Archive for the ‘New in Town’ Category

OMG… Kuch Khaas.

There has been a constant debate over how the critically acclaimed city of the dead is actually living up to its name as far as performing arts (mainly music) are concerned. The overall security situation of the country amongst many numerable reasons contributed to this sad state of affairs. But as they say, all hope is not lost for 2010 saw KUCH KHAAS (A community space for discourse, learning, meaningful entertainment and participation in Islamabad) break into the scene. I recently caught up with the KUCH KHAAS program team to discuss their new venture called Open Mic Gig (OMG).

1) For starters, tell a little bit about the program team at KUCH KHAAS and what it actually does.

The Kuch Khaas Program Team has Program Managers, Assistant Program Managers, Interns and extended Kuch Khaas Family Members. There is a whole lot of collaboration between the team on how to execute various ideas into programs such as events or classes/workshops.

2) How much in your view has KUCH KHAAS affected the arts/music scene in the capital?

Islamabad happens to be a place where previously being self-taught was the norm for most artists and musicians. Kuch Khaas hopes to have instructors who now can impart their knowledge and skill to eager learners. These learners have a relationship with their Instructors and Kuch Khaas, which later becomes a source of confidence for them to show their talent in events such as OMG.

3) You people have various music courses going on, tell a little about them.

We have previously hosted classes and workshops by Singing Instructors, Natasha Ejaz and Ahmed Ali.

Our ongoing classes include:

“Singing Success” instructed by Shahbaz Zaidi which has been one of our longest running classes alongside “Guitar Lessons – Beginners and Intermediates” instructed by Syed Salman Haider Zaidi.

“Classical Vocal Training and Tabla Classes” by Ustaad Umeed Ali Khan, student of Barey Ghulam Ali Khan Sahab, while Ustaad Naimat Ali Khan Sahab accompanies him on tabla have been a great source of inspiration for all of us.

We also have “Percussion Training” with Asfendyar Ahmed. Rawal Shadab Ahmad is our instructor for “Basic Keyboard and Piano Lessons”.

A weekly facilitated drum circle conducted by Ammar Latif also takes place at Kuch Khaas, open to anyone who would like to participate and get together to make music, the purpose of this activity is solely recreational.

4) Do you think KUCH KHAAS caters to particular strata of society or is it inherently universal in its approach?

Kuch Khaas does not prescribe to a formulaic approach in building its community. We are here to mobilize not only the youth but also reaching out to adults in order for them to redefine their notions of everyday life in Islamabad. Kuch Khaas is an idea impacting society physically and theoretically.

5) When did you people decide to hold open mic nights and how has the response been thus far?

The Open Mic Night was to ensure a platform for local enthusiasts and musicians, a gathering that is intimate and casual enough for different genres to come together creating a diverse program for the audiences.

Kuch Khaas hoped to bring together acoustic playing singers, solo acts and local bands. To balance out the night we now ask for submissions a week before the event. These processes lead us to rename the Open Mic Night to Oh My Gig! Or OMG as Kuch Khaas manages the entire program. This does not in any way shape or form mean we dismiss or undermine some talent over the other.

The program each time leads to new realizations for the next OMG. As the Kuch Khaas Team we want to set out an example for local youth to come out and perform not because OMG is an official musical gig but a night to celebrate local talent.

6) A lot of noteworthy musicians have played at this venue; do you think it’s slowly becoming the GEN-Y Civil Junction?

Absolutely not, Kuch Khaas is not catering to solely musicians but multitalented individuals, who have potential and want to perform.

7) Are there any facilities/programs except the Open Mic Gig platform to facilitate budding musicians at KUCH KHAAS?

We now have started Karaoke Nights for those who might just want to sing out loud to their favorite tunes in a relaxed and informal environment. It is not about OMG the event but about the people who go through the experience with us.

8) Why did the chicken cross the road?

To go to Kuch Khaas.

9) Do you people plan on expanding further, if yes, then what avenues are you people looking to explore?

We have an extensive video library in the making of all our previous programs and events. We hope that having an archival process will enable Kuch Khaas to go a step further in delivering constructive dialog beyond its four walls.

10) Any final words of wisdom, messages, dedications or statements?

Kuch Khaas is now coming to a full circle with the completion of its first year in May. A place open to youth and adults alike, bringing forth opportunity and support for a more engaging Islamabad.

 

Photo credits: Zeeshan Jamal/Kuch Khaas

Guessing time!

Which place is this?

A nice new place for a stroll with Molly

There seems to be a park type area in the making on the Attaturk Avenue. Lots of nice footpaths are being made in the green belt in front of the PTCL building. I took a few pictures of that area with my lousy camera for you guys when I was walking back home yesterday. Maybe they thought that this area should have walkways because there are so many working class people who need to cross this area to go their offices on the other side, and its always a pain in the nether region to risk your life walking through a dense jungle full of hissing snakes and blood thirsty boars (kind of like the ones in the movie Hannibal (I hope I didn’t put you off your appetite!))

