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quint magazine | issue 11 | December - January 2011 / 2012 | complimentary

World’s No.1 Smartphone Brand*

6 Our Note 7 Contributor Highlights 8 News & Products 12 14 16 32 40

Design Design Profile - Diya Ajit On the Uselessness of Contemporary Art Featured Designer - Draco Jumping on b.o.r.e.d. Breaking Frames, Challenging Perceptions

42 58 66 82 84

Photography Featured Photographer - Mafalda Silva Featured Photographer - Johannes Romppanen Featured Photographers - Atelier Olschinksy The Ultimate (Photography) Shoot-Off Photography Profile - Samar Alkhudhairi

86 88 89 90 92

Film & Theater Better to have Watched and Lost than to have Watched too Long Where Do We Go Now? Was Shakespeare a Sham? Film Profile - Hind Shoufani Film Profile - Mrinal B.

94 102 112 114 116 118 120

Fashion & Beauty Bon Anniversaire Zhostovo Making Her Glided Dreams Come True Sneakers of the Month Fashion Profile - Chickpeas Fashion Profile - Atlanta Weller Model Profile - Nur Hellmann

122 128 130 131 132 134

Music Iceland Airwaves 2011 Art of Airwaves Album Review - Animals as Leaders - Weightless Ritu & Samar’s Playlist Music Profile - Gracie Coates Deep Crates - The Break - A Short History

136 138 140 141 142 144 146

Literature Why Dubai isn’t Cool, yet Of Visual Fiction and the Death of Literature The Kitchen Slave- Day 5 Vowels and Consonants in a Wheel of Fortune Why Literature Profile - Hala Ali Reading List

148 152 154 156

Events Incubus Paul McCartney Tiger Translate Event Listings

158 Last Call

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OUR NOTE It’s nearly 2012, and considering this time next year we’ll be preparing for the apocalypse (big up to the Mayans for the warning), we’re gearing up for a big year ahead. So we can go out with a bang. If ya know what I mean. This year has been insane on so many levels, but quite amazing as well. 2011 will be remembered in history as the year that quint magazine finally went to print. The year we won an award at Dubai Lynx. The year we launched various events aimed at building a community of people who love art and, well, parties. It will be remembered as a year of amazing ups, rocky lows, and most importantly our perseverance through it all (with the help of late night fast food deliveries as well as copious amounts of caffeine). We are very proud to tie up this year by winning another award – this time at Magazin Mania, a European magazine design competition. We were the only publication from outside of Europe to win, and the only one from the Middle East to even enter. Represent! So, we wish you all a wonderful end-of-2011 and an incredible 2012. Our deepest thanks to all, and to all a good night. ZAINA SHREIDI & GYULA DEAK

quint magazine | issue 11 | December - January 2011/2012 Editor in Chief Zaina Shreidi Creative Director Gyula Deák Business Development Manager James De Valera Designer: Ritu Arya Editor: Gayathri Krishnan Fashion Editor: Pratha Samyrajah Photographers: Saty+Pratha, Samar Alkhudhairi, Ritu Arya, Dan P., Mohamed El Amin Contributors Prank Moody, Trevor Bundus, Mohamed El Amin,Fares BouNassif, Siham Salloum, Trainer Timmy, Ryan Bryle, Samar Alkhudhairi, Ross Gardiner, Balazs Magyar, James De Valera, Gayathri Krishnan, Dana Dajani, Dan P. This production and its entire contents are protected by copyright. No use or reprint (including disclosure) may be made of all or any part of this publication in any manner or form whatsoever without the prior written consent of quint. Views expressed in quint magazine do not necessarily represent the opinions of the editors or parent company. quint is published by and a trademark of quint FZ LLC.


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Dana Dajani is an international performance artist and writer. She is passionate about many projects, but mostly establishing Dubai’s first professional resident theater company. Those interested in collaboration should contact dana.thehumanspiritproject@

Timmy likes sneakers. Timmy also likes spaghetti with clams and watching women fall over. He’s been to Tokyo. They sell little-girl underwear in the vending machines. Guys in suits buy used girl panties. How is that okay? That’s not okay. The photo of the guy below me is awkward.

Ross Gardiner is a fiction and humor writer from the Highlands of Scotland. Born in 1987 he lived in Scotland until 2008, when he decided to move east to Seoul, South Korea. He has travelled extensively around various parts of the world, carrying a keyboard, a coffee, and a carton of smokes. Oh and he’s not on Facebook. You can find out more about his views on the topic on YouTube.




Still fresh out of the exam halls, with all his textbook knowledge and mighty student swag intact, Ryan Bryle is hell bent to conquer! Sadly he is still trying. Indecisive by nature, Ryan dabbles on everything that has artsy-fartsy written on it. If he finds the time between gorging on books, penning ambiguous bizarr-o proselike things and tinkering with music, he will surely be somewhere without thirst. He really needs to sort his life out. Fact.

The lovechild of Radiohead, Nitin Sawhney & Bjork, singer, songwriter, Gayathri is a recognized name and personality in local music circuits. Her music effortlessly melds cultures, underpinning them all with her rich, soulful vocals and heartfelt lyricism. Raised in Dubai, a nexus of cultures, ideas and sounds, Gayathri also contributes to dailies and magazines in the region as a Writer/Editor. For more on her creative projects check out




Trevor is drawn to the stranger things of life, and prefers to champion objective individualism, through the spirit of man and brain. You can hear his preaching on all things musicical and poetic. He has no awards to date, no accomplishments, no humour and no character as he finds them too mainstream. You may find him in the dark alleys and dank stairwells hangin’ with his jin and tonic.

Dan P. has been based in Dubai since 2009. Before then he could often be found skulking around dark basements in London studiously pretending to listen to bands. This skill has proved only marginally useful (and entirely wardrobe inappropriate) when translated into skulking around beaches studiously pretending to enjoy the outdoors.

Imported intern. Working on a degree that specifies in studying humans and their consciousness. She also studies art and holds a long term serious relationship with her Nikon. Soon to graduate she came for some experiential education on this side of the world to broaden her horizons.

A food writer, an active blogger, a recent tweeter, and a restaurant nitpicker - This adrenaline junkie and challenge scavenger graduated from one of Paris’ notorious culinary schools and forged through a slavery contract for the kitchen of a Michelin Star. She authored the blog thekitchenslave., and as a corporate citizen, continues to market the culinary arts during the daytime.

news&products Check out our most recent addiction

Art Dubai Launches Art Week Education Programme Are you an artist in the UAE? Or perhaps you’re interested in art and don’t know where to start? Art Dubai has just announced their new Art Week Education Programme, a platform for Dubai’s community to learn more about Art. Seminars began early this December and will continue on a monthly basis until Art Week in March (15-25th). Lectures and workshops will be led by key figures of Dubai’s art world, covering an array of topics including; an introduction to Art Week and the internship programme, gallery management and exhibition-making; foundation and the not-for profit sector, artists’ residencies and the contemporary design industry. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the art world and discover future opportunities with Art Dubai. Interested in attending? RSVP at




WARNING! CAUTION! DISCLAIMER: Content on this page may enable hardcore procrastination in combination with giggles and spamming friends’ Facebook walls. [But please feel free to spam us with your favourites at]

Elie Afif “Giant Steps to Heaven”

Fans of jazz will be excited to hear incredibly talented bassist Elie Afif’s first album has just been released on December 12th. Pick up your copy at any Virgin Megastore within the UAE or download your copy via iTunes! Learn more about Elie at

Kiehl’s & Koons Creme de Corps Collection, A Collaboration to Support Children Kiehl’s and contemporary artist Jeff Koons have collaborated in launching Kiehls third Annual Limited Edition Creme de Corps Collection, the most hydrating lotion in Kiehl’s collection featuring references to Koons’ iconic Balloon Flower sculpture. As advocates for children, they chose to donate 100% of the net profit to the Koons Family Institute, an Initiative of the International centre for missing & exploited children.


My Ex Wardrobe Recently Announces Men’s Fashion Miss thrift shopping? My Ex Wardrobe brings bargains from all around the city, to buy, sell or swap clothes. They’ve recently introduced men’s fashion - get in touch with them on myexwardrobe to stay updated about their events!

Pabst Brewing Company x Santa Cruz Beer Cruzer Series Pabst Brewing Company and Santa Cruz Skateboards collaborated on the new Beer Cruzer Series. Cruzers come with the respective design of Pabst beers; Pabst Brew Ribbion, Colt 45, Schlitz, Lone Star, Olympia and Primo,”the real man favorites.”

Pantone Christmas Ornaments Looking to decorate your Christmas tree, but sick of the typical gold and silver balls? Introducing Badini Createam & Selab’s designs for Italian design powerhouse Seletti, the Pantone Christmas ornaments, available in nine colours! Buy them here:

TWINE Remember when you were a kid how there were all those futuristic movies where they have ridiculous gadgets like flying cars and houses that can talk to you? Surely everyone’s spent a few hours day dreaming of the possibilities of technological innovations because these movies got to their heads, or perhaps just the mere fact that we have touch screen internet space phones makes you wonder “what’s next?”

LITTLE PRINTER This little gizmo is your space phone’s new best friend! Print anything from your daily puzzles and recipes to weather updates or subscriptions from the guardian! Find out more at:

LIGHTING VEST Do you bike to and from work? Or just enjoy spending your evenings bicycling? Evenings are a tough time to bike you see, there are crazies on the roads at night! Which is why you need this bad boy. It’s elegant and chic unlike those terrible highlighter yellow vests, plus it’s way more comfortable! This thing just slips over your shirt and moulds over your body instead of scrunching up and making weird noises. AND Check it out at: it’s as light as feather (okay, almost!), easy to shove in your product/lightning-vest pocket, and tangle free!

Well ladies and gentlemen, a few geniuses who happened to have graduated from the MIT Media Lab, have been working on a life changing gadget, the one and only dun dun na naaaaa - Twine! A little blue square shaped object that acts as a mediator between “software and physical stuff.” Your Twine can send you a tweet when your laundry’s done, text you when someone is at your door, the possibilities are endless! Sounds pretty unreal, right? You’re probably wondering HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? Well…this little square creates its own wireless network so you can configure it to connect to your local WIFI, then you simply visit the Spool web app online and start telling your Twine what to do! Quick, easy and life changing! Get some more info and learn about some of their other awesome products at: But more importantly help make it happen at:

Macbook Air Mirror For all the Apple addicts out there, check out this cute little mini Macbook Air! But this time instead of flipping it open to a world of computer functioning abilities, you flip open to your beautiful face! Now if only the keys lit up to provide light during night…maybe for version 2.0?

news&products find them in

Book: Top 10 of Everything 2012 As humans, we seem to have a special affinity with lists (I know I do). This bestselling Top 10 annual is no exemption. Back with over 700 updated lists and brand-new feature spreads revealing exactly who or what is the best, worst, richest, biggest, smallest, fastest and so on in this planet If you want to be updated and in-theknow about the petty, the profound, the silly or even the outrageous things that we, as a collective race, have done recently - then look no further; this here will be your best year end purchase ever.

The Music of Mahmoud Kaabour “Al-Rasheedi”

Apple iPod touch 32GB 4th Generation And yet again another update – in black and white! Your favourite iTouch babies have just been redressed into more somber getups that are deemed more stylish. But with style doesn’t come the lack of pizzazz. With over 200 new features, the world’s most popular device is even more fun fun fun!

From the locally acclaimed film Teta, Alf Marra (Grandma, a Thousand Times), Nabil Amarshi presents re-orchestrations and original compositions of Mahmoud Kaabour’s emotionally evocative musical creation that has captivated hearts across the Arab world. Amarshi and Kaabour’s music braid together in this album into a trans-generational work that commemorates a family’s love and Beirut’s old music. It is but a modest tribute to deceased musicians around the world whose music remains undiscovered.


A new craze that even your hipster friends would love. Incorporating the addictive mechanism of the spring coil bracelet of the 90’s, SLAP™ WATCH is the new hornrimmed glasses. Featuring wild designs like pink leopard and snakeskin, SLAP™ WATCH is taking the world by storm as the hottest gift trend. Which goes to show that telling the time can never be too main stream!

Thrustmaster Ferrari GT Experience Racing Wheel 3-in-1 (PC/PS3)

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air Wireless AirPlay Speaker Dock IS that a football? A car pillow? A giant black pill? Why, no it’s not. It’s only the coolest looking portable speakers ever made - The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air iPod dock! Not only does it play sweet music for your little yearnings ears, this airship look out plays wireless as well. No wires, no frills. – soar high along with your music!

BLING Sliding Card Case It’s always good to make a good first impression. For that next meeting/ social encounter waiting to happen be prepared and *BLING* away with these fashionable card cases. Compatible with both credit cards and business cards, these pretty little things give you all the more ofSPD 2229 a chance to show people that you got it going on!


There’s a way to ‘drive’ that dream car of yours without breaking the (non-existent) bank. Gamers, get ready to burn some cyber rubber!

DVD: London Boulevard A film noir starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley - need I say more? If you are really curious though, the plot revolves around a reclusive film star (Keira Knightley) hiding out from the world. She hires a London criminal recently released from prison to be her bodyguard and ends up falling for him. Watch the disaster spiral down and the gut-wrenching action ensue on DVD!



DIYA AJIT Artist, designer and maker, Diya Ajit’s pursuit of the creative, boasts an overwhelming array of mediums. Be it industrial design, building product prototypes, geodesic structures, interactive sound and video installations, or working with apparel, making head-gear, painting, drawing, animation, films, or music videos, she segues between mediums with the kind of curiosity that is always just around the corner from an inspired idea. As one of the pioneers of the underground art scene in Dubai, and an award-winning Art Director with years of experience in advertising, Diya understands the balance between commercial and creative work, bringing them together, and mastering this poetry of contrasts. With busy hands and a mind to match, we caught up with the lady herself as she talks about what makes her tick, the marriage of form and function, and how to retain the “art” in smart.

DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS? WHAT BRINGS ABOUT YOUR BEST IDEAS? My creative process really depends on what kind of project I’m working on. If it’s a medium I haven’t worked in before, ideas will spring from things I’ve seen or read, and work by other artists within that particular medium. If the project is self-conceptualized and I’m pursuing it for myself and not a client or with a collaborator, then I can’t really define where the ideas come from. It could be chats like this, movies that I watch, people that I meet, pictures, books, any little thing really. Usually it’s an image or a word or a phrase that sticks in my head and then comes back when I least expect it.

WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON? There are two things I’m currently working on; one being - designing shoes. Lately, I’ve been drawing mountains of shoe designs and I plan on having a little focus group with all my girlfriends to see which ones are popular, which ones people pick, why they pick them, what kind of colours they like to see, what they like and don’t like about the designs and collate all that information and hopefully that will leave me with a collection to prototype. I want the designs to be a strong reflection of me but make sure that they’re sellable, finding the right balance between art and function. The



HOW WOULD YOU TERM THE CURRENT TREND IN ART WHICH SEES A LOT OF CROSS-POLLINATION OF MEDIUMS? DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE PROCESS OF WORKING IN VARIOUS MEDIUMS AS OPPOSED TO DEVELOPING WITHIN ONE MEDIUM, LIKE THE GREATS DID, TAKES AWAY FROM AN ARTIST FULLY DEVELOPING AND MASTERING THEIR CRAFT BE IT PAINTING, DRAWING, INSTALLATION ETC.? second thing I’m working on pertains to where I want to go with my art pieces. I want to work on extremely large-scale installations, but that is rooted firmly in the same thought of art meeting function. The idea arose from thinking about what kind of art would help garner funding. I realized that the biggest source of funding one can get in the UAE is through the government and because I’m not Emarati I feel like the only way to make my idea or proposal appealing would be to create something that is artistic but utilitarian in nature. So whether they collect data or give people information like news, or the weather or whatever it be, it would become a part of the city’s landscape and infrastructure and be useful to the public as well as the government in terms of data collection and data delivery. That way, I get to do what I want to do, which is build crazy, large installations, bag the funding to do it, and there’s a functional benefit as well.

WHAT MAKES ART IMPORTANT IN TODAY’S CURRENT STATE OF SOCIO-POLITICAL DISARRAY? I think that art is a mirror of our times. The purpose of art is sometimes to throw light on things in a way you wouldn’t normally see them, to educate or other times simply, a personal expression. The gallery artist enjoys a home for their opinions and serve to educate and inform the people walking into these spaces and street art, because of the anonymity it provides, can provoke thought and emotion. Whatever the intent be, all art serves as a poignant punctuation of our time and circumstance.

The current era in art, which is still in its infancy is termed as multi-media art and although it sounds kinda lame, like multimedia class in high-school or something, I think it’s an absolutely accurate way to describe this school of art & thought that is taking shape in this day and age. Since the artists are crossformat, whatever be their focus, all artists have a certain aesthetic that acts as the common thread between all their work, and any medium they choose to dabble in, the hero is always the concept - artists today are no longer just makers or artisans or craftsmen, they are thinkers. The mark of this era lies within the fact that it is the age of the artist and not just the art they create.

WHICH 5 ARTISTS OR PIECES OF CREATIVE WORK HAVE HAD A DEEP IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY? The Brothers’ Quay: Street of Crocodiles: This is to-date, one of the most painstakingly detailed and beautiful stop-motion animation films I’ve ever seen. On Kawara: Today series: The Japanese conceptual artist reminds us to live one day at a time and contributes to his life-spanning work-in-progress daily. Jeff Koons: Puppy: I love that this giant topiary changes with the seasons. It’s gorgeous when it flowers. Parra: I love 60s and 70s style typographic prints so anything by this Dutch artist tickles my fancy. Tracey Emin: I love her monoprints. I’ve been contemplating buying one for awhile now.



The ever present discord of the twenty-first century. We seem to have made ‘creation’ so easy that now anyone who has a computer thinks they’re a writer, anyone who can afford a brush and some elementary paints (significantly cheaper than they where when Van Gogh was out there trying to make it) thinks they can paint, and everyone wants to get creative. Which is all fair and fine. The problem harks back to my last article: with today’s postmodernity, all things ‘unusual’ or excessive are art. How? I was at an exhibit about a month ago. No wait, I was gallery hopping. Got to what was probably my fifth or sixth exhibit and it turned out to be two different galleries. One was meaningless in a ‘this is amateur’ sense, while still showcasing the work of a brilliant pseudo-painter. The other, on the other hand, was what I would (as would most, I presume) consider offensive to all and any artists (amateurs included). See, that second gallery had two videos showing. One was a fun and lively study of shapes and colours, inspirational in it’s own way. The other video was the problem. Me and my friend sat there for a reasonably long period of time, attempting to make sense of the purpose behind the film. Let me try to describe it for you: it was a regular (possibly HD) home-made video of the waterfront in Istanbul, showing what was really no content per say. There was nothing being said you see. But it wasn’t a loop either. The guy had sat there, with his camera, filming a day on the seafront. The astounding thing about it, and the reason why I say try to describe it, is that the way I put it makes it seem like there was something paradoxical in his approach, or that the contentlessness of the work was the message itself. But that’s not true. There was no ‘purpose’. You didn’t feel anything either, except an overwhelming ennui. Even that didn’t seem to be the intent. Now before people tell me off and cite the death of the author or any such post-isms, let me clarify that while I’m a strong believer in de-

centring and the horizontal hierarchal systems of the ‘culture of late capitalism’ (and I know that Jameson doesn’t discuss horizontals nor really focuses on de-centring), I think we take it too far. Yes, there need not be a central grand message or great idea behind an artefact. We need not conform to perceived notions of artistry. But there is such a thing as taking both of those things too far - it gets so that we no longer have a standard for what art is versus what scribbles and doodles are. A sketch is not a painting, and something your average foundation year art school student can create for her first painting project is not worth €12,000 just because the exhibitor has a crush on the painter. And I’m not trying to set a numerical value to define artistic quality: some of the most innovative, inspired, impressive art is sold on street corners for €10 a pop. But, in today’s consumerist society, what is acknowledged as art is given a monetary figure to classify its level of acceptance; its quantitative value qualifies it. Whatever statement that Turkish film was attempting to make, it didn’t make. At best (and if that was the purpose of the ‘artist’, then I support it), it proved - yet again - that our curators are no longer adept at their job. It proved that we have become so postmodern we can’t tell the difference anymore, that we no longer question what we don’t understand for fear of being delegated to one of the ignoramus of the community. We have forgotten that the primary binding purpose behind every postmodern activity, in every phase, was to question everything. If I were to summarise postmodernity, to define what postmodernism was, to package the ultimate idea, it would be “to always ask why?”, because that’s how the 60s brought us to today, with a new generation bringing its own radicalism to each decade since. Today, that culture of Why? is dead. We have stopped questioning. Long live repression, for it is now self-imposed.


by Samar Alkhudhairi

Draco is a self-taught Brazilian designer, currently based in Rio de Janeiro. He began drawing at a young age by re-creating works from his favorite illustrators. As he grew older he developed a passion for classical art. Influenced by El Greco, Salvador Dali, and the art of graphic novel illustrations, Draco has developed an interesting way of working – creating each piece with a variety of styles and techniques. If you fall in love with his pieces as much as we did, you’ll be happy to hear that he is currently working for a t-shirt line called MINIMÁLIA, check out his designs at Also check out more of Draco’s work at and















