Archive for December, 2008
The relationship between art and music is a love-hate patch. At any one period, they sing along the same tune; while in the other, you find them tearing each other’s hairs out. The very fact that our music needs to wear clothes designed by some of the finest graphics gurus that this world has to offer may seem like an inconspicuous detail we all like to overlook. But the truth remains that album art, in itself is an industry without which our music may have lacked that kick of art that flirts with our eyes.
History of Album Art
Although Alex Steinweiss is often hailed for pioneering the very concept of album art, its origin dates back to 1910 when 78 rpm records replaced phonograph cylinder as the medium for recorded sound. The 78 rpm records were issued in both 10 and 12 inches diameter sizes and were usually sold separately in brown paper or cardboard sleeves that were sometimes plain and sometimes printed to show the producer or the retailer’s name. German record company Odeon pioneered the ‘album’ in 1909 when it released the “Nutcracker Suite” by Tchaikovsky on 4 double-sided discs in a specially-designed package.
Beginning in the 1920s, bound collections of empty sleeves with a plain cardboard or leather cover, similar to a photograph album, were sold as ‘record albums’ that customers could use to store their records. In 1938, Columbia records hired Steinweiss as its first art director. After his initial efforts at Columbia, other record companies followed his lead. By the late 1940s, record albums for all the major companies featured their own colorful paper covers in both 10-inch and 12-inch sizes. Some featured reproductions of classic art while others utilized original designs.
In today’s world, album art consumes of an important ritual in music culture. As a marketing tool and an expression of artistic intent, gatefold covers and inserts (often with lyrics) have made the album cover a desirable artifact in its own right.
When the Brush Strokes Cash
It is no jaw-dropping surprise when one hears of names of famous artists who have gained international accolade through designing album sleeves. The designer company, ‘Hipgnosis’ with its sleeve genius Storm Thorgerson is a brand amongst many. Designing album covers for Pink Floyd, AC/DC and other ‘gods of music’, Thorgerson has been on the field for nearly three decades. Bands don’t always agree with his ideas. Notably, Pink Floyd picked the prism design for “Dark Side of The Moon” over a much more ambitious concept involving a silver surfer riding the tube of a huge wave. The album has sold more than 40 million copies, so the band must have had a point. Thorgerson was paid a flat fee of 600 pounds, but insists he has no regrets. At an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, the 64-year old designer says, “Being a graphic designer is not exactly a passport to financial riches. My satisfaction is from working with bands and the fans when I meet them.”
While many may conclude his words as a flattering modesty with references from the likes of Roger Dean (famous for his Yes and Greenslade covers) and Cal Schenkel (known for Captain Beefheart’s “Trout Mask Replica” and Frank Zappa’s “We’re only in it for the Money”), one cannot help but wonder whether making music look good as opposed to sounding good is indeed an understated art. Whether listeners and customers truly look at the sleeves before picking out a record or whether it’s just another bonus that comes unappreciated.
The debate is often left to the music buffs, but international media and orthodox masses have often reacted violently to many album sleeve designs. The noted few would be Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland”, Scorpions’ “Lovedrive”, Guns N Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction”, Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and Aerosmith’s ‘Nine Lives”. Many designs have often been replaced by plain white paper to avoid controversies and Matchbox Twenty was even sued by Frank Torres for using his photo on their album cover. Surprisingly, labels and bands are also accused of promoting the wrong message through offensive portrayals of different things through album art.
Album Art in Bangladesh
While raising hailstorms in first-world countries across the globe, album art has also raised eyebrows within our local masses over the past decade. After the multifaceted musician Ornob designed the sleeve of his second release, “Hok Kolorob” himself, album art has held an esteemed proportion of thought amongst ardent listeners and new age artists. Be it a classy portrait of the voice inside, random group photos spaced out irregularly or a simple artwork in vibrant orange; album sleeves do catch attention amongst critics and buyers equally. Whether it influences them on picking a particular album from many is undecided, but it certainly creates a buzz amongst the fans.
“It feels good when you see an album that comes with a design you want to keep on your desk,” says 19-year old Ekram. “The fact that the band has put attention to details like creating a sleeve that catches eyes shows that the band has also put a decent effort in its music. The album is then definitely worth a few minutes of play time!”
