Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wild Fox

She innocently plays

With me


Glances across


Friday, November 19, 2010

Beathe Easy with a Lazzy Lung

There’s something about the beautiful sounds of alternative rock that is so nostalgic, so exhilarating, that it has the capacity to literally to turn someone’s day around once it’s on.

With their debut album, Lebanese alt-rock outfit Lazzy Lung have created an homage to the true spirit and grit of those incredibly sweet bands that emerged from the height of alternative rock music in the mid to late 90s.

Strange Places is packed-full with memorable catchy tunes that will find their way into your subconscious, and stay there. It’s the kind of music that give you that comforting feeling, as if you’ve heard before, but yet it has that fresh sound.

With influences ranging the versatile breadth of alternative music, Lazzy Lung somehow combine the riffs of Stone Temple Pilot with the melodics of Nada Surf. And when frontman/songwriter Allan Chaaraoui sings “I can’t help but feelin’/left out again” on “On Standby” when all know exactly what he’s talking about.

The simplicity of the songs is what makes them more appealing. Allan sings about things like the pressures of a new job, or being in a long distance relationship, or simply getting over a massive hangover.

As I listen to it, I keep imagining how these songs would sound played live. It just seems that they are meant to be played live, the sound is pure and the harmonics clean, and almost every chorus is memorable enough to be wanted to be sung along, like in the kick-off track “8 Hours To Get Home”

On tracks like “21 Below” and “Ridin’” the band really puts on a show to prove their capacity to produce rock anthems that can echo through radio stations and concert halls. There’s even a sweet little folksy tune in “Rains of October”, the mellowest track on the album.

All in all, a very impressive debut from an all-out alt-indie rock band that has the potential to make it big, if Strange Places is anything to go by.

Standout tracks: “21 Below”, “Ridin’”, “Onstandby”, “Rains in October”, “8 Hours To Get Home”

Check out Lazzy Lung here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Why I Voted

Somehow I ended up in a polling booth.

Up until three days ago, I was almost certain I wasn’t going to vote in the 2010 municipal and parliamentary elections.

Part of this was from the bitter taste the last elections left in my mouth – four years ago I had high hopes when I voted for one candidate, who ended losing out marginally - and partially it’s because I had my doubts in the process.

But I’ve come to realize, as I stood in line waiting for my turn to hand in my ID, that deep inside, I’ve always wanted to vote.

There was a buzz, excitement, and even tension around the polling station, but the sight of men and women of every age and background but me at ease. Smiling parents turned up with their children, groups of friends wearing matching colored-shirts, retired elderly men in the thobes and young women, were all here for different reasons, but they also all had one thing in common. They had hope.

No matter which way you looked at it, and in spite of all that’s said and done, these elections are a monumental step towards a brighter Bahrain. It is a slow process, but as a people and a nation, we must stride side by side, step by step, together towards it.

As soon as I went through the registration desk, I was handed the two ballots (for both the municipal and parliamentary candidates) and I made my way to the booth.

A felt a little nervy as I held the pen and stared down at the ballots in front of me, thinking, that with one simple tick, I could have a significant say in deciding the future of my country, at least for the next four years. After a moment, I ticked my choices, with confidence and convection.

I realized that there is no wrong or right answer to this. It wasn’t a test. Whichever choice I made, it must be one that I believed would contribute positively to the wellbeing of my country, and to my hopes and expectations, and addressing the issues that concern me.

Taking the two ballots in my hand, I approach the box where the young lovely Bahraini lady supervising it gives me a nod and a smile, and motions to me to slip the papers in.

I do and smile back. And as I walk out of that polling station, with a spring in my step, I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself.

Things may not be everything we want them to be, and we are surely far from having a complete perfect political system, and we certainly have different opinions, but we’ve come a long way over the past decade or so.

What we must now understand is that our participation does not end at those polling stations. It’s just the start of another chapter. Let’s hope it has a great ending.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Play Away The Years

I’ve played a lot of video games over the years. We were the only ones I knew who actually had a vigitrex (don’t be alarmed if you don’t even know what that is) which was basically a black box with a screen that had green lines moving. Our teenhood brought with it years of Arcade mania, spending hours and days playing the likes of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Metal Slug!