Connect with the greatest creatives in the Middle East and North Africa at Dubai Lynx 2012


by Gayathri Krishnan

BOREDOM IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION! Well, we might’ve altered the idiom a tad, but in the case of one very talented design collective, we hit the nail on the head. Bored of working for corporate drones and suits, a group of talented artists and designers based in Bangkok, traded in their day jobs for a creative-red-tape-free life, back in 2002. What’s more, they got together and formed the ultra-cool B.O.R.E.D. Today, gaining popularity globally, constantly pushing the envelope B.O.R.E.D.’s work is often aesthetically stylish, but with a flair for experimental creative concepts whilst delving in different media. Be it selfinitiated art projects or working with clients with a creative penchant, B.O.R.E.D. show a tremendous diversity in their work. From graphic design, illustration, and font design to motion graphics, interactive installation and visual performance, B.O.R.E.D have busy hands and minds to match. Developing a brand of their own named “KLEAR” through which B.O.R.E.D release their product designs, they make and design everything from T-shirts, toys to other cool goodies to banish everyday boredom. B.O.R.E.D & Tiger Translate ME ‘Double Vision’ Nothing is more appealing to an artist than a blank canvas. And internationally-known creative forum ‘Tiger Translate’ provided just the jolt of inspiration for the members of B.O.R.E.D. With a beautiful image provided by Emirati photographer, Hind Mezaina for a piece that would be called ‘Double Vision’ – each artist was required to digitally interpret and translate their ideas over the image. With the theme of ‘Universe’ the artists had a free reign over what they created. We were at Tiger Translate last month and caught a glimpse of all the artists in action. Check out their brilliant and inspired work and learn more about the minds behind the masterpieces at:




Hani Alireza Former MTV Arabia motion supremo and creative guru behind über trendy fashion label, ‘Wasta’ Hani Alireza is a graphic designer hailing from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Describing his work he muses, “I wouldn’t say I have a specific style; I try as much as I can, to come up with the most appropriate and interesting solution for the brief at hand, and usually the style and aesthetic reflects that.” Favourite typeface: Latin – DIN, Arabic – Thesansarab Favourite website: Google. Seriously.  Check out his work on: 


Juan Behrens aka Break Raised in the chaotic city of Caracas, Venezuela, Juan Behrens initially studied Computer Science before the lure of motion design and animation brought him over to a world where creativity is currency. Also coffee-addiction. We gave ‘Break’ 5 words to describe himself: “I am always hungry, yes.” We gave him more words to describe his work: “Many people have helped me shape my pursuit for design/ motion/illustration and today my style is more like a wave; blending different styles I have learned from and keep on learning from; it’s a never-ending journey.  Favourite typeface: DIN, Pello  Favourite website:  Check out his work on: 


Ma. Victoria Viray aka Prettymonkey26 Meet Prettymonkey26, Graphic Designer and femme fatale. A member of local design collective, the Brown Monkeys, Victoria Viray, from Legazpi Cityand, Philippines, is a popular face of the Dubai urban art scene.  Describing her work she says, “Definitely of the illustrative pop-surreal bent, liberally populated with spontaneous symbolism, what is consistent within my artworks is the use of a female figure, on upon which I impose various alter egos. Ultimately, the juxtaposition of these elements portrays a narrative which reflects my current mood and mental state.” Favourite typeface: Honey script  Favourite website:  Check out her work on: 


Pharuephon Mukdasanit aka MMFK He’ll pick Illustrator over Photoshop, loves Dragon Ball Z comics, would trade a mouse for a tablet and lives for a good creative challenge. If you ask him what his favorite typeface is, he’ll say “I prefer my own handwriting”. Favourite t-shirt designers: Ksubi, Flux and Grayhound Check out his work on:


Rukkit Kuanhawate With a hankering for graffiti, Rukkit did his thing effortlessly at Tiger Translate ME, but upon a little chattering, we found out that coming to Dubai was the result of some gentle coaxing by his big brother (Shy). We also learnt that the one area where he doesn’t need any coaxing is developing a bad-ass creative idea. Favourite comic: Gantz Favourite typeface: Avantgarde  Check out his work on:



BORN IN CALIFORNIA, RAISED IN IRAN, AND CURRENTLY LIVING IN CANADA, BABAK GOLKAR IS CERTAINLY INTERNATIONAL, AND THIS BACKGROUND SEEMS TO HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO HIS ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE AS AN ARTIST OF THE WORLD. His concept-driven work is created through diverse mediums, including drawing, video, performance, sculpture, and site-specific installations. He communicates through work that is simple, surprising, engaging, and humorous.

across that essay by him and it was a coincidence, which seems to be happening quite often for me. I’m interested in something and all of a sudden there’s something in front of me that backs up the work, in a way. So it was kind of a nice coincidence.

Babak’s series of sculptural works entitled “Parergon” is on show here in Dubai until 12 January at The Third Line, and we highly recommend you check it out while you can. Parergon aims to “distort, challenge and yet reconsider the idea of the frame, linguistically and literally”. Babak’s work centres on architectures from Eastern culture that have been attributed meaning that exalted their tangible reality to holiness. By utilising and disconnecting frames, Babak challenges the viewers’ perception of something formerly understood and overlooked.

In terms of frame, I was interested in working with frames, but I had something completely different in mind, and this was kind of the third iteration or third revision of the original idea. And it got to this point which I feel pretty resolved in terms of Derrida’s concept of Parergon, it works pretty well.

We caught up with Babak and had an intriguing conversation about his interest in frames, Derrida, holy landmarks, the less than ideal current state of the world, and art’s place in it. When I first saw your work, I didn’t actually see the shapes at the end, and it really surprised me when I did and when I saw them in person it was cool because I love art that keeps you looking and keeps you exploring to see what else is there. So I was wondering, how did this idea specifically come to you, and how are you influenced by Derrida? It’s not so much that I’m influenced by him, it’s just that it happened that this work, as I was researching the physical work, I came


What significance do the places actually have to you? It goes back to the concept of Parergon, which constitutes the shifting characteristics of an object, which a frame does, according to Derrida. And so most of these buildings have gone through shifts and functions throughout history. A lot of them are religious monuments as well, did that have any significance? A little bit yeah, they are places that have been framed in a particular way, so I think that has to do with it, the way that we impose a context onto a building. It’s sort of motivated by different politics or ideologies or whatever you want to call it. But again what I tend to focus on in terms of making art, and I also talk about it quite a bit, is this idea of illusion. That these works give you a certain illusion, and then there is a moment of realisation. Those illusions that they give are parallel with the illusions we get out of

those particular buildings. We believe that place of worship is holy for example, but it’s something that we have constructed. It wasn’t always that way.

Have you exhibited in Dubai or the region before? Do you have a desire to exhibit in the region or to communicate with people throughout this region?

Do you believe that these places have any meaning beyond the physical?

I’ve never showed in Iran, I’ve showed in Istanbul, it’s really my first time in Dubai or in the region.

I think it’s completely fabrication of our mind. They don’t, I mean, we built them, they haven’t come from outer space, they’re pretty material based.

I think that a big part of what I do is this idea of understanding situations. So I think there’s a huge audience that could be tapped into and I could try and connect to in this region. And I have the same desire to connect to audiences in other regions. But it’s very important to be active in this part of the world. I really think it’s crucial, in terms of understanding, because through these exhibitions also the other side of the world would become aware of what’s happening. If anything it goes back to that proposal, it’s a proposal for everybody.

I think we do that a lot as humans beings, we put meaning into something physical to try to feel comfort maybe. It’s also a way we understand things. The way we understand, I always say, is through a couple of things. One is through relations, like we understand things by comparison. And we also understand through framing, through contextualising. That’s how we really get a grasp of something. When this artwork came to be, did you feel like you were expressing that these are just physical places? Did you have any intention to impart that kind of knowledge on the viewer? I tend not to impose anything onto the audience, I mean you went through it, and you had these moments, that’s the point of the art. I don’t try to teach anything through the artwork. I think the audience has a lot to do with the way the work is interpreted and taken, so I leave that pretty open. And there’s always more, if the audience wants to discover more. There’s always an accompanying text or other things that I layer the work that they can dig in and realise. But in terms of specific meaning or criticism, the answer would be no. I treat my work as proposals for understanding. Is there significance to the colours that you’ve used and chosen? And to the shadows and negative space? Somewhat, the white ones they refer to my understanding of the material being used on those sites. Same as the orange one, it’s a brick structure so I tried to mimic the terracotta feel. A couple of them, like Blue Mosque and Green Mosque, they just refer to the language basically, green and blue. The red one I just don’t really think it needs any explanation – it couldn’t have been any colour. The Dome of the Rock was very carefully chosen, the actual dome is out of gold, the rock is called black rock, but it also has this economical or power status because it looks like a bar of gold that’s been chopped and you can see a section of it. So if you were to chop it in another section you’d still get gold, if you rubbed the black paint off you’d still get gold. I like the shadows to be quite subtle. A couple of them I played with the shadows to give a bit of a hint. Again I’d like to keep that to the audience. The negative space is quite important, because it was supposed to be a work that was framed. So I treat it as the audience’s mind, so that’s where the mind hovers, and goes in and out of the frame and connects the work. Born in California, grew up in Tehran. Do you feel like your childhood or how you were raised affected how you view art? Definitely, the war I went through it at one of the worst stages of my life – as I was becoming a teenager, so I have a lot of horrifying memories of that. I think it does come out to play a role in a big scale, but I try to filter it quite a bit. So when you look at the work you don’t get a direct reference to that. But when it comes to valuation of art, what is valuable in terms of art making for me, that has shaped my senses. What’s important to be made, basically. The idea of –ian, whether it’s Iranian, American, Canadian, whatever, it doesn’t make sense to me at all in terms of how I approach work, I see where we stand in terms of our time, and I try to make sense out of things and through practice I make sense of things. So there are elements from everywhere really. There is nothing Iranian or Canadian or American about my work. At the same time I don’t understand what it means to be a Middle Eastern or Canadian artist in this day and age. If anything we’re Facebook artists, we’re everywhere and we’re completely connected. So it doesn’t completely make sense. Not that I deny the whole thing, I understand why those parameters exist, but I’m not really necessarily interested in those parameters.

You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about the current state of the world and how it’s pretty horrible, but there’s been this rise of groups and individuals who are trying to make a change. Do you feel any connection to these groups, or any desire to be involved in the current state of change happening around the world? All of my works have political interests behind them, but they’re very subtle. Architecture by nature is a political structure because it controls movement. So that’s my interest in working with architecture and constructing criticism that way, but at the same time, I think art is a difficult tool to use for political ends, it’s much more difficult than other fields. Do you think there’s a thin line between using art for political reasons and propaganda? History has shown that it doesn’t really work that well. Russian Avant Garde, which was one of the most celebrated modern art movements, and very creative, but extremely tied to the politics of the Soviets. And the results were completely devastating for the artists. So there’s a sacrificial aspect to it. I think that we cannot completely separate ourselves from politics. We breathe politics every day. And I agree with you that the state of the world is really fragile at the moment, and I’m really anxious and worried. But, I also believe in constant change, I don’t believe in a momentary change, because I think to me that’s problematic when you change something very dramatically it could have huge backlashes. I think it’s about change in small doses, and constantly, which is kind of reflective of what we do on a regular basis. Any final thoughts or reflection on your work? There are certain tools that I use: one is simplicity (keep it simple looking). Sometimes I use humour, I think that these works are quite humorous, they’re kind of funny that they’re not functioning how you expect them to. Because sometimes humour is caused by challenging your expectations. Those kinds of things I use as a hook, to grab the audience, like the colours or the forms or the scale of them, these are some tools that I have that I play with quite a bit to get the audience interested, and capture them for a few moments, and then unravel the whole thing. And if I’m lucky enough they’ll go all the way. Be sure to visit for more work from this brilliant artist.


by Samar Alkhudhairi

Mafalada Silva is a phenomenal photographer from Lisbon, Portugal. Her photographs take you on a trip to an enchanting world, each frame with a different story. Mafalda moved from Portugal to London to indulge in her passion and finally study photography. She is currently the visual merchandiser for American Apparel and also photographs for their blog California Select ( When she isn’t working, she’s participating in book projects and taking photographs, trying to transition into being a full-time photographer. Check out more of her work at and How and when did your relationship with your camera begin to develop? I can’t really recall the exact moment I started shooting. I remember my granddad used to have little room full of cameras and projectors where me and my cousins loved to play when we were kids and I think that was my first contact with photography. When I turned 15 I got my first SLR and I’ve been doing it ever since. Did you ever study photography? Do you feel it is important to study photography in order to become successful as a photographer? Yes I did study photography, I feel like its important to study if you want to learn all the technical aspects of it but I feel like no one can teach you how to take a good photo. Taking a good photo comes from the inside and not from books or classes, nowadays there are so many self-taught people doing amazing things in photography. That definitely proves the point. So you moved from Portugal to London, are you originally from Portugal? How do you like living in London? I was born in Portugal and moved to London 3 years ago to study photography; it kind of feels like it was yesterday. I love living in London and I would like to live here for a couple more years. When I got here I had only a suitcase, now I have so many things that I’ve been collecting through the years I’ve lived in London that it feels as if I have definitely built a second home here.



How does the art scene in London differ from the art scene in Portugal? The art scene in London is very different from the one we have in Portugal, there is a lot more to offer here in London, obviously there are a lot more people too, which makes it harder sometimes to grab certain opportunities. I guess its all a matter of being in the right place at the right time. To be honest I have been away from Portugal for 3 years now so I don’t know exactly how it is right now. I see a lot of people starting new projects and developing new ideas, which is amazing because even though the country is going through such a big economical turmoil, people don’t give up on their own projects. Are you a full time photographer? I’m trying to be a full time photographer but at the moment photography on its own doesn’t really pay my bills. I also work as a Visual Merchandiser for American Apparel, which is a lot of fun too. I love taking photos for their blog California Select. Do you remember your first photo-shoot? What did you shoot? I don’t really remember it to be honest but I’m sure it was something silly, like photographing my feet or taking photos of my cats. I hear your work is featured in the book SNIMKY, a compilation of 28 photographers’ images of every season for a seven day period between 2008-2009. Can you tell us more about this project? This was an amazing project to be involved in, Dario is a close friend of mine and I think the idea behind the whole project is brilliant. Basically he sent a disposable camera to each photographer and we were meant to take a photo a day during a period of time and then send the camera back to him to be processed. It took a while to see the final result and I was so amazed when I saw some of the final results as I had totally forgotten what I took photos of.

When I’m not taking photos I love visiting vintage markets, going to exhibitions, watching films, music, and reading magazines. I am obsessed with fashion magazines and I collect as many as I can. If you could only take one more photograph, what would you shoot, where would you shoot it, and how would you shoot it- analog/digital?

I have participated in several book projects. Recently I was features in a book called ‘if you leave’ ( curated by Laurence Von Tarquin and I think the book has one of the best selection of photos that I have seen recently.

Oh my! This is a tricky question. It would definitely be film, all of my work is in film. I think my last photo would have to be a photo of the reason why I’m taking my last photo. I see my work a bit as a personal diary. I like to tell stories with my photos so I would like to document why I’m not taking any more photos and mark that moment by photographing it. It would be a bit of a paradox.

What’s your favorite area to hang out around in London?

Any lessons learned to share with fellow photographer readers?

I love East London, it’s such a vibrant area of the city with so many little cafes and galleries, there is always something new to do or to see. I especially love the weekends in East London with its amazing markets.

Always follow the light.

Have you participated in any other book projects?


What do you do when you aren’t taking photographs?

Check out Mafalda’s new blog at















Hailing from chilly Finland, Johannes Romppanen is a full time photographer based in Espoo. He’s always had a keen interest in art, specifically graphic design. In fact, Johannes spent years working as a graphic designer in retail advertising. While he was working as a graphic designer in the Marines in 2002, he ran into photographer Charles Fréger on a cruise boat. Charles initiated conversation out of interest in the marine uniform that Johannes was sporting. This conversation culminated in the two planning to work together on the Merisotakoulou project in Helsinki. This was the turning point in Johannes’ career; he began to perceive photography as more than capturing an image in passing, but as an art form, a new medium to explore. He found a hidden passion for being behind the lens, and began to pursue it. By 2006, Johannes began working as a full time photographer. Johannes shoots an array of subjects. But for him, the message isn’t just about the subject, but also how the subject is portrayed. His work is an honest reflection of his desire to understand and express his interest in the world around him. Inspired by life, his boys, challenges, development, and things “in-between”, Johannes explores the unnoticed, and focuses on depicting his subjects with a fresh perspective, giving him insight into who he is both as a person and a photographer.




How do you describe your work? Here is a text I wrote in February of this year.. “I am merely taking my first steps as an artist and I feel I am stumbling. This whole uncertainty has also become the underlying subject of my current work.” In the projects I’ve been working on, I look at my relation to different subjects. This is inevitably connected to my choice of medium, photography. I feel photography enables me to deal with issues in a direct manner, for me photography is very much about seeing and experiencing things. This uncertainty I mentioned earlier shows in my photos, whether it is a portrait or a still life, there is usually an element of discomfort. The photographs are composed shots with a strong feeling of presence, often capturing “off-camera” moments, giving honest insight into the subject. My recent project, Identity Search, was about immigrants in Finland and how they felt in their environment. For me the underlying reason to this project was actually quite personal and selfish. I wanted to meet these people and hear their stories. I wanted to reflect them on myself, I wanted to get to know myself better. This has become an active journey, the key subject is now my own identity and the exploration of its many faces. Who am I, where have I been, where am I going? I am currently interested in discovering who I am as a photographer, a father, and a bilingual Finn. I could say I am drawn to topics that push me to ask myself: Who am I?” Tell us about your idea of “process photography” What is it? How did you come up with this concept of process photography? It is an idea that’s growing on me. Maybe one year ago, when going through material for my website update, I tried to look at my work with fresh eyes and to see what the core of my work is and how it could be

developed. I noticed I’m interested in the things in-between, may it be portraits or still lifes, there is a certain approach to it that comes very natural for me. I’m interested in investigating and developing this. I then came upon the idea of process photography, a field I still have to develop and dig deeper into. What inspired you to shoot the Flow festival? I was interested in giving a second view of the festival, I saw it as an opportunity to develop the idea of process photography. When you decided to shoot the festival did you try to rearrange your perspective in order to photograph a different perspective of the scene? I didn’t really experience the festival as an ordinary visitor, I was there to work. I came to learn that there was way too much to shoot, too many stories to tell, but luckily I still came home with a few. I gave myself a few guidelines, i.e. not to shoot any artists on stage, not to make any traditional reportage of a festival. I wanted to focus on the things that are not necessarily obvious. But then I also started to think about the obvious things and how to give them a twist, a second view. Are you always on the look out with your camera in hand? Or are your images premeditated? Normally I think of different concepts, they are usually location based, so when I’m shooting often the case is that I’ve thought about it before. But I never think of specific images in advance, it is only a matter of context and then I let the surroundings guide me. So I don’t walk around with a camera. I have an iPhone in my pocket and I sometimes shoot series with that camera too. But to get back to my photographic process, I’ve now assigned myself to publish a new series every week at the blog observationsweekly.tumblr. com. I have a long list of subjects waiting to be captured. I felt I was thinking too much about what I should do, and always making my projects too big, I thought it should be a book or an exhibition. This blog makes me react, I understood the important thing is to

take pictures and to learn from that, not just about THINKING about taking pictures. What was your creative process for Shirts & Beards? As I mentioned earlier, I started to think about the obvious things and how to give them a twist, a second view. Among others I decided to shoot bearded men. A friend of mine, Maria Kärkkäinen, suggested I should shoot checkered shirts. First I wasn’t too fond of the idea, but luckily I shot some and then I got the idea to make diptychs of them together with the beards. It became a strong and funny concept. I couldn’t help but notice the variety of emotions and facial expressions amongst the different portraits in shirts & beards. How did you approach your subjects prior to shooting them? I looked for interesting faces, stopped one when I saw one and asked for a portrait. It was really quick, just a few frames each. I told them I was working on a personal project on bearded men at the festival. Most of them thought it was a funny idea and were happy that I was taking their portrait. What are your thoughts on plaid patterned shirts? I think they are funny and of course in the case of this series, they act as a symbol for a certain group of people. Who are some of your favorite musicians? I’m afraid I don’t listen to that much music, but when I do, it is usually classical or jazz. Do you have a beard? Yes. photos/johannesromppanen/ sets/72157625814796981/ Check out more of Johannes’ work at:






by Samar Alkhudhairi



This month as we were scouring the interwebs for some phenomenal artists, we stumbled across Peter Olschinksy and Verena Weiss – a pair of wonderful, multi-talented artists. Their very unique way of photographing different cities makes the viewer fall in love with each cityscape they choose. That’s even without mentioning their killer composition skills that result in mesmerizing images you can’t seem to unglue your eyes from. Neither Peter nor Verena have an educational background in art but their passion for the medium drove them in the direction of self-teaching. A few years ago, Peter and Verena bumped into each other and initially discussed working together in a client and agent setting. Instead, they chose to do bigger things by working together as partners. They’ve always had a passion for creativity and the arts, so they found a way to make a living out of what they love doing most. They then went on to establish their own creative studio, Atelier Olschinksy, in the heart of little Vienna where they currently collaborate on various projects in the fields of graphic design, illustration, photography and art direction. Peter and Verena also recently launched Nevertheless magazine in 2010 – a biannual 320page collection of things they are interested in. Nevertheless covers current and historic literature, visual arts, architecture, music, social phenomena, and urban lifestyle. We caught up with Peter and Verena to discuss.