So, what is it about a cover that makes it memorable? The Watson Brothers’ debut release “Ohom” came with a simple design on a light brown background. Yet, it is hailed as one of the classics of sleeve designing by youths who think more about music that just letting it beat their eardrums. Notably, the most anticipated releases of 2008, Black’s “Abar” and Authorhin’s “Aushampto” have both come with unique art on their cover. “Abar” came with a sleek red-and-black layout with awareness against music piracy while the latter took a chalkboard formula, haphazardly arranged in style.
“If I’m a fan as such, I will purchase that artist’s releases, even if it comes with a poor album art,” argues out 21-year old Ayesha. “However, the good design does work like a bonus. It doesn’t decide what I’m going to buy, but if it’s from a new artist I’ve not heard before with a fancy album art, I think I will be influenced enough to give that guy a shot! In a way, it tells me the artist comes with a taste!”
Thus, whether it’s the design that at all helps an artist make his or her way to your play list is a 360 degree debate that will eat up an entire issue of RS. It perhaps doesn’t help one decide, but it certainly plays a role when it comes to newbie in the music field. One of my personal favorites in sleeve designing comes from Sayan’s pitch-black album cover. Its simplicity was so striking that I picked it up from the many records that were in front of me and gave it a shot. I have not been disappointed by her soulful voice either. Endorsing Ayesha’s remark, a good album cover indicates an artist who has an equal understanding of music as well as art, and will leave our heart thumping to the beats of both.
Sources: Wikipedia, The Sydney Morning Herald
We often ask ourselves whether it is bliss or a blunder that we were given the right to vote. Being the more informed young adults, the apathetic generation accused of being the ‘West-influenced monomaniacs’ and now, first time voters have the right to choose an apparent messiah (or a group of them) to lead us into an utopian plateau where malice and malevolency of any kind is but a distant speck in the horizon. How did our forefathers who devised social ideologies like ‘democracy’ thought that we’d ever be able to find a leader who would be a selfless devotee to the common good of men? Is it even possible to find someone who is not plagued or perforated by inner demons? Somewhere deep within, many of us have the gut feeling that, here, in this time and place, it’s an arithmetic improbability.
It’s the time to pick a representative again here in the riverine patch of heaven called Bangladesh. It’s like choosing your guardian angel for a span of 5 years, only in our case the angels often shed their wings and get their hands dirty doing, let’s say, not so evangelical works. For the first time, the roads of Dhaka are uniquely littered with posters, hanging ones, tied to tiny strands of ropes they keep the contenders heads up high. Smiling as they appear in the lights of their ideological leaders and adorned with one liners that will perhaps lead to a fabricated miracle convincing us to choose that individual as our harbinger. The walls have been left alone of the election graffiti. With every fluttering breeze, people give out a sigh of relief, “Thank god there’s no wall-postering this time!” And suddenly, it hits us. The fact that our expectations have shrunk to a nano sphere where joy comes from the simple, small changes that our potential leaders have now been forced to make. It’s more about actually getting that little bit done (which would be an obvious in many other countries of the world) as opposed to genuinely finding a guardian angel to answer to our plights.
All the major parties attending the general election this year do have morally upright nominees. They are not perfect human beings but definitely preferable to many of their counterparts. However, sadly it seems their grasp over their own political directions lose track once they are actually elected. It’s almost as if they are overwhelmed by how corrupt many of their co-workers are and want to taste the forbidden elixir themselves. That’s what drove many of our so called leaders into their political demise when many of them were convicted of varying degrees of felony charges, corruption accusations and nepotism in the event of the now iconic ‘1/11’ incident. Strangely as the time of election grew nearer, many of them were released, without properly explaining to the people the nature of their release order. Now, many of those who had abused their power during successive reigns of horror are once again allowed to run for the office, credit goes to infinitesimal loopholes in our constitutional democracy. The innumerable talk show rhetorics are now the understatement of the year with their self proclaimed Nostradamus of a potential Bangladesh in the making. The sardonic ones amongst us sure had a good laugh, eh?