A nice little shed under construction. It would be nice to have short park style lamp posts at various locations. That would help create a nice ambience. But I doubt that would be on the list of things to do for the CDA. I wonder why they have to keep Islamabad so dark at nights! I remember the night when I went cross-country through a very dark area. If it wasn’t for the noise of the rushing waters below, I would have been drowning in Islamabad’s storm water drain that night! Maybe the CDA could try giving the people little torches with a little ‘Government of Pakistan’ sticker on them. I think they would be cheaper than erecting a lamp post!

Since this area is so close to PTCL, it would be great to make this whole place a Wi-Fi hotspot where users can just sit around and blog, tweet, facebook, etc. Here’s a picture of the new metallic benches and trash cans that are going to be placed all over this place I believe. That white light at the back are the parliamentary houses thingy, too bad my camera was unable to capture the buildings properly.

Here’s some guys playing cricket in that empty ground opposite the Ufone office just where this green area ends.

Would be great to see serious walkers, joggers, and exercisers in this new place.

A bit of north-east-west-south

Since there happen to be some good people out there who care about Metblogs and have raised a significant amount of money to keep it from being taken down, it would be very unfair to not write something. After a little unsuccessful fiddling with my Windows Live! Writer (a nifty little tool that allows me to save drafts and format texts to make the write-up look nice for all the pretty ladies out there (mind you, pretty ones only)), I was able to post yet another brilliantly composed test message for theme detection which could not be taken off for some reason (those subscribed to the Islamabad Metblogs RSS probably know what the hell I’m talking about).

So what is there to write about Islamabad? Nothing I guess, except for the oh-so-beautiful view from Daman-e-Koh which people have the urge to photograph again and again, or maybe the seemingly never ending construction going on at the zero-point area, or the relocation of the little disabled baba who sits in the Super market selling cheap little Chinese toys.

You didn’t see that coming did you? Have you noticed that little disabled old man? The one who sits next to the shawarma maker near Durrani’s, whose delightful little sandwiches we love to sink our canines into very often?

Bah, why would anyone want to know anything about him… because there’s better news abound!

News #1: Dominos, the renowned pizza makers have finally come to Islamabad! Yaayyy! They’re a HUGE success in Lahore, with their DHA Y-Block outlet usually always crowded. I had the good fortunate of ordering a pizza at Dominos Lahore on Eid day, and despite the fact that there were apparently hundreds of people there booking their orders, my pizza still came in around 40 minutes at my doorstep. I’m personally very fond of Dominos and usually prefer those over Pizza Hut/Inn whenever I’m in Lahore. Good thing they’re here in Islamabad now. The boys at Pizza Hut would definitely have a hard time retaining their customers now!

News #2: All you peri peri lovers have probably seen the new Nando’s outlet finally come to life in the Super market. I’m not sure if it was inaugurated over the weekend, but I saw some guys taking mobile phone snaps of the building from all angles. It’s quite a good location, but I’m wondering if the soft-tongued islooites would be able to develop a taste for Nando’s. And I think that Nando’s success would mean a blow to KFC. Their standard is already pretty low, so a bit of chicken competition would probably bring them back on track.

News #3: The monkey had his first ever plate of dahi ballay from munchies in Islamabad after 3 years of living in this city! *monkies cheering*

By the way, the monkey noted that exceedingly short kameez seem to be back in fashion now. He had the good fortune of seeing a petite young creature wear a kameez which probably extended an inch above the lower fold of the glutes. An mind you, that is dangerously provocative… the monkey almost collided with an oncoming black Toyota truck while he was intently observing the swaying undulating folds of the silky lower garment. I think the kameez is going through a phase of extremes too now (damn, everything is extremist). Either its too long, or too short. I won’t be surprised if the kameez goes way up above the navel one day to give the wearer a more arabian belly dancer type look. Sigh, the monkey misses the 1990’s!

Ramadan 2009

Ramadan seems to be coming along fine in the capital with men and women spending the day staying hungry, waiting patiently for the time the sun sets down so they can chow down the unhealthy delicacies waiting for them on their dining tables. The samosa and pakora manufacturers are having a great month by selling those onion, mince meat, and vegetable filled foods to all and sundry. Right next to them are the jalebi engineers, and the kachori developers. A typical marketplace, like the Melody Food Area for example, is a fun place to go minutes before iftari. All the fruit sellers are trying their best to sell all their rotting fruits so they pack up and go to the nearest mosque for the iftar. Eateries like the Melody Savor branch are thronged by people to grab a shopping bag full of their favorite pulao kabab (I personally find the act of stuffing a royal dish like a pulao in a transparent polythene bag quite disgraceful). Everyone is in a hurry to run back home before the sirens go off, and before the muezzins in every mosque in Islamabad announce the time to break the fast.