Do you collaborate on the photography? Usually, when we do a photographic project, we both take pictures at the same time. So we mostly come to a lot of pictures of the same situation, seen from different angles, shot through different lenses. It often takes more time to choose the pictures than to take them... What are your thoughts on Photoshop? It’s a great tool; we are using it permanently and are taking a lot of care in working out our pictures. But, you have to say: You can’t change a bad picture into a good one by using Photoshop. How does Vienna specifically inspire you? What is the art scene like in Vienna? Vienna is a very small town, it is a great city to live in. And, in fact, as somebody said lately, it is a perfect city to hide. We have the feeling that the Viennese art scene is not as dynamic or progressive compared to other cities, although there are some very talented artists here. It seems to be that you have to be well known abroad before you become a successful artist in Vienna. What made you choose to shoot China, London, and Mauritius? The choice of these places was more a coincidence. We went there for holiday and business, but wherever we go we have our cameras with us and try to get at least one or two days completely off to shoot. Usually we try to organize some local guide or driver who helps us to discover the nontouristic sites. How would you describe your work environment? If you mean our studio: we simply love it. A few years ago we had the opportunity to move in here, it is a former large storage room in an old house, which was altered to some kind of loft. We like to work in these spacious rooms, which allow us to have a lot of stuff around without feeling cramped. As we are here most of our time, we find it extremely important to feel comfortable while working. On our walls, we have large prints of our favourite photos and illustrations and we change them from time to time. Sometimes people come in from the street and ask if we are a gallery. When shooting while traveling, do you ever struggle with being able to separate your infatuation with the new place and your artistic demeanor? Well, no. Becoming infatuated with a place or a situation is one of the best things that can happen. It’s inspiring.

When you are shooting in another country, how do you go about processing the new information around you? Do you try to avoid allowing the new information in to stay focused, or do you let it all soak in and find a way to relate it to your original plan?

to keep the perspective as natural as possible, which means to avoid any distortions, for example. Also, when photographing some details, we try to keep the environment in mind. Sometimes, a detail becomes even more interesting when it stays connected with the original surrounding.

We often do it the other way round: We process the new information by taking pictures. Sometimes, when we go through the pictures afterwards, we even discover things we have not noticed before.

How did you decide it was time to launch Nevertheless magazine?

When you shoot a place you’ve never visited, have distractions ever inspired you in some way you didn’t expect? To be honest, this happens most of the time. Keeping your eyes and mind open means to stay flexible. Sometimes when shooting, there is some kind of master plan, but strict plans mostly do not work out exactly. If you ever get stuck, just change your focus a little. There is so much beauty in things besides the original focus. When we asked you where you find inspiration you said: “Inspiration is everywhere. If you keep your eyes and mind open, you will find ideas wherever you go.” How do you draw on this inspiration and put it into practice? How would you coach someone in being open to the inspiration around them - and then using this to fuel their work? First, you have to be positive. This may sound like an overused cliché, but you can’t find any inspiration as long as you are afraid of what may come. Then, it’s like collecting and connecting. The more you have seen and remembered, the more stuff comes to your mind when you are working on something else. Do you ever find yourself falling into the tourist trap of taking the “typical” photograph? Can you give us any advice on how to steer clear from falling into this trap? This is a very difficult question. There is nothing wrong with “typical” photographs, and even “contemporary” styles become common after a while. The thing is: A good picture, as we understand it, shows the instant situation as a whole, sometimes beautiful, sometimes disturbing or even funny. It makes you feel something, think about while watching it. The composition of your photographs are mind blowing, do you have any pro tips for beginner photographers when it comes to good composition? Good composition means a lot of training. Even without a camera we are always taking pictures of what we see and analyze situations. We also have found some rules we are trying to stick to. We try

We’ve had this idea for quite a long time. In 2010 we just decided to do it, not only to dream about. As we are always working on free projects besides our daily business, there was quite a lot of stuff waiting to be published. We also knew some designers, artists, people with good ideas - whom we wanted to introduce because we liked their work. And, most of all, we loved the thought of creating a magazine just the way we wanted to. In fact, we did not expect Nevertheless to come out that big so quickly... When we started, it was like an experiment. Now, with every new issue, we have the feeling that Nevertheless becomes more mature but without losing it’s initial thought. Where do you distribute the magazine? Have you considered having an English version? Nevertheless is available in our online shop and in a steadily growing number of book shops and galleries in Austria. Right now we are starting to expand the distribution to Germany and Switzerland as well. We have considered an English version, but we decided to stay with German texts at the moment. Perhaps this will change in the future, we will see. What are a few of your favorite places to find inspiration online? There are quite a lot, here are some of our most used links: Visit for more work from Atelier Olschinksy and make sure to check out - definitely a great magazine regardless if you understand German or not!





























The young and incredibly talented duo Lara Jade and Joey L, both internationally acclaimed photographers at the tender age of 22(!!!), have teamed up to bring the world a collaborative photographic educational DVD called “LJ vs JL Photographer Shoot-Off”. Released this December, this project provides a unique source of education on photography by giving viewers an in-depth look at their personal processes, how they work in different contexts, and much more, while sharing their vision and knowledge with photographers around the world. Giving photographers an amazing behind-the-scenes perspective on the technical and creative challenges of the field, Lara and Joey let you get in their minds as they compete head to head in photoshoots around the world. They are pitted against each other and given a range of different topics to interpret and execute in their own ways. Through these challenges the viewer learns important lessons, from creating images in a controlled environments, to photographing complete strangers somewhere new and unplanned. With completely different styles and approaches, Lara and Joey tackle each challenge in their own ways. Learn how both of these brilliant self-taught photographers direct, professionally light, compose, and Photoshop their final images. None of the information is held back, giving you full access from start to finish into their creative processes. A truly engaging and useful tutorial, “LJ vs JL Photographer ShootOff” really challenges the concept of traditional educational DVDs, and fills a void many budding and aspiring photographers experience as they embark on the world of photography. We highly recommend you get a copy of “LJ vs JL Photographer ShootOff” here: For more information Lara and Joey, visit: Lara Jade: Joey Lawrence:


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in case you had enough of the salesmen



SAMAR ALKHUDHAIRI Over the past few months we’ve had the pleasure of hosting a lovely little quintern named Samar. Her hysterical giggles and keen ability of scouring the internet for insanely talented artists as well as nifty gadgets is, needless to say, as endearing and entertaining as it is useful. But her skills and talent aren’t reserved to typing away at her Macbook or keeping us all entertained with hilarious shenanigans, she’s also an artist in her own right. Since picking up a camera and pursuing her interest in photography about 2 years ago, her aptitude behind the lens is apparent in the intriguing moments she captures for the visual pleasure of all who behold them. So as we get close to bidding ado to our dear Samar, it’s only fitting to give you a little peek into her world. Have a gander at more of her work at samaralkhudhairi





WHAT IS IT ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY THAT INITIALLY PEAKED YOUR INTEREST? What I love most about photography is the power to relay your perception of the world to others. Taking a photograph gives you the power to push people to think about things in a certain way. It’s a sneaky way of relaying information.

WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST INSPIRED TO TAKE OUT YOUR CAMERA? On a quiet day when I have no responsibilities to cater to I like to take my camera and go out and explore, walk for hours or drive to a new place for a change of perspective and shoot whatever I feel drawn to. Just an exercise I like doing to stir up some inspiration. Otherwise I prefer planning my shoots, having some sort of idea to work from whether it’s a location or a specific model, etc.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FACT THAT IT’S REALLY EASY FOR PEOPLE TO CALL THEMSELVES PHOTOGRAPHERS THESE DAYS DUE TO THE EASILY ACCESSIBLE “TOOLS” OF THE TRADE? I don’t find it any different than the people calling themselves experts on some obscure topic they spent hours researching online. There will always be people who are quick to call themselves photographers, but it’s easy to recognize who these people are. It will happen but you shouldn’t let it discourage you.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SUBJECTS TO SHOOT? I really like shooting people. I guess the psychologist in me is drawn to human behavior. I think the most interesting thing about shooting people is capturing different behaviors, we all walk, but we all walk with different mannerisms. When it comes to working with models, I enjoy the challenge of shooting humans versus inanimate objects because its so challenging to work with a living being that will get distracted or try to act a certain way or accidentally reveal personal emotions. I think my favorite part is trying to evoke a certain emotion in my model without blatantly telling my model to act sad.

WHO ARE THE PHOTOGRAPHERS THAT INSPIRE YOU? There are too many out there! Let’s see….fashion photographer Melissa Rodwell’s, her blog is amazing, if you’re interested in fashion photography or just looking for some tutorials, I highly recommend checking it out http:// I’m also a big fan of Youssef Nabil and Annie Leibovitz.



This month’s written assault is at the behest of glorious editor leader Zaina Shreidi. Since Zaina puts up with my serial lack of adherence to any deadline the least I can do is employ some verbiage in the direction of Community – a show created by Dan Harmon and produced/ directed by Arrested Development Alumni Joe and Anthony Russo – and the recent decision by NBC to shelve the show until further ado. The reason I was not initially going to rage against this injustice is because I am simply not surprised. Community is an intelligent, selfreferential text with a wide cast of multi-talented performers that make it a wonderful and hilarious viewing experience. It is not as intellectually demanding as Arrested Development but has enough layers of subtlety that definitely test your pop cultural savvy. It is as plain as Anne Veal’s face that due to the fact that Community is intelligent and funny, and that intelligent people have embraced it, it was doomed to fail and be put on hold. That being said, it did last two complete seasons and nine episodes into a third, which is a decent run when compared to some other stellar content that aired fast and burned even faster in the US Networks’ obligatory “Too Intelligent for Television” Vat also known as TIT (I would just like to point out that I did not make that up and the initials’ reference to body parts living or dead is purely coincidental). Instead of my usual dose of sardonic diatribes of how anything remotely resembling quality content will never be allowed to flourish in this reality show soaked reality we inhabit, I am going to investigate some interesting territories that were unearthed during a discussion with our friendly neighbourhood Fro.

The Primetime Network Model The simple mathematics that determine whether the Network will continue to pursue with a show are based on the viewing figures of that show. More People That Watch + Potential Advertising Revenue = Show Survives. Being a bastard child of the advertising industry I am fully aware of the power that advertising money wields (ironically we who work in the industry have never been privy to that power or the privilege it brings with it). However this model is outdated and should not be considered as the barometer to measure a show’s popularity. With the advent of new technology such as TIVO and the DVD box set, how many people actually watch shows on TV during their network timeslots? I mean even if you do, the commercial break is time that is spent in snack replenishment and physiological relief. We in the advertising industry do not watch commercials when they air so why would we expect people to watch. My point being that Desperate Housewives might have 30 million people watching it at night but is that enough of a case to prove to advertisers that even 10 million of those people have seen their ads? There is no way to prove that the GRP directly led to an increase in sales (no matter how much media agencies try to tell you otherwise). Quality shows like Community that do not enjoy the same viewing numbers as the Kardashians or those excessively tanned residents of the Jersey Shore suffer because of this outdated model. I am certain that Network executives have recognised that people’s consumption habits have changed and the rise of the box set and TIVO plays a large role in this paradigm shift. The problem that keeps them up at night (despite owning sheets with an excessively high thread count) is: how can they profit from this new paradigm

shift? We as advertisers have already recognised that people do not really like commercials (who knew!?!) so now we are in the business of creating content that people will be interested in i.e. “Content people want to interact with instead of content that interrupts the content they want to interact with” (if you read it like Yoda, a lot more profound it does sound, hmmm). It does raise some interesting questions on how much money is required to keep a show on air. There must be a certain revenue target that the show must generate in order to stave of being banished to the TIT Vat. The fact remains that until the main networks conceive of nouveau methods of revenue generation we should not get too attached to Troy, Abed, or even Pierce because it will end in heartbreak, every time.

The Family Guy Conundrum The second territory I would like to explore is this idea of a show being cancelled or put on hiatus in its prime. Allow me to introduce the Family Guy Conundrum. Family Guy was cancelled after its third season. So from 1998 – 2001 it dominated the animated TV series, it finally provided The Simpsons with competition, something that Homer and Co had never encountered, however, the Griffins were edgier and a lot more brutal than the Simpsons. But fewer people had popped on over to the Griffin household and introduced themselves, so in 2001 The Griffins were relocated by their friendly landlords Fox. Those three seasons of Family Guy are top class, fresh, funny, awkward, edgy, and included inspired non-sequiturs. However between 2001 and 2004, the cult of Family Guy grew as well as its popularity due to box set sales and it being picked up by Adult Swim (yay for Cartoon Network, cable, and Adult Swim). This surge in popularity eventually lead to Family Guy’s revival and it was brought back by Fox in 2004. When the initial euphoria of instigating change against the man (in this case, getting a show you love back on TV, the little guy triumphing, David and Goliath etc) subsided and the show was evaluated objectively it was quite clear that the show would never hit the dizzying qualitative heights it had enjoyed in its initial three seasons. Family Guy now is more popular than ever but I for one have not been watching it as fervently as I used to, which begs the question, is it better to bow out in your peak? So if Community was not picked up for a fourth season would it be the worst thing in the world? We would still be left with three fantastic seasons. Recently it was announced that Arrested Development would get a ten episode fourth season followed by a movie that would tie everything together. As much as that announcement filled me with joy nothing short of the divine, I must admit I do celebrate this news with trepidation and anxiety. What if the fourth season and movie are terrible, what if they cannot reproduce the same level of quality that we knew and came to love? Undoubtedly any failure to meet the same levels of excellence would tarnish the reputation and legacy of a stellar show, wouldn’t it? Have we started mimicking corporations in trying to milk anything good for every last drop of deliciousness goodness? Maybe we as a generation just need to let go? I for one would much prefer the three seasons of Community to the last seven seasons of Family Guy any day. Though they say: hindsight is 20/20, as long as we don’t have to endure twenty seasons of it.



“I THINK WOMEN RULE THE WORLD AND THAT NO MAN HAS EVER DONE ANYTHING THAT A WOMAN EITHER HASN’T ALLOWED HIM TO DO OR ENCOURAGED HIM TO DO.” -BOB DYLAN In an unnamed, desolate Lebanese village, Christian and Muslim dwellers reside side by side in harmony, as they have done for centuries. As news of inter-faith skirmishes in surrounding towns pours in through newspapers brought in from the city, reports over the shoddy radio reception, and programming from the solitary town television, the village men begin to retaliate against each other and the community segregates. The film begins and ends with a funeral march of the village women, perpetually in mourning for the loved ones that are lost in this crossfire. The women, desperate to break this violent cycle, devise a series of occurrences to distract their masculine partners from taking up arms against each other. All drama considered, it would not be fair to call “Where Do We Go Now?” a stark tragedy. Humor rips through the heaviness that surrounds this village, airing out their suffocated isolation through use of colloquial language that reminds you of every family squabble you can recall and the most quirky of Arab characters you’ve encountered in your daily life. I felt no stranger to this Lebanese day3a, and fell in love with those who inhabited it, flaws and all. I saw influence of Federico Fellini in many aspects of this film; from the rough, unpolished, and beautiful cast of real and raw townspeople, to the throng of powerful women whose tired and unyielding hands kneaded the sustenance of this story, to the dreamlike interludes of song dispersed throughout the tragicomedy. Director Nadine Labaki’s second feature film made me laugh, then cry, and laugh again within minutes. The story’s highs and lows were masterfully juxtaposed using qualities of theatre, poetry in motion, and documentary story telling. I would do more justice to the superb performances by commending a cast of natural “be-ers” rather than branding them actors. Labaki accomplishes an intimate aesthetic of ‘direct cinema’, which is uplifted by magical realism through the passionate musical interludes


and far-fetched lengths that the town women go to in their efforts to keep the peace. The highlights of their struggles to keep their men well-behaved include: staging contact with the Virgin Mary, hiring a team of exotic dancers (whom they use as both spies and distraction), and drugging the townsmen in order to destroy the cache of weapons that their Muslim and Christian husbands, brothers and children were intending to use on each other. The finale of their efforts occurs when the men wake from an evening of hash-cakes and belly dancing, to what seems like a hash-induced delusion, in which their wives, sisters, and mothers have converted to the opposing religion, bringing the “enemy” into their homes. In the final scene, as this motley crew of creeds gathers to bury the freshest of the village’s dead in their segregated cemetery, those carrying the body ask their community, “Where do we go now?” Though “Caramel” was well received, Labaki’s second feature tops her previous achievements. “Where Do We Go Now?”, which premiered in Cannes 2011, received Ecumenical Special Mentions and won the François Chalais Prize at the festival. The film has garnered a number of prestigious awards in various other international film festivals, including the People’s Choice Award at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival, the Audience Award at the 2011 San Sebastián International Film Festival, the Byarad d’Or at the 2011 Namur Film Festival, and the Audience Award for the Best Narrative film at the 2011 Doha Tribeca Film Festival, just to name a few! A film dedicated to our mothers. To the women who put their differences aside, and through their big minds, and even bigger hearts, create art in the way they live their lives and encourage others to love their brothers. This film is a must-see. Treat your mama, or any other inspiring woman in your life, to cinematic experience that she won’t forget.

Anonymous - A Review by Gayathri Krishnan

Directed by Roland Emmerich Written by John Orloff Cast:Rhys Ifans Vanessa Redgrave Sebastian Armesto Rafe Spall David Thewlis Edward Hogg Xavier Samuel Sam Reid Jamie Campbell Bower Joely Richardson Paolo De Vita Trystan Gravelle

If there is one film that could ruffle the feathers of the entire lot of literary historians, this would be it. ‘Anonymous’ is the latest epic from Roland Emmerich, the director who gets off on blowing stuff up in apocalyptic films such as ‘Independence Day’ and ‘The Day After Tomorrow.’ So what earth-shattering fantasy did he have us entertain this time? Did Shakespeare really write all those plays and sonnets or was he just the beard of the bard behind the work, Edward de Vere, Nobleman and 17th Earl of Oxford? Albeit far-fetched in its premise, there is no ignoring the calibre of performances or the nail biting treatment of the film with its undercurrent of looming chaos that is Emmerich’s forte. The movie begins on a stage where an unnamed man (Derek Jacobi) presents the audience with the controversial theory that William Shakespeare did not write his own plays. As actors fill the stage, the camera zooms in and we’re transported back to 1613 London where Jonson is running from armed guards and attempting to hide stacks of paper. He manages to hide the documents in a chest inside the Globe and then burn the theater to the ground before he’s captured and brought in for interrogation. The story then cuts back five years and we see Jonson as a struggling playwright with Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) in his company of actors. The political landscape of England is changing as the health of the elderly Queen Elizabeth (Vanessa Redgrave) begins to fade and two sides cast their eyes towards seizing the throne. On the one side are the Queen’s chief advisor William Cecil (David Thewlis)

and his son Robert (Edward Hogg) who support King James of Scotland as the heir/ puppet. The other faction supports the Earl of Essex (Sam Reid) who is heavily rumored to be the Queen’s bastard son. Fearing an all out civil war, Edward de Vere wants to use his unpublished plays to nudge the public against the Cecils—who are his adopted family—and towards the Earl of Essex. Rhys Ifans plays the Earl of Oxford, who is compelled by the voices in his head and the desire in his gut to write sonnets, and plays, in iambic pentameter that. Oxford asks the playwright Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto) to stage them as his own – it would be unseemly for a man of Oxford’s standing to be outed as a writer. The Earl insists on strict anonymity, but he’s willing to pay handsomely, and Jonson reluctantly agrees to get the plays mounted and staged anonymously. When the first play is met with wide popular acclaim at its first performance and cries of “Author! Author!” echo through the theater, Jonson’s friend William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall), a boorish, illiterate actor, cannot resist bounding up on stage and claiming authorship. Naturally, this all ties into a conspiracy involving the entire royal family. To further that intrigue, the film shuttles back and forth endlessly between the two main periods -- let’s call them B.S. (for “Before Shakespeare”) and A.S.C.C. (for “After Shakespeare Claimed Credit”) -which makes it devilishly difficult to track the relationships between characters and how they have shifted over the decades. There are straight-faced pleasures too: the use of large-scale sets and photorealistic

graphics to recreate Elizabethan London is hugely successful, as is the casting of both Joely Richardson (Redgrave’s daughter) as the young and far-from-virginal Elizabeth in flashback, and the stage actor Mark Rylance, who gives a goosebump-raising performance as the Chorus in Henry V. Vanessa Redgrave’s extraordinary turn as Elizabeth I, monstrous as a Matsys portrait chews so much scenery that she almost gnaws down the Tower of London. The most straightforward and enjoyable portions of the film comes from the staging of the plays, which were directed by Tamara Harvey. The loud, yowling reaction of the packed crowds are welcome reminders that the plays were immensely popular entertainment in their time, and intended to be enjoyed by the common man, though deeper meanings could be understood by the educated. But even if Shakespeare did not indeed write the plays, the film misses the point of the plays to focus on authorship, which surely matters not to people dead for centuries. What’s really remarkable about the body of work is that it’s still relevant and it still speaks to people because of the beautiful poetry of the words and the eternal truths about the nature of mankind that the plays capture. Maybe a little more focus on how those words came to the bard, whoever it be, might have fascinated more than sheer conspiracy. Standing apart from all the speculation, Rhys Ifans’ incredible performance alone, as a haunted man crushed by a sense of duty and motivated by a love of country and his Queen, is almost sufficient to make up for all the shortfalls of a Shakespearean-like tragedy that isn’t as persuasive as it needed to be.