But for one second, we leave the pessimism aside. We pause and wonder whether it all was meant to go down the drain. This year’s election is not devoid of positive vibe. There are a bunch of new faces, new promises, brightly lit, uniquely fit election strategies, clear voting boxes, ingenious road banners by the government and for the first time, VOTER IDs with BIO-METRIC recognition. So how does that fair with our voting decisions? Unfortunately, buggers like us figured the flashy bio-metrics won’t be used this year, because the backbone needed for personnel recognition has not been set-up yet. Nevertheless, it’s still an impressive feat, seeing how even our neighbors don’t have a system to log all their inhabitants under. That does bring a smile, doesn’t it? Besides, the idea of flashing a fish-eyed National ID card in the process does seem a massive achievement once we reach the end of the race.
As the debates heat up amongst the pro and anti non-partisan government loyalties and the two major parties host nationwide campaigns based on promises they make and fail to live up to, our head hurts to the thought of who we’ll cast our sacred vote to. Whom do we trust with our electricity, water, education and the security of survival for the next 5 years? Is it that guy we know to be a convicted felon, but who has at least done some work for the good or is it that new kid from the block with hopes and dreams that he promises only he can deliver? Luckily, this year there’s something to cheer for neutralists like ourselves. We can smack that voting seal in between a ‘cross sign’ declaring we side with no one and want a reelection in your locality. That is swell, considering indifference is a common curse we all suffer from. This is getting right back at George Carlin who once coughed up a comedy where voters who voted shouldn’t complain about the corrupt politicians since they bothered to walk to the venue anyway. It’s about not wasting that chance to exercise a right and if it comes along with a protest as nifty as such, then a vote cast is stronger than a vote ignored.
Fact remains we will definitely vote on the coming December morning, hoping a sudden hailstorm won’t start disrupting everything. There’s a new kid in our block on behalf of AL who gave his A’levels from Mapleleaf; a discovery that stunned many. Whether he is a good leader or an excellent follower to his political ancestors is a question yet to answered, but this season, it felt good to know the sun got painted in a different colour. Whom we vote for or cast a NO to remain undecided. The metropolitan carbon saturated air hails that people this time around are much shrewder, far more calculative. They have seen all the faces of the hexagon, in the lights of crops, vehicles, farming equipments and what not. Just ask any rickshawalla in the roads of Dhaka, and his reply to the political system would be more or less pessimistic. In our opinion, people have started to look beyond the guise of handshakes, wry photogenic smiles, slum-visits in white Punjabis or tater-sarees. Give them a few years, and we might have a shot at a real election after all.
By: Sabhanaz Rashid Diya and Naser Imran Hossain
“Hiya, you’re green!” I remarked at the five feet stature with thirty-two teeth in front of me.
“I know! It feels awesome!” replied a grinning, green Hiya.
As the white cloths behind us got painted in shades of green and red to symbolize our national flag, getting your hands and faces green was just the beginning of a remarkable experience. The 1° Initiative Leadership Training Workshop (LTW) at Jessore was indeed swinging at full blast.
On the morning of 19th December 2008, eight overenthusiastic youths were found cramped in a microbus on the highway that led from Dhaka to Jessore. They were singing, cracking lame jokes, cheating at card games and occasionally, cackling syllables only they understood. I, being one of these eight eccentric human beings was no exception. It was a 7 hour ride with a stop at Faridpur at a summer house. When we reached our destination – my home village Laukhali – around 4pm, we were greeted with a pile load of food. However, being the hyper lot we are, our feet carried us to the mustard flower fields around the house and we spent an entire evening running around the place, chasing fire flies in the dark and sipping raw tea at a local bazaar. The night brought about pithas, adda, ghost stories and a heart-thumping preparation for the next day. We couldn’t sleep although we went to bed earlier than our usual hours and were exhausted. The anticipation killed us – well not all of us, since Hiya thought it would be magical to sing till 2am and keep the rest of the house awake!
At 6am the following day, Tushmit’s cellphone screamed the most awful alarm ever. It was so excruciatingly loud that we wondered whether it woke up the entire village. As the Mubina, Hiya and Tushmit took turns to brush their teeth and sneeze to the morning fog; I sneaked outside to the window that led to the boys’ room. My peeping face, coughs and clattering teeth was a wake-up call for the men. In a rush of three-quarters of an hour, the gang was ready at the breakfast table. Sohail Bhai from Phulkuri joined us there and fifteen minutes past eight, we were swinging and singing our way on a remodified nosimon to Abdur Gofur Memorial Secondary School where our grand event would be taking place.
