Nadia got me a Hapi Mini Drum (C Major scale) for my birthday. This is the only melody I've composed on it so far:
I didn't record this video all that well but isn't that a gorgeous sounding instrument? :)
Random Tangent (Blog)
Ameel Khan's personal blog. This is a blog about life, technology, the internet, science, skepticism, feminism, books, film, music, and whatever other random stuff I come across or happen to be interested in today.
Nadia got me a Hapi Mini Drum (C Major scale) for my birthday. This is the only melody I've composed on it so far:
I didn't record this video all that well but isn't that a gorgeous sounding instrument? :)
I think my new favourite web radio station is Pinguin Radio.
They're an independent radio station that play:
a mix of pop, rock, hiphop, reggae, folk, metal, and singer-songwriters
Their music mix includes "golden oldies but especially new music" and they "specialize in broadcasting and developing new indie or alternative music."
Besides, how could you not like a radio station with the motto:
No bullshit, great music
Give 'em a listen. They're well worth it.
Justin Timberlake's latest single, 'Mirrors', is seriously good.
Very few artists and their producers achieve this level of complex simplicity in their music. (In this album the producers were Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and J-Ro.) The musical layers are lovely and their spatial positioning (in the stereo sound field) is exceptional.
I particularly love the bit in the bridge (from 5:30 to 6:00) in which they layer the "You are / you are / the love / of my life" lyrics. That's at least three, though more likely five (or perhaps six) vocal layers of that lyric alone.
I get a lot of ‘free’ stuff from the Internet – everything from news and entertainment to email and online storage.
By 'free', of course, I mean ad-supported (in most cases) so while I do technically pay for these services with my time, attention, and user profile data I don't directly pay for them in cash.
There are, however, a bunch of online services that I do explicitly pay for with my own money.
These include services you can't access without a subscription, such as:
I only recently signed up with MOG, by the way, and chose to pay them over their competitors for two main reasons: they stream high quality music (320kbps over WiFi and 4G) and, since they’re a Telstra partner, streaming music from them doesn’t count toward your mobile data bandwidth. Being both an audiophile who values high quality music and a Telstra mobile customer both of these are excellent reasons.
The other online services I pay for/contribute to are the kind that you can access for free but can also support financially if you so choose.
These include the news, information, and editorial services like:
With the exception of Wikipedia, to which I donate annually, the rest I support through automatic monthly micropayments.
The freemium services (products, really) that I pay for include:
Oh, and depending on how Fairfax rolls things out, I’ll probably subscribe to The Age Online, too, once they set up their paywall. And, speaking of news outlets, I also used to subscribe to the Economist but, much as I loved their content and editorial, I wasn’t getting enough of a return on my investment.
So that’s my list. What online services – content services or products – do you pay for?
ABC Classic FM is also nice, though I don’t listen to it all that often. Also, it’s only 64kbps.
That is all.
In Part 1 I talked about how The Presets, Beyoncé, and The Black Eyed Peas have really impressed me with their latest albums.
Those artists impressed me because their music is unusual, interesting, and, musically simple, powerful, energy filled. The following three artists take a different approach.
Lady Gaga is anything but simple, though she’s no less smart, talented, or powerful than the other three.
Unlike artists such as Katy Perry and Ke$ha, who appear to be victims of cookie-cutter, hyper-sexualized American popular music and culture, Lady Gaga is in totally charge of her own destiny.
In fact, her attitude is more like: “I’ll take your cookie-cutter-ness and hyper-sexuality and will raise them to my own bizarre, cliche-breaking, concept-twisting level. Oh, and I’ll make incredibly catchy and insanely successful music while doing so.”
One of the best ways to compare and contrast Katy Perry, Ke$ha, and Lady Gaga is to read their entries on the awesome TV Tropes wiki:
And since it’ll take forever to go through Lady Gaga’s entry here are three quick highlights from those three pages:
Lady Gaga is awesome. Why? Because Lady Gaga is awesome.