HIND SHOUFANI Published poet and compelling filmmaker with a hankering for the real, Hind Shoufani is an activist with a camera in hand and purpose in tow. With a mind as free-spirited as her auburn hair, Hind is a champion of the storyteller. Born in ‘78 in Lebanon as a refugee, raised in Amman, Beirut, and Damascus, Hind finds her home within the stories she tells. Bilingual in format, her films have a universality pulsating with an emotional eloquence only a poet can conjure up. Bringing back the voice of the bard, telling the stories of unsung heroes and creating a visual vocabulary of her own, Shoufani is a creative independent, committing her life to film. We got a delightful education in what she calls ‘Hindoisms’, in this insightful one-on-one with the passionate filmmaker. Hind is the Creator & Founder of Poeticians - created as a response to the lack of open mic and spoken word poetry slams in the Middle East. Poeticians is an elastic, evolving, and interchangeable group of writers, readers, listeners, lovers, and word warriors, that come together to share their work, thoughts, and ambitions with small intimate audiences in Beirut, Amman and Dubai - For more on Hind’s work check out -

Photos by: Karen Kalou (Beirut), Balazs Gardi (Dubai)


DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS? WHAT BRINGS ABOUT YOUR BEST IDEAS? I work from reality mostly. I have noticed over the years, with the few films I have made either for NYU film school or with the two projects I am working now, that I tend to take events that happened to me and put them into a longer bigger more dramatic narrative. I can’t quite tell why that is, or where it will lead in the future, but I experienced some small- albeit dramatic- events in my own life, and from them stems a socio- political thought or observation which strikes me as relevant to the region around me. I find that if the thought persists, I write the script. Many times an idea occurs to me, and then it disappears. Only when the idea stays with me for quite some time do I realize that my inner psyche is telling me that this is an important thing for me to translate that thought into a script. So my first couple of shorts for NYU were based on a friendship I had, and subsequently, a relationship I went through in NYC. The feature I made in NYC, ‘Carencia,’ is based in combination on my father’s history as an activist, and the idea of East and West meeting in love affairs during times of War. The two films I am working on now have both come from personal experiences too. Of course, I add friends, acquaintances, society figures and conflict in the Middle East region, but the original premise for the film is usually real and personal.


WHAT IS THE PROJECT YOU’RE CURRENTLY WORKING ON AND HOW DID IT COME TO BE? I am in post-production on my art house documentary on my Father and his relationship with the PLO. He was a serious academic thinker and writer as well as a military leader for many years with the leftist factions of the PLO who broke off from the mainstream leadership and opposed the settlement with Israel. His personal life is very tragic, inspiring and dramatic, so I have been filming in Syria, Lebanon, NYC, and others have filmed for me in the Galilee to recreate the past 55 years of his life. The film is a combination of poetry and documentary, with lots of video art montage sequences. The film aims to shed light on the reasons we failed to liberate Palestine, the sacrifices people have made because of their dedication and belief in an ideological movement that inspired thousands in the 60’s to leave their careers and family, and join the revolution. It is also a family portrait with some emotional moments between my aging father and I. The other fiction film I am in development on is a script, currently in its second draft, that tackles interfaith love stories between Palestinian refugees, set in NYC, Beirut and Amman. It deals with the growing sexism in the region, and how our society often destroys the personal lives of people here, by intruding on our freedoms to choose our faith, our careers and most importantly, who we are allowed or not allowed to love. The 2006 war of Israel on Lebanon serves as the backdrop, and the film also is a commentary on how war in this region affects the simple daily lives of non-military people.

AS A FILMMAKER/CREATIVE INDEPENDENT PURSUING EVERYTHING FROM RESOURCES TO FUNDING YOURSELF, DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THERE IS A STRONG DIY CULTURE GROWING IN THE UAE AND WHAT WOULD MAKE IT A MORE CONDUCIVE PLACE FOR CREATIVES AND ART TO FLOURISH? It is very difficult to cast general opinions on what any region or country needs. The demands and conditions probably vary for many filmmakers in the UAE. I know some directors who wont get out of bed in the morning for less than a few thousand dollars of pay per day. I know others who are so impassioned that they literally live as frugally as possible to be able to make films on the side, taking their own cameras out and editing by themselves, begging, borrowing and stealing anything and everything they can from friends and family. I don’t particularly think there is a DIY culture here, because people are used to waiting around for someone to fund, someone to encourage, or permits, or feedback, or they get discouraged when they feel that most crew members would need to be paid high rates to get decent image/sound...its not easy. I do believe a small minority is starting to take matters into their own hands. A few serious festivals have also begun to radically change the industry here, and I think we will see many more films flourishing in the future. What remains to be seen is if there is going to be a stricter judgment on quality versus quantity. Yes, it’s fine to say we are showcasing 25 shorts made locally in the UAE in any given festival, but what

does it really matter if most of them don’t have much to say or aren’t well made or don’t really speak to the multicultural audience? I am heartened I have to admit by the amount of Arab filmmakers who are flocking to DIFF, the Gulf film festival and Abu Dhabi film festival, to either garner support for feature length Arab stories, or to actually screen films they have already made. What for me, personally in terms of my own work, remains the biggest obstacle is censorship. No one can convince me that real art/expression/activism/development and intellectual progress can happen in any region that shackles the minds and lips of its storytellers, whether poets, writers, musicians, filmmakers or painters.

IN A WORLD OF UTTER ECONOMICAL DISMAY AND POLITICAL POWER PLAY, WHAT MAKES FILM IMPORTANT? Same as what makes any art form important. A record of collective consciousness, an escape from a mundane reality we all inhabit, a whirling trip through virtual worlds that have been created by brains trying to impress new thoughts on the world, a desire to connect with a variety of other people who may feel and fear the same things. To criticize what we see is wrong, to applaud what we feel is good, to highlight what we want in our futures, to leave behind a legacy of stories for our children who may not be as safe as we imagine ourselves to be right enjoy ourselves, to laugh, to cry, to shudder in horror, to bear witness and realign our consciousness with other truths, to open our minds to possibilities beyond the limited horizon of our selves. I have to admit that in the despair I sense around me in the world, I tend to seek poetry and books and music for relief and respite and inner calmness. But I know many many whose chosen form of immersion in art is film. And it’s a beautiful thing.

TOP 5 FILMS THAT’VE HAD A DEEP IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY? - ‘Hair’ by Milos Forman, which I saw when I was about 13 years old and it forever changed the way I saw personal expression (Oh the clothes!!), the Vietnam war, the concept of free spiritual love, and that lovely music! - ‘Breaking the Waves’ by Lars Von Trier, which I saw when I was 19 for its humanity, pain, realistic acting and cinematography and for making me cry for hours on end. - ‘Requiem for a Dream’ by Darren Arronofksy, which I saw when I was 22, for making me realize how smart I was to not take drugs! For showing me new ways of using cameras and editing, for the powerful soundtrack and an amazing brave performance by Ellen Burstyn. - ‘The Time that Remains’ by Elia Suleiman, for reminding me of the beauty of my green eyed family from Nazareth, and how we can still have strength, humility, and comedy under occupation. - ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ by John Cameron Mitchell for the colourful glittery manic combination of animation, music, documentary, fiction and for the realization that one person with a belief in one project can use a variety of skills to make that particular dream project happen.




MRINAL B. Combining a kitchen-sink brew of classical shot-taking, in-camera tinkering, and old-school smoke and mirrors, independent filmmaker, Mrinal B, is leading the short format back to its days of glory. Based in Mumbai, Mrinal’s love affair with film began at an early age rendering him a regular at the National Film Archives of India, watching films and filling the creative well. From advertising to long stints in television to working with numerous musicians to creating teasingly diverse music videos, Mrinal is today, the Creative Director of Clockwork Studio, India - an emerging multidisciplinary creative agency. With a penchant for the vintage and a flair for the classical, Director & Editor of ‘Champion of Broken Hearts’, the latest music video by renowned local singer/ songwriter Gayathri, Mrinal deconstructs the the process of independent filmmaking, the science of Indian cinema and the freedom of storytelling.

COBH started with a phone call. Gayathri told me that she is coming down to Mumbai to discuss the video with me and look at shooting locations. But obviously doing a music video wasn’t going to be so easy. COBH took longer than most projects take but I believe that worked to our advantage. Gayathri was closely involved through the entire process, especially the ideation. That made it a bigger challenge since usually the artist explains what he/she has in mind and then I come up with the idea. But in this case, Gayathri had a clear idea: a street dance procession featuring her as the champion of broken hearts and every bit of her surrounding hailing her spirit. However, an outdoor shoot full of people in an urban set up would obviously cost more than we were ready to spend. We had a limited budget but, like I said, we had time. So alternatively, Gayathri & I came up with a whole lot of ideas to adapt the original one. We used to have hours and hours worth of discussions, watch videos, explore techniques, discuss story lines etc. but never found something that clicked. One funny thing I remember is that Gayathri and I were totally convinced of doing a courtroom scene musical (quite like Bjork, Dancer in The dark, courtroom scene) and were going to look at locations for it the next day. But we both woke up to realize that the idea is a ‘repeat’ and will not be received well. So we went back to the drawing board. From a World War II set up in a run down Mumbai mill where Gayathri to a Railway station art directed to suit a 1920’s European train station where Gayathri would play a lover in transit with “baggage,” we discussed anything that would fit the word Vintage, because that was the only thing we knew we wanted for sure. Most the ideas turned out to be out of our budget, since recreating a certain era or period is never easy and money make all the difference. So we finally agreed on one thing. I contacted all the art directors I knew and my DOP did as well. I visited all their dusty warehouses and looked for anything that we could use for a retro set up. I didn’t find much but I did find an old clock, a telephone booth and few random things. We knew that one set will not be enough for the grandeur that COBH required. So with whatever I had in hand, I was still short of the second look. Thankfully I had budgeted for 2 days of shoot and I told everyone to focus on the first look and not worry. We were lighting up for the first look (the one with which the video opens with) and then somehow we got an idea. We could use bulbs and put them in a black staircase, form an arch of light much like an old-school broadway performance. We decided not to define the space and even allowed to use film lights etc to be in frame and be part of the set up. We had dancers rehearse with Gayathri and voila we were ready for action. THE SHOOTING PROCESS: The shooting process was fairly simple. I let the choreographer take over the floor to get his rehearsals in and then discussed the lighting & shots with the DOP. We kept the shot-taking to the classical style of film making. We would shoot the master wide shot without too many camera movements etc and then move into shooting Close-Ups shots of Gayathri’s lip synch sections. My focus was on Gayathri since its her song all the way. We took Top angle options etc and spent more time on breaking down the interlude. We tried to make use of as much time as we had in 2 days to shoot 2 set ups while the art director pulled out a rabbit overnight to make sure the 2nd look was ready for day 2 of the shoot. Even before the shoot had started I had discussed with the DOP about the monochromatic look I wanted, so as to represent the era we were attempting to achieve. I don’t think anyone can deny the video looks vintage. (At least I’d In fact if I had put film dust & scratches on it (during post production), and muted all the colors, I’m sure most people would have believed it was an authentic vintage video. At least I’d like to believe so. Anyhow, most of our props were made out of dark wood, the flooring was B&W and the dancers including Gayathri wore B&W to keep the final look I had in mind. The only thing I wanted to stand out was Gayathri’s skin tone & few red elements she was wearing or those in the set.  THE EDITING PROCESS: The edit didn’t really take long since the choreography had set out




a sequence and the shots were simple. When the shoot is the storyboard, edit is a quickie. Of course Gayathri wanted few changes but they were mostly to do with switching magnifications even though there were a few change of shots. The colours of the video was something I wanted to get right. So I made a few options and we finally picked the one where the dancers are more saturated than the surroundings. 

THE STORY-TELLING ASPECT OF THE VIDEO CAN BE LIKENED TO THAT OF 1950S MUSICAL FILM ‘IT’S ALL FAIR WEATHER’ . HOW IMPORTANT WAS THE CHOREOGRAPHY TO THE VIDEO? Gene Kelly was very much a part of the making of this video. In fact there were 6 of them in the make up room and they later showed up on the shooting floor in front of the camera before I called Action. The choreography was by itself the story and the dancers represented the string of lovers any person goes through before he / she becomes the Champion of Broken Hearts. Therefore choreography in COBH was indeed the most important part of the video. To give you a hypothetical example, we could take the dancers and dress them up as warriors in a World War II set up and the dance moves would change but the fact that dancers would be there along with Gayathri would always be a constant in any setting. This is one thing Gayathri & I were very clear about even before we started discussing ideas. It was going to be about the choreography.

IN TERMS OF MAKING THIS VIDEO, BEING A COLLABORATIVE PROCESS, WAS IT DIFFICULT TO CARRY OUT SOMEONE ELSE’S VISION OR IDEA? It is never easy to collaborate. Initially I had to curtail Gayathri’s wild imagination since she was not familiar with the massive cost restrains of film-making. It is the most expensive art form after all, I told her. But I did want to give life to Gayathri’s vision for the video and we finally agreed on doing something that suited the budget. Of course, there were other artists carrying out our vision too. The choreographer and the art director and a crew of over 100 people making one video. Even the light-man perched on the lighting rig was carrying out our vision without knowing it. He had the key light in his control. (Watch the video on

WHAT IS CLOCKWORK STUDIO AND WHAT MEDIUMS DO YOU WORK IN? Clockwork Studio is an emerging Audio-Visual creative house & agency based in Mumbai, that intends to work with people from all around the world in all sorts of mediums. Right now we are focussing on 2 things: First is TV and Second is the World Wide Web. That pretty much puts everything in our purview except for Cinema and offline media. But we intend to get there too. We are planning to collaborate with people from a cross section of disciplines from around the world via the Clockwork Collective. Any independent artist focussing on one or many audio-visual disciplines can join the Collective and through our agency we will promise to promote their work forth in the Indian market.

AS AN INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER IN INDIA, WHICH HAS A PROLIFIC FILM INDUSTRY, HOW DOES ONE MAKE HEADWAY? WHAT ARE THE VARIOUS AVENUES FILMMAKERS CAN EXPLORE? In Bollywood, one either makes it BIG or makes it BIG. The Indian audience cant see anything small and simple on the Big screen. They feel cheated. They just wont adjust themselves to the fact that they saw a story about a couple of kids from the slums who got into trouble. ‘City of God’ will not be a hit in India. ‘Slumdog’ sales in India weren’t very impressive even after the Oscar glory. A movie like LSD was too avant-garde even though it broke even, because the director (Dibakar Bannerjee) was smart about how much money he spent. And therefore off-beat filmmakers in the country like Dibakar Bannerjee or Anurag Kashyap (besides a few others) are the only nu age directors who dare to make cinema with unknown actors but they too have some big supporting castes.  So to make headway for an independent film maker in India is straight. Make cinema. Tell a story, a narrative with a strong plot played by good actors. Go the “Be Kind Rewind” way if you don’t have money and are just starting out. Thanks to digital technology everyone can use a camera & edit at home. Thats all you need. Trust me no one will look at bad lighting or bad camera work if you have a good story to tell. So make a thriller, romance, zombie film or whatever you like, give it a cool title and show it to as many people, screen it in as many festivals as possible, run it on your own channel on youtube and you already are a film-maker who has an audience. I know of a 12 year old kid who has his own youtube channel and shoots 5 minute stories recreating random incidents that take place around him. You never know when u get a hit.

5 FILMS THAT HAVE MOVED OR INFLUENCED YOU DEEPLY AND WHY. I wish there were 10 instead but here are my 5 top films in no particular order:  - City of God: Very strong characters and gritty real imagery. Also a narrative that goes back and forth. The film maker has very cleverly put a photographer as the narrator in very testing situations.     - Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind: Michel Gondry resolves the biggest worry of any director. How do I end my film?  This movie is on a loop, you can start it from anywhere and it will make sense. Also, Jim Carrey outshines Jim Carrey. - The Shawshank Redemption: It has the ultimate hide and reveal; no one knows what lies beneath the Rita Hayworth poster. The most amazing narrative voice over by Morgan Freeman with a plot that unravels brilliantly and at heart is a great film about hope. - The Taxi Driver: I fell in love with this film when I moved to Bombay in 2002. It echoed a lot of my own state of mind and I used to play it almost everyday back then. Martin Scorsese remains my favorite filmmaker.   - Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron: This movie to me is an iconic cult classic and even though it was a rip off of the French film “Blow Up” it really took that story and made it a thousand times better and more meaningful. Also it represents the golden age of Indian new wave cinema.  To take a look at Mrinal’s dossier of work or get in touch with him:


Photography & Art Direction: Saty + Pratha Make-up Artist: Debbie Finnegan for MAC Styling: Rickardo Mattocks-Maxwell Hairstylist: Haruhide Ishizaki Styling Assistant: Alishia Dickenson Hairstyling Assistant: Saori Sugimoto Model: Lina Alminas, Profile Model Management Casting: Bayo Furlong, The Eye Casting


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Paintpot in Groundwork Cream Colour Base in Mid Toned Sepia Pigment Eyeshadow in Pure White Studio Sculpt Foundation Invisible Powder Lip Erase in Pale


Necklace-stylistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own Eyes: MAC MAC MAC Skin: MAC MAC Lips: MAC


Cream Colour Base in Luna Iridescent Powder in Silver Dusk Pigment Eyeshadow in Vanilla Full Coverage Foundation Mineralize Skinfinish Porcelain Pink Lipstick in Jubilee

Necklace-Vintage Eyes and Skin: MAC Full Coverage Foundation MAC Porcelain Powder MAC Iridescent Powder in Silver Dusk MAC Blusher in Strada Clear Brow Set Lips: MAC Chromaline in Basic Red and Marine Ultra A selection of Swarovski crystals beads


Dress-Aqua China bead bracelet- Susie Trinh China cup- Wedgwood Eyes: MAC Chromagraphic Pencil Brows: MAC Chromacakes in Black Black, Marine Ultra and Landscape Green Skin: MAC Full Coverage Foundation MAC Studio Finish Concealer MAC Invisible Powder MAC Cream Colour Base in Luna Lips: MAC Lipstick in Viva Glam 2


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ZHOSTOVO Photography & Art Direction: Saty + Pratha Styling: Russell Philip Peek Make-up & Hairstyling: Jun Sato Model: Kamille H., IMG


Top â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Mother of Pearl featuring print from Jim Lambie


Jacket â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Vintage from Absolute vintage


Vest – Stylist’s own Legging – Russell Philip Peek


Jacket â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Vintage from Absolute vintage


Coatâ&#x20AC;&#x201C; Mother of Pearl


Vest – Stylist’s own


Top â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Mother of Pearl featuring print from Jim Lambie


Coat– Mother of Pearl

Jacket– H&M



Tell us about your latest collection, and the inspiration behind it.

So what is Phioro all about that you want people to understand?

The latest collection is the Water Lily collection, it’s got silver and 18k gold, I’ve incorporated diamonds into it and the concept is Japanese Zen Garden. I just wanted to get the idea of serenity and peace because they’re very sensual pieces, and very soft pieces so I wanted to incorporate that sense of real calmness.

Phioro is kind of taking a bit of a twist because it started out as just branding and having it’s ranges, which are of course really important to me, but what I really realised that I love doing is commissions, which is creating a personal piece, and a sentimental value around that piece, developing the story and the narrative around that person that we’re designing it for. So I’ve really started to put much more emphasis on this and the fruition that’s coming from it has been fantastic because people really connect with this and they don’t know where else they can get it as well, so it’s our unique selling point.

When we caught up, nearly a year and a half ago, you were about to launch your first collection in Dubai. How has it been? What are some of the notable moments of the past year? Wow! Well first of all it was my first engagement ring commission – that was a really big deal for me. And then we had New York Fashion Week in September that was really exciting, and obviously a lot of networking as well there, so there’s definitely potential in the future. And then we had the Abu Dhabi Film Festival where we met various celebrities – Lily Cole, Boshra, and many more. We had the Okku event, which was a great success as well, great turn out and some good sales as well and commissions coming from that. And the last thing was Dubai Jewellery Week which was also good sales, great contacts, building up the mailing list, we really feel like we’re growing, and people are starting to understand what Phioro is all about.