With Tazin on the buckets, Zeeshan with packets, Russel with certificates and Zabir with stationery; the team paraded down the green field, all set for the day. Some of the students had already come and my short briefing needed to be cut shorter. I found a whistle from the Sports teacher at the school, which gave me the liberty to get attention faster than anyone else in the ground. As I briefed the students on what they were about to expect in the next two hours, the 1° gang was busy putting up banners and posters, setting tables and chairs and running around on errands. It was a frenzy of activities, a burst of energy that addicted everyone and carried us through an event we would all remember.
After registering 237 students, our grand event began from the gates of the school auditorium. Grades 9 and 10 will be attending the Leadership Training Workshop, which constituted nearly 80 students; while the rest would be painting flags in teams. The 1° gang split into three parts with Hiya, Russel and Sohail Bhai on flags at one end of the field; and Tushmit, Mubina and Tazin arranging a snake-game for the older classes. Zabir, Zeeshan and I ran through the classrooms, setting up things, signing certificates and monitoring field activities. We were pressed for time and needed everything in perfect order in less than 30 minutes.
And thankfully, we managed to keep up to our schedule!
The snake-game was a team-building activity that was aimed at encouraging students to work in a team. It was necessary for the students to ease up to our presence, so when we move to the classrooms in the second segment of our program, it would be an interactive session of ideas and perspectives. It worked beautifully! Around 11am, the 80 students were divided in groups of 40 (boys and girls combined) with the boys from each group calling themselves after the poets Tagore and Nazrul and the girls’ lot named after Sufia Kamal and Begum Rokeya respectively. Each group of 40 was ushered into the two classrooms – ‘Health and Lifestyle Management’ conducted by Zabir, Mubina and Sohail Bhai, and ‘Education’ conducted by Tazin, Tusmit and me.
The classrooms were scheduled for 30 minutes each. Team Kazi Nazrul Islam and Sufia Kamal would first attend the ‘Education’ lecture while Team Begum Rokeya and Rabindranath Tagore would be doing ‘Health and Lifestyle Management’ lecture. After 30 minutes, the teams would swap classes. While Zeeshan stood guard with a massive metal bell and excited youngsters to announce the end of each lecture; the classrooms fired up discussions ranging from opportunities for all to arsenic-free societies. We talked about how they could expand their ambitions from the stereotype doctor-engineer-lawyer-teacher boundaries and opt for things more similar to their interests. Teamwork, career building, healthier lifestyles, disease prevention – each topic jumped from one place to another as questions were thrown between the 1° facilitators and LTW students.
Meanwhile, the flags were getting wonderfully ornamented in two colours. The students were divided into ‘Laal Dol’ (Red Team) and ‘Shobuj Dol’ (Green Team) as planned and were instructed to dip their hands in paint and stamp on the white cloth. This again was another team-building activity that would encourage them towards teamwork. If any student failed to comply with the one before or after him or her, the flag would be a mess of colours, so they needed to maintain discipline and work together. As nearly 160 kids ran around with colors over the flags, it was no common surprise that Russel and Hiya were painted in the process!
It all came to an end with Zeeshan’s “Dong! Dong! Dong!” at mid day. The 80 LTW participants were instructed to go to the auditorium, while the flag painters were done for the day and on their way home with Butterscotch chocolates. As the flags dried under the inconspicuous winter sun, the 1° team gathered inside for the closing ceremony. Hands with yellow wrist bands penned with the words “1° Initiative LTW 2008” raised to vow in teamwork and building communities for everyone, while names were called out and certificated distributed. The messages of the day read: “Amra Shikhbo Ebong Shekhabo!” and “Dosh’e Miile Kori Kaaj, Haari Jiti Naahi Laaj!” The chaos had finally ended.
It was when some of the students came up to me after the event and thanked me for opening their eyes to newer possibilities that we realized it had all gone well. In a span of less than two hours, the first ever 1° Initiative Leadership Training Workshop was able to inspire, encourage and instill hope in youths and live up to the organization’s motto set three years ago by nine teenagers.
Impossible was just another word for new beginnings.
