‘Indus Raag’ producer wins Global Music Award

Indus Raag – Music Beyond Borders by Tehzeeb now available at Liberty Books stores and online.

Website: http://libertybooks.com/bookdetail.aspx?pid=26731


KARACHI: 
Tehzeeb Foundation patron and music producer Sharif Awan has won a gold medal at the Global Music Awards (GMA).

The laurel has been conferred upon him for the album Indus Raag: Music Beyond Borders which is a part of the Indus Raag project that aims to archive the legacy of sub-continental music tradition.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Awan said he has been selected among nine artists from various countries for the medal. This is the first time a Pakistani album has featured in an international award show. “It really is an achievement for all those who have been associated with the project and have worked tirelessly to make it a success,” he added. Awan hoped the project will continue to play its role in the conservation and promotion of Eastern classical music.

It is pertinent to mention that Indus Raag: Music Beyond Borders was Pakistan’s first indigenous entry to get shortlisted for the 57th Grammys.

GMAs are held ever1125273-image-1466261508-643-640x480.JPGy year in California, USA, acknowledging services of people from different countries and cultural backgrounds for world music.

Last week, Awan announced the digital release of Indus Raag 2 — Karachi Concerts, the second album in the series. It comprises 10 hours worth of recordings that feature as many as 65 musicians from Pakistan, India, UK, Germany, France and Turkey. Recorded between 2009 and 2015, it includes names such as Ustad Rais Khan, Ustad Naseeruddin Saami, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan, Grammy-winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, the Gundecha Brothers and Ashraf Sharif Khan.

This article is published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2016.
Web link: http://tribune.com.pk/story/1125273/indus-raag-producer-wins-global-music-award/

Happy New Year from Liberty Books

Dear all,

Happy New Year to you and your families. As the year comes to an end and we gear up for 2016, we have been reflecting on this last year and would like to share thought with you.

First and foremost, we would like to thank you all for your support this year. With the global shift towards technology and rampant piracy in Pakistan, needless to mention scarce libraries, we are faced with the most pressing question of our careers – what if people stop reading books? So each year, we try harder. We innovate in the way we communicate with you, we give you the best service in store and online and we try (as much as possible) to bring the best books in Pakistan. There is a strong passion driving us, for books and reading with the hope that reading habits will improve in Pakistan. So we continue on to 2016 and we will try our absolute best to improve further.

And we are grateful too, so very grateful to you. You kept visiting our stores, spent time on our couches, recommended some great books to us, attended our events, supported our new outlets and continued to be patrons. Many of you talk about our service on social media and other platforms, while we haven’t individually been able to thank you – we would like to so so now. We really appreciate every word, it makes our time and effort worthwhile. For those of you that we have disappointed in some way, we are truly sorry. It isn’t intentional, trust us.  Each of you interacting with us, even showing a mere interest in books is truly essential and we will do our best to ensure that you keep coming back.

Finally, we want to share some milestones with you. It’s true, like previous years we had some downturns and we also didn’t have people breaking our doors during sales this year, nor did we see any in-store cat fights. However, we have had our share of achievements that we are extremely proud of, this includes several successful book launches in our stores in Karachi and Lahore, some great story telling sessions for children, our Sunday Book Bazaar initiative (that you all have been attending in great numbers), a new store in Karachi’s DHA neighborhood, a revamped Basement at our BBQ tonight outlet and the literature festivals that continue to expand along with a truly outstanding Karachi International Book Fair. We saw a tremendous increase in our website sales this year. We delivered books to not just the big metropolitans but also to cities like Gujranwala, Muzaffarabad, Nowshera, Wah, Sialkot, Rahim Yar Khan, Gilgit and several others! It’s great to see that Pakistan still has avid readers and we hope this number continues to grow.

Before we sign off, we wish you a great year ahead and we hope that we can all look back at 2016 and reflect on what a great year it’s been for us and our country. Please keep the spirit of books and reading alive and spread it in whatever small way you can. And most importantly, continue to live curious and beautiful lives!

A very happy new year to you.
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How Making Time for Books Made Me Feel Less Busy

Six months ago, I found myself drowning in a flood of easy information. The internet—and all the lovely things on it, things like Wikipedia, Twitter, podcasts, the New Yorker, email, TED Talks, Facebook, Youtube, Buzzfeed occasionally, and yes, even the Harvard Business Review—provide unlimited sources of delight at the touch of a finger.

