I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Sunday, September 27, 2009

P.S ... The Map To The Goldmine

I wasn't much of a believer in Manna descending from the sky these days, but as The Monkees sang, I'm a believer now. Around two months ago, I stumbled on a goldmine, and not just a tiny prospect up in the mountains where ages of prospecting would ultimately point fruitless. Oh no, what I found was the mother lode to end all mother lodes.

It's called Spotify, and while a complete description can be found here and here, the brief rundown is that it's a streaming music player that lets you play tracks from an immense library of artists and albums, and when I say immense, I mean GINORMOUS!!!

With legitimate deals with the record industry, Spotify lets you access the complete catalogues of almost any artist, from the Stones to Neil Young to Hank Williams to Fela Kuti to ..erm, well to almost anybody I can think of. This in itself is ultrabrilliant, but what clinches the deal for me is that spotify boasts almost the COMPLETE EMI PAKISTAN CATALOGUE !!!!

Starting from the early 50's, there are pristine, high quality recordings of artists as diverse as Maai Bhaagi,the Sabri Brothers, the Fringe Benefits, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, Naseem Begum and so forth. In all, 170 of the 206 artists currently listed at EMI Pakistan are at Spotify. The number of old favorites I've heard and the hours and hours of brilliant new music I've discovered is, quite literally the best thing that happened to me since I discovered Dylan.

But as with all treasures, there's a catch. In this case, Spotify is currently only available in  Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United Kingdom, France, and Spain. Although they've promised to make it available over most of Europe and the States pretty soon, the complex licensing issues mean that we can't expect it in Pakistan any time soon.....which is a MAJOR bummer.


I happen to have a way, which it's taken me quite a lot of time and effort to find. It's involved a lot of false starts, frustration and some unexpected help from those guardian angels who lurk quietly in internet forums. It's a slightly convoluted way, and not entirely legal, but for someone who considers p2p an integral right of all those willing and perfectly law abiding folk who can't access their favorite stuff legally through no fault of their own, my conscience is clear.

So if anyone's willing to spend 15 minutes following the trail across a bunch of websites and downloads that ultimately leads to the treasure that is Spotify ,here we go ...

1.Go here, and follow all the pretty simple instructions while you sign up, but here's the first pair of catches;
      Only fill the compulsory fields in the form.
      Follow ONLY the first 5 instructions on the page.

2. This will direct you to the download page where you can download the actual piece of Spotify software, which you install on your PC like usual.

3.Once Spotify's installed, it's practically ready to use, but there's another catch.
     What we've done is registered ourselves as French residents so we can access Spotify, however the software isn't as easily dupe-able as that. It has a built in code that detects the country the user accesses it from. Once it has detected that the user is infact from outside France, it rather goodnaturedly assumes that he has just popped out of France on a trip and will be back in a couple of days. However, this innocent assumption can only be kept up for two weeks. If two weeks after the first login, the user hasn't logged in once from a French IP, the software is blocked/

4. To overcome this is the slightly harder part of the trail, if only for the neophyte. Go here, and click where it says "Download Now For Windows" to download UltraVPN, while you create your account from the link given immediately below the download link. Setting up an account is pretty simple.

5.Once you've downloaded and installed UltraVPN, you'll get a desktop shortcut. Clicking on it will open the program in the bottom-right Taskbar. Right click the icon and click "Connect". This opens a window where you enter the username and password you selected in (4)

 6.It takes an average of about 50 seconds for UltraVPN to connect. What it does is to re-route all your internet data through a server in....you guessed it, France.

7. Once it has connected, you open Spotify, enter your username and password and login, thus bypassing the country detection. After you have logged on, just right-click the UltraVPN icon again and Disconnect.

8. All you have to do is to connect through UltraVPN just ONCE every two weeks, you can login normally otherwise.

9. Enjoy.

10. To a techie, all that I've related above is probably as simple as ABC, but for everyone else, I've tried to simplify it as much as I can so it doesn't take more than 15 minutes to set the whole thing up, and you can trust me on this.... it's a hundred thousand times worth the 15 minutes.

If there's any problem, query or difficulty, please write it in the Comments....although I'm afraid I won't be able to reply for the next month or so what with the exams, but if you're patient, I'll get down to it as soon as I get done.

Cheers !!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

P.S ... Tagging Meme 2.0

  With only ten days before the start of my final exams, things are starting to look very desperate indeed. I'll be heading back to the dorms in a day or two, when the real squeaky-bum time will begin, but I just have time to post another of the listy-taggy posts that I was tagged in over the past few days. This one comes from a friend off Facebook, so most of my contacts there would be tagged too. Here we go..

Okay, here are your instructions.

