A genius revisited
Evading the malaise of predictability, Malaysia’s indie music scene pays an eclectic tribute to Tan Sri P. Ramlee’s catalogue on the Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti: Satu Indiepretasi compilation.
Tan Sri P. Ramlee’s music legacy gets a contemporary twist with the Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti: Satu Indiepretasi tribute.
TWENTY years ago, a young jazz-pop singer named Sheila Majid, then 25, released a landmark album, Legenda, which reignited the nation’s love affair with the Tan Sri P. Ramlee songbook. It was Bunyi Gitar all over again (the album’s single, incidentally, sold a whopping 10,000 cassettes). Hers was a slick and smooth tribute to the legendary Malaysian entertainer and Legenda also became Sheila’s career-defining release. Further back in 1983, a double vinyl release Abadi Dalam Sanjungan, now out-of-print, saw pop stars Sharifah Aini, Roy dan Fran, DJ Dave, Sweet September, Aman