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Natasha Jozi- Maneuvering Performance Art to Show the Darker Side of the Death Penalty

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Natasha Jozi- whenever the name pops up, only one word comes to our mind and that is art or to be more precise, performing art. She is a visual thinker, an artist and also a writer interested in the performative self, collective experience, and Eastern philosophy.

 Talking about her vast experiences, she has performed and exhibited her work at International Festival of Video Art 2014 (Venice), MagnanMetz 2014 (NYC), Index Art Center 2014 (NJ), PPL 2013 (NYC), DCCA 2013 (Delaware), LAABF 2013 (NYC), La MaMa 2013 (NYC).

 In 2017 Jozi founded “House”- an independent initiative that works towards generating discourse around performance art in Pakistan.

We recently came to know that Natasha is curating the show ‘We’ve Been Waiting For You’ hosted by Justice Project Pakistan (working to improve the justice system of Pakistan), happening on 10th of October (“The World Day against Death Penalty”) at Bari Studio and our intriguing self wanted to dig into more details and here is what she had to share about her showcase. 

  • Tell us a little about your partnership with JPP and what do you think about Pakistan’s justice system?

It has been great working with Justice Project Pakistan as a partner and especially coming along with an understanding of what they do in terms of their work and what they represent as an organization. I am working with them under the perspective of bringing an art exhibition together. The partnership has been quite interesting in terms of what art does and what JPP does and how does that come together? I feel the complexities of the justice system are always very difficult for a common man to understand or relate to.

I feel JPP is trying to bridge that gap between the justice system and the complexity that it comes with and that is very similar to what I do under House Ltd. So, I expect that partnership with JPP shall be very interesting because we’ve talked about themes, about ideas and how performance art can be used as a vessel to represent themes that JPP works on.

  • You’ve worked both in Pakistan and abroad what difference do you feel in the sense of how art is valued here and abroad?

I would talk about this in terms of two perspectives. One is as an artist and the other as a viewer. As a performance artist, I’ve experienced that there was initially not much of an understanding of the medium in Pakistan.

And I also feel that in terms of the value of the medium, since a lot of the work that is being produced in Pakistan has an element of becoming a product that you can actually monetize on or you can buy or sell. But performance art is something that cannot take the shape of a product because it’s an experience. It happens for a short period of time and then it’s over. So, it’s very ephemeral in that sense.

In the international art market, artists are delving with themes that cannot be put together in a form package that you can buy or sell. It’s very important to realize that the value of art is beyond buying or selling it, but also, to experience it.

As a viewer, I really enjoy some of the artists’ work in Pakistan but I also feel like there is a lot of potential in young artists, the work that they’re doing where they’re not allowing the market or the business to affect their process. I feel it is very important for an artist to liberate themselves from the fear of value is equal to money because we’re living in an age where innovative ideas are of great significance? I definitely feel that with the wake of the internet, a lot of artists are now traveling abroad and are coming back and just sort of exchange that is happening.

Also, in Pakistan, a lot of times we look at something from an exotic lens or we try to mimic or reproduce what’s being done abroad. I don’t really think that is of value. But at the same time, I definitely see that contemporary artists from my generation are trying to create a more balanced or a more contextualized relationship with what’s happening in Pakistan and what’s happening outside Pakistan.

 

  • What do you think about Justice Project Pakistan?

I was not familiar with JPP before I was contacted by JPP for this particular project. Once I got to know about their work, I met the team and I saw the projects that they have been doing in the past. I was sort of intrigued, and a little amazed to see a human rights organization that is so much invested in the people and what is happening in their lives.

I feel that JPP is trying to bring awareness and spark conversations that are around the justice system. I feel why such organizations are so much needed is that they try to create a more humanize and understandable way of looking at the sensitive issues that people are facing in Pakistan. It is great that they are trying to use disciplines that are beyond just law and trying to reach out to a wider audience. It’s a pleasure to work with them. 

  • How has been your experience of curating performances for ‘We’ve been waiting for you’?

The curatorial experience for me is not just about curating an exhibition as an organizer. For me, it is sort of coming together and trying to create an experience that is long-lasting. I’ve been working with the artists under the initiative that I run called House Ltd. and I have cultivated a relationship with them. So, every time we come together, we go into a deep-rooted conversation, look at what we are doing and try to unpack not just the themes but, also how can this exhibition contribute to the larger discourse of performance art in Pakistan.

And so for this exhibition as well, the ideas that we were dealing with were very real. I spent a lot of time just having conversations with the artists and discussing the craft of performance art.

A lot of the work that we do for performance art is not rehearsed. Thus, it is very authentic as an artist and as a curator to go into that space and to get involved in.

  • With what kind of expectations should people come to this event?