(1) Turn on your iPod or MP3 player(or the music library on your PC). Go to SHUFFLE songs mode.
(2) Write down the first 25 songs that come up, by artist and song title
(3) NO editing/cheating, please!
(4) Choose an appropriate number of people to be tagged.
(5) It is generally considered to be in good taste to tag the person who tagged you.

1.Hungry Heart, Bruce Springsteen.
2.Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukaar, Mohammad Rafi
3.Mr. Henry, Tom Waits
4.If You Want Me, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
5.It's Not Easy, Walter Horton
6.If You're Mean To Me, Billie Holliday
7.Na Jaao Saiyyan, Geeta Dutt.
8.Lovey Dovey Lovey One, Earl Hooker and Junior Wells
9.A Lyin' Woman, Phillip Walker
10.Whiskey And A Good Time Blues, Big Bill Broonzy
11.Heartbeat, Buddy Holly
12.Lotta Love, Neil Young
13.Why Women Go Wrong, Lonnie Johnson
14.(You're So Square)Baby I Don't Care, Buddy Holly
15.What's The Matter With The Mill, Muddy Waters
16.Zindagi Ke Safar Main, Kishore Kumar
17.Nothing Was Delivered, Bob Dylan
18.Blind Child, Levon Helm
19.Mera Saya Saath Hoga, Lata Mangeshkar
20.Ride On, Louisiana Red
21.All By Myself, James Booker
22.Tangay Wala Khair Mangda, Masood Rana
23.Road To Peace, Tom Waits
24.Mujhe Tum Nazar Se Gira To Rahe Ho, Mehdi Hasan
25.Here We Go Again, Norah Jones/Ray Charles


Well well, that's quite interesting. The two or three things I can see in the list are,
1) 9 of these songs are blues songs, ...(Aizaaz FTW!!!)
2) Only one song each from the entire discographies of Springsteen, Dylan and Neil Young; while Tom Waits gets a pretty respectable 2.
3) Four classic Bollywood tunes,while only two from Pakistani cinema.... major collection overhaul needed.

All in all a slightly surprising selection, but if you cast a line for 25 out of..let me see, 8911 songs, you're bound to come up with a pretty eclectic mix. I'm gonna do some affirmative tagging on my blogroll and let's hope they find time to compile their lists and tag back...and while you're tagging, please do say a little prayer for my exams.

Cheers !!

Friday, September 11, 2009

P.S ... Dr. Strangebeatle, Or How Peter Sellers Outfabbed the Fab 4

There's a lot of hubbub over the recent re-invasion by the Beatles. With the new Rock Band:The Beatles game and the release of the remastered catalogue, the internet's awash with posts related to just about every aspect of the Beatles' lives.

As a lifelong fan (George's my favorite, in case anyone cares), and someone who idolizes Peter Sellers, I can' let this opportunity slip by. So,for your viewing pleasure, here are three of the Beatles' greatest tunes, "covered" by the inimitable Peter Sellers...

A Hard Day's Night

Can't Buy Me Love

She Loves You


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

P.S ... The First In A Series Of Pretentious Tagging Posts

With ONLY two days' rest before I start prepping for the finals, there's not enough time for me to cook up a "pwopah" post, so I'll be having fun with some of the interesting 'tag' memes that pop up on various blogs and social-networking sites.

Here's the first, off Minerva, who in turn got it off AJOBA, "N" (two VERY good blogs) and although I have one or two fundamental problems with it which I'll mention at the end, it's a pretty good exercise.

Off we go then !!


Apparently, the BBC believes that most people will have read only 6 of the books listed below. Here are the rules:
1) Look at the list and put an ‘X’ after those you have read.
2) Tally your total at the bottom.
3) Tag a few people you think would enjoy sharing similar information about their book interests.

I've tweaked the concept a bit by adding extra x's depending on how much I like the books....

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen – x (I was very young ,can’t be blamed)

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien – xx (The phrase “well-thumbed copy” is an understatement)

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte – x (The perfect mix of Gothic and sappy)

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling – xx (Potterhead to the core, I can still remember the 8-hour marathon reads when the new ones came out)

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee – xx (A book that’s funny, moving and makes you think of Gregory Peck, my idea of heaven!)

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell – x (Thoughtcrime doesn’t entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death!)

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens – x ( I prefer the original, starker ending to the revised, happier one)

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott – x (The 1933 movie version, with Katharine Hepburn as Jo March, like totally rules)

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller –("I’m not ashamed,’ Yossarian said. ‘I’m just afraid.")

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare - + (Does 70% count?)