Switching genres completely, someone else who is doing things her own way is Theresa Andersson.
And now for something completely different: the fabulous Linkin Park.
Linkin Park are actually why I started writing these blog posts. A couple of nights ago I listened to their latest single, ‘Waiting for the End’, on YouTube and loved it. And since I also loved their previous album, Minutes to Midnight, I went straight to their website and bought A Thousand Suns (DRM-free 320kbps MP3s!).
I started listening to this once it finished downloading and, frankly, I couldn’t put it down. Why? Because it’s been quite a while since someone’s put together a really good rock concept album.
(I’m not a big enough fan of Green Day to have liked 21st Century Breakdown all that much and Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero was released in 2007. Oh, and U2’s No Line on The Horizon was more of an experimental album than a proper concept album.)
To reinforce the fact that this is, indeed, a concept album that should be listened to from start to finish at least once, when you download the album you also get an MP3 called ‘A Thousand Suns – The Full Experience’ which is the entire 47:56 minute album as a single track :)
What’s cooler is that this album fits really well with the kind of music I’m listening to and the kinds of books I’m reading these days: Hans Zimmer’s soundtracks to ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Inception’ and China Miéville’s ‘The City and the City’. So songs and stories about war, dystopia, human struggle, and human perseverance, not only seem to be the order of the day – thanks to our global political and economic climate – they’re also what I’m into right now.
The best part is that, like any good concept album (or, indeed, great soundtrack), this one contains excellent music and is really well textured, structured, and paced.
Also, it sounds like a mixture of Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails, U2, and, in one song, Public Enemy. How could you not love that combination? :) My current favourite song from the album, by the way, is ‘Blackout’.
So there you have it: six bands (well, technically, ‘artists’ since that’s the more accurate and more all-encompassing term) that have impressed me most over the last couple of years. I hope you enjoy their music, too.
There are three things you should know about me:
These things are important to know because, while I listen to a great deal of music – a lot of which I enjoy – there aren’t that many artists who make me stop and say, “wow…now that’s impressive.”
The few who have made me say that – that is, the artists I have been most impressed by – over the last two years are as follows.
The Presets really kick ass. The musicality, energy, and raw-but-brilliantly-produced music whacks you across the face and makes you want to…well, get up and stomp.
Beyoncé blew me away with some of the songs from her 2008 album, I Am…Sasha Fierce.
The powerful simplicity, strong groove, and highly-charged emptiness in her music are fantastic. With so many musicians trying to squeeze more and more into each of their songs it was great to see a powerful musician like her going the other way. Of course, she couldn’t have done this if she wasn’t as talented or as capable.
And, being who she is, Beyoncé took this up a notch and made two fabulous videos that were as simple and powerful as the songs they were based on (i.e. ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’).
The Black Eyed Peas have their own version of simple, groovy, and powerful music (though they do say their latest album was partly influenced by The Presets).
In fact, they’ve done stuff on their their 2009 album, The E.N.D., that I don’t think anyone else in the music industry would dare to do.
For starters, they really stripped down what they put into their songs. Like Beyoncé, they added more space and more silence. This, in turn, made the rest of their music much more powerful. Quality over quantity. Take, for example, their hugely popular song ‘I Gotta Feeling’ which is quite empty musically but it still highly enjoyable and danceable. (It even got its own flash mob live video version thanks to Oprah.)
Importantly, though, in their desire to make a futurist album, they did all sorts of fun things with their music and vocals. For example, they raised the pitch of Fergie vocals on ‘Rock That Body’ so she sounds like a chipmunk and they lowered the pitch of apl.de.ap vocals on ‘Meet Me Halfway’ so he sounds like…er, a deep-voiced robot or something.
Despite all this, their music is fantastic though, admittedly, their lyrics won’t win any literary awards :)
[Continued in Part 2]
This is probably the best cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ that I’ve ever heard:
This was probably the best concert I have ever attended. Yes, it was even better than watching The Police live at the MCG on Australia Day a couple of years ago. I guess it helps that I own almost every Moby album and that I knew all of the songs he played :)
Instead of writing much about it, I’m just going to share some of the photos and video snippets that I took.