The first thing that I would definitely like to say is that space and the venue that we’ve selected for this exhibition, Bari Studio, is amazing for performance art. The moment I stepped into Bari studio I fell in love with it.

 The audience would definitely experience something that they have never seen before in terms of venue and how it’s used.

Also, we are having 10 performances in one venue. It’s going to be a really charged experience for everybody where all of the artists are dealing with themes around the death penalty and doing performances that are very authentic and very raw. The materials that the artists have used in the performances range from, real bones to bricks to sand. Going from one performance to another where all of these have been curated in relationship to one another, each performance will be experienced individually, but then all of them coming together is going to have an impact of its own.

  • What is art for you?

That is definitely a very loaded question. I would say for me art is about an experience, what you experience when you look at something. It is not just a visual experience, but a very sensory experience. That is why performance art is a medium that I’m addicted to.

It cannot be confined. I definitely have a lot of reservations about the way the market dictates the production of art. I don’t think that one should allow the market to dictate what the artist is going to make or what art should be because art is definitely about looking at life and looking at what is around you from an unfazed way.

Art can actually supersede or can reach a point of impacting a larger audience and can eventually become universal and transcend space and time and location.

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ENCOUNTER SCENTS LAUNCHED AT A VIRTUAL EVENT

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US-based brand Encounter Scents under the aegis of Dua Fragrances held its Virtual Launch event orchestrated by Catwalk Event Management & Productions last week with strict Covid SOPs in place.

Hosts Mahsam Raza, CEO of Dua Fragrances and Encounter Scents along with Partner/Board Director, actor, television host and Producer Faysal Quraishi invited guests to a cool ambience comply with socially distanced white benches.

The stage also followed the white theme with a hefty design of the Encounter Scents bottle. On its sides two large screens show-reeled a 90 second promo film and congratulatory shout outs from gift box recipients.

On a corner, an elegant flower-filled barrow fragrance counter held samples of the five existing Encounter Scents For Him and For Her fragrances including COMPLIMENT, CONFIDENCE, ROMANTIC, SEDUCTION & IN THE CLUB.

Guests included members from the entertainment industry including actors; Shahzad Nawaz, Aijaz Aslam, Nabeel Zafar, Naveed Raza, Haroon Shahid, Zain Afzal, Faizan Shaikh, Aadi Adeal Amjad and actress and model Dur-e-Fishan Saleem as well entrepreneur and designer Asim Jofa, and publicist Rasik Ismail. The media, comprising leading bloggers, Vloggers, digital broadcasters and contestants from the game show ‘Khush Raho Pakistan’ which Faisal Quraishi hosts were also present.

Dino Ali conducted the red carpet and stage event and queried from guests about their favourite Encounter fragrance. Some celebrity guests were tested during a blindfold game in which they were asked to try and guess any of the 10 existing scents.

On stage Faysal Quraishi reminisced about his struggling days during which he would still make saving up to buy fragrances a priority, highlighting his lifelong passion for scents.

“When you meet someone something that is indelibly remembered and lingers on after the encounter is the fragrance that the other person was wearing,” Faisal said, adding that he and partner Mahsam had a similar passion for perfume and that there was “a story behind each of the Encounter Scents fragrances.”

Mahsam Raza reiterated this fact when he explained the genesis of one of the fragrances, Confidence for Him.

“Each ingredient was cherry picked according to all the fragrance notes my father liked” adding that all the ingredients used in Encounter Scents are derived straight from the source without a middleman.”

Mahsam went on to speak and enthuse about the brand’s philosophy: “Encounter Scents is dedicated to providing its loyal customers with an assortment of high quality fragrances for all of life’s special moments according to different preferences.”

Mahsam and Faysal also spoke about their focus on establishing the fragrances in Pakistan and “working on many other plans and developing other products.”

Encounter Scents is currently developing another set of six additional fragrances to the line; three for men and three for women.

Encounter Scents fragrances will initially be available only online in Pakistan on the brand’s website with payment made through Shopify. The ordinarily PKR 13,500 fragrances will be offered at an introductory sale price of PKR 10,000 each, accessible through the company’s website www.encounterscents.pk.

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Spotify Premium Launches New Offers for Free

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Summertime, a holiday season, and people consume more music than usual that is why the world’s biggest music streaming service Spotify launches its summer plans for melody lovers.

This summer, Spotify Premium is offering three months free to the eligible and first time-users for its Individual Premium Plan. Moreover, those users, who have cancelled their Individual Premium plan for any reason, can also get them back in just 299 PKR for three months. Both offers are available for the Individual Premium Plan till June 22. To be eligible for the 299 PKR offer, subscribers must have cancelled their plan on or before April 26.