Every weekend mom would drive us to Jasmi’s Exhibition Road, which had the best arcades in town. It used to be the only place that had the latest and best Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat arcades (Ah, the beauty of ripping someone's head off, burning them into smithereens or pulling their spine out!). There was this cool dude who no one could beat, anyone who would challenge him couldn’t last more than a couple of minutes. And he never uttered a word. He’d just stand there, staring into the screen, doing what he does best… kicking-ass.

We then somehow convinced our parents to splash out on a Neo-Geo, which was the coolest, most powerful and awesomest console of the early 90s. Bring on the brilliant fighting game Samurai Shodown and the likes of King of Fighters and Fatal Fury. We actually had to drive to Saudi Arabia to get the cartridges – there was only one store we knew of that sold them, and they were expensive at the time. At home, we used to stage “Samurai Shodown tournaments” – my brother always kicked our asses with his Charlotte. Shortly after that, we had another gaming revelation – the Mega Drive! The Mega Drive had the best arcade games on the console, and even though the selection was pretty limited, we needn’t more than SF and MK to enjoy it.

When the first PlayStation came out, the world was never the same again – we would go to Souq Almagasees to get the copies CD’s for dirt-cheap, at first it was BD1 but then it dropped to nothing more than 500 fils! Imagine that. And god, how many times have we bought corrupt copies, go back to the vendor and ask, fruitlessly, for a refund or an exchange. And I know what you’ll say, how on earth can you forget the FAMILY GAME! Are you kidding me? A console with 3000 in-built games!!! Not that you’d ever need any of them, all you would play is Super Mario.

It’s amazing when you think about it, and look how far video games got nowadays with the technologies of the PS3 and Xbox. I have played a ton of games on my PS3 and some of them have been memorable experiences.

My top 10 PS3 video games:

  1. Red Dead Redemption
  2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  3. Grand Theft Auto IV
  4. Dead Space
  5. Heavy Rain
  6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  7. InFamous
  8. Assassin’s Creed II
  9. Resistance: Fall of Man
  10. FIFA 11

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

13 Floors

Once the elevator doors closed

I was in the dark alone

Is that a whisper I hear?

I could’ve sworn it was your voice

Cutting the air that stands between us

I’ve got a blue lights in the palm of my hand

It casts a weak glow around me

But all I see is numbers

Between you and me

Thirteen floors sounds like a long way

To go down in the pitch darkness

One by one, there no light in sight

Maybe you should reach a hand out for me?

I promise I won’t bite

Friday, September 03, 2010

A House Is A Box

We forget that houses have memories too. And once these houses are abandoned, their memories begin to fade.

My parents lived most of their young life in the old part of Manama. But like many of their generation, they opted to move into the city, to find a better home in the new suburban areas of Bahrain.

As years passed, most of Manama’s original inhabitants departed, leaving their homes behind, the homes they grew up in, the homes their parents had lived in, leaving them to their fate. Most of those old homes are demolished to make way for apartment buildings.

My aunt remained in her dilapidated home and every time we’d visit her, she’d complain about the new neighbors whose names are either too foreign or too long for her to remember.

From every angle and corner, a new apartment building leers over her ageing house, bullying it, waiting for it to finally fall and crumble; to be erased along with all of my aunt’s and my family’s memories.

Even to this day when I visit, I still get excited by the prospect of seeing my aunt and her home. As a kid it was almost like an adventure every time we visited, on the usual occasions, because it was different, it seemed like a completely different world compared to where I lived, a house in the suburbs of Isa Town.

When we were little, my aunt would always sneak to the “other room” – which we wouldn’t dare venture into – to fetch us some treats. The house always smelled of aromatic scents and spices.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

First Encounters With Art

My first encounter with art came at an unlikely place and time for me. I was only seven. We were on holiday in France. And I was in this humongous old building, like a fairytale palace. And a throng of people huddled in front of a wall, with a frame.

I could only see glimpses of it through the crowds. Later, when I asked my mother. She told me that the painting on the wall was called the Mona Lisa. That didn’t make much sense to me; it only freaked me out that the lady in the painting seemed to follow me with her eyes as I moved!

Twenty-three years later, I now realize the significance of that moment. Many people in Bahrain never have such encounter with Art at an early stage. The way society perceives art means that it is mistreated, misinterpreted and misplaced.

There was never any true interaction with art at school and if there was any, it was limited to grade one level of drawing nice pictures of nice houses and happy people. Once you hit puberty, drawing becomes something of a disease rather than a passion. This meant that those who felt this strong, undeniable passion towards art had to find their own way. Many of today’s established and well-known artists were ones who have taken it upon themselves to follow their passion, even when there was little to go by.