Joy Malcolm and Moby:
Kelli Scarr and Moby:
The whole band at the end of a song:
Joy Malcom and crowd participation:
‘Feeling so Real’ and concert end
It was awesome.
My blogging has been sporadic of late (I’ve been very busy at work) so here’s a quick catch-up on all the exciting things that have been happening in my life recently. This works quickest as a Q&A.
Q: How’s life?
A: It’s going well:
Q: What have you been up to?
Last month Nadia and I visited the Gold Coast for the first time.
I’ll upload a photo gallery from that trip to my PicasaWeb account some time soon. We hope to go back for a longer trip in the future.
Right after the Gold Coast trip we attended the Australian Skeptics National Convention in Brisbane (hosted by the Queensland Skeptics) which was both exciting and hugely inspiring. More on this in a later blog post.
We also saw the fabulous Tim Minchin (official site) perform at the Palais Theatre in St Kilda. In a few days’ time (3 Jan), I’ll be going to see Moby (official site) perform at the Palace Theatre on Bourke Street! :)
Q: What else is happening in your life?
A: Well, starting with the geeky side of life, I’ve made a few excellent purchases.
For backup and media storage, I bought Western Digital’s My Book World Edition external hard drive:
This gives us 1TB of storage and lets us do daily backups over the network. It’s a fantastic network attached storage solution for the home.
I bought a 7” digital photo frame (via the brilliant Catch of the Day website) which we’ve placed in our living room.
I downloaded and installed Amazon’s Kindle for PC software, though I’ve only bought one book for it so far (‘Groundswell’ by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li). I’ll probably buy more once I get myself an actual Kindle device (which I hope to do some time in the near future).
On the music side of life, I joined the Melbourne Water Choir (which was lots of fun) and I bought myself a drum kit. That drum kit is the really basic Roland HD-1 V-Drums Lite:
I bought an electronic kit because an acoustic one, no matter how muffled, would be too loud for the apartment. I bought this particular one because it’s the quietest, most acoustic-like in its price range. It’s also one of the cheapest electronic kits available :)
I have discovered since that not playing the drums for about a year makes you a little rusty!
Q: What else?
A: That’s about it, I think (though I will probably remember more later). Well, other than the fact that we’ve been watching lots of movies, listening to lots of music, hanging out with lots of friends (including one who was here from overseas), and generally doing stuff we enjoy.
All in all, life is really busy (mostly because of work) but it’s going well and we’re having fun.
There are very few songs that affect me deeply in an emotional (and almost physical) way.
For more on this song:
Pogo, the Perth-based electronic musician, recently released his latest song ‘UPular’, which is “composed using chords, bass notes and vocal samples from the Disney Pixar film 'Up'”.
It’s awesome and I can’t stop listening to it over and over again!
More about Pogo:
I first heard of Coke Studio late last year but, when I checked it out, I wasn’t particularly impressed with its first couple of episodes. It was good stuff, yes, and I did like the idea…it just wasn’t all that great.
Then came Season 2 and everything changed.
But Wait…What is Coke Studio?
For all you poor, lost souls who haven’t yet discovered the wonders of Coke Studio:
Coke Studio is a Pakistani television series featuring live music performances. The program focuses on a fusion of the diverse musical influences in Pakistan, including eastern classical, folk, and contemporary popular music. The show provides a platform for renowned as well as upcoming and less mainstream artists, from various genres and regions, to collaborate musically in live studio recording sessions. [Source: Wikipedia]
Okay, That Sounds Exciting (I think)…Where Do I Start?
Start on YouTube (see links and embedded videos below) by watching the videos that have been uploaded there (don’t forget to rate, comment, and favourite as you see fit). These are available both on the official Coke Studio channel as well as on other users’ channels.