Spotify Premium gives subscribers an audio streaming experience with ad-free music listening, and on-demand audio anytime. On Spotify, users get access to more than 70 million tracks and four billion playlists right at their fingertips. So whether one is away from home or sitting at the cosy home, Spotify covers it. The service makes it easier for its users to find their favourite music and check out their very own personalized playlists like Discover Weekly, Spotify Mixes, Time Capsule and more.

For details, head to Spotify.com/Premium to sign up.

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Our Society Has Not Accepted Music As A Profession: Muhammad Ali Shyhaki

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Mohammed Ali Shyhaki is a well-known name in Pakistan entertainment industry. He is among the ones who introduced the genre of pop and rock music in Pakistan. Started his music career in the 1970s, Shyhaki earned a name and fame as ace star in Pakistani pop music and as a playback singer.

His patriotic song ‘Main Bi Pakistan Hoon’ and folk song ‘Teray Ishq Mein Jo Bhi Doob Gaya’, with famous folk singer Allan Fakir are still popular among masses.

Shyhaki also acted in a few films. Some of his films achieved success at the box office but the industry was already on the decline, so he left films. His film Choron ka Badshah (1988) celebrated platinum jubilee.

His family name ‘Shyhaki’ comes from his Iranian father who used to work at the Iranian Consulate in Karachi. After graduating from NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi, Pakistan, he made a short-lived career in aviation but could not find him fit for the profession and got back to his passion, music.

The government of Pakistan recently awarded him the ‘Pride of Performance’ for his services to the music industry of Pakistan.

Daily Paperazzi reached to this legend and talked about his recent achievement and current activities.

Don’t you think that you must’ve have got this award a long time ago?

Yes. It seems true. But I leave things to God. He can better decide what is and when is something better for us. We can only work hard which I think I did to my best.

Your fans see you very seldom these days. Why?

There was a time when we (musicians of his generation) were everywhere and all the time on television. Then policies changed and channels started to give more priority to current affairs and politics on their screens. People were also enjoying them. Ratings got higher and ultimately these channels started to get more advertisements for political talk shows rather than entertainment. They might decide why to spend money on musicians (and their tantrums) and other entertainment programs with less profit in return. Instead they just set up studios, hired a host, and called two politicians, and then a hot debate started. It cost them much less but earned more.

What do you do to satisfy the artist inside you?

I do private shows. I always go and perform when someone calls me with respect.  Moreover, I have established a registered YouTube channel where I put up short durations programs and shows along with my radio show which I do every week on FM 100. The program also goes live on the channel’s Facebook page. I have a right to download it, edit it and upload on my official channel so anyone can watch and enjoy it.

You have studied civil engineering. So how did you come into the field of showbiz and music?

I thought I was not fit for the job of an engineer. I didn’t realise it when studying but when it came to be a professional I could not implement it.

In meantime, to my surprise, I met many who could not even write a single sentence but passed the exams and got the job. I also got the job but I could not sustain it for more than 6 months as my boss had a laid back attitude and was not ready to take any responsibility for his work. He also asked me to do the same. I thought it was not just to get earnings without taking any responsibility and doing things in a right way. Moreover, naturally, I was more comfortable in performing arts than engineering.

You are among the founders of pop music in Pakistan. How did you modify the pure pop rock from the west for your Eastern Listeners?

Music is like a bara masala ki chaat in which the more you put in the more it becomes interesting and appealing for the audience. We always do experiment to transform music, for instance, there was a time when bhangra was a hit thing with amalgamation of pop and rap.

You have worked in films as well. Tell us something about it?

It is an interesting story. Director Iqbal Yousuf approached me and offered a role in his film. I was shocked. I asked him to hire me as a playback singer but he was adamant for me to act, He said, “Tum film material ho.”  It was a time when I had returned from the USA. He cast me as lead in ‘Son Of Andata’. It was kind of a debut.  Then I was cast in a very challenging role in ‘Pyar Do a Maar Do’. It was a quite difficult topic and co-production between Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore and Malaysia. The film could not be run in Pakistani cinemas as the censor board said it was promoting Bengali and Hindu culture. The story demanded all the female characters wear Saris while male cast wore lungis. I did 10 movies altogether. Among them almost 4 were released while the rest are still in boxes or files

Do you think that what appreciation and promotion our artists and performing arts are getting on state level is enough for the betterment of this industry?

To be honest I feel general public has not accepted us as part of the society.  It not only includes the showbiz or performing arts but also the artists who paint, write or do any other creative trait. We are not considered as normal as we are not working 9 to 5.  They ask why he is charging so much money just from singing. What he is doing is so big. I ask them why they don’t do this. I know everybody can’t do everything. It means this is an extraordinary talent which God has given to some of his people. If they can’t or don’t want to do it, hen deny to accept it. This is not fair. I believe that it is only God to decide from which profession we would earn. 

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