Mahsuri’s martyrdom with a gamelan twist
Loque and Najwa Mahiaddin pay tribute to the enchanting gamelan with Chinta ,a musical retelling of tragic Mahsuri, writes Dennis Chua
I always had Najwa in mind when I came up with this song. I’m a big fan of her versatile, powerful and soulful sound, and her take on Seri Mersing was beautiful.
KHAIRIL Ridzwan Anuar or Loque and Najwa Mahiaddin or NJWA may be different as day and night musically, by their own admissions. This is evident by not only in their choice of outfits — he prefers bright colours while she loves them dark, but also in choice of music genre, where he is into pop and rock while she is a soul and R&B fan.
But as they say, opposites attract, and good music is the one thing that brings them together.
Likewise, the hauntingly beautiful sounds of the traditional gamelan and an unusual music video with creative puppetry that “blows their minds”. Najwa said: “It’s part and parcel of Loque’s new album Lagu Perang. Our very first duet together is Chinta and its music video pays homage to a Malaysian legend which many of us are familiar with.” Loque, who is releasing Chinta as the first single of the 20-track Lagu Perang, added: “The legend is none other than that of Langkawi’s iconic maiden Mahsuri. However, we have renamed her Dang Merdu, as she has a beautiful singing voice.”
TALE OF UNDYING LOVE
The story behind Chinta, explained Loque, is that of the undying love between Dang Merdu and her husband Wan Derus, who has been renamed Tok Kadok and depicted as a skilful gamelan player.
“As in the Mahsuri legend, Tok Kadok’s brother the Orang Besar of the island district sends him on a mission in the mainland. But instead of a military tour of duty at the KedahSiam border, Tok Kadok’s mission is a gamelan concert at the court of the Sultan of Kedah,” he said.
“During Tok Kadok’s absence, Dang Merdu gets a visit from her husband’s friend Deramang, and the Orang Besar’s jealous wife lies to her husband that the duo are committing adultery. As a result Dang Merdu is executed by ‘sula’ and sheds white blood to show that she is innocent.’
Instead of ending the tragic tale with Mahsuri’s well-known seven generation curse, Loque gives it a more hopeful ending.
“Tok Kadok buries his wife, gathers some of her white blood from the ground, and mixes it with the new bronze gamelan that he forges in his kiln. As a result, he enhances his musicianship because the voice of his wife lives on in his new xylophone.”
Najwa, who recently spent 10 days performing in four concerts around Tokyo, Japan, said she quickly said “yes” to the duet with Loque as she is a fan of traditional music.
“I seldom sing traditional music, even though I love it a lot. Seri Mersing, which I sang last year, was my first foray into this genre,” she said.
Loque, who wrote and composed the song, said it was a “work in progress” for 10 years, and he only completed recording it last month.
“I always had Najwa in mind when I came up with this song. I’m a big fan of her versatile, powerful and soulful sound, and her take on Seri Mersing was beautiful.”
Loque sought the assistance of a friend, artist Yong Tze Yin to come up with the puppet play that is Chinta’s music video.
“She’s a fantastic creative talent, a graduate from One Academy who excels in creating miniature clay and wood figurines for television commercials,” he said.
Yong, 28, said she spent four months coming up with the puppets and she and Loque took 1,000 camera shots, over a three-week period last year to bring Dang Merdu’s story “alive”.
“We chose to make Dang Merdu’s story a stop-motion one, just like those children’s programmes of the 1970s and ‘80s, she said.
“I fondly recall RTM’s iconic children’s playschool series Cumi Dan Ciki from those days. There were several others which I don’t remember,” said Loque, adding that the music video was his first collaboration with Najwa and Yong.
As for the gamelan sound, Loque revealed that it was produced by the Royal Pahang Gamelan Orchestra, with the support of the Pahang Museums Corporation.
“In my album Lagu Perang, thereare20 songs, 10 of which are fully orchestral and performed by the gamelan orchestra. The other 10 are sung by Najwa, Aizat Amdan, Manifesto and myself,” he said.
“As for music videos, I plan to have them accompany half of the songs. However, I don’t think I’m going to have another one involving puppets.”
FOLK TALES AND LEGENDS
Loque said Lagu Perang is likely to be launched early next year, and the videos for its other songs will largely depict wellknown folk tales and legends from various states.
“It’s time for the younger generation to be acquainted with our timeless fables and legends. It’s best that we cherish our heritage, and the best way to share it amongst youths is through good, experimental music.”
Najwa and Loque launched the music video of Chinta at Lubuk Bangku D Cabin Cafe, Jalan Abdullah, Bangsar Utama, Kuala Lumpur on Oct 31.