at fault. But in a hope to attack Bin Laden, everything else was acceptable. America had to exact revenge after the bombing of USS Cole by Al Qaeda. Iraq was also bombed in Clinton's time when Saddam's government resisted UN inspections on possible warheads. According to UNICEF estimates 500,000 children died because of it. Simply put, Clinton is not exactly the biggest advocate of peace.

The connection between Salman Ahmed and this political warfare is this: it is easy to go and shake hands with Bill Clinton and all the other major players in the US. But will it really make a difference? Are we content with killings of innocent lives in Iraq or Israel bombing Lebanon? Why didn't Salman make a point to raise this issue in the west? Maybe, Salman never wanted to raise these issues…

 

The wrong mission

"Pop culture drives politics, be it Bono or Bob Geldof or Angelina Jolie," says Salman. If Bono is an example, that man is not trying to fight two battles at one. His only mission is to fight for Africa and save lives there. If that means meeting Clinton, Kofi Annan or Bill Gates, it is acceptable.

Being a musician in Pakistan, it is difficult for an artist to be taken seriously in the west. After all, how many are globally known from our industry? But Salman Ahmed is an exceptional case. The fact that he gets an invitation to participate in CGI makes him a well–known figure. He has an opening into the western world that no other local musician enjoys. He has a voice that is heard. Unfortunately, Salman has yet to make it heard in the right places with the right statement. After all, talking about Islam with western media does not change much in the Pakistani context at all. And the tragedy is that ultimately, Salman is not representing the views and opinions of the masses of his country. He is more than happy to become a poster boy for liberal Pakistan in the U.S of A without reaching out to people here.

In the recent times, few bands have – without claiming to be political – have been more on the ball than Salman. One example is Strings. Their last video, 'Beirut' is an ample proof that they are musicians with their finger on the pulse of the nation. Another is Rushk. Their video of 'Khuahish' was a direct hit on the American invasion of Iraq in a more dramatized way that the Strings simple heart felt ode to Beirut.

More disheartening is the fact that the Ahmed clan seems to believe that Pakistani press will be thrilled with all these events. This fact came into play when Salman Ahmed's manager forwarded an email to this scribe. It was an email between the manager and Samina Ahmed (Salman's wife). In her email to the manager that he so unwittingly forwarded to the press, Samina refers to CGI as "A marketing and promoting tool, the biggest we have had, let's use it to the best of our ability."

Needless to say, it just leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.

 

More surprises

Last year, Salman released his debut solo album, Infiniti. This was just a few months after the October 8 earthquake. The social activist inside Salman urged him to do something. He performed all across the globe. Salman claims to have raised a whopping amount of 25 million dollars for the Muzaffarabad earthquake rehabilitation. If it is in fact true, then kudos to the man, but he offers no proof of this staggering sum. However, according to Salman, this fund was raised in December 2005. We are sitting in November 2006. A year has passed and Salman Ahmed has yet to perform in Pakistan. He is planning a visit but a full–fledged tour of Infiniti will not begin until next year.

The only thing one is left to wonder is what will Salman do next? For someone who has claims to be an activist against political and social injustices, this one year is a step down. Whether CGI allocates funds to Pakistan or not is besides the point. The fact is that Salman was there and he did not talk about other issues that affect Muslims (since he is adamant on changing people's views). Discussions on lighter side of Islam will not change much. If Salman talks about how well Hizbollah acted after the war or how America was and is wrong with Iraq and Guantanamo Bay – perhaps then one can say that he really is fighting for what's right. But that is easier said than done. And ultimately that seems to be the problem. One hears about what Salman Ahmed is doing, he has his PR machinery firmly in place, but we actually have yet to see something.

 

Aaroh is alive!

When it comes to videos, Aaroh has never been able to make an impact until… 'Raag Neela' happened. Yes, Aaroh has come out with a spanking new video, 'Raag Neela', the final video before their album releases. Directed by Jalal and Amir, the video works in two backgrounds – bright red and blue (the neela raag effect) with all four dudes dressed in colorful jackets, leather and all with big eye wear. The most interesting thing to see, however, is the way Farooq Ahmed has acted in the video. His body language and his expressions are very much sarcastic, and it seems that he feels the songs, literally. The emphasis on little details like red wine glasses, a bar table on which Haider and Khalid jam their instruments is also a funky addition to the set. Complimenting this theme is the song 'Raag Neela' it self. This song has a very old school rock feel to it. A funky riff opens the song and continues to sweep its way throughout the rest of the melody. And the solo thrown in the middle is a must hear for all rock lovers. It's not the concept that is new but the way it has been shot. This is just a fun video and Aaroh boys look and sound fantastic. The performance-based angle of the video is very true to the Aaroh element. This is how the guys are raw and alive on stage. One thing is clear from this video that Aaroh is finally ready to take Pakistani music by storm. Watch this space for more on Aaroh and until then keep humming, "Raag Neela…"

 

Anu Malik cheats again?

Anu Malik is perhaps the only Indian music director who has been accused of plagiarising other composer's tune more than anyone else. Of late, music critics have also been extremely critical to him after he did the Umrao Jaan soundtrack. His last music release Jaan-e-mann hasn't done too well either. After two weeks, the album has dropped from the top position. The only song that has continuously been on rotation is 'Humko Maloom Hai' from Jaan-e-mann. But now as it turns out, it may not be an original Anu Malik composition! 19-year-old G.V Prakash, the nephew of music maestro A.R.Rahman and background composer for Jaan-e-mann has made a claim that this song was his composition but the credit was given to Anu Malik. Like always, Anu Malik has denied allegations against him. But by looking at his past record, this cheating charge just might be true. G.V.Prakash is a huge name in South Indian films and in the recent past has worked on a number of films with Uncle Rahman including Swades and Rang De Basanti. Now whether Prakash is another Rahman in the making, we can't say but for what it's worth, we'd rather take his word than Anu Malik's!

 

Vibes

CHARTS

"The memory of things gone is important to a jazz musician. Things like old folks singing in the moonlight in the back yard on a hot night or something said long ago." --Louis Armstrong

Pakistani

1. One Light Year At Snail Speed

-Sajid and Zeeshan

2. Sun Re

- Abbas Ali Khan

3. Overload - Overload

4. Sawal - Rushk

5. Jalpari - Atif Aslam

Hindustani

1. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

2. Don

3. Umrao Jaan

4. Woh Lamhe

5. Bas Ek Pal

Vilayti

1. Sam's Town

- The Killers

2. Future Sex/Love Songs

- Justin Timberlake

3. Revolution

- Audioslave

4. The Open Door

- Evanescence

5. Modern Times

- Bob Dylan

Courtesy: Laraib Music, Clifton Shopping Centre, Boating Basin, Karachi.

 

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