There are people, like yours truly, who enjoy wandering around right at the time of iftar. Walking down in the middle of the erstwhile busy roads at iftar time can be delightful. You can see all the policemen huddled up under trees and behind their concrete barricades with disposable plates full of the aforementioned delicacies. Yet there is always one of them standing guard, just in case a truck full of explosives with two euphoric men would happen to go by. There are also small time fruit sellers standing at street corners, and one of them was kind enough to offer me five dates for free at the time of iftar (I accepted two though, ate one and shoved the other one deep into the unforgiving bowels of my bag, probably to be eaten up by a cockroach or something).

Oh, by the way, on my way back home I noticed this new development in the Super Market. Can anyone guess what this little black mirchi means?

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Anyway, the blessings of Ramadan are endless. Here are a few of them for your reading pleasure:

1) You get to have more food than you usually have.

2) You get to have more unhealthy food than you usually have.

3) You learn that food is the most important thing on the planet, and that Ramadan is all about the food.

4) You shove non-fasters behind embarrassing enclosures where they can have their happy time and have a bite or two to satiate their hunger (Poor souls! They should demand their rights).

5) Sexually active couples get to spend less time in bed together, and hence contribute in the noble cause of slowing down the population growth of this deprived nation.

6) Medications like Gaviscon and the white Milk of Magnesia have increased sales to help their consumers break down the large bubbles of gas in their intestines into smaller more manageable air packets.

7) And so on and so forth…

But seriously, without taking the ugly head of Ramadan commercialism, the political disturbances, the price hikes, and the religious complications, there are a few things about this month the make it the most important month of the year for a persons physical and mental health. Without Ramadan, the little social ills that plague our society would become something normal, and there would be no question of whether the ills being practiced are right or wrong. This the only time of the year when people abstain from things that are considered wrong, and they develop the patience and strength to do that. Ramadan is not about praying five times a day, or getting up early in the morning to eat paratha, or reciting the Qur’an, or staying hungry throughout the day… it is only about the well being of the spirit, and it is our job to learn how to keep our spirit happy and healthy during this holy month, and for every other month of the year.

It is also mainly about love and compassion, just like the compassion shown to me by that poor fruit seller standing with his cart in the corner of the street at iftar time by offering me dates with a smile on his face.

So Happy (belated) Ramadan everyone! And I hope you spend the rest of what remains of this Islamic month contemplating over the little ills inside you instead of worrying about staying hungry and thirsty.

New digital electricity consumption meters

One of the weirdest developments I noticed in the city is the installation of these hi-tech electricity meters outside a select group of houses in the capital. The small one is a single phase meter, and the larger one is a three phase meter (both installed outside my place):

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We were having some electricity problems at home a few days after these meters were installed, and the WAPDA guys who visited our place told us that we would require ‘load balancing’ because these are “special” meter and do not operate like the old meters when the load is imbalanced. I was a bit skeptical about that suggestion, so we called up another WAPDA guy who happened to be more cooperative and friendlier than the previous ones. He removed some carbon deposit from one of the wires in the distribution box outside and tightened the bolt, and things were back to normal.

What surprises me most about this development is that in a situation when the electricity prices and load shedding is increasing, the government has the cojones to spend so much money on these new toys and experiment them on some houses in the capital. These things are so hi-tech that they are said to automatically report tampering and meter readings to the main office, eliminating the need for monthly visits of the meter reading guy.

I admit that I did tamper with a couple of buttons on the 3-phase meter though, just to see what would happen! If the government is experimenting on us, then why not vice versa?!

Islamabad in 2010

A view drafted by CDA … !


What do you think of so much construction? Ideas, critique, suggestions most welcome.

Click on link given above to see tooltips on the image correctly .

Fat and Saltish

Jharoka chef

Jharoka chef spinning his magic

Does anyone know how this fellow does what he does? I’m talking about the Saltish Mutton Karahi at Jharoka (and Bolan, Shinwari etc.) that just melts in your mouth. It’s the stuff that will have you full and wanting more.

I was surprised not to find this Northern Pakistan specialty anywhere in Lahore or Karachi. Perhaps I didn’t look hard enough? Another selling point for the capital ;)

Zero Point’s Interchange on its way

Looks like a DAM to me ;)

Image courtesy: Daily Times

Cell Phones & Seat Belts: Be ready for the fine

mobile-during-driving.jpg

So finally ITP (Islamabad Traffic Police) has made it a rule. Any driver caught on mobile while driving or not wearing a seat belt will be fined from today, Friday 1st August. This law is introduced to minimize the accidents caused.

A driver will be fined a sum of Rs. 300 for violation of these laws (which IMO is a very low amount – more the better).

seatbelts-are-necessary-now.gifBTW, I heard of laws in Sharjah and Dubai (not first hand news so cant really confirm if the situation is actually such) where the police just notes down the registration number of cars and send them heavy amount on tickets direct to their homes. They wont stop you asking why are you speaking on your mobile or why’s the seat belt hanging around. Perfect way to treat our people here as well. I wish.

So be careful next time you hear a ring tone in your car. Dont be tempted to pick it.  Good Luck~

Adieu~

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