During the 1970s and early 80s a new wave of artists began to emerge, some who had the privilege managed to travel to Europe to get their dose of art history and knowledge. It was only in 1986 that the Bahrain Arts Society was formed and the longest running annual art showcase in the region was born (it has been running for 34 years now). It paved the way to this generation of artists to leave their mark and artists such as Abbes Al Mosaic, one of the country’s most prominent and celebrated artists, Rashid Al Oraifi and others, made it happen for themselves.

But since then, it became increasingly difficult for a new generation of artists to make their presence felt, the art movement died down and emerging artists found it more challenging to get their break. Until recently.

Bahrain, even though the first in the Gulf to introduce education, and is to this day considered one of the leaders in the field, still doe not have a certified art and design school. This has contributed in limiting the interest of art education, that combined with the fact that art was never truly seen as a career move. Rather it was always the hobby that can’t be taken up professionally due to various reasons, one being the inability creating a sound and strong financial setup.

The establishment of new art galleries by the late 90s such as Alriwaq Art Gallery and Albareh Art Gallery injected a new shot of energy into the scene. Slowly but steadily, with the exposure of the local community to more international art, it became clear that it was a matter of time until a new movement was born.

Art galleries have over the past few years been more adventurous and daring, attempting to break away from the standard understanding of what art is. Giving opportunities to more conceptual and new artists to showcase their work. And with the establishment of such initiatives as Elham, which I launched in 2006, helped alter the perception of art and triggered a new grassroots movement for emerging artists. The need to reform the art scene was evident, and the desire for change was shared by all parties involved.

Bahrain as a country is known for its diversity. In spite of its small scale, it’s cultural construct is vast. A range of influences from pop culture to contemporary concepts, and from European art and Asian design, can be felt when observing the art that has come out of Bahrain over the past couple of decades. But it got to the point where the influences were more evident that the artist’s unique fingerprint and it seemed that for a while, artists were restricting themselves to certain schools of style – perhaps it was more of a self imposed restraint in consideration of social and cultural boundaries.

It’s almost as if the new generation of artists have finally found the confidence and courage to be themselves, create their own brand of art, and stamp their personal style on the scene. And this can’t be further from the truth for such artists as Mohammed Al Mahdi, who immediately established a name for him self by winning the country’s prestigious annual art award. Bahraini young artist Waheeda Mallullah is another example. The conceptual artist is fearless when it comes to expressing her ideas and conveying them to the public and her experimental attitude brings a fresh prospective to the table.

The timing couldn’t be more appropriate, as the eyes of the world is now more and more turning towards the Gulf region, it’s art is what will paint a brighter and honest portray of it. Specifically in Bahrain, a country that in spite of its limited resources, has always managed to produce a pool or talented artists who are not shy of challenging perceptions, and stereotypes, with conviction.

*this essay first appeared in the Across The Gulf book.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You Is The Howlin’ Wolf

Howl for me

Howl for me my baby

Get down and dirty with me

Moan like a crying wolf

Spread your dirty evil on me

Soak the sheets with your sweet sweat

Baby make me beg for more

Make me grovel and groan

It ain’t worth a dime if I ain’t got the time

To watch you bend and curve snake-like

Then howl for me baby,

Howl down and dirty

Touch me where you don’t touch them other guys

They was as pure as rain falls

Until they heard your howl

Make’em grovel and groan

It ain’t worth a dime, I say

It ain’t worth a dime

If you don’t take your sweet sweet time

Getting’ down and dirty with me baby

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On the Strangness of Life

Life sure is strange. You can never get what you really want from it, or figure out what it wants from you! It’s just a whole mess. Day after day. Day in day out. Comes and goes. Passes and ticks by. And you haven’t a clue what’s going on. You just ride the wave. Go with the flow. Events and decisions (not all yours, matter of fact most of them aren’t yours) and other people, that’s what makes up your life. It all comes together and produces this mixture, sometimes colorful sometimes colorless, but either way you accept it and learn to live with it. Or just let it be. Sit tight and watch it manipulate your life, your mind, your time. Some might call that fate.

Do you know how many times I’ve been carried off the playground at school? Seems that I always get knocked pretty bad, been happening all my life. Sometimes I'd be crying as some classmates pick me up and take me to the principal’s office, and I would sit and wait for mother to come for me. All dirty and sweaty and eyes filled with tears. No matter how many times I got hurt playing, mother always had that same concerned look on her face when she found me.