In the cosmopolitan world of the cosmopolitan man parade, cows have little honour. Around the year, 360 degrees round the clock, these harmless yet extremely useful creatures are left ignored and unloved. Yet, a certain time every year, man lets down his guard and allows the cow to restore its dignity. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting to you the showcase of the season, a brilliant exposition of man’s most loved compatriot and a saga of pride and prejudice: this is where you get to watch cows and goats stampede mankind’s pride.
Well technically, many of you will disagree with us. The flaunting of the sharpest horns or the smelliest dung is quite a ramp dance during Qurbani Eid. We take pride in our buys, so whether it’s the cows who’re overruling us or us using the cows to flaunt a flashy grin is an international debate. The cows are decked out in garlands of flowers and metallic streamers of every shiny color imaginable, while some are even lucky enough to have brightly colored scarves around their neck or jari embroidered ornas on their back. This is truly a beauty pageant for these cows, who have come here from the little villages outside Dhaka and some even as far as the exotic land of India. They have to walk, moo and look pretty so our pompous selves feel more pompous with every pricey purchase. It’s a difficult choice, given the variety of options and the pressure from the media to avoid racism (black cows equal more meat); our models stand quietly in stalls with Vermillion on their foreheads and kajol lined eyes full of hopes and dreams to be picked by the customer who’ll prove his (or her) ultimate love by eating the poor thing. We spank, spit and yell our bargains, and finally, a lucky cow gets crowned with a shiny green paper necklace and wins our hearts.
Our love for cows is so much that not only do we eat its meat (grilled, minced, stewed or curried), we also take pride in devouring its lungs, kidneys, liver, brain, tail, stomach lining, bone (marrow comes complimentary depending on where it came from) and for the truly adventurous the tongue (Yum! But I’ll pass). And why not? As a hugely carnivorous nation, we pride ourselves in eating anything that walks, swims or flies (as long as it’s Halal of course!)
Which brings us to another animal which is never highlighted as much the cow. We are speaking on behalf of the goats. For years goats have only been a minor (yet pivotal) character in the sacrificial rituals. The cow always seems to hog the spotlight with the goat in the supporting role. The goats are never as much decked out as the cows; they mostly rely on their shiny coat of luxurious fur and mischievous eyes full of love and curiosity of how they would taste in a rezala. Yet, despite the lack of ornamentations, our love for them blossom like flowers shown in BTV. Sometimes, our affection for them affects us so vastly that our younger siblings come home smelling like goats and refuse to take shower in fear of losing that special attachment.
We would also like to suggest some other quadrupeds for this occasion that never even get an honorable mention. The camel with its lovely hump(s) and extra long eye lashes that can only be attained using Revlon’s mascara, the sheep (which honestly are way cuter than goats) and of course, deer (check for legalities of it not being a protected species under the law). Although some may be mistakenly wondering whether these participants in the race for mankind’s attention get lagged behind, be sure to acknowledge you’re wandering along the wrong lines. They may get purchased less, but they come with sky high prices that can buy an entire chhagol haat. Man’s lesson of quality over quantity supersedes over humanity once again.
On a more serious note, a little request from us squeamish folks; try and not to have the streets and public spaces splattered with blood, guts and fragments of what it once used to be. We are aware of how the excess bloodshed is another opportunity to show off and bring that toothy grin back and the crows and dogs certainly appreciate your donations. But the stench and mess left behind is enough to give nightmares to even the most dedicated carnivores. So be nice (for a change) and pick up after yourselves (including the food and dung left from the days of having that gorgeous thing in your garage).
This Eid, throw your diets and calories charts out and have fun feasting on your choice of animal. Show those Vegans, Vegetarians and pesky PETA folks that we mean business. We shall no longer be profiled as a nation that only eats rice and fish! We have canines and we’re not afraid to use them!
By: Sabhanaz Rashid Diya and Tanvir Hassan
Published in Rising Stars on December 4 2008.
In a world of fast paced glitz and glamour, making a fashion statement becomes an indomitable task. Be it with the new pair of Ray Bans or a spit of flaring red on your converse, your wardrobe and accessories demand priggishness to the heights. If there’s one item on your checklist that is equally stylish, stuffs you with pompousness and is undoubtedly useful, it’s got to be your watch. Strapped around the wrist with a kick of attitude, watches are the ultimate flaunt de élan in the crowd.