Over the past year, do you feel like your style has developed or changed? Is there anything technically that you’ve started doing differently? Yes, basically we started with the more “bling” range I suppose and it was aimed at the fashion market, someone who wanted to be a little bit different, a little bit striking, very bold pieces. And that’s aimed at the Arabic market as well, but also open to European. Then we developed a little bit further into going a bit closer to my roots, and being a bit more sensual and delicate, and much more European. And actually the newest range, a lot of people have been commenting that people from Belgium and Sweden and those

kind of European countries would really appeal to. So we might be looking into putting it into galleries and boutiques over there. And reducing on the coloured stones, just because of where my market is at the moment, but that’s not to say that I won’t be going back to the brightly coloured stones because I absolutely love them. What are some of your favourite precious stones to work with? My absolute favourite stone, I haven’t worked with it yet, but I absolutely love Tanzanite. The colour is just so deep, it’s like a deep blue purple, and I’m a little bit scared to work with it because it’s actually a very soft material so you don’t want to break it. But I think the end result is absolutely fantastic. Since launching Phioro, what has been your most proud moment over the past year, where you really felt like you’ve accomplished something great? It’s every time that I deliver a commission, the person on the other end who receives that commission, their happiness really gives me that boost. And it keeps reassuring me that I’m doing the right thing. So it’s the customers’ reactions actually that are my proudest moments. The most recent one was when I did a commission for a girl who recently lost her dad, and she wanted to get something for her mum, and her mum used to go for walks on the beach with her dad and collect shells, so we created a shell pendant for her, and the mum just absolutely loved it and Tanya herself was in love with the piece as well. So that had such sentimental value to it, which was really meaningful to me. What are your favourite pieces, that you just have to keep for yourself? There are two, I have the Acari pendant, which never fails to get attention and everyone comments on it and says how beautiful it is. And then there’s the Venus pendant, which is part of my wardrobe basically – I’m not giving it away! Who or what do you look to for inspiration? What are the key elements that inspire your collection directly and indirectly? I actually look everywhere, if there’s something is tweaking my interest I’ll go research that in absolute depth, so I’ll look to the culture, the symbolism, the history behind it, all the images I can possibly gather along those lines, and they actually trigger more

inspiration as well, so there might be things that connect. I’ll get all that research together, then I’ll look at current jewellery and old fashioned jewellery because I think you can learn a lot from history – because what I’m aiming to great is timeless beauties, that don’t have to be of this time. Then I’ll develop one piece to start with, and the range develops from that piece. As an artist, you get inspiration from everywhere you go, and there will be things like interior design magazines or product design or anything like that, which will trigger ideas as well. And also elements of other peoples’ jewellery, I’m always looking at other people’s jewellery to get ideas and I wont copy it of course, but there will be one element in that piece which could come through in my collections. Over the past year, as you’ve really established yourself as a jewellery designer in Dubai, is there any advice you’d pass on, anything you’ve learned over the past year, or anything you wish you knew starting off? So many! I have had a complete learning curve, and I’m sure it’ll carry on. I’ve learned so much about graphic design, media, advertising, just so many things. What I really needed to know before I started is the importance of networking. Networking has been the absolute key to everything. And now I’m starting to hone how to use that to the absolute maximum. Also working with a workshop, and learning to manage them has been a learning curve as well. What can we expect from you in the next year? There is going to be a sea life inspired collection, which will be more “bling” and on the fashion jewellery side of things again with those bright colours coming through. There are a few projects on the horizon including Arabian Tempest which has been on my mind for the past year, and I really want to push that one soon. And there’s another one which is all about textures. I’m really inspired by folding and fashion garments and things like that, so we’ll see where that goes. I’m also going to be expanding the line to add scarves with brooches, and possibly belts. Be sure to visit and clarepardoephioro. for more on Clare’s stunning collections.


adidas originals gazelle First released in 1968. 4 years before the establishment of the UAE. I wonder when the first Gazelles made it onto these shores. Some people just collect these and the AF1s, which come in some many different varieties and colourways, you could just wear a different pair every day until you’re dead.

vans california

They’ve just released a few pairs of loafing kicks, called the California. They’re nice, and they’re made of jean material. Vans should be bought on a monthly basis. I hope these ones come here.

converse all star slim

I don’t understand these. Why would you make the sole really slim? Did you know that the original blue or black line on the sole was there to tell you the depth of the water you’re standing in? Stick to OG, please.




CHICKPEAS We are a generation of “goldenage thinkers”. A bunch of hopeless nostalgics deeply romantic about everything retro, scouring creatively and culturally for things from an era bygone. So anyone readily offering us all that on an aged 50 year old silver platter is golden! Enter Chickpeas Vintage, created and run by the fashionable trio Maya, Amira, & Lara, bringing us vintage fashion, accessories and collectibles in a new-age format. We sat down for a little chit chat with one of the three Chickpeas, Maya Al Smadi, who gave us the lowdown on what it’s like to live modern and think vintage.





HOW DID CHICKPEAS COME ABOUT? It all started in early 2008 on one of our ‘during office hours’ group chats. It was the 3 of us, Amira, Lara and I, and we were talking about how great it would be to start something of our own, especially if we could introduce something new to the region. We knew we could do it and so we set out to find a concept that was both new and more importantly, something we were passionate about. The next day, the idea just hit us! Lara suggested that we bring in vintage clothing to the world of abundant commercial and ‘copy-paste’ fashion, and we’ve never looked back since! From then on, our main aim was figuring out how to introduce ‘vintage’ without having a physical store, apart from selling online. Coincidentally during that time the first ever Dubai flea market was about to be held on the 5th of April 2008, and we had decided to make our first appearance there. That experience taught us of the importance of being more accessible to people, which is when we thought of ‘guerilla stores’ and how great a mashup it would be of using a modern idea while selling vintage items. Now we hold pop-up shops every few months in different parts of Dubai selling everything vintage, and at the same time we sell online to the US and UK.

HOW CAN WE FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR POP-UP SALES? The easiest and simple way to find out is by ‘Liking’ our facebook page - search for chickpeasvintage to find us and of course on twitter @xoxochickpeas or you could check out our website for updates,

THINKING ABOUT OPENING A STORE ANYTIME SOON? We really wish we could have opened one when we first thought of the idea 3 years ago, but this idea was born into a family that has lots of love, passion, excitement, and no capital! Our ultimate goal is to get Chickpeas a more permanent home but we do actually enjoy setting up one or two day pop-up shops, it gives us a lot of room to experiment and get creative each time, plus we give the people a more interesting shopping experience.

WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR VINTAGE PIECES? Everywhere really! Every time we travel somewhere we make sure to visit the local vintage stores and grab things to add to our collection be it clothing items or antique cameras. In general our collection is mostly stalked from the vintage capitals of the world, Los Angeles, and London, other places would be Berlin, Tokyo, Paris, and some antiques from Jordan.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE VINTAGE PIECE IN YOUR PERSONAL COLLECTION? It would have to be our 1970’s antique Philips record player we bought from Jordan. We know its not a clothing item but it’s one of the vintage things we hold really dear to our hearts!



ATLANTA WELLER Quint talks to Atalanta Weller, the London-based shoe designer favoured by the city’s most influential stylists and smartest working girls.




FIRST THINGS FIRST, WHY AND HOW DID YOU COME TO BE A SHOE DESIGNER? I was studying sculpture at school and I was working on a pair of shoes, my tutor said to me ‘you know, there is a course that’s just shoes,’ and that’s how it started 13 years ago.

THAT’S INTERESTING, BECAUSE YOUR SHOES ARE VERY SCULPTURAL. ESPECIALLY THE CONCEPTUAL PIECES THAT ARE ALWAYS GETTING BOOKED FOR EDITORIALS! It’s definitely that. I didn’t think I’d end up in the fashion industry, for no other reason than it literally hadn’t crossed my mind! I was very much fine art and sculpture-based then, but this developed more in to design and 3D products so I m really happy now to be a small part of the fashion industry.

CAN YOU TELL US WHO YOU’VE WORKED WITH? Before setting out on my own I worked for Hugo Boss, John Richmond and Clarks – I wanted to learn as much as possible working with different kinds of companies within the industry. I’ve worked with Henry Holland (doing Atalanta Weller for House of Holland for five seasons), as well as Gareth Pugh, Sinha-Stanic, Craig Lawrence, Fannie Schiavoni, and most recently Maria Grachvogel.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK TO FOR INSPIRATION? WOULD ARCHITECTURE BE A GOOD GUESS? It definitely used to be, but I’d say less and less with the more recent collections. Now I’m trying to capture a … feeling, and designing to things that fit that. Sounds totally rubbish doesn’t it? (laughs) but it has been my process for the last while. I pretty much listen to one type of music throughout while working on a collection, and it’s been interesting trying to focus on a line, or feeling or movement. It’s made designing a collection a slightly prolonged but good experience this season (laughs).

TALK US THROUGH THE REST OF YOUR PROCESS, FROM START TO SHOWROOM? I started thinking about the February show season [Autumn Winter 2012] last August, that’s fairly typical. Process-wise, I start putting together all the ideas that I have into some sort of framework, then sketching and developing at the factory. Normally that part of it takes about 2.5 months – going through all the changes, testing materials – but this time I’m trying to work out all the ‘bits’ before in London, working on it continually and seeing what I like, which is much nicer for me (and the factory).

HOW DOES LONDON SEEP INTO YOUR WORK? It definitely informs my work, I wouldn’t say exclusively but it does have a massive impact on it, even down to the type of music that I listen to when working on a collection. The people I meet, the conversations that I have, the things I see … there’s a real kind of fight in the London fashion industry, a passion. It’s hard, but also really inspiring. When I first started doing shoes, I was meeting people at parties – that was the thing that linked all of us – Henry, Gareth, going out every night. That’s something that’s quite transient as well; it sort of depends on the time.

WHO IS THE ATALANTA WELLER WOMAN? Someone who is independent, strong, probably over 25 … and probably younger than 50. The kind of person who actually needs to be able to walk in her shoes (laughs) while looking sexy! A woman who looks confident and effortless (even though looking effortless actually takes a lot of effort!). I do a lot of wedges, and they really are comfortable, I believe that if you’re the type to wear a really high heel, then you should still be comfortable.

AND THE ATALANTA WELLER MAN? IS THERE A MENS COLLECTION TO LOOK FORWARD TO? It’s definitely my intention, something to look forward to in the future. For information on stockists, please visit








SO NUR, HOW DID YOU GET SCOUTED? I got scouted in Cologne, I was shopping with my friend and someone came running up to me and was like, ‘are you a model?!’ and I was like, ‘um no,’ (laughing). It was Ann Kathrin, and she is now my mother agent.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MORE MEMORABLE PLACES THAT YOU’VE BEEN TO FOR WORK? I went to Miami, and the agency and client were so nice and let me stay for an extra day so I could explore the city. I also like Nice, just traveling around Nice in the nice summer weather!

DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE CITY? London. Because it is so open-minded! You can look however you want and no-one stares at you. I love Paris, I lived there for half a year, but I don’t speak French so I can get a little lost there.

YOU’RE VERY WELL PUT TOGETHER, WHAT’S YOUR MOST TREASURED PIECE OF CLOTHING? I have so many clothes, it’s really embarrassing! But if I have to pick one, I would say a vintage black coat that belonged to my mother, she used to wear it when she was my age.

WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF DOING WHAT YOU DO? The best part is traveling. You always get to go to new places, nice hotels, and even when you don’t have a hotel and it’s somewhere strange it is exciting – also, getting to know new photographers, new people, new stylists.

WHAT’S THE WORST PART OF BEING A MODEL? You can’t really plan. Planning is … (laughs) you just can’t. You’re family thinks you are coming home – surprise party – and then “hey, I’m not coming home.” But all my friends and my family are used to it now, they don’t get upset with me because they know I love my job, but it can be kind of sad sometimes.

OK, CHEESY QUESTION, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP? Oh, since I was about 11, I always wanted to be a fashion designer, or in the industry. From very young, I was always dressing myself, wearing crazy clothes … always interested in fashion.

SO MODELING’S A GREAT WAY TO LEARN THE INS AND OUTS OF THE INDUSTRY, NO? HAVE YOU MET ANYONE THAT’S PARTICULARLY INSPIRING? Yes, I did a shoot with Jean Paul Gauthier, he’s very inspiring! When I was introduced to him, he said I reminded him of Sade, and he loves Sade. So then, he changed the whole look and styled me into Sade, it was a lot of fun. I also really like Christian Lemaire.

ANY OTHER HIDDEN TALENTS OR THINGS WE SHOULD KNOW? I played violin for 10 years, now it’s like a hobby for me, because I can’t take my violin with me on flights. But I miss playing, I was in an orchestra and I was First Violin and always had to signal the start for everybody … but when I’m at home, I play! Also, reading – when I’m at the airport I always have to pay for extra weight because I’ve got at least 5 heavy books with me, I love to read.

WHY DON’T YOU GET AN E-BOOK READER? Oh, no way! It’s not the same! I love to feel the weight of a book … and opening it and the fresh smell of the pages! Ok, I’ll probably have to get one (laughs) because I can’t keep paying the airport fines!

LAST QUESTION, WHAT’S SOMETHING THAT WE DEFINITELY SHOULDN’T MISS IF WE VISIT YOUR HOMETOWN – COLOGNE? You must go to Altstadt, which means ‘Old Town’ – it is right near the Rhine River and it is so beautiful. It’s really different than the other parts of Cologne. Special thanks to Ashley Garrod, VIVA London.


Photo: Alexander Matukhno

Iceland Airwaves 2011 by Mohamed El Amin

Photos by Mohamed El Amin, Alexander Matukhno, Ari Magg, Dan Partovi I love Iceland. Never been there before now, but I love every square meter of it. You love it too. Because, let’s be realistic here: What’s not to love? The country simply oozes with a sultry mythical allure that other nations can’t possibly measure up to. The history. The Nordic mythology. The staggeringly “stop-in-your-steps-I-think-I-havefallen-in-love” beautiful inhabitants. The immaculate scenery. It’s a nation whose remoteness is only matched by its beauty. And every year, for the past 13 years, Iceland opens up for a slew of rabid foreign music and Iceland fans who come and grace its capital Reykjavik to attend it’s home grown music festival: Iceland Airwaves. Describing how much I’ve longed to visit Iceland is pointless. It has been a niggling urge since I first listened to Biosphere’s “Substrata” (who, while Norwegian, managed to encapsulate the majesty of Iceland far more than anyone I know). Then discovering Bjork and later having my senses forever altered by Sigur Ros. Visiting Iceland during airwaves would give me excellent opportunity to try and figure out what made a tiny nation of 320,000 able to export such jaw dropping and diverse musical beauty. As luck may have it, this year was the year I was finally able to fulfill my wish. Airwaves this year hosted a line up with more than 200 bands scattered throughout the city, the furthest venues at a 10-minute walk apart. Incorporating the entire city, the venues where everything from local pubs to the art museum, a total of 12 venues, with even more locations in the city turning into off-venue locations, a warm up from the early morning leading towards the later evening (7pm) official start of the festival events. 200+ bands. Yeah, trying to do a full on run down is sheer madness, so I’ll just list my top 10 moments of the festival for your sake, and so I’m not labeled as a tree murderer. 122

9. The Chill/Hangover Party @ The Blue Lagoon:

10. Cheek Mountain Thief @


Saturday the 15th

The only viable treatment to liver poisoning that I can endorse. Flocking with thousands of equally smashed fest-goers, we were transported to The Blue Lagoon, an hour journey from the capital to spend several hours of the only sunny day (yes!) of the week inside a geothermal spa. If you go to Iceland, and do not go to this, you are certified mad. As indispensable as the festival itself and guided by the music of DJ Margeir, Humanwoman, and a surprise appearance by Daniel Ágúst of GusGus, festival goers were kept dancing and cheering for over 5 hours amidst warm water, sunny skies, and beautiful people partaking in delightful pool shenanigans.

Friday the 14th

A true story of love of Iceland: front man Mike Lindsay came to Iceland in 2010 to perform with his band Tunng, fell in love with the country (and in love with one of its natives), and decided to leave the UK and move to Husavik to start a folk band whose name is based on a series of mountains in the area. The music was what you would expect from a background as varied as this: beautiful, organic, and all about cherishing the moment. The band’s music was oozing with sincerity and happiness, blending folk and slight tones of jazz at times. Instantly connected with the audience. We have here the future Fleet Foxes, folks. Photo: Mohamed El Amin

8. Samuel J. Samuelsson Big Band @ Reykjavik Art Museum: Saturday the 15th

Icelanders are musical sponges. Case in point: an Icelandic afro-beat outfit consisting of 12 members. Big Band is clearly no sales gimmick. A plethora of horns beamed with some of the finest funk that I’ve ever had the chance to hear, in a set that simply evolved with the involvement of multiple keyboardists and guitarists blasting melodies that were on caliber with the great African funk overlord Fela Kuti. The 15th of October was, as well, Fela Kuti’s birthday, and Sigtryggur Baldursson (front man and original drummer of the Sugarcubes) paused to reflect on the man’s legacy. How apt.

Photo: Mohamed El Amin


7. Samaris @ NASA: Friday the 14th

Arriving to the front row of NASA is a feat that is so rare it quite rightly calls for a toast and instant bragging rights. Ask the lines of people who stood outside in the chilling rain. Bless press passes, that’s all I’m saying. But I digress; Samaris was formed by a trio of teenagers who won the Icelandic Music Experiments in 2011 (fun fact: they only decided their name moments before going on stage). Samaris was instantly compared to a plethora of current dub meets electro luminaries, the most instant one being Fever Ray (guilty as charged), but as their set developed, you instantly realize this group of teenagers using a laptop, vocals, and clarinet is hardly second fiddle. The music blended to nigh orchestral perfection, equal parts doom and beauty propelling you to elysian fields. These guys will explode into the music world, and you can grab early indie points by checking them out early.

Photo: Mohamed El Amin

6. Gus Gus @ Reykjavik Art Museum: Saturday the 15th

To call Gus Gus “legendary”, would be considered an insult. Gus Gus has evolved to become a musical and artistic force that is on par with Bjork and Sigur Ros. Having released one of this year’s finest records in the form of “Arabian Horse”, predictably, the venue was full to the brim. For the unfamiliar, they create a blend of electro/ dance music that is infectious and devastatingly enchanting. Throughout an hour plus set, every song evolved into a behemoth of force over some of the most entrancing tribal rhythms this side of the hemisphere. We were all submerged underneath a wave of music that ebbed and flowed with every beat, causing the entire crowd to be driven into a rabid frenzy. Photo: Dan P.

5. Hasuckha @ Frikirkjan: Thursday the 13th

Photo: Mohamed El Amin


An Icelandic church couldn’t have possibly been a more suitable location for an avant-garde piano recital. One of my favorite neo classical composers, Hauschka (alias of Dusseldorf-based Volker Bertelmann) creates a unique playing field for himself dubbed “the pre-prepared piano”, i.e. sticking as many foreign objects inside the piano and using the augmentation to create compositions. Surrounded by looping tapes, forks, and ping pongs (yes, ping pongs, in a piano. It was as fantastic as it was surreal), Hauschka reconfigured a simple piano into a complete orchestra, fashioning a rhythm and string section from items that no one would possibly consider as instruments, let alone add-ons to a piano. He created an otherworldly atmosphere of sound unlike anything you’ve ever imagined. His talent as a writer is only matched by his undeniable engineering fortitude.

4. tUnE-yArDs @ NASA : Friday the 14th

Merrill asked as two simple questions, to a crowd that literary was packed like sardines in a tin can: “Has anyone here seen us before?” Reaction: silence. “Is this anyone’s first time seeing us?” Reaction: deafening roars and cheers. So much can be said about Merrill’s spirit and music before you realize that it is utterly pointless; you had to be there. Her resonating, booming voice looping neverendingly as it’s paired with rhythmic coke bottle smacking is truly a wonder to behold. Paired with 2 sax players (who doubled percussion duties utilizing trashcan lids), every member of the audience was tossed into a fit of utter euphoria simply doubled by Merrill’s sheer unhidden joy of being around a crowd that was so ecstatic to hear her perform. And she responded by delivering a set full of crowd pleasers from “Gangsta” to “Bizness”. tUnE-yArDs is a wonder to behold, all catchy music formed by peculiar instrumentation delivered by a resoundingly phenomenal front lady.. but it’s also one of the best live shows out there.

3. Bjork @ Harpa: Wednesday the 12th

Photo: Mohamed El Amin

Housed in the imposing Harpa theatre, a magnificent glass architecture at the city bay, the official opening concert of the 2011 edition was homegrown native Bjork. Capacity? A max of 700 surrounding a central stage, all mere steps away from Bjork’s coming performance. Incorporating an array of specially created instruments (from the tesla coil percussion bolts to the gravity playing pendulum harp and hang), Bjork ushered a visual and audio experience that incorporated us into her music. Projections on 10 large screens played a pivotal role in dissecting the songs and the world revolved around and in Biophilia, all organic and showcasing life and death as one, from the starfish using the carcass of a sea lion as a new home in “Hidden Place”, to the mushrooms rising during “Isobel”. Throughout the performance, Bjork utilized the Icelandic choir, a group of 15 or more young women who joined her in almost every song. It was truly what every live show seeks to achieve. Many who have heard the record stated it didn’t feel as emotionally potent as her previous work, but honestly, you must see the multimedia show to completely appreciate the songs. Bjork is without a doubt one of the most unique and forward thinking musicians to ever grace humanity. Biophilia is project of passion and countless years spent to orchestrate every element of her vision. Under any other musician this would’ve been a colossal endeavor that could’ve proved familiar, but under Bjork’s guiding hands, it’s an all-encapsulating representation of the links between humanity, nature, and technology.

