Thursday, 27 January 2011

Sound Pundits: Fusing Music into an Experience

T.S. Eliot once said, “You are the music while the music lasts.” And for two Toronto-based deejays, this is a statement to live by.

Sound Pundits is the brainchild of two friends from Toronto, who hope to change the face of Bollywood music one listener at a time, with a keen interest on entertaining and engaging local Torontonians. Each month Ahmed Hashim and Ketan Chhatwani release a podcast online, which they describe as “an hour and a half long musical experience.”

“It has a clear beginning, middle and end,” says Hashim, who also likens the experience to “riding a musical wave”.

In a world where tracks are released by the second, and podcasts are available for every music enthusiast, from classical concertos to spoken-word poetry, Sound Pundits are quite likely to stand out.

Their goal is to make music that’s appropriate for any setting. “We want people to turn to the Sound Pundits when they’re working out, or if they’re preparing for a night on the town,” Hashim says. “Music is a movement, and we’re sure people will be moving as they listen to what we put together.”

Chhatwani and Hashim meticulously choose the music for each episode. They spend the month doing research and testing tracks. House, progressive and electronic beats are then blended with the latest from Bollywood, in what sounds like a musical fusion that captures the romance of the east and combines it with the pulse of the west.

“We credit all the deejays used in our podcast, and we let our listeners know what they’re listening to,” says Chhatwani, who hopes this project will change the way people listen to Bollywood music across the planet.

“We’re just two guys who want to bring you good music,” he explains. “Bollywood music is appreciated across the planet and by all cultures, but we want to let people know there’s more than just the basic banghra beats that seem so popular in the club scenes.”

When asked about the difference between Bollywood and bhangra music, the friends were quick to explain.

“Bhangra music energizes people from start to finish,” Chhatwani says. “It’s upbeat, and you know it will charge you up. Bollywood music is calmer and it has a definite story.”

So why mix beats into a calm story? Well, the two friends say this is the best way inject Bollywood into mainstream music.

“The electronic scene is huge in India,” Hashim says. “These tracks (mostly from movies) are already mixed by local deejays, but they rarely ever leave India. That’s where we come in.”

The two admit the name of their venture defines their vision. According to them “Every musician, every deejay is a Sound Pundit. They create the music, and we combine it together in a way that’s fun and easy to listen to.”

The two friends credit deejays on both sides of the planet for inspiring them into this craft. “We feature everyone from DJ Anoop, DJ Dev and DJ NYK — who just so happens to be the biggest deejay in India — to Canada’s very own Deadmau5,” Chhatwani says. “We’re actually in contact with some of the big names in the Indian club scene.”

They taught themselves everything from the art of mixing music, to creating a podcast online. And their hard work is definitely showing, with listeners tuning in every month from over 80 countries.

“People anticipate our episodes,” Hashim says. “We get messages asking when then next one will be available for download… it’s pretty exciting.”

And as they approach the one-year anniversary of their venture, their momentum simply continues to grow.
According to the duo, deejays send them samples of their work with hopes of being featured on an episode.

However, they’re also constantly on the lookout for new and emerging artists to feature as well. “We’re moving full speed ahead in 2011,” they say. “We have a lot of surprises in store for our listeners in the coming months, so we’re asking you to tune in… and stay tuned.”

You can check out their Facebook fan page for more booking information and latest news, or visit their SoundCloud page for all the latest releases.

Image courtesy of the Sound Pundits

Note: featured this article in their Entertainment section in Jan/2011.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Just Keep Swimmin'

I have to remind myself sometimes.

"When life gets you down, just keep swimmin'..."

It's all we can do, right?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Global Belly Laugh Day

Today is Global Belly Laugh Day. So make sure you take some time to get your hahas on at some point. There's nothing better than a good laugh to get you out of the blues... even if it's just temporarily.

Take a cue from Mr. Clooney here. He knows the value of a good belly laugh. 

Here are five great sites to get you started.

Fail Blog
Ever have moments that just make you want to want to go into hiding from embarrassment? Well, so do the victims of Fail Blog. This amazing site features stories from contributors willing to share their facepalm moments with the world. Check it out for a chuckle.

Texts From Last Night
Pretty much self explanatory. People submit their inappropriate, entertaining and silly texts here. Good for a laugh in limited characters.

F My Life
Everytime you feel your life can't get any worse, visit this site to be reminded that it can. Just be glad you're not one of these victims.

I Can Has Cheezburger
If you don't know of this site by now, then you're clearly new to the Internet.

The Onion
Taking everyday news and spinning it until it woven into a comfy ol' sweater.

Image courtesy of Google Images

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Is it just me?