More Flash for Less Cash
Unfortunately, watches that actually survive underwater diving and are genuinely heat resistant cost a mini fortune. Of course, on such occasions, it really becomes a debate whether it’s feasible to sell your kidney to tell time with style; but we would rather not go into that argument. If you want to keep it cheap yet appear high-ticket, this article is your Bible.
A pretty Rado or Rolex can be bought at prices less than Taka 1000 if you know the right bargains. They look exactly like the real Rado or Rolex, only less shiny and less durable. The metal feels light and it’s probably going to stop working after a while. However, they still appear pretty neat and if attitude comes with a smaller price tag; it’s a dandy reason to grab it. Fake ‘brand’ watches can be bought within a range of 350 to 1200 taka in a range of designs and colours. Nobody will know the difference unless they are wearing the exact same brand bought of the exact same design purchased from the exact same shop. If you happen to venture into New Market, almost all fake ‘brand’ watches will be available below 600 taka.
Besides sporting rip-off brand names, these watches also have their own names. Variations of Quartz include Wurtz and Qarts, next to Phillip and Fust Track. These are found in virtually every mushroom headed mall in your area and have a similar price tag. Bigger malls prefer charging 550 taka unnecessarily (just because they have a shop in a bigger place) for each watch, but accurate bargaining can bring the price down to as low as 350 taka.
The Fashion Scene
On a personal note, the female counterpart amongst the two reporters behind this mayhem is a big fan of big, black dials and leather straps. Fortunately for her, that’s near to what’s ‘in’ these days. Call your shots for a huge leather strap teamed with small clock faces (or vice verse). With the recent free-spirited cosmopolitan vibe, these watches are ubiquitous and flaunt no particular brand. Local dealers have taken the liberty to label these ‘in-things’ Bulgy Bags, a name that can be reshuffled to form Ugly Hags, which we believe is a more suitable claim.
If you’re too upbeat to dance to leather straps, opt for bands made out of jeans-type material with nifty graffiti drawn all over. Take a stroll down the alleys of Bashundhara City and New Market. Although BC takes pride in selling these between 700 to 800 taka, New Market makes customers happier with prices as low as 450 bucks. Bulgy Bags are direct results of hip Bollywood releases and casual parties.
“I think it’s more masculine and uncommon than regular chain watches,” says 23 year old Azad while twisting his wrist in strange manners to show off his Ugly Hag.
The Big Buy
However, if you’re seriously into watches and don’t want to settle for a makeshift prototype, make sure you’re carrying a thick wallet and have very generous parents.
“Although finding a good bargain is easier, it’s also calls for a compromise in quality. It stops working in a short while, the colour wears off and you eventually realize it wasn’t worth the flashing after all,” concludes Saleem, a 19-year old who claims to have the largest collection of bargain watches in town.
For the many who love watches and cannot virtually afford the real deal even when they sell their kidneys, Fast Track is the newest toys in the city. Insanely popular in India and now hitting the teen team in Bangladesh, Fast Track watches have it all. Sporty, trendy, versatile and yet, sophisticated with durability, it’s no common surprise that the brand has stolen hearts already. Available at prices between 1200 to 5000 taka, these watches sometimes surface at Almas Super Shop and Priyo.
If you can afford 5000 bucks to tell time, gather up your cash and scoop a gorgeous Swatch. Swatch watches are known for their superior quality and is a big buy worth the price tag. Notwithstanding, prying around can also yield lower priced Swatches, but unfortunately we couldn’t find anything below 3 grand. Time Zone has a few Swatch watches on display and can be a prime spot to hit on.
However, if you’re in for the traditional elegance on your wrist, Citizen and Quartz watches should be your picks. The originals can start with a price of 1000 bucks and raise pretty high; although if bargained properly, can be carried home at an expense below 3000 bucks.
If nothing we’ve ranted about is within your budget bracket, we suggest you get a plastic watch with a plastic like strap around it. Otherwise, feel free to paint a watch on your wrist and watch the watch. You can always put your head up and claim that your superiority has stopped time on your fingertips. Meanwhile, for the rest of us who don’t want to call it a day without the best buy, hop around and look for what suits you the best. It’s not just a timepiece, but a bit of glamour tied around your personality.
By: Sabhanaz Rashid Diya and Osama Rahman
Photos: Sabhanaz Rashid Diya
Published in Rising Stars in November 2008