Photo: Ari Magg


1. Rich Aucoin The Afterparty @ tiniest living room in the universe: Monday the 17th

2. Secret Chiefs 3 @ IDNO: Thursday the 13th Oh. My. God. This was a show for the ages. Secret Chiefs 3 is a band whose musical vision is as diverse as its members, including Trey Spruance (Mr. Bungle, Faith No More, Estradasphere), Ches Smith (Xiu Xiu, Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog), Shahzad Ismaili (who also plays with Graham Haynes, Laurie Anderson, and Tom Waits), Timb Harris (Estradasphere) amongst many others. The band specializes in a hybrid of genres yet to exist. I’m not trying to joke about this. These guys redefine and invent genres with every single

song. There was a point where they blended an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western theme with a Middle Eastern melody intertwined with power metal. That sentence should in any other circumstance make you shake your head from how utterly absurd it is, but I am not joking, this worked. It didn’t just work – it rapidly expanded like a newborn universe and devoured everything about it. An extravagant genre-bending amalgamation, there aren’t many ways to describe them other than “experimental” and “avant-garde”, a band that continues to push the bounders of music. SC3 have become renowned for their elaborate compositions and powerful and urgent live shows, and it’s entirely warranted. Photo: Mohamed El Amin

The last gig of the festival, a sea of pouty faces far as the eye can see, was transformed into a manic dance party. Rich Aucoin is possibly as happy go lucky an indie/electro band can possibly get, and we all loved them to death for it. I haven’t seen a front man so hyperactive and feeding off the energy of the crowd (and involving them) since Flaming Lips. Surfing on a surfboard? Check, parachute turned trampoline? Check, confetti guns? Check. Dancing in the middle of the crowd as we sang the lyrics of their songs (after a brief tutorial by the band themselves?) Check. Rich Aucoin is band that you will hear again and again, and their shows will certainly become legendary. Expect them in a festival near you in the immediate future Following the end of the show, we all flocked to gather ourselves and decide our next course of action, which was the best darn sandwich in the universe (Pepperoni boat. I miss you L). Trying to focus our attentions now that we were fed and attempting to keep a grand night going, we started gathering random folk to join us in several photos, then what followed was a pole dancing routine by yours truly on an unarmed streetlight. (Sorry, streetlight). As the jokes started sparking, we suddenly heard a noise coming from NASA, and we dashed to investigate it only to find that it was the Rich Aucoin crew exiting the venue. As we stood on both sides of the road suddenly silent, we instantly started a dance off to the collective singing of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”. Because that’s the kind of thing you do @ 3am in the freezing streets of Reykjavik. Before we know it, we were marched towards a tiny apartment turned gig venue turned house party. Flocking up the stairs to the living room, half the local bands were to be found sharing drinks and reveling in the music (which came from a laptop, which streamed youtube videos). Even when the neighbors complained of the noise, our host stopped the music and informed us that he had invited the neighbors to dance with. That little party summed up everything phenomenal regarding Iceland. Welcoming natives, appreciative guests, adoring foreigners, and an oddball collective united by a passion for music that is only matched by a love for Iceland. Even after the police came to settle us down, we all parted a gigantic continent spiraling family.

Photo: Dan P.


Photo: Alexander Matukhno

final thoughts Constant travels to city-based festivals always endorsed my belief that overblown, gazillion musician line-ups, gigantic “lets-bring-a-tent” festivals are scum of the earth. Airwaves simple reinforced that belief and placed the final nail in that coffin. There is something so rare and unique to Iceland Airwaves. The setting, the bands, the format – I can’t put my finger on it. It’s a combination of all the above, but there is distinct aura of sheer magic that ties it all together to a resoundingly appetizing degree. There is something simply divine about the fact that every spot in a city (hostels, pubs, restaurants, bookstores, basements, apartments, you name it) can turn into an impromptu gig venue. There was a moment were we went into a diner, and

as we motioned towards a table, the waiter politely told us we can’t use it, as that section would turn into a gig venue. What did he do? He removed the legs of the table and that was the stage. Name a place in Dubai that this could possibly happen in, and I’ll give you all my worldly possessions. It’s not even the ease of transformation, but the uniting artistic spirit shared by everyone. There is something also mindboggling about the residents of a city where almost all are involved in art and music, with some participating in more than 11 gigs split between 6 bands. In the rest of the world, that is an act of perplexing insanity. In Reykjavik, it’s simply another day. But the reality of it all is, that music festivals are merely as good as the community partaking in it. And in that case again, Airwaves achieves perfection. From meeting online music buddies who I’ve only

spoken to on the festival’s website (Emmett!Leana!Alex!), to bumping into fellow festival-goers in the plane (Simone!), to being in awe of the speculator sonic onslaught (Stephanie! Ash! Julies!), to utter mayhem in the greatest after party the world has ever seen (Jed!Courtney!Tara!Elly!). I’ll be completely honest, if I even began pondering putting a shout out to all the magnificent individuals I’ve met during the festival, I’d have to split this article over several issues. Chance encounters turned into solid friendships based on passion of music and electric boogaloo. It’s everything I live for. Iceland Airwaves is flat out perfection. I’m still suffering from the blues having left Reykjavik and Airwaves. No cure is in sight until Airwaves 2012 rolls through next Halloween. Odin willing, I’ll be there again. And this time, I’ll man up and try the Hakarl. Takk, Airwaves.



REPORTING FROM THE ICELAND AIRWAVES, DAN PARTOVI TAKES A DEEPER LOOK AT HOW CREATIVITY CAN BE THE BINDING FORCE BETWEEN CULTURES AS DIFFERENT AS NIGHT AND DAY. On first impressions it is hard to think of two countries less similar than the UAE and Iceland. What could this sunbaked corner of the desert have in common with a place where the average annual temperature is 5 C and it is dark for 20 hours a day in winter? Having spent some time in Reykjavik, I discovered that the parallels lie in both places having small but vibrant and inclusive creative scenes which encourage participation by all. The first time I thought about this was at the first show I saw at Airwaves. Waiting for the changeover between bands, I got talking to an air traffic controller. I later found out that part time she heads a respected textile design collective. It quickly became apparent that most people I spoke to at concerts, art shows and parties had two jobs, the second invariably being as a musician or designer of some sort. The lead singer of Dikta, one of the most popular bands in Iceland, is by day a doctor who mans the emergency room in the city’s hospital. The editor of the local English language newspaper also plays bass in a cherished hard rock band. And so on. The other thing that soon became clear is that they all knew each other, and most of them were at the show. That led me to think of the parallels with the people I have met here in Dubai. The ad executives who moonlight as acclaimed artists, the journalists who produce disco house records getting played in basements in Brooklyn and Dalston and the surf instructors in hardcore bands. Both Iceland and the Emirates have small populations compared to the size of land they occupy. The vast majority of Iceland is an


otherworldly expanse of arctic tundra and volcanic rock. Either by desert or cold, the people here and there are squeezed into a few towns that become hospitable islands of people stranded in the middle of starkly beautiful but barren landscapes. When there are a relatively small number of people doing the same thing in a confined space, it’s easier to find each other and it’s easier to be supportive. In other places I have visited these communities of like-minded people can be more distant, out of reach to the accountants and civil servants of this world. As if the creative juices of the struggling musician or earnest urban artist would be tainted if touched by the hands of a worldly office worker. I like to see my experiences in both Reykjavik and Dubai as proving that the opposite is true. As someone with barely a creative bone in my body, I find it heartening to be able to see the overlap between the two worlds. I enjoy being able to see the accessibility of a creative scene that I can at least hope to lend my support to and not just passively enjoy the fruits of. In both Iceland and in the UAE, I’ve felt an openness to the music and art scenes that can only be a good thing for all involved. Whilst I’m not likely to be able to hold a tune any time soon, who knows what talents are sitting in the airport towers or operating theatres of this country. As might be expected from a land settled by Vikings, the Scandinavians have taken things up a notch. In Iceland it is not just the presence of those with day jobs lighting up the arts. Musicians have also infiltrated the highest levels of society. The shouty guy in the picture above is Einar Orn Benediksson. Einar

(as he seems to universally be known) was probably most well known for being in the Sugarcubes, alongside Bjork. He currently performs an abstract but brilliant mixture of abrasively experimental hip hop, electronic noise and trumpets in the group Ghostigital, collaborating with guests such as Damon Albarn, David Byrne and Mark E Smith. He is also Minister of Culture for Reykjavik and sits on the city council. This mixture of politics and music is no coincidence. Einar is a member of the Best Party, which was founded by Jon Gnarr in 2009. Gnarr is a self-described anarchist who was previously known as an acerbic comedian, actor and punk. He now finds himself as Mayor of Reykavik. Gnarr and Benediksson, along with a handful of notable Icelandic musicians, established the Best Party as a response to the aftermath of the financial crisis. The crisis hit Iceland hard, collapsing its banking system and leaving many alienated by the political establishment. Campaign promises of the Best Party included free towels at public swimming pools, a new polar bear for the zoo, and not to enter a political alliance with anyone who hadn’t seen all five seasons of the Wire. Suffice to say, they won. Politics aside, one real difference in the creative climates of the two countries is the sheer number of bands, musicians, and poets active and successful in Iceland. On the programme at Airwaves this year there were close to 170 locally-based acts playing over the course of five days.

That’s just a fraction of the pool of talented musicians that hail from a country of just 300,000 people (compared to 8 million and counting in the UAE). Of course, it is easy to point to the transient nature of the population here, to the demographic of migratory workers, the cultural differences, and bureaucratic idiosyncrasies – all good reasons to want to decry the possibility of a similar scene in Dubai. The exceptional concentration of musical creativity in Iceland is so well documented that it is almost a cliché. Judging by the speed of answers I was given when I asked the locals what they thought the reasons for it were, it is clear that this wasn’t a new topic for them either. What was surprising is that the responses sounded pleasingly familiar. A young, hard working group of people all packed into the same small place with energy to burn. A country still in its infancy and full of drive (Iceland only became a fully fledged republic in 1944). A musical and artistic community that supports each other, welcomes all comers, and does it for the love, not money. Sounds not a million miles from home. By building on these similarities, it strikes me that there is a lot to be inspired by from the cold, loud streets of Reykjavik, and much to be learned from the Icelandic experience. For my part, I certainly intend to carry on enjoying the unlikely parallels of both. Just so long as nobody offers me a microphone.


Animals as Leaders Weightless Album Review by Trevor Bundus Anthropocentrism.....what? Anthropocentrism. You know, the belief that humans are the most important and central beings in the universe. What? How does this relate to the new Animals as Leaders album Weightless? Well apparently this idea was the central antithesis behind the name Animals as Leaders. Tosin Abasi, the self taught guitar virtuoso was asked to create a solo album after his initial band break up, and has since created a masterpiece of epic proportions. I can certainly describe him as a modern-day Beethoven – except he isn’t deaf and he certainly isn’t German. Tosin even turned down an initial offer to create his own solo album because he believed he wasn’t technically proficient enough. After his formal musical training at the Atlanta Institute of Music, he decided he was finally good enough to give the whole solo album thing a shot. (Finally good enough..yeah I guess so!) I am not sure what they fed him at school, or if he just sat for hours practicing, but I would put Abasi up there as one of the best guitarists in the world. He certainly is an animal on the guitar. Not to mention his axe of choice is a monster 8 string guitar. Yes, 8 strings: 6 just doesn’t seem to do his ears enough justice. His initial self titled solo album, Animals as Leaders is absolutely incredible, but will the follow up outlive the debut? Through multi-layered finger tapping and an arpeggio buffet, the listener is transported through the Weightless galaxy and beyond. I can assure you that nothing as technical or progressive has been produced like this in a very long time. Weightless is equally as impressive yet much different than the initial self-titled debut. Weightless features a full band line-up inclusive of an additional fulltime 8 stringer, a bassist and drums, which were previously recorded and dubbed in the studio. The 3 string combo is nothing short of impressive and markedly different. New additions from other musicians from already famous bands like The Mars Volta and Suicidal Tendancies are present on Weightless and in most cases, to good effect. The album is almost like techno tracks mixed atop hard core heavy metal rhythms. As I turn up the dial to attempt to inhale Weightless, I find myself seeing a very electronic influenced album. I can’t even begin to imagine how he is making half of these sounds on his


guitar. Not to mention the odd time signatures and underlying “wind” instruments and keyboards. One can’t even begin to envision what was going through this genius’ head when he composed the album. The signature jazz licks are well timed and in place, as the drums and bass jive along in the background. This gives the album the typical Animals as Leaders feel to the tracks. Nothing like those jazzy hooks to suck you in. To be honest, I’m having a very hard time trying to digest all the different musical styles and express them in one tiny little article. There is so much going on in each song that you can’t pinpoint one particular style. The closest thing I can describe is taking every style of guitar and mixing it into one fluid track, rocketing it to space, and then driving it back into your ears at warp speed. Of course, not forgetting the everpresent underlying metal roots that seem to drag you through one black hole and into the next oblivion. Listen to the album to understand what I am trying to convey. The album most certainly reflects the fact that there are now additional musical influences to the follow up from 2009’s self-titled smash. True to Tosin’s style he doesn’t mind being in the background a little bit. However, I do personally prefer the single-minded vision of the debut album. You get tastes of this style throughout the album, but there is a rather un-harmonic cacophony on Weightless. I am by no means complaining as I love to see bands progress and change as time goes by, however there is a part of me that misses the sheer fluidity of the opening Animals as Leaders act. I fully expect this album to be one of the last incarnations of Animals as Leaders, while the band forms and focuses on its newest endeavour: T.R.A.M. The last 2 years of musical genius that is Animals as Leaders will forever have a place in my guitar playing heart. It is about time there is a little more composition-based music being produced these days. And as far as Anthropocentrism goes, well I really don’t mind a Tosin Abasi-centric world if it means we get to live on well composed anthems of technically superior guitar playing. I wonder how long it’ll take him to be invited to play at a Yas Island F1 concert along with Prince, both wearing purple outfits and jamming out amazing tunes to a bunch of stunned onlookers. One can only dream I guess.

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GRACIE COATES Gracie Coates is a singer, songwriter and pianist hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Raised in a family of artists, Coates’ urge to create has been stimulated and encouraged from a young age. Now, at 21, an award-winning songwriter acclaimed for the right-on candor and courage of her lyrics, Coates is making music with a depth beyond her age. Currently finishing her studies in Songwriting at Berklee College of Music, the songstress is working to make a distinct mark on the musical playing field.

DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN IT STRUCK YOU - THE MOMENT YOU REALIZED YOU NEEDED TO PURSUE MUSIC AS A CAREER? At a young age I was drawn to the piano we had in our house. My dad would prompt me to improvise with the keys, encouraging me to sound ugly, wild, and different. I think this kind of unconventional prodding to invent ideas from the beginning really nudged me to explore sounds and ideas in unique ways. At the age of seven, I asked for piano lessons and I was soon on my way to learning a variety of complex classical and jazz pieces. Before long, I was composing and was practicing the piano more than I was doing anything else. I quickly realized that playing music was not a choice for me but an obligation – that I was compelled to make it a part of my everyday life. I remember one specific instance in middle school. A close friend of mine was having a birthday party – a big deal celebration – and I had been excited about going for a while. On the day of the party, I sat down at the piano and started composing something new that got me fixed. I couldn’t get up from the piano. I was glued. I remember my mom telling me it was time to go the party, and I just looked at her and said, “Mom, I can’t. I need to play. I have to finish this song.” I think that was the moment I realized playing music wasn’t a hobby or a choice; it was something that physically and emotionally compelled me. I knew that I would have to play for the rest of my life. That day I got a little more serious about music; I became determined to pursue it as a career. There wasn’t a plan B in sight.





WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS WHERE DO YOU START? THE LYRICS? THE MUSIC? THE BEAT? Musical ideas come to me from a variety of sources - from hearing a car honking in a certain rhythm or catching a person mumbling in a particular timbre. Whatever sound it may be, I immediately try to get to the nearest keyboard or record the idea on my phone. When I sit down to write, I almost always start with the keys, the melody, the music. Lyrics usually come once I’ve established the general chord structure of the song. I may start out with a lyrical idea in my head, but the music always drives the story. So sometimes when I sit down with the intent to express one thing, the music will ask me to tell another, or to tell a story differently than I had originally planned. It’s always a surprise, and that’s what keeps the process interesting. But having prosody is the most crucial aspect for me. If the music and the lyrics don’t agree, the song won’t move anyone. It’s easier and more natural for me to write the music and then let the lyrics speak to the song.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST PERFORMANCE AS A SINGER, SONGWRITER & PIANIST LIKE? I played piano from a very young age but only started singing and composing my own material at the age of about 12. When I was 13, a very close family friend of mine fell into a deep depression and took his own life. My immediate reaction to this tragedy was to write a song. I was asked to perform the song for him at an exceptionally large and publicized memorial service (he had been in the public eye). I was to perform my original material for the first time in front of a thousand people and was to be videotaped and recorded live. I was terrified. I remember my mom telling me, “If anything goes wrong or if you get nervous and forget something, just keep playing. Don’t let the mistakes show.” When it came time for me to play, I found that the middle C string on the piano had been taped down by a microphone and wouldn’t make a sound, so my song, which used the middle C frequently, felt like a complete mess. I kept playing, moved the song up an octave and tried to keep in mind what my mom had told me. I got through the piece without stopping, but I was devastated and burst into tears the moment it was over. To my surprise, however, I received overwhelmingly positive and encouraging feedback from the audience following the performance. I was asked by various A&R representatives at the service if they could work with me, was invited to play live on 3 local radio stations, and was called to record my song on the album of memorabilia that was eventually sold in bookstores across the country. Talk about a first performance! I was fortunate to learn early on that the audience will be more aware of your mistakes if you let them be aware, that to play on is the key. I knew I had a long road of artistic growth ahead of me, but having conquered such a large-scale public humiliation, I felt ready to take it on. Afraid and excited all at once, I experienced a high I had never known before: the performance high. I’ve been chasing that high ever since.

IF YOU COULD PERFORM WITH ANY MUSICIAN, DEAD OR ALIVE, WHO WOULD IT BE? That’s a hard question. I think it would be really cool to do a set with Philip Glass. He is so captivating in such a beautifully unusual way that is so palpable and stimulating on stage. I’d love to just sing and improvise over his piano lines. Every time I listen to him I get a little upset that I didn’t write what he wrote first, though, so maybe performing with him would make me more jealous than it would inspired.

WHO ARE FIVE ARTISTS WHO HAVE INFLUENCED YOU AS A MUSICIAN? WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PIECES BY THEM? AND WHAT DO YOU FIND INSPIRING ABOUT THEM? This is a hard question for me to answer. I feel like I’ve been more influenced by certain times and people and experiences in my life than I have been by the music I listen to. But of course, that’s the pompous singer-songwriter answer to give, so I’ll do my best to think up some artists who have inspired me along the way! I’d have to say Regina Spektor’s earlier material really opened my eyes to the world of play in songwriting. And I mean play like… That girl is really just playing. She’s having fun. She’s dancing with the piano and her voice like they are two people in wonderful yet chaotic harmony with one another. The two dance between staccato and legato notes, and she just lets them go where they want to go. She cares less about form than she does about sound and feel, which is an awe-inspiring thing to see an artist of such prominence embrace. She is someone who taught me to abandon form if the song wants you to. Don’t go to the chorus just because that’s what a typical song structure tells you to do. Only go there if it feels right. My parents turned me on to Tom Waits at a young age. Upon listening to him, I became immediately attracted to his deep, gravelly voice and eerie melodic phrasing. I’m drawn to the way Tom commands his listeners to pay attention to his every word. He’s an artist who has deeply instilled in me the desire to really make people listen to what I write and not just ask them to. Lyrically, I’ll always be a fan of Ani Difranco. She just says it best. And she’s a truly skilled musician. Accompanied by wildly intricate guitar riffs, she makes us think about real issues and concepts in such an effortlessly poetic and moving way. She asks us to question wrongs in society without coming off as abrasive or invasive to her audience. Instead she’s humorous, deep and free and is a true inspiration to me as a songwriter who aims to tell the truth with humor and grace. Artists who have inspired me vocally would have to be Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, as cliché as it is. Ella just sings to my soul! She’s got such an emotive voice; I could listen to her sing the same line over and over again and learn something new each time. Similarly, I have a deep song affair with Frank Sinatra. “Fly Me to the Moon” was the first Frank song I heard and I’ve been hooked ever since. He’s just… timeless. Pianistically, I’d have to say – hands down – Erik Satie. His compositions, the Gymnopédies, have really inspired me to realize the power of minimalist repetition in piano arrangement. He’s got such smooth control over space and timing in his pieces; his work feels like the kind of dream you wake up feeling magnificent, lifted, empowered from. You just don’t want it to end.