The delight, indeed, abounds. But it’s not always delightful. It comes with some suffering too. I was distracted when at work, distracted when with family and friends, constantly tired, irritable, and always swimming against a wash of ambient stress induced by my constant itch for digital information. My stress had an electronic feel to it, as if it was made up of the very bits and bytes on my screens. And I was exhausted.

This all came into a sharp focus when I realized, to my horror (but probably not to my surprise), that I had read just four books in all of 2014. That’s one book a quarter. A third of a book per month. I love reading books. Books are my passion and my livelihood. I work in the world of book publishing. I’m the founder of LibriVox, the largest library of free public domain audiobooks in the world; and I spend most of my time running Pressbooks, an online book production software company. I might have an unpublished novel in a drawer somewhere.

I love books. And yet, I wasn’t reading them. In fact, I couldn’t read them. I tried, but every time, by sentence three or four, I was either checking email or asleep.

Books-Quotes-1

I started to wonder: could training myself to read books again help me manage the digital information stress in the rest of my life? Could the cure for too much information be slower information? In the same way that snake venom can be used to produce curative antivenom, I wondered whether that old, slower form of information delivery—books—could act as a kind of antidote to the stress caused by the constant flow of new digital information. Whether my inability to sustain my focus—at work, home, and on reading books—could be cured by finding ways to once again sustain my focus…on a book.

Understanding Our Brains, Part 1: Dopamine, pleasure, and learning bad habits

Recent neuroscientific research is starting to help us understand why we behave as we do with our modern information systems. Humans brains, it turns out, are built to privilege new information over just about anything else (including, somestudies suggest, and food). The promise of that new information, spurred by, say, pressing the refresh button in your email, or the ding of a Twitter DM alert, triggers the release of a neurotransmitter—dopamine—in the brain. Dopamine makes us more alert to the promise of potential pleasure, and our brains are wired to seek out things that generate dopamine.

There is a learning loop to this process—new information + dopamine = pleasure—that lays down neural pathways that “teach” your brain that there is a reward for pressing the email refresh button (even if that reward is nothing but another message from Dave from accounting).

This loop is reinforced every time you watch a second, third, or fifth, cat video on Facebook. And it’s a very hard loop to break. It’s almost—almost—as if hundreds of billions of dollars of engineering and product design have gone into building the perfect machine for keeping us distracted; the perfect system to tickle certain wiring in how our brains are set up.

Understanding Our Brains, Part 2: The energy costs of flitting around

While the addictive attraction of new information is one side of the problem, the other side is the cost of jumping from one thing to the next and back again.

The typical human brain is about 2% of the body’s weight, but it consumes in the range of 20% of the energy, according to neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. What the brain is doing dictates how much or how little energy it consumes: when you are relaxing or staring out the window, your brain is “at rest,” and uses around 11 calories per hour. Focused reading for an hour will use up around 42 calories. But processing lots of new information takes around 65 calories per hour. And jumping from topic to topic is worse.

Every time you pop out of your work to read an email, it costs you not just time, but energy too. As Levitin says: “People who organize their time in a way that allows them to focus are not only going to get more done, but they’ll be less tired and less neurochemically depleted after doing it.”

So what do we do?

My workday is tied to fast digital information: a keyboard, a big glowing screen, an Internet connection, data in and data out, crises to handle, fires to extinguish. While I can make some changes to how I approach that workday, it’s almost impossible for me, for most of us, to escape the digital flows of information during working hours. For me it’s been more effective to start weaning myself from digital inputs during my life outside of work.

I’ve used “reading books again” as the focus of my efforts—to unplug from the flow of digital information, and reconnect with that slower kind of information, the kind I used to get so much pleasure from.

I’ve settled on three hard rules that achieve two things: they get me reading books again, and they give my brain a break from constant digital overload. Here are my three rules to read again:

1. I get home from work, I put away my laptop (and iPhone). This was probably the scariest change—there is an expectation that we are always on, always connected for work. But, for me, there are very few emails that arrive at 10:15 p.m. (or 8:15 p.m.) that need to be answered right away. There are crunch times when I need to work in the evenings, but in general having a clear, well-rested mind when I start my work in the morning is far more valuable than having an overtaxed, exhausted mind from too many emails the previous night.