I'm feeling pretty rattled tonight, in the wake of all this sadness in the world.

Since the start of 2011, birds are falling from the sky, fish are washing ashore, floods are drowning out life down under, and a massive winter snowstorm has pretty much blanketed most of Canada and the US. And those are just the natural disasters.

In addition to all this, the media hasn't failed to provide up-to-the-minute coverage of the shootings in Tuscon, Arizona, which took away the lives of so many innocent people this past weekend.

And just this morning we were given a local shock in Toronto, after a man went on a rampage through the city on a stolen snowplow, and killed a police officer in the line of duty. The officer was just 35-years-old, and a father to a toddler.

I'm breathless just from writing all that out. It's sometimes too much to bear, isn't it? And mind you, all of this is happening while the world solemnly watches the attempted reconstruction of Haiti, a year after a brutal earthquake shook that entire country.

I feel this post is going against everything Straight From The Curls stands for, and yet I can't help but vent. I understand we have no control over the natural disasters (sort of), but what about the man-made problems in our world? Is there any reason for this self-inflicted chaos?

I was forced into a makeshift media blackout during my year in Korea. I had a television, but the news was always in Korean, so I never really understood what was going on. And I didn't mind it. It was rather nice not knowing about all the happenings in the world at every minute. When I felt like it, I'd go on the Internet to look up information.

But these days it seems like we can't escape it. The media is everywhere -- even on the go, with mobile phones and wireless technology. Every waking moment we're subjected to the going ons on either ends of our world. And it seems like in recent times the bad news has been outweighing the good.

Actress Whoopi Golberg's latest book is aptly titled, "Is it just me? Or is it nuts out there?" It's pretty appropriate, don't you think? I especially love the image on the cover.

We as a species really need to take another look at ourselves and about the ways in which we interact with each other. There's just so much unnecessary hate out there, and it really has become a big, bad, scary world. Instead of looking after one another, we're pitching lines in concrete. Instead of promoting peace, we're encouraging animosity among faiths, races, ages... and all this while toting a loaded gun. Why?

And what's with all these politicians encouraging such behaviour? I've always said words are a powerful medium. People absorb words, even if it's subconsciously. So why is it that instead of using their platforms to encourage communication and open-mindedness, most politicians are encouraging barriers and violence?

At the end of the day, when it's our time to leave this planet, we go without our material possessions. So why is it that even with this valuable piece of information, we're still living our lives like it's us against the world? Shouldn't we be valuing life and the limited time we have on this earth?

It seems to me like people have lost their sense of humanity. Values and morals have been replaced by this idea that life should be a free-for-all, rooted in greed and ignorance -- it's us against you, and you against them. And this is the very attitude that's brought us to the global predicaments we find ourselves in.

There's a lovely Persian proverb that reads, "We come into this world crying while all around us are smiling. May we so live that we go out of this world smiling while everybody around us is weeping."

We need to reevaluate how we, as human beings and fellow citizens of this planet, are living our lives and about what our priorities are. I'm not saying we shouldn't have goals and dreams of bettering our lives... that's fine. That's good. But it shouldn't come at the cost and lives of others.

We need to have hope for a better tomorrow. But we should also be proactive and spread messages of love and peace with whomever we can, whenever we can.

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Image courtesy of Google Images

Sunday, 9 January 2011

3 happy things

I know this may sound obvious, but the Internet sure has come a long way since the days of dial-up. I remember when the very thought of signing on to the Net was daunting (dial tone anyone?). We had to make sure we weren't expecting any phone calls, and our time was limited -- Mum simply said we could sign on, get what we needed for school, and sign off. We didn't always listen to her, but lately, I can't help but wish for those days... slightly.

Wi-Fi gives new meaning to the phrase 'information at your fingertips.' We're always connected. Even as I write this post, I'm not plugged in. I'm simply relying on the fact that my computer is somehow connected to some server... and that's what's giving me access to the Internet. (Pardon my non-tech speak.) When I sit down and think of the logistics, it's kind of scary.

But, I digress. My point in all of this is that I've had a lot of free time lately to prowl the Internet in search of things that make me happy. I've been straying away from the norms of social-media, in search of inspiration through blogs, photographs and other lovely anecdotes that will jump-start my engine.

Here are three things in life that never fail to bring a smile to my face and a happy burst to my soul.

1. Twinkle lights - I love the romance and ease of soft, mood lighting. Inside, it's the ambiance that comes from the soft glow of a simple lamp in the corner of a room. Give me a comfy chair, a throw, a good book and a cup of tea, and I'll sit in peaceful solitude for hours.