WHAT IT IS, WELL IT’S THE DRUM BEAT, THE STRIPPED DOWN FUNK THAT HAS FORMED PART OF BLACK MUSIC CULTURE ALL THE WAY BACK TO AFRICA. HOWEVER, THERE’S MORE TO IT THAN JUST THAT. THE DJS WHO CREATED THE ORIGINAL BREAKBEAT SCENE AT THE BLOCK PARTIES IN THE SOUTH BRONX, BROOKLYN, AND HARLEM IN THE 1970S KNEW THERE WAS A LOT MORE TO IT, EVEN IF THEY NEVER SAID ANYTHING ABOUT IT AT THE TIME, THEY FELT IT. Those pioneering scratch-mix DJs were reacting against the dominance of disco in the late 1970’s. Their crowds were people who had grown up dancing to James Brown, Kool & the Gang, Fatback Band, funk, and jazz-funk. They didn’t need a straight, boring, four-tothe-floor, obvious disco beat to show off their steps. For sure, disco had grown out of black music, but by 1977 it had become the plaything of white middle-class kids (like the nu-disco scenesters and hipsters these days); it had forgotten the rawness and funk that mutha’d it in the first place. As the Bee Gees and Leo Sayer were becoming kings of disco, an underground, grassroots, back to the essence movement was growing in strength. That movement was the break and early Hip Hop culture scene. Legends now, pioneers at the time like Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash took drums and pieces of old funk records and any other style of music that moved them (an eclectic selection a lot of modern Hip Hop has forgotten) and looped them up to create new funky music. Over the top, MCs would rhyme, and on the dancefloor the people created new movements to match the music – Breakin’. But when this new movement emerged, it faced an uphill battle for acceptance. The kids loved it, recognising the genuine street nature of the sound, but many critics, radio deejays, and musicians saw it as a passing fad at best, and at worst, outright theft. The basis for this argument was simple. If these new acts had anything to say, why couldn’t they say it themselves? Why were they sampling and “stealing” the work of other, more ‘trained’ musicians? But sampling and looping was not, and still is not about ‘musicianship’. Nor is it or was it ever about theft or stealing, which was and sometimes still is the complaint of the ignorant and those that dissed the movement. Above all else it was about innovating with what was available to them and getting a funky beat down in a new way - a flexible groove which a drum machine, with the limited technology back in the early days of Hip Hop, could never quite replicate. Then there was the element of competition, the props or recognition of finding a beat that no one else had - a kind of drum-upmanship. It would have been nearly impossible to find the musicians who could play the kind of funky beats you wanted when you were just a kid on the street, and why bother? When your dad’s or big brother’s record collection had all the grooves and


drums you needed to loop or rhyme over? What’s more, there is the moment of recognition, the instant nostalgic credibility that a track has by knowing where the sample had come from originally - an acknowledgement of funky roots, a nod to the genius of black music’s forefathers, a continuation of tradition, not a jacking or theft. This was respect, not stealing. Above all, the critics and moaners had forgotten, or perhaps never knew, one of the realities of funky music. When James Brown put together “Say it Loud - I’m Black & I’m Proud”, he didn’t sit down at a piano, play a melody and fit the words around it as he went. He went into a studio between dates on his endless touring schedule, his bandleader Pee Wee Ellis got the group to play a funky riff he had in his mind, and Brown improvised his lyric over the top, later bringing in schoolkids to add the chant on the chorus. Brown was essentially rapping over a beat that was not a ‘song’ before he started doing it. It was a freestyle, news as it happened, not a completed piece waiting to be recorded in the studio. Essentially the same process creates good Hip Hop records. The beat exists first, the lyrics are added later or together. A similar process went on in Jamaica, land of Kool Herc’s parents, where old records were frequently used from the mid-1960s onwards to create new hits, often with a deejay chatting over the top. There it was not seen as theft, but inventiveness. There are still beats out there waiting to be discovered or used in new ways, that haven’t been reissued or even uncovered and not even necessarily by super obscure artists either. So there’s a lot more to the use of breaks than just taking other peoples music. It might be easier to sample or scratch a ready-made drum part than to employ a live drummer, but that’s only part of the story. Apart from the fact that your hired drummer help might not be as funky as Bernard Purdie or Idris Muhammad, there’s a question of atmosphere. As soon as you hear a great break, you’re in a time machine. You’re traveling back to a specific moment. Each break has a story, a history, and is part of a tradition, a movement and a culture that is still growing after around 40 years since it began… Deep Crates takes place every Thursday at Casa Latina, Ibis Al Barsha, Dubai, 10pm-2:30am



I walked my dog yesterday. We were a few doors down when our neighbour’s limited edition metallic ginger rich farmer’s car sped down the road blasting Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel. And not just the album cover. This was the Teddy Riley 12” remix. That’s a bit like still having a Hotmail account. Or high-fiving the IT guy. Wanted to phone a friend to tell him; instead, it got me thinking. I’m 37. I’m about

as cool as a Nissan Tiida.

Who the two Eminem albums on my iTunes am I to impose what I think is cool on anyone but my dog? I mean, if Crocs haven’t gone out of business it’s because people above 7 are still buying them – and worst of all, they’re still wearing them. Uncool is all around us. It will drown us well before the ice caps. It’s an irreversible trend. Uncool is like a zombie, a walking vomit that must feed off and kill cool to create even more uncool. It’s sick. That’s why there’s never been a more important time to understand, embrace and uphold – cool. Cool is a little like the X factor they talk about on those shows for special people. It’s something you can’t buy or learn or make. It just is. One thing’s for sure, however, once the trance DJ at work says something’s cool, it ain’t no more. Cool can be there one minute, and gone the next. And it can turn ugly, quickly. I went to a graffiti awards ceremony in London once. The winner, the infamous tagger called ‘Tox’, had to leave quick, two-time, cause the CID caught wind of it and decided to show. He couldn’t accept the award, cause then the police would have known his true identity. What a ridiculous set of circumstances. So once something’s been branded ‘cool’, the moment’s gone. My boss (who was a major tool) gave me a DVD entitled King Of Cool or something. Apparently, it was supposed to include lots of people who were über cool at things. What? Things like someone who could beat up someone bigger with just his thumbs, like Sean Connery in the Presidio… or a monkey who can sing Coldplay while peeing all over himself? No. Instead it was – amongst other amazing pony tails – a guy in a big top hat ‘graced’ with the ‘ability’ to throw playing cards a really long distance.

What a dick. I ain’t the Fonz, but if I showed my friends that same trick they’d definitely kick my ass. The makers of the video, and I suppose everyone who buys it, must have agreed that the content is cool. It ain’t, esse. So why do so many people believe things like these are cool? Is it cause they are branded so? There are too many people in Dubai who brand

everything as cool. Take listening to Bobby Brown in 2011. That’s not cool. Even Whitney doesn’t think he’s cool, and she sang I Will Always Love You with Kevin Costner (after Waterworld) in it. It would help Dubaians if there were references for cool in Dubai. I work in an industry where you’d expect a certain level of cool-aid, but it’s quite the opposite. There’s this one 33-year-old man at work who emailed ‘ALL’ asking if anyone wanted to sell their Usher tickets. I phoned him in hysterics, “you’re the funniest man in the world”, I said. He was speechless. He didn’t get it. I could hear his ridiculously tight shirt bursting at the seams. I felt betrayed. I felt I was the only one laughing. Am I a cynical panninaro? Definitely. But you have to be. I don’t mean you have to be one of those people who hates everything because they’ve never been laid. I mean that you must believe that not everything is cool, because everything truly isn’t. Did you know that

Michael Bolton is playing in Dubai? Shouldn’t someone say something? Is his hair getting visa? If you’re going, you should seriously reconsider your position as a human being. What is my problem? Isn’t it actually a good thing that the Fast and the Furious is perceived as an amazing film by the morons? Lets us wannabes distance ourselves from the plebs. No. It’s not a good thing. If everyone likes eating at American trashy food joints, more will open. Our habits will change what’s around us. Take the film Drive as an example. It is a lovely film cause nothing really happens. The main characters don’t really say much. You’re left with lots of time – time to think, time to just watch a beautifullymade film, and listen to this year’s best soundtrack. More people should appreciate these films so more get made. All the people in Dubai I know who went to see it said it was boring. “Not very good”. You’re not very good, you idiot. The same vegetables who think that the US Office is better than the UK (the original) one. I suppose it’s because people are more used to Hollywood-style humour and film, which is, in general, neither funny nor good. I haven’t seen the new Sandler film where he plays his own sister, but I can already tell it’s gonna make me wanna hurl all over the person next to me. Can the difference between average and head turning be taught? Is cool, like everything else, simply about how you’ve been brought up – what you’re used to? Is it like cutting someone up on the road, or walking right to the front of the

queue? If someone does these things, they are more than likely incapable of understanding why it is wrong in the first place. Is cool subjective? No. How I Met Your Mother is neither cool nor funny. It is sandals with socks. It is a bald man driving an SLK (with the roof down). It is de Niro in a comedy. It is a nightclub with a serious amount of wiener. It is not the comments left on youtube. It is not Eddie Murphy’s Delirious. It is not a stunning Dubai sunset. I had a discussion once with a Lebanese guy who said Beirut was better for going out than London because the clubs stayed open for longer. He’s never been to London. Where the hell do I start? Is there any point? Some people are un-teachable, which is the saddest lesson of all. You know that there’s a shop in the Outlet Mall that is full of genuine Italian goods from the 70s and 80s? It’s a pandoras box of mamma mia. And the best thing is that nobody else goes there, except Russians – but they never buy anything that isn’t plastered in faux cheetah skin. I have met fashion

editors (who get paid) for Dubai’s magazines who think the preppy look is cool. Not when you look like pedo it ain’t. But hey, you

could say that it’s one of the upsides of living here. I went to the Sun and Sands Sports outlet in Bur Dubai and found three pairs of exclusive Nike trainers for less than 300 dhs each. I assure you, this would never happen anywhere else in the universe. There again, I’d much rather have more people buying them, so more would be imported. Cool doesn’t have to be hip, artsy, or even creative, and certainly has nothing to do with money. But it has to turn your world upside down. The first time I walked into the Burj Al Arab I stood there with my mouth open for hours. I had never seen anything like it before. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s revolting inside, ostentatious. Whatever, it’s all of those things, but more than anything, it is unbelievable, remarkable. Take a drive around Deira. You’ll see things you’ve never seen before, like those golf ball houses; shops selling games and jogging suits from the 80s. I got a 70s FILA skiing jacket in a sweet shop in the old Naif Souq. Still in its original packaging. They go for like 500 UK pounds in Covent Garden. You must look, search for nice things. They won’t appear in Choithram. They are here, but you need to find them, and recognise them when you see them – and want them. Demand before supply, baby.



I’ve even gone so far as to study game narrative writing, but I won’t get into that. My latest venture is of a different nature entirely.

(here-on referred to as the Poets) took backstage. They were the supporting act to the radically amusing Beats.

Now, I’ve put considerable thought into this (not really), so don’t turn it down right away (please do, I’m improvising). You see, as ‘writers’, we are no different (according to the driving forces of poststructuralist activity) from anybody else. Everyone is a writer (see my bit on the uselessness of contemporary art for more on that), and, as such, our chosen medium of expression need not be the word.

This stepping out of boundaries made the Poets produce work that is, Frank-ly, much more honest, true, ground-breaking, and creative than the Beats. It makes, and I’m going to regret saying this right after I write it, since he’s one of my favourite writers and an icon of great fiction - and possibly why the rest that came after him dared do what they did, maybe even learned what they know from him - but it does make Howl seem vulgar in comparison. Then again, the vulgarity of Howl is what was so immensely powerful about it. That, and the raw beauty of the talent that has yet to be surpassed by any American poet since (with the likely exception being Ashbery, although he is, arguably, as good but not better than Ginsberg).

(still improvising) The world of fiction today, along with the universe of communication, is expanding its boundaries to include everything. It’s somewhat of a relief, refreshing in its way, appealing to all who have ever felt constrained. But creativity comes from exactly that: constraints. We are forced to deviate from our comfort zones when pressed into corners, which is when we come up with truly inspired work. Still, that doesn’t imply that we need the chains of a singular medium or one definition. It is essential for us to be able to intermingle, to use our voice across channels. (more improv, but almost done here...) So we visualise our words, taking them out of the standard T.S.Eliot set for us. We ramble, defying Hemingway. We tell Pope he was wrong, we rewrite Macbeth, we remind Candide that optimism isn’t ridiculous and Utopia is beautiful. Why? Because as long as we can answer that question, we are at liberty to write what we want. The New York School of the 50s and 60s was an artistic collaboration across disciplines and despite the individual’s chosen craft. The intermingling of music, poetry, and painting (under which I will, erroneously but intentionally, file away the great photography of that period) was its most distinctive feature. Nevertheless, and possibly in spite of this, the Beats are the more recognisable of literary talents, while the New York Poets


Ultimately, the Beats and the Poets, along with their musical (Dylan) and visual (Warhol) counterparts put an end to literature. We now don’t write literature. We do visual fiction. Or musical fiction. Or digital fiction. Or communication. Literature is a grand idea that died with Barthes’ author. Today, the gonzo wannabes of our century, inspired by the generation of American freedom and innovation, are making history. Their problem is that they know it, and so they’re afraid to make mistakes. They’re also afraid of stepping away from their medium. Me? I’m going to write my next story on canvas. 102 by 152, in fact (a multiple of the 10x15 photo-paper format). I’m going to put words on it not with a pen, but with a brush. Why? Because it’ll let my mind do more work. Because it’ll allow me discover something that I don’t know yet. Or discover that there’s nothing to learn from it. Whatever it is, it’ll be something new. I think I want to do something that most writers are afraid of. The chairperson in my department during my undergrad used to always say I’m afraid of getting out of my comfort zone. So it’s time I did.


LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT TODAY. I HAD MY DAY OFF YESTERDAY, SLEPT FOR 10 HOURS, AND WOKE UP ZOMBIE-LIKE AND BROKEN. THE DAY WAS SPENT SMOKING SHEESHA WITH A FRIEND AND EATING ITALIAN PASTA PESTO STRAIGHT FROM GENOA. AWESOME. I noticed something the next day that made me change my perspective somewhat. I got out of bed, eyes still half closed, directly to the kitchen only to find the mess from the night before. Instead of having breakfast and waking up, I found myself cleaning up the mess. No thoughts, and still not yet awake, I was in full focus mode, cleaning at a higher efficiency level than I would’ve had after a few coffees, only a week ago. They say Sudoku is good for the mind; I say work in a 1 Michelin star restaurant and you will be sharper than a HB pencil straight from the box. I’m down for the mental growth, I’m so down. Anyway, today Siham was going to conquer, I just felt it. I was an hour late. I thought work started at 1700, turns out on Saturdays, it’s at 1600. No biggie, I felt the tension as I walked in, knew I had gotten something wrong. See, everyone wants to blame someone in the kitchen. They wait for you to make a mistake, and with a voice loud enough for the right person to hear (the Chef), they tell you off. So I threw a bonjour while rushing with my head held high, got a mini scold from the Chef, apologized and was on my way. Ok, NOW I was going to conquer. I missed the meat guy (my incurable problem with names strikes again). Although I can’t say I know the people I work with, it seems that the hours we spend together have left an impression on me. I find out he’s left for good, and I am truly sad – for about 20 seconds. And then I’m forced back into focus mode. Come to think of it, I often feel bad for some people here, in their eyes there’s pain, and their past hardships are apparent on their expressions. At times I wanted to show them love, give them a warm hug they so desperately need, tell them they’ll be ok, that I’m there for them and that I’ll try to help. Then I snap myself back to reality. These are not your friends Siham, this is work, this is the kitchen – a strictly emotionfree zone. I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth, wondering what eye-opening realities a day spent in their shoes would bring. A miniature, old-school TV was installed in the kitchen for the World Cup. It is the greatest thing that could have happened to us (besides having an actual window to the outer world). I could finally be part of the football action; a huge relief as missing it was having a terrible effect on my morale. I felt the world was going through something and I was being left out. All in all, today was good. I was well rested and worked extra hard to make up for my tardiness. My kitchen-mates were beginning to develop a respect for my hard work and dedication and I felt empowered. Energizer bunny on a high, that was me.


I woke up today and realized that money stopped existing The globe turns on an idea, a twisted word and a cheap trick The masses chanting, the ideals alive and well A pablum of orthodoxy, sold with a high price suit and a silver spoon I woke up today and realized that we’re all sheep The globe a shifting mirror, some smoke and a slivered tongue The magicians appeal, the lepers are dancing and swell An indoctrination of souls breeding sickness for health “Would you like to buy a vowel?”



“Hey kid! Hey!”

shouted Dan. The young man walking across the street stopped and turned around. He looked around. There was no one else on the street. He pointed at himself. “Yeah, you. Come over here a minute.” “Why?” he asked, standing still, straightening up. “Just come here for a minute.” He walked carefully across the street, looking both ways. Dan was standing on his porch. He wasn’t a threatening looking man. The door swung closed behind him. He looked back to his house. The young man stood at the gate. “That shirt,” asked Dan, “how much you want for it?” “My shirt?” he said, pulling at it. “Yeah, how much?” asked Dan again. He sized the young man up. They were about the same. The young man looked both ways again. “No man, I don’t want to sell it.”

“Dude, this is weird.” “No.” said Dan. “It’s good.” Dan’s smile grew. The young man looked at the lines on his face, crinkled up. “Listen man, it’s okay” he started as Dan turned and started running into the house. He slammed the door shut. The young man looked around. He wondered if anyone was watching. He looked back up at the house. Dan was smiling at him from the window. He held up a big red San Francisco 49s jersey. It was way too big for either of them. Dan whipped the curtains shut. “That’s not gonna fit” said the young man. “Almost honey,” Dan shouted back into the house as he slammed the door. He ran down towards the gate. “There you go. And here’s your two hundred. Sorry we didn’t have change.” “It’s fine.” They both looked at each other for a second. The young man looked into Dan’s eyes. They didn’t look as crazy as he thought they would. He took the money from Dan. Dan passed him the big red football shirt. “This thing is way too big for me.”

Dan looked at the shirt. It was an old jean shirt. By Wrangler he thought. It looked ten years old at least. He looked down at his jeans. They were about the same.

“I could go grab you something else” said Dan, thumbing back to the house.

“Name your price kid.”

He looked back at Dan’s eyes. He shook his head a little.

The young man laughed to himself. He looked at Dan like he was crazy. “Nah man, see you later” he started to walk away, shaking his head.

“It’s fine. Two hundred bucks will get me something that fits.”

Dan ran down to the gate. “Hundred bucks. I’ll give you a hundred bucks for that shirt.” He stopped walking. He turned around. “A hundred bucks? For this shirt?” He pulled at the shirt again. “Yeah.” They both looked at the shirt. The young man straightened up and looked at Dan. “Hundred and twenty.” “Okay, okay. Hundred and twenty bucks.” Dan went into his pocket and pulled out a roll of bills. He pulled out a hundred. He quickly flicked through the rest looking for a twenty. He looked up at the young man.

Dan let out a little laugh. “Of course! Let us know what you get. I might give you three hundred bucks for it!” The young man stopped smiling. He looked at the house. All the curtains were drawn. “Can I change in your house?” “No.” “Okay.” He paused. He looked back at Dan. He had stopped smiling. He looked back at the house. “Why do you want my shirt?” Dan spun his head back around. “I like it. It’s just a nice shirt.” He shrugged.

“Do you have change of a hundred?” he asked. The young man laughed. He raised an eyebrow at Dan.

“Okay” said the young man. He turned away from Dan. He checked quickly for people looking. He thumbed open the buttons. He took the shirt off and threw it back to Dan. Dan caught it. The young man quickly pulled on the large football jersey. Dan tried his hardest not to smell the shirt.

“Dude no. I have like six bucks on me.”


Dan looked at the money in his hand. He looked at the shirt.

Dan watched the young man walk back in the direction he came in. He shuffled along the street with his hands in his pockets. He looked back before crossing the street. Dan smiled and waved. The young man pulled his hand out and weakly held it up, looking down the street.

“It’ll have to be two hundred then.” The young man looked back down the street again. He slowly walked back to the gate. He looked at Dan. He looked through at door of his house. Dan moved to the side slightly, blocking his view. “Two hundred bucks?” he asked. Dan nodded quickly. “I’m not wearing anything underneath this though.” “I can give you something. A new shirt. Well, not new, but one of mine.” He thumbed back towards his house. He smiled.

When he got out of sight, Dan lifted the shirt to his face and slowly rubbed it around. He smelled the washing powder. He could smell the house it came from. He smelled the young man that sold it. He put the shirt over his back and started buttoning it up frantically. He straightened the collar out and tugged at the bottom. He walked back to his house and opened the door. He looked back down the street. The young man was standing on the corner looking at him. He slammed the door.



HALA ALI What is it about words that have the ability to punch us in the gut, put our brain to work, trigger hot tears or leave our bodies brewing with glee? Especially when they pour out of the mouth of someone like Hala Ali, words become people themselves, with strong emotional DNA, witty, moody, evocative, provocative and always compelling. Although this spoken word artist refrains from calling herself a poet, one can’t help but entertain that notion. As she stands atop the stage wearing her performance cape, disrobing her unapologetically honest views on contemporary society, female invisibility, human relations, politics and social dogmas, her “more baritone than Barry White” voice, physical and otherwise, begin to linger and suddenly you’re laughing loudly, the way you would at an inside joke with a friend, and then moments later, you’re shifting in your chair awkwardly, because you can’t believe what you’re hearing, followed by recounting episodes of your own relationships past, vicariously through her hilarious reminiscences. As she confidently orates, “Who am I to preach goose but practice gander?” or cheekily speaks of “post-coital bananas”, she naturally assumes the role of a true wordsmith, creating a vernacular of her own. Born in Saudi Arabia, educated in the UK, currently living in the UAE, and belonging on stage, performing in an age of the overexposed human identity, Hala offers something real. Good ol’ fashioned real. So how does she do it... Punch us right in the gut with her words. We found out.



DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS AND WHERE YOU GET YOUR BEST IDEAS? It’s difficult to describe a writing process accurately. There are times when inspiration comes and writing ensues but mostly it’s a completely random process.  Other times, I’m pressured by an upcoming show and so I rush the writing and sometimes, I’m being commissioned to write/perform about a particular topic.  In general, I write about myself.  What it means to be a woman, an arab, a Saudi.  I reference the political, sexual and spiritual nature of womanhood in almost all of my poems.  I write about my idiosyncrasies and my experiences.  Ideas are everywhere.  They just need to be written down, rhymed and performed.

WHAT DROVE YOU TO WRITING AND PERFORMANCE? I used to study Applied Linguistics and Literature. I’ve always been interested in writing and hip hop music so spoken word was a natural segue. I spent 2009 attending the ‘Poeticians’ ( events and almost wishing I had the courage to read with them.  Then I heard Saul Williams’ album Amethyst Rock Star and it drove me to write again as an adult. I’ve also been fascinated by the idea of performance, an immediate connection with a viewer/listener.  Ephemeral, momentary.   I watched many Youtube clips of slam poets as a pastime and realized that it was scarce here.  I was moved by the art and wanted to master it.

AS AN ARTIST WHOSE WORKS ARE OFTEN TOPICAL, POLITICAL OR CONTROVERSIAL IN NATURE, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE PERFORMING IN THE UAE AND THE SELFCENSORSHIP THAT COMES WITH THE TERRITORY? So far the reception has been phenomenal. In general, people who attend poetry readings are liberal folks and I also cater my works to the venues I’ll be performing in.  It’s sometimes hard to know where that line is drawn though.  I feel like I dance on it a lot.  Thus far, it’s been successful. 

IN A WORLD OF UTTER ECONOMICAL DISMAY AND POLITICAL POWER PLAY, WHAT MAKES LITERATURE/SPOKEN WORD IMPORTANT? All art is important all the time. I’ve never performed to an empty venue.  Clearly, there’s a demand for poetry and spoken word.  Youtube is inundated with clips of spoken word poets.  It’s just another form of expression.  It needs to exist and it always will regardless of time.

TOP 5 PIECES OF WRITING/PERFORMANCES THAT’VE HAD A DEEP IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY? I’m having trouble chopping it down to 5. So i’ll just exceed the brief a bit. Each one of these has moved me one way or the other, whether in content, form or delivery.   # Daniel Beatty Knock Knock # George Watsky L for Lisp # Gil Scott Heron The Revolution Will Not Be Televised # Katie Makkai Pretty # Mark Gonzales As With Most Men # Rives Gorgeous # Saul Williams Coded Language # Staceyann Chin Feminist or Womanist # Steve Coleman Terrorist Threat # Suheir Hammad Not Your Exotic, Not Your Erotic

GLIMPSES OF HER WORK “I’m sorry that when you finally gave me what is internationally recognized as a compliment, your tone suggested otherwise” (Apologies In The Key Of Overdue) “As the sarcasm drips from my camel like lips One more dude tell me, that not unlike Colin Powell, I speak so well One more dude ask me where my burqa is? And where I learned my English? If I’m in arranged marriage with my second cousin “Akmed”? If I’ve read the Princess books ? How much oil in the soil of my backyard? The rhetoric is metaphorical The metaphor is rhetorical The implications? Deplorable But I’m post female but pre-natal Pre-Natal, but so able And so help me God” (Excerpt From - Post Female But Pre-Natal) “He was so beautiful So gorgeous, that just like Jospeh he would make Egyptian women cut themselves instead of oranges” (Excerpt From - There Was Nothing Secular About His Name) “For Ika, the maid, was 24 years of age Just like me But unlike me She’s separated from her kin to work for some Bedouins for a measly 3 digits a month with no days off so Ika should get her freak on” (Excerpt From - Another Day Another Dirham)






WAITING FOR GODOT Samuel Beckett Possibly my favourite play of all time (although Harold Pinter’s Homecoming) is a close second, and one I first read back in high school, but have managed to come back to several times over the years, this sums up (to me, at least) our ‘modern’ state of being. A strong reminder of our perpetual wait for something to come to us, and a powerful description of Beckett’s own variant understanding or questioning of human existence and purpose, this almost existentialist almost postmodern almost modernist almost absurdist work of theatre is grippingly void of activity while simultaneously dynamic -- a boring story of two people waiting by a tree for ‘Godot’ without knowing who he is and why they’re there, or how long they’ll have to wait.

LEAVES OF GRASS (FIRST EDITION, 1855) Walt Whitman Possibly the beginning of American poetry and literature as a cultural movement (to many, at least). I don’t think I’ve ever managed to go through the whole of the book in one week, but have come back and forth over it over the years. Having inspired many a great artist, poet, and writer of the second half of the twentieth century (and some of the Jazz age too), Whitman stands as the father of American poetics, and with good reason. This being his most famous and influential text, and one he was seemingly never satisfied with, editing it regularly and republishing it throughout his life, it defines the spirit of American thought, history, and aspiration of the time -- and continues to make its mark on it today. A must read, if not for its literary beauty, then for its historical, artistic significance.

AUTUMN DE WILDE Elliott Smith Elliott is one of America’s greatest song writers, a singer whose lyrical approach was on equal caliber with the finest of them all, some of whom areTom Waits, David Berman, Michael Gira, John Darnielle, to name a few. A languished life intersected with addiction and severe manic depression, Elliott remained a mystery to many of the fans who lingered to the gentle melodies he created. His death at the young age of 34 simply added more mystery and heartache to an already tragic story. In this book, Autumn de Wilde, the legendary indie photographer tries to shed some light into Elliott’s mind, with interviews with friends and family. The book is adorned with some of Elliott’s lyrics, and beautifully amount of photographs Autumn captured of him. A must for both old and young fans alike!

BONK: THE CURIOUS COUPLING BETWEEN SCIENCE AND SEX Mary Roach Science is into sex. Even more so than people. As a basic aspect of life, scientists have constantly strived to understand the impact it has on humanity and history.Yet academic forays into the delicate subject matter were never met with prosecution, ridicule and downright physical threat. Yet science, as science does, never ceased asking, poking and prodding. Bonk unveils the lives of those who strived to understand sexuality for the sake of knowledge (well, almost all the time). While under any other hand, it would’ve been a sterile read, under Mary’s it flourishes with life, as this genuinely funny and intelligent writer crisscrosses the research with personal anecdotes of her own personal life (and they are hilarious). This is a title that will allow you the luxury of snickering when talking about people’s bits, and the satisfaction of greater understanding of the scientific efforts to dissect the peculiar works of sexuality, both physical and mental.

DOOMSDAY: THE SCIENCE OF CATASTROPHIC EVENTS Antony Milne Does life beckon catastrophe, or does catastrophe beckon life? From the dawn of time, people have attempted to comprehend and come to terms with the nature of natural disasters, from dreaming up a pantheon of gods, to formulating the basic theories behind the birth of the universe. Milne seeks to tie all aspects of nature and its onslaught, creating a bleak chronicle of the past 200 years in the span of one book.



Seeing Incubus live was something I dreamt of day in and day out through most of my adolescence. As I grew older the hope to see the magical musical troupe, headed by the utterly perfect Brandon Boyd, grew dimmer. And after moving to the UAE I had given up completely. To think that I finally saw the band which pretty much provided the soundtrack of my most impressionable years is still difficult to comprehend. Needless to say I was breathless before we even reached the venue, and as we rushed to find a decent spot, finagled a way to the front, and set our unwavering gaze to the spot where the man whose lips drip poetry and art would finally stand it hit me. Just in time for the opening song “Megalomaniac”. Thrown into a manic frenzy we danced and sang (read: screamed) along to every single word. The show was incredible, the band played most of our favourite songs (unfortunately I didn’t get to hear my all-time favourite Incubus song “I Miss You”), and we were treated to the rare pleasure of finally experiencing something I dreamt of for years and years. The first few notes of the older songs (“Wish you were here”, “Stellar”, “Pardon Me”, etc”) gave me a nostalgic throw-back to those countless days laying on the floor in front of my “boombox” listening to Incubus CDs, memorising the lyrics, singing along, and dreaming of the future. 148

Incubus also treated us to songs from their latest album If Not Now, When? and it was so interesting to see how much this band has grown. Some exalt their progression, while others miss the funkier days of Fungus Amongus and S.C.I.E.N.C.E. To be honest, I think their evolution in style proves that this band is diverse and talented, as well as technically-endowed and adventurous enough to communicate the passion and drive (ha, see what I did there?) we’ve loved for over a decade. Unlike the many, many, many bands which came out around the same time and faded to oblivion after a few hits that couldn’t stand the test of time, Incubus has managed to make incredibly good music consistently for over ten years. Brandon Boyd himself is just a wonder to behold. His lyrics are pure poetry, but the passion with which he delivers them nearly overshadows the words, and the music takes you on a journey with each song. I’m pretty sure you get the idea without me having to elaborate any further on just how faaaantastic this all was. But I must say that there was one aspect of the whole experience that put a small dent in my indelible bubble of joy – the crowd. Most of the people around us seemed to have just wondered over after a day of fast cars to see the youngsters on stage. “Meh” to say the least. But they couldn’t dampen our excitement for long, and all in all this was a concert I’ll never forget.




By Zaina Shreidi

It’s very difficult to put into words just how incredible it is to have seen Paul McCartney, THE Paul McCartney, the legendary Beatle, live. But I’ll give it a go. To put it simply, he was just mindblowing. The entire experience was just so ethereal and bizarre it was hard for us to actually believe that there, right there, on stage, right in front of us was a true legend. He sang and played his heart out, and went on for over 2 hours – giving us everything we could have possibly wished for and so much more. Yep, he played them all. From “Helter Skelter” to “Hey Jude” to “Back in the USSR” to “Live and Let Die” to “Something” to “Drive My Car”. He even dedicated (in Arabic) a song to his late friend John Lennon, “Give Peace a Chance”. That, as well as his cover of “Foxy Lady” pretty much floored me.


His anecdote about Jimi was one of those moments where I realised just how incredible this experience is. After playing the cover, Paul told the crowd that he dedicated that to the “late, great Jimi Hendrix” and went on to say that he was among the lucky people who saw Jimi Hendrix play before he was unfortunately stolen from this world. He told us how he and the Beatles had released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band on a Friday, and by Sunday Jimi had learned to play the entire album, and how much that had impressed them. He went on to tell us how Jimi would constantly throw his guitar out of tune with the crazy way he played, and how at the end of a gig he’d look out in the crowd and call out for “Eric” to come and tune his guitar. Yep. He was calling out for Eric Clapton. Eric would duck in the back or shout, “Tune it yourself!” Yeah. Paul McCartney stood on stage telling us stories about Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, from back in the day. Our feeling of elation and utter giddiness carried through and reached maximum levels as Paul delighted us with amazing renditions of much-loved songs that have literally defined generations. Our excitement was heightened by flames exploding from the stage, fireworks going off above our heads, and confetti that fell around and upon us. By the end of it, it felt like we had taken an unforgettable trip through time. I finally understood the all-consuming manic screams that emitted from any young woman who happened to hear a song from The Beatles. I finally understood the global obsession, even decades later, with these four icons. And I finally realise how much they deserved it. Paul McCartney, at 69 years old, rocked harder than I believe anyone could rock. In fact he outrocked the crowd itself. He answered the demanding screams for more with an airy “You want more? Alright I’ll give you more”. And that he did.



For those expecting the usual club scene, filled with raucous crowds and rowdy guests, Tiger Translate was a breath of fresh air. Making my way to the venue on a golf cart, I had no idea how truly arty this art event would be. As we zipped to the venue, my excitement was already building. Tiger Translate promised to provide a night of collaboration between some incredible artists of both the visual and the aural varieties. The ride was brief and sweet but there it was, lights and thumpy sounds blaring at us. We were greeted at the entrance by several girls in neon oriental dresses who handed us miniscule electronic fans (that spelt Tiger Translate whilst they spun – and there I was amazed) and a handful of free coupons for drinks and food (free food – I am sold at this point). Clearly a giving event, a clue of what the night would hold creatively as well. When all that was done with, I skittered my way to where the scintillatingly produced sound waves where coming from and passed through the empty indoor lounging area. Making my way outside, I found the crowd enjoying lovely tunes and lovely weather. And ah, oh so lovely noodles. As I chowed down, I noticed was our dear friend El Lobito at the balcony overlooking the area, doing his thing. I can dare say I don’t have much respect for DJs around the Emirates but he was playing old skool hip-hop, soul and funk, tune after tune after choooon, it’s hard to not love it! As it was an art event, big murals were displayed prominently around the vicinity and a handful of artists were working away on their respective artwork. Kris, a UAE based artist and one of the founders of Sole DXB, was doing a graffiti piece about ‘Movember’ featuring a guy sporting a proud waterfall of a beard that recalled Confucius (if he was an angry biker). One particularly intriguing artwork was created by Pharuephon, a relaxed guy who was happy to chat a bit about where he’s from (Thailand) and what inspired him to create his piece – a French cartoon with a manic mustache, also fitting for the popular Movember movement. Mid-way through the affair, an announcer called for the crowd to gather near the big screen for a presentation. It was an interesting segment of the night as our very own quint boss Gyula participated as a judge. The concept behind it, for the first section, was an artwork started by an artist and then passed on to another artist for completion – “Ping Pong”. For the second section, it was a match between two individuals on altering a base photo to create two different pieces of art. Wonderful idea and more so the wonderful outcomes produced by both teams. In between were local artists Noush Like Sploosh and Abri who serenaded the crowd alongside beats from DJ Lobito. They are beyond talented, and every time I have the opportunity to see them I can only think of how much more credit and recognition they deserve. Truly engaging artists in their own right. The event wasn’t just an all show and no play kind. For the people that liked to get their hands dirty there were a lot of things to be done. As the night went on more and more people were allowed to leave their marks on surfaces – an empty mural and the big block letters that formed ‘translate’ were transformed into personalized artworks by the attendees. I did my part as well by contributing the mantra I live by ‘Have a Cookie’, to the collective spontaneous project. Time goes by really fast when you’re having fun so I wasn’t surprised that the night ended seemingly as fast as it did. In between the spontaneous stationary dancing, to the boisterous bickering of fellow art lovers, and eating and drinking for free, there surely was no free time to notice what time it was. It was solely and wholly an adult playground in the best sense. We admired art, created some of our own, and chowed down on both noodles and food for thought from a fun and eclectic crowd. Well done Tiger! We hope this event will be followed up with more of the like; it’s just what this city needs!


Event Listings DECEMBER 7 – JANUARY 15 10pm – 7pm ART EMIRATI

A showcase of three local artists with totally different and individualist styles come together in the name of Art to speak out and reach out and share their talent and expertise with people of all cultures and religions. Art Couture +971 4 601 0101 DECEMBER 7 – JANUARY 10 STILL NATURE: ZENA ASSI Exhibition reinterpreting the literal dualism between the so called ‘still life’ and the ‘nature morte’ that tackles current social situations Art Sawa +971 4 386 2366 DECEMBER 20 – 30 7pm PETER PAN A magical adventure with Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook on a theatre stage production. Madinat Theatre +971 4 366 6546

Until DECEMBER 7 10am – 6pm MIND’S EYE Exhibition in the Gulf Region for Selma Gürbüz, one of Turkey’s foremost contemporary painters. Working in a grand scale in oil on canvas and more intimately with ink on paper. Lawrie Shabibi +971 4 346 9906 NOVEMBER 3 – FEBRUARY 3 (Every Thursday) 9pm onwards DAHAB @ ONE & ONLY ROYAL MIRAGE ROOFTOP Local Acoustic Fusion pioneers Dahab hold a weekly residency at the One & Only Royal Mirage Rooftop every Thursday night. One & Only Royal Mirage Rooftop +971 4 399 9999 Until FEBRUARY 1 7pm – 11pm (Saturdays: 1pm – 3:30pm) RACHAEL CALLADINE AND THE FAIRPLAY PROJECT Rachael Calladine and The Fairplay Project play a cut-through mix of club anthems reworked with a jazz twist! Latitude Restaurant, Jumeirah Beach Hotel +971 4 406 8999 DECEMBER 12 – JANUARY 10 2pm – 6pm SELF PORTRAITS AND PORTRAITS The exhibition showcasing facial expressions portraying inner selves includes works of four Tehran based women artists of different generation, Soodeh Bagheri, Shideh Tami, Ahoo Hamedi, and Shahla Hosseini Barzi. Total Arts at the Courtyard +971 4 347 5050

DECEMBER 13 - FEBRUARY 16 10am – 6pm MARIE, MARIE, THE DEVIL IN ME HAS TAKEN YOU FOR A RIDE A solo exhibition by Lebanese artist Marwan Sahmarani - one of the winners of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize in 2010. The exhibit dwells on art history as a starting point to express feelings on the complexities of contemporary life. Lawrie Shabibi +971 4 346 9906

DECEMBER 17 7:30pm – 11:30pm 10TH PECHA KUCHA NIGHT DUBAI  To end the year, The Pavilion Downtown hosts Pecha Kucha night   Dubai with an exciting line up for its tenth edition. Organized by  Traffic, S*uce and The Third Line, the popular interactive forum  first established in the city in 2008, provides a place for locally  based tal...ent to share ideas, develop contacts, and has since   grown to one of the largest gatherings for a mixed media arts   event in the region.   The Pavilion Downtown Dubai                   +971 4 447 7025 



 

                                                                                                         

EVERY THURSDAY 10pm onwards DEEP CRATES Funk, hip hop, afrobeat, soul, boogie, and more. Great drink deals, free entry – a great, non-pretentious night out. Casa Latina, Ibis Hotel, Al Barsha


DECEMBER 20 (third Tuesday of every month) 9pm onwards SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY Free entry all night, free selected cocktails all night for ladies, Indie, Disco & Electro. Republique, The Address Hotel, Dubai Mall

For more live music, head over to Healey’s to enjoy the beautiful musical stylings of The Johanna Sandell Duo. Johanna and Mikko will blow you away with their incredible renditions of all your favourite songs! Healey’s Bar, Bonnigton Tower

EVERY NIGHT 7pm to midnight Live music at Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa from the incredibly talented Jess, Kris, and Benjamin – who make up Wild Strawberries – as well as guitar man Tobias. Catch the Wild Strawberries at Mushrif Bar every night except Saturday from 9pm to midnight. Tobias plays every night except Friday from 7pm to 11pm at Captain’s Bar. And if you’re in the mood to serenade then go to Mushrif Bar on Mondays for Karaoke night from 9pm onwards.

DECEMBER 16 9:30pm onwards STEP ON THE CHRISTMAS PARTY Free entry all night, all new drinks deals, indie Christmas songs, and at least one person in a daft red hat. Catwalk @ The Golden Tulip, Al Barsha

EVERY FRIDAY 7pm onwards THE FRIDAY FRIDGE – LIVE LOCAL LOUD Live music from amazing local musicians every Friday at Wafi Rooftop, brought to you by our friends at The Fridge.


Dear Editor, Fares Bounassif

I hate the “Dear” salutation. The Dutch have it better, if you don’t know Dutch and read it like it’s English: “Beste”. Somehow, it seems more creative.

Beste Editor, There is little to complain about, at times, when all you have to do all day is what you love. The problem I have with the pseudo-academic creative career that I’ve chosen for myself (besides that it doesn’t pay too well), is that it always requires inspiration. That ever-vexing word. Inspiration. So many have attempted to create or conceive processes that can manufacture inspiration and innovation, especially in our post-natural fastpaced developmental consumerism. Except, the thing that makes it what it is, the magic that allows it to stand out and give it its desirability is exactly what makes it impossible to manufacture -- inspiration can be coerced, but cannot exist without the chaos and randomness it builds on and feeds off. More than anything else, it is, almost exclusively, subjective. My realm of creativity has always been undefinable, almost unidentifiable. I need to be sad, or happy, or melancholy, or bored, or anything and it springs up. I’ve realised, however, that certain people or objects or places have an intangible ability to project it into being. My letter to you, dear editor, is exactly about that thing that inspires me. I’ve lost it. Don’t get me wrong, I know where it is and where I can find it. But I can’t get to it right now. Might never be able to again. How do I get past that, then? How do I bring back the literature and the art, if I can’t bring back the ferris wheels and the wine? Smiles inspire colourful canvases, tears distraught emotional words, fire deep scars on sheets of paper with whiskey stains. But those days are gone now. Vagueness and ambiguity are key here. Nothing I’m saying is what it seems, and if you think you’ve got it right then you’re either the wine or the booze has got to you and you should sober up before finishing this letter. But what must not be disregarded is that it’s the holiday season now, our year is almost over, and no art can be inspired out of this desolate world. Streets will be full at least, and I won’t drink my Beaujolais on my own, the colours of the Amsterdamse School will find a way to distract my null canvas into being a little more than primaries on white, but the wine still won’t be there.

*** 158

quint magazine | issue 11  

The eleventh issue of quint magazine.

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