2. After dinner during the week, I don’t watch Netflix or TV, or mess around on the Internet. This is probably the change that has had the biggest impact. That hour or two of post-dinner wind-down is, for me, the only real free block of time in my day. So, once kids are in bed, dishes cleaned, I no longer even ask the question; I just get out my book and start reading. Often in bed. Sometimes at an outrageously early hour. I thought this change would be most difficult, but it’s been the easiest. Making time to read again has been a real pleasure. (And I enjoy the TV I do watch more than ever.)

3. No glowing screens in the bedroom (Kindle is OK, though). This was my first move away from digital overload, and even if I cheat on the other rules occasionally, this is the one rule I never violate. Not having a connected iPhone or iPad by my bedside means I am no longer tempted to check email at 3:30 in the morning, or visit Twitter at 5 a.m. when I wake up too early. Instead, in those moments of insomnia or an early wake up, I reach for my book (and usually fall right back to sleep).

Following these three rules has made a huge impact on my life. I have more time—since I am no longer constantly chasing the next byte of information. Reading books again has given me more time to reflect, to think, and has increased both my focus and the creative mental space to solve work problems. My stress levels are much lower, and energy levels up.

Managing the flows of digital information in the workplace, and in our personal lives, is going to be an ongoing challenge for all of us in the years and decades to come. Digital information flows will get faster and more voluminous. The internet is just a couple of decades old, and we’ve only had smartphones for less than 10 years.

We are still learning how to live in this information ecosystem, and how to build the ecosystem for humans rather than for the information. We will get better at it—as humans, and as builders of technology. And in the mean time, reading books again will help.

Published in “Harvard Business Review” written by Hugh McGuire.
Web link:
 https://hbr.org/2015/09/how-making-time-for-books-made-me-feel-less-busy

For a complete list of Harvard Business Review books, visit our website: HBR Books

Juggernaut by Akbar Agha

Comment by the author

The book is available in stores and can be ordered from our website here: http://www.libertybooks.com/bookdetail.aspx?pid=26314

Juggernaut is listed as a thriller and indeed it is packed with all the action and excitement a thriller contains, with sprinklings of humour throughout. However, as the reader gets deeper into the story, a stark political reality begins to surface—Pakistan’s relations with India and the constant tensions at the Line of Command as well as with the ruling BJP.

The 71 war and the loss of East Pakistan was traumatic for the nation , but today we seem to have forgotten about the pain and humiliation the thousands of POWs went through at the hands of their captors. Were they just supposed to forgive and forget? It is here the thriller takes on a more serious and topical turn—What if a few  of our  POWs were  tormented by their captors, and what if, after all these years, one of these young POWs who was specifically chosen for exemplary punishment for trying to escape, has lived with the dream of one day wreaking revenge on those who tortured and tormented him? Forty years have passed, but revenge is a dish best served cold, and he is now a general nearing retirement  in  charge of Pakistan’s strategic nuclear command, in an ideal position to order a nuclear strike.  He shares the view with those who hold that “We did not make nukes to fire on Shab-e-barat.” Of course, no one general  can take such action on his own, but the human mind is susceptible enough to psychological techniques such as subliminal hypnosis and neuro linguistic programming  to convince other generals into joining him to strike the enemy , so that the Juggernaut—the unstoppable nuclear force—can be employed to punish India  for the atrocities during  partition,  the injustice in Kashmir, the severing of East Pakistan — all because of one man’s personal vendetta that began with torture and humiliation in a POW camp.

Juggernaut is a whodunit and a thriller , but also delves deep into the dark emotion of  revenge,  and it is by tracing the telltale signs of this human need for retribution  that our protagonist Captain Gul Khan is able to discover the author of the plot and thereby avert a nuclear crisis between two neighbours who already have a surfeit of missiles trained on each other.

A Life of Poems and Ghazals by Musharraf Ali Farooqi

This interview was published in Dawn – Book and Authors on 30th August 2015 and can be accessed here. Rococo and Other Worlds by Afzal Ahmed Syed is available for order and free delivery via our website here: Rococo and Other Worlds

My discovery of contemporary world literature and Afzal Ahmed Syed’s poetry happened around the same time, 25 years ago. The two seemed of a piece: novel and indispensable.

Dazzled by one’s first encounter with the inaccessible world through literature, one may be allowed a little self-indulgence to imagine that narratives, which help us discover new stratum of emotions and open new passageways of thoughts, are anything but miraculous.