Then visit the official site to download the audio and video of all the performances. Once you’ve been suitably blown away and you still want more (which you will), watch the behind-the-scenes videos for Season 2’s episodes, read the artists’ profiles, and contribute to the site.
Let Your Journey Begin…
Start with these three videos.
‘Chal Diyay’ by Zeb & Haniya and Javed Bashir:
‘Aik Alif’ by Saieen Zahoor and Noori:
‘Husn-e-Haqiqi’ by Arieb Azhar":
You can thank me later.
There are two things (so far) that I wish my mother had been alive to see, read or experience: the last few Harry Potter books and the following performance of ‘Love and Justice’ which was composed by Kavisha Mazzella and sung by over 400 women of Victoria late last year:
I get a shiver down my spine every time I listen to it.
The anthem was commissioned by the Victorian Women’s Trust to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage in Australia and was performed at the BMW Edge auditorium at Federation Square in Melbourne. For more on the anthem, check out the ABC News’ coverage of it.
Also check out Mazzella’s MySpace page which features more of her awesome music.
In early 1999, while I was a senior at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), we were planning for the annual student variety show called ‘So?’. Now the ‘So?’ is organized jointly by the all the student clubs who want to participate and, being president of Alpha Hour, I was a part of that year’s organizing committee. [I also co-wrote ‘Zahoor: A Musical’ – Dr. Zahoor being our Associate Dean at the time – that some of my classmate and I performed there but that’s another story.]
A lot of the performances at the ‘So?’ were musical ones. Indeed, we started the show with a song from Jahanzeb and Adil Sherwani, had lots of Ali Hamza in the middle, and even ended the night with the hugely popular cover of The Strings’ ‘Sar Kiye Ye Pahar’ as performed by Saad Ansari, Sameer Anees, Jahanzeb Sherwani, and Adil Sherwani.
It was around this time that we all realized that LUMS needed an official music society and so we encouraged the musicians who had performed at the ‘So?’ to start one. That’s what Saad, Jahanzeb, and Ali Hamza did and thus the LUMS Music Society was born.
Fast-Forward to the Present
The Music Society has come a long way since then: They now have their own fully-equipped recording studio (as opposed to the single room next to the gym that we started out with) and they organize all sorts of musical events, some of which you can check out on their YouTube Channel. Also visit their Facebook Group page for event listings, photographs, and discussions.
This year they’re celebrating their ten-year anniversary with a music conference on 9 May and a big concert featuring the likes of Noori, eP, Laal, and Aunty Disco Project on the 10th. They’ll also be launching their official website at that time.
My Association with the Music Society
I owe a lot to the LUMS Music Society because it was through them that I learnt how to play the drums and it was at their launch concert (called ‘The Jig’) in early 2000 that I first performed in front of an audience as a drummer. I even have a recording of the very first song I played at that concert (‘Zombie’ by The Cranberries) with Mehreen on vocals, Vex on bass, and Saad on lead. Yes, it’s terrible of me but I’ve forgotten who was on rhythm guitar.
Even though the actual performance of that song is mostly a blur, I remember that I started out too fast and was mimed to slow down by Jahanzeb who was sitting in the audience. I also made one major error – a hand-spaz miss-hit on the snare drum – that, not only did no one there notice, you can’t even hear it on the audio recording so it obviously wasn’t as big a mistake as I thought it was. I performed in two more songs during that show – Pink Floyd and Alanis Morissette covers, no less – the latter of which was on the bongos which were also new to me at the time.
A few months later, I performed at their first proper, on-stage concert (called ‘It’) in the central courtyard. This time I was on the drums (‘Dosti’ by Nazia and Zoheb), tambourine (‘Smooth’ by Santana and Rob Thomas), and bongos (‘Those Were the Days’ by Mary Hopkin). Later in the year I travelled from Islamabad to Lahore to specifically attend their first big concert (called ‘The Show’) which featured a professional sound system and hired musical instruments. They could afford all this now that they were officially sponsored by LUMS. I last checked-in on them in 2003 when I went to guest lecture at LUMS and they’d already grown quite a bit. Now, of course, they’re the largest club at the University.