Outdoors, it's a few well placed twinkle lights along a rooftop, or neatly wrapped around the branches of a tree, or setting the mood for a peaceful walk in a park.

2. Couch travel - I think it goes without saying that I'm in this lovely relationship with travel. It's a healthy relationship, but we don't get to spend a lot of time together. But thanks to the Internet, we're able to stay in touch.

I spend a few minutes of each day dreaming of tropical adventures and rendezvous'. I'm drawn to images of warmth and slower paces. One day I'm in Africa... Cape Town, to be exact. I'm at the shore, watching the waves splash as the Indian and Atlantic embrace. But perhaps tomorrow I might try catching the Aurora Borealis in the North West Territories.

One thing's for sure -- my mind and heart are joining together to agree on this one simple point: "Get out there again!" they scream in unison. Someday. Soon. Again.

3. Quotes - This is a constant (and a must) in my daily Internet prowlings. I love words, and when they're woven together in a manner that's sure to make me think, smile or re-evaluate my life, I love them even more. Lately, I've been stumbling across these awesome images with appropriate quotes designed on to them. You'll find my favourite for the week in the Quote of the Week tab, or you can check out Straight From The Curls' Tumblr for more frequent updates.

There you have it. 3 happy things that are a click away. It's like emergency food for my soul. Do you have any guaranteed picker-uppers of your own?

Images courtesy of Google Images

Friday, 7 January 2011

Sleep and Shock

It's been a while since I've written a post like this, so please bear with me.

I can't quite recall the exact moment I became a night owl. I used to stay up a lot when I was in university, but that usually stemmed from studying or staying out with friends. It was never because I couldn't control it.

Then there were a few spells while I was in Korea. Weeks when external silence was deafening, and I had to turn up the music on my computer to full volume just so I could drown out the noise in my mind. But those moments came and went in spells... depending on what occupied my thoughts.

But since moving back to Toronto, I haven't been able to fall asleep before midnight. In fact, I find I'm staying up well into the early hours of the morning, not because I'm not tired (quite frankly, I'm exhausted), but because the noise is back.

I lay awake in bed and my mind just keeps going and going, and the thoughts just keep swirling into this vortex that causes my heartbeat to pick up speed instead of relax.

All sorts of thoughts -- about life in general, my family, friends... about the decisions I've made in my own life that have led me to this point. And I truly wish I could sit here and say I regret the recent choices I've made -- but I don't.

So why aren't I at ease?

Let me be honest here and say that I did imagine my life would be quite different at 25. In fact, I pictured myself in a very different place than I'm in right now. But I also know that life tends to take whatever plans you have and throws them off a cliff. What we're left to deal with instead, are curve-balls and twisted paths, and if we're lucky, we survive the journey until we reach a certain level of happiness.

But I also knew a long time ago that moving back to Toronto wouldn't be easy. I just never imagined that five months into it, I'd still be trying to sort things out. And this recession... gosh, am I ever tired of hearing that word. And I'm even more tired of it being the excuse of all that's messed up these days.

I've been brought up to have faith, and to never lose hope. I've often said that hope fuels humanity, and that without it, we can never move forward. And I have hope. In fact, these days, it feels like it's all I have. But really, is it enough?

I'm not a kook. I know I have to do my part to change my own life. I'm the captain of my own destiny and all that fun stuff. But sometimes... sometimes some things are just out of our hands. And I've learned that particular lesson especially over these past few months.

I've been on this mission since the start of the New Year to remain optimistic in all aspects of my life. But seven days into it and I'm exhausted. I can count 10 not-so-nice things that have happened since January 1st, and not one positive thing. (Pretty bad and unusual for a hopeless optimist, huh?)

But all I can do is keep on keeping on... and sit with hope and faith that perhaps these days will soon be a distant memory.

This post must come as a shock to a lot of you, dear readers. As I read it over, it's shocking me too. But this is also reality. And sometimes in reality, optimism is hard to come by.


Saturday, 1 January 2011

Life is Wonderful

One of my favourite songs by Jason Mraz -- "Life is Wonderful"
(performed live in South Korea)

"And it takes no time to fall in love
But it takes you years to know what love is
It takes some fears to make you trust
It takes those tears to make it rust
It takes the dust to have it polished"

2011 inspiration

Well hello, 2011! It's nice to finally meet you.

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope your day has taken off to a lovely start, and that the year ahead will be a fabulous one for all of you. It's the start of a new decade too, so make it count for something.

I stumbled across some lovely quotes and images to help kick-start the new year properly. They inspire me, and I hope they ignite a sense of positivity and hope in you as well. May they aid you in your resolutions (and non-resolutions), whatever they may be.

Images courtesy of Google Images
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