Like the apprenticeship in life, the apprenticeship in reading, too, never really ends. However, in time, a sense of its gifts and benefactions begins to develop, and piqued by the reminiscence of something that still stands out in memory as inimitable and unique, one returns to it, and rediscovers. My translation of Syed’s nazm poetry was an effort at such rediscovery, an effort which continues. I skirted clear of an attempt to translate his ghazal poetry published in Khaima-e Siyah (1988) — which is as unique in the Urdu tradition as his nazm — mainly because most of the time language in the ghazal genre is so integrated with the form that severing meaning from the form, through translation, destroys the original.

An interview with Books&Authors followed the publication of Rococo and Other Worlds, my English-language translation of the collection of poems from his three nazm collections: Chheni Hui Tareekh (1984), Do Zubanon Mein Saza-e Maut (1990), and Rococo Aur Doosri Duniyaen (2000). Following are excerpts from the interview:

There is a separation in the subjects you have handled in your prose poems and ghazals which is understandable since the ghazal, as a genre, is made for a different purpose. But one never comes across the paband nazm in your work. Is it a conscious choice?

When I first started writing poetry, I wrote some nazms that you might call paband, but I soon discovered that I could express myself better in nasri nazm, so like everyone else I put my best foot forward. Prose poetry gives me freedom from the tyrannies of rhymes, rhythms, and unnecessary words — words sometimes used as fillers to resonate with the rhythm if it is a paband nazm. The genre of paband nazm is the prerogative of only the great masters.

Commenting on your work the poet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra said that your poetry “constantly reminds us of the things we have forgotten or would prefer to forget, and makes certain that, once reminded, we do not forget them again”. How is memory integral to poetry?

Memories, particularly those of reveries and nightmares, are integral to poetry. It is literature that struggles to keep memories alive, even if imperfectly. As Julian Barnes once said, “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation”. Milan Kundera has written beautifully about how art is the struggle of memory against forgetting.

Is there a classical poet who could be said to be the precursor for the lover and beloved models you have employed in your ghazal? Or did you have other influences?

My model for lover and beloved is what is depicted in this couplet of Bedil:

Khamoshi-e aan lab ba hiya dasht swale

Dadim dil az dast o na guftim jawb ast

The silence of those lips secretly posed a question

I gave my heart to it and didn’t say it was the answer to her query

As my precursors for the model of the lover and beloved, I would name the 10th century Arab poet al-Mutanabbi and the 16th-century Persian poet Naziri Nishapuri. The lover is too often treated as oppressed and tormented in the relationship with the beloved, and what I want to capture is a more human relationship that is not always about oppressor and oppressed, or tormenter and tormented. Desire is a two-way street, and this is not always recognised in the Urdu ghazal.

How would you describe the influence of the ghazals of Mir and Ghalib on Urdu poetry?

Both Mir’s and Ghalib’s ghazals are powerful and distinct, and both are widely remembered, but whereas Mir’s mostly self-indulgent poetry has left a mark on the modern ghazal, the more philosophical ghazals of Ghalib have had a very limited influence. Ghalib has already proved how the Urdu language can handle both complexity and abstraction of thought.

Would you say that Ghalib was a unique, singular phenomenon in Urdu poetry?

Nothing occurs in isolation. We tend not to remember our great poets. Only very few of the many classical masters of Urdu poetry have remained alive in our imagination. Qurratulain Hyder has somewhere declared Mah Laqa Bai ‘Chanda’ (1768-1824) as the precursor of Ghalib, and quoted this couplet:

Karta hai mujh ko daikh ke kyun justejo-e-taigh

Sar hai mera habab-e-sar-e aabjoe-e taigh

When you behold me, why do you reach for the sword

My head floats like a bubble in the rivulet of the sword

You can see in this couplet the same kind of diction that Ghalib used.

Politics enters only obliquely in your poetry. But there is a long history of Urdu poetry making politics and international political events its subjects. How do you describe this phenomenon in contemporary Urdu poetry? After Iqbal, the major contribution to Urdu poetry was made by the poets who tried to propagate socialist ideas. Their poetry is, of course, full of what we might call political commentary. International political events, too, were the subject of Urdu poetry in the 20th century, but they are concerned mostly with the Middle East, for example, Faiz’s ‘Irani talbaa ke naam’.

One of his collections was named Sar-e-Wadi-e-Sina. Similarly, one of N.M. Rashid’s collections is Iran Mein Ajnabi. His ‘Hasan kozehgar’, although an apolitical poem, is also set against the backdrop of the Middle East — Baghdad, and Aleppo — now a besieged city. Since the 1970s, we have seen a number of international poets translated into Urdu. Pablo Neruda and Mahmoud Darwish, in particular, have helped, to some extent, in developing a global sensibility in Urdu poetry.