In spite of all that, my strongest memory of the Music Society is still that of me, Ali Hamza and Saad packed into a hot, stuffy jam room as we rehearsed a rock version of Nazia and Zoheb’s ‘Dosti’. I used to have a recording of that performance as well but I seem to have lost it along the way, which is sad. That was the first time I came up with my own drum beat to a song (yes, we really changed it around from the original) and I remember being proud of myself for that because I’d grown quite a bit as a musician over those few months.
It’s been ten years since I graduated from LUMS and ten years since the Music Society was formed. Unfortunately, I’ll be missing both my reunion and the 10th anniversary concert because I’m going to be in Australia during both events. That sucks, I know, but I will be there in spirit. And, at the very least, I do get to blog about it and encourage other people to be there on my behalf. Here’s hoping some of you manage to do so.
Let me move beyond my introductory blog posts on skepticism and hand you over to Tim Minchin performing his brilliant 9-minute long beat-poem ‘Storm’ (audio only):
Moby has just announced that his upcoming album will be called ‘Wait for Me’ and that it will be released (presumably in the US) on 30 June.
He has also released his first single (and accompanying video), called ‘Shot in the Back of the Head’, on Pitchfork:
UPDATE: You can now download this single from Moby’s website!
The Sound of Music sing-a-long-a is back in Melbourne this year. It’s on 15 and 16 May at the Hamer Hall (tickets from Ticketmaster, details on the Sing-A-Long-A website) and I would love to attend but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to (it’s expensive!). Besides, it won’t be as much fun without, say, either of my sisters going with me. Still, I’ll see if I can make it.
Meanwhile, have you seen this bit of Sound of Music awesomeness? It’s an Improv Everywhere type of flash mob performance of ‘Do-Re-Me’ at the central train station in Antwerp, Belgium:
Brilliant, isn’t it? Or should I say “Charming. Quite charming.” :)
I’ve seen the ‘Watchmen’ movie twice now, and though I really like the movie itself, what stands out, for me at least, is they way they used music throughout the film; particularly in transition scenes and montages.
[WARNING: Possible spoilers, especially if you haven’t already read the graphic novel]
The musical good-ness starts with the opening credits that feature Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’. This was a really neat way to start the film as this montage is our introduction to the parallel reality that the movie is set in (I particularly liked the bit where Silhouette replaces the sailor in Eisenstaedt’s famous ‘V-J Day in Times Square’ photo).
The two most memorable uses of music, however, are the cold war era protest song ‘99 Luftballons’ by Nena that gets played at the start of the Daniel Dreiberg and Laurie Jupiter dinner scene and use of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence’ for The Comedian’s funeral. Awesome stuff, particularly the entire funeral scene. Also memorable, but more because of it’s unusual placement, is the use of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ during the Nite Owl and Silk Spectre sex scene.
Then there are the more energetic songs that are used at appropriate points. These include ‘All Along the Watchtower’ performed Jimi Hendrix (but, of course, written by Bob Dylan), ‘Desolation Row’ as performed by My Chemical Romance (also originally by Bob Dylan), and ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ as performed the Budapest Symphony Orchestra (which is a nod to the helicopter attack scene from ‘Apocalypse Now’). Oh, and if you stay for the credits you’ll also get to hear Leonard Cohen’s ‘First We’ll Take Manhattan’.
Finally there’s the brilliant use of a muzak version of ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ by Tears for Fears that is played in the reception area outside Adrian Veidt’s office.
Anyway, if you haven’t yet seen the film I suggest you do because it really is quite good. One thing, though: do keep in mind that this is not your typical, happy-ending superhero film. It’s a dark, dismal, serious movie – darker than what Batman films are supposed to be – and if you don’t go into the cinema expecting that, you probably won’t enjoy it as much.
[For more on the music used throughout the film, check out the Reel Soundtrack Blog’s feature on the Watchmen Soundtrack or the film’s Wikipedia page.]