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier – xx (Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with Larry Olivier as Maxim, Joan Fontaine as the 2nd Mr. Winter and the spine-tinglingly good Judith Anderson as the housekeeper; the 1940 movie trumps the book)

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien – xx (Probably the most fruitful purchase of my life,The Hobbit,The Lord Of The Rings and the first two Potters – all for 600 rupees in 2001)

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk -

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger –x (Seems a lot less depressing at each subsequent re-read)

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger -

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot -

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell – (Does the movie count? I don’t think so)

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald – xx (The Jazz Age in it’s greatest interpretation, read with Louis Armstrong playing “Tiger Rag” in the background)

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens -

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy – x (Exhausting, but oh-so-very rewarding)

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams – xxx (Oh fruddled Gruntbuggly, thy micturitions are to me…; Genius!!!)

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky – x (Who hasn’t identified with Raskolnikov at least once in their life)

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck – xx (The mind-numbingly stark beauty of the book is brilliantly equalled by John Ford’s masterly film version)

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll – x (…and”Through The Looking Glass”, who needs LSD when you’ve got Alice)

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame – x (What an utterly brilliant children’s book, and what an utterly brilliant TV show)

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy –x (Gets more depressing with each subsequent re-read)

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens – x (Dickens’ de-facto autobiography)

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis -

34 Emma-Jane Austen -

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen -

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis -

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini -

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres -

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden -

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne – x (Doesn’t make up for the fact that Milne was, to put it lightly, a twit!)

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell – xx (The book I’ve got 20 copies of, to distribute among random strangers)

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown – x (I apologize. In the words of Stephen Fry,” Complete loose-stool-water.
Arse-gravy of the very worst kind.

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez – xxx (I read it when I was 15, way too young for it. Thankfully I’ve never completely recovered)

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving -

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins – x (A personal milestone, the first book I ever pinched from a library!)

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery -

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy -

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood -

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding -

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan -

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel – x (Brilliant, but everyone I’ve recommended it to seems to hate it)

52 Dune - Frank Herbert -

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons -

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen -

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth -

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon -

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens – x (I seem to have read a lot of Dickens, lucky me!!)

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley – x (One of my prize possessions, a First Edition from 1932)

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon – x (Heard it as a play on the BBC, read it 4 years later.)

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez – x (With characters named ‘Saint-Amour’ and ‘Escolastica’, I was hooked before I began)

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck -

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov – (Even if Kubrick,Peter Sellers and James Mason hadn’t done wonders with it, it would still have been brilliant)

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt -

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold -

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas – x (Revenge is sweet)

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac – xx (Liberating like nothing else I've ever read)

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy -

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding -

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie -

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville – x (The Great American Novel)

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens – x (Slightly anti-Semitic, but Fagan is teh man!!)

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker – x (I never drink . . . wine)

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett -

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson -

75 Ulysses - James Joyce – x (Joyce took the English novel and split its head open. Thank heavens for that)
76 The Inferno – Dante – x (I wonder which circle of Hell Machiavelli would’ve been in)

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome -

78 Germinal - Emile Zola -

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray -

80 Possession - AS Byatt -

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens – x (What can I say…..)

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell -

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker -

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro – x (The dark side of the Wodehouse world, with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins straining to do their characters justice)

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert – x (anyone who wants to know what a perfect sentence reads like MUST read Bovary, and take notes)

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry -

87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White -

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom -

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – xx (The Complete Illustrated Collection, awesomeness!!)

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton -

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad – x ("The horror! The horror!")

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery – xxx (The greatest book written for children. Period.)

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks -

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams – x (I can’t thank my folks enough for keeping me away from Enid Blyton and giving me Watership Down when I was 9)

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole – xx (“My valve has closed” – brilliantness!)

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute -

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas – x (Am I a perve, or are there serious homoerotic undertones in this book?)

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare – xx (I finally found out where half of all the English quotations come from)

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl – x (Screw political correctness, the Oompah-Loompahs RULE)

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo – xxxx (Talk about reading the right book at the right time. I owe a lot to Jean Valjean, Threnardier and the Bishop)
My score : 52/100
Not bad, but there's things fundamentally wrong with the list above. No Wodehouse, no Vonnegut, no Updike, no Bellow, no Poe, and worse of all...no Mark Twain. I mean, come on !! wher's Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer?
Anyhoo, anyone who reads this is automatically tagged, but since that only includes me and a bicycle repairman named Majid, I think some affirmative tagging action is necessary.
Movies Of The Week ; The Hangover,District 9, Eraserhead,Blue Velvet
Music Of The Week, Zubeeda Khanum

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

P.S ... A Post Exam Poem

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Some poems rhyme
This one doesn't.

Thirty-one days
Drinking cockroach-brew
Was Musi pleased?
No he wasn't.

Now that I've read it
A couple of times
Despite what I said before
This thing actually rhymes.

Cheers !!!