There are always subtle and indirect influences, but what appeals to a poet in another poet’s work is what helps us understand the nature of a poet’s poetic world and sometimes also how he sees the world through others’ eyes, deepens our understanding of his own influences. Again, we may admire something in a work but it may not be an influence in what we create ourselves. Do you feel this distinction in how you appreciate poetry and its inspiration and influence?

Reading other poets offers an opportunity to see how they contended with the world they faced, how they reacted and expressed themselves, how they loved, what values they upheld, and so on, and more importantly, how they transformed those experiences into words. I am inspired by the lives of poets like Faiz, Neruda, and Nâzım Hikmet and subscribe to their struggle against injustice. As a poet, I admire the post World War II Eastern European poets; Tadeusz Różewicz, Zbigniew Herbert, Wisława Szymborska, Marin Sorescu, Aleksander Wat, the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, and a few others.

I can relate to the hardships they endured and the injustice that they witnessed and wrote about, which is why I have translated their poems. But my creative process and approach are different from theirs. For example, love is a predominant theme in my poems, which I borrow from the tradition of Urdu poetry, but it was not a major concern for these poets. So even though we share many experiences, we draw on different traditions.

What about your own influence on other Urdu poets?

Any poet writing nasri nazm or prose poetry in the 1970s was considered a poète maudit (accursed poet). No magazine dared to publish any of their poems. Writing prose poems, therefore, became a sort of literary movement led by Qamar Jameel, Iftikhar Jalib, Anis Nagi and Mubarak Ahmed. It was Ajmal Kamal who first published prose poems in Aaj in the early 1980s. Today, this is a well-established genre of poetry. Readers were introduced to this genre of poetry through the works of those, including myself, who started writing in the 1970s. These poets have, undoubtedly, influenced the next generation.

Pick two classical poets from Urdu and two contemporary poets whom you admire for different facets of their work. How would you categorise them in terms of admiration, inspiration and influence?

Ghalib I admired, and I was inspired by him, but I had to make deliberate efforts to disentangle myself from his influence. I also admired Iqbal, and in terms of his influence, I learnt from him how to start a poem from an ordinary statement. Just see the line ‘Kehte hain kabhi gosht na khata thha Ma’rri’ and his poem ‘Mohammad Ali Bab’. There are too many contemporary poets that I admire to list here.

Moving on to world poetry, how did your immersion in Eastern European poetry suggest to you any new frames for experimenting with narrative?

By the time I encountered Eastern European poetry, I had already published a number of poems and my first collection was about to come out. Many post WWII Eastern European poets suffered a lot during the Nazi occupation and the subsequent communist regimes. Their recourse was ‘inturned and subtle’ dissent. Of course, their works have been devoid of symbolism, metaphysical; they have Osip Mandelstam’s ‘this-worldliness’. Reading these poets affirmed for me the value of this form of poetry that I had been writing.

Could someone consider the human experience ultimately meaningless and remain a poet?

Yes. The ultimate example is Bedil. His poetry reflects a strong belief in the meaningless of existence and yet he employs his intellect to paint with his words what he sees and observes.

Critic’s Choice List Curated by Mahvesh Murad

What is Critic’s Choice?

We’ve been working for months on a special new category, ‘Critic’s Choice’. We understand that it’s not always easy to decide which book to buy when there is just so much to choose from. We have tried to make life a little bit easier for you. This list has been curated by Mahvesh Murad. 

Who is Mahvesh Murad?

Mahvesh Murad is a book critic. She hosted a radio show about books for 7 years and writes for Books & Authors, Strange Horizons & Tor.com, amongst other publications. She is the editor of the Apex Book of World SF 4 & co-editor of a forthcoming anthology of jinn stories to be published by Solaris UK in 2017.

So look out for our ‘yellow’ critic’s choice sticker when you visit us next. 🙂 The collection is available in store and online. You can browse through and order here: http://www.libertybooks.com/ViewMore.aspx?so=52

This Month’s Picks

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Business Books Special

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In case you’re looking to upgrade your business book collection, we have a special offer just for you. Buy any 3 books from our exclusive business list and receive a 20% discount. You can review the list of book on offer here: Business Bundle

This offer is exclusively available online. Oh and did we mention it’s free delivery across Pakistan!