I’m just waiting. I’m letting the decisions be made for me. I’m running along. That’s what I always did all my life. It’s never up to me alone to decide what to do; actually no one can make a decision solely on their own.

There are always powers and sources interfering, guiding or leading you to make a decision. You’re never in control of your own life. It’s not your life alone, no matter how much you think it is. People and events around us make up our lives, without them we have nothing. Things will always happen in the end. Its the choices you make on the impulses you get in one particular event resulted by a decision that would draw up your recent future till the next decision is made up for you. And then you’re faced with another set of choices, and even then it’s not entirely your choice to go for whichever choice you tell yourself so hard to believe that is right. Tomorrow is just another day, just like today was just another day. Sometimes I feel like there is no past and no future. There is only present. There is only now. So that days aren’t bulks of time anymore, they are just symbols of something, some place, to be in. We don’t move forward. Days, they come to us. We stand still. We wait.

I remember my granddad (from my mum's side) he used to make us laugh so hard, he'd jut out his denture and start clattering them against each other and make these funny noises with them... or he'd take them off and give us this huge toothless smile! It was silly but when you're little anything like that makes you laugh. When he died, I remember how bad mother took it. She was very close to him. And somehow he used to hold the whole family together (after he was gone everybody get further apart and lost contact). Everybody loved him, he was such a character.

Funny all the time, even at the worst moments and situations. I remember that night I heard he had died, I sneaked to the back of the house and started crying silently, alone. I don't know. I just didn’t want anyone to see me cry, for some reason. I missed him that night more than I did afterward. I used to keep his thick black sunshades and his old, rusted ring... the glasses have disappeared since, but I still have that ring.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

15 for 15

I just finished unwrapping 15 brand new music CD’s.

That was fun.

Now, I have to “import” all of them onto my Mac, then onto my iPod.

Yeah. Fun.

My favorite part of buying a new music record used to be unwrapping it, sliding in the CD into my music player for the first time and going through the sleeve/booklet (I love the way they smell).

Now, that seems rudimentary. As the actual act of owning a CD doesn’t have the same value it used to. Because once you import it onto whatever machine you’re using, you are unlikely to EVER pick that CD again.

Still, I was as excited as a bunny in a free-range carrot field when I stumbled upon an entire stack of brand new CD’s at Geant, going for as low as BD1 only each! I spent the better part of half an hour rummaging through the stacks.

I found a couple of gems, a few old records and some new ones. I couldn’t get all the ones I wanted to go, because that would’ve been silly. But I’m happy with my new collection, which includes Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Rolling Stones, Fastball, Razorlight, Radiohead, Weezer and BeastieBoys among others.

I’ve currently got a little over 600 CD’s on my shelf. These don’t include the ones I got tucked away, the ones I lost to ex-girlfriends, and the ones I left behind in my travels.

Also, don’t tell anyone, but I’ve got hundreds of “cassette tapes” in my closet!

Now, let the “importing” begins!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

True Fiction - Every Month!

Every month, I will post a new piece of writing for you. These will include completed, unpublished short stories, essays, columns, or works in progress. These will be available online free for you to read and your feedback will be much appreciated.

Head over to the "True Fiction" section to find the first of the series, a short story entitled "The Shadowlands", which is about a man who loses his shadow.

Thank you.

Bahraini Girls Rock... Hard!

When women do something in this part of the world, it is always met with a mixture of excitement and conservatism, so it was no surprise to finally see one of the very first Bahraini all-female rock bands making their noise heard.

Scarlet Tear is a two-piece gothic ala-Evanescence rock band who first appeared on Facebook, slowly but steadily building up an online fan base. Their story was picked up by none other than the LA Times, with an article published on their website.

It will be interesting to see how this young band develops, especially at a time in Bahrain where the music scene is finally happening, albeit at a very small scale at this stage. Check out the two tracks they've posted on their FB page and show your support.

Personally, I think it's wonderful to see, but I think the girls are playing right at the moment by keeping their identity hidden and staying out of public eye. When the time is right, I am sure we will see them live on stage here in Bahrain.

The Return

I am sure there is a reason for bringing back an old blog to life after more than 3 years in the twilight. But I am not sure what it is yet. I'm hoping to find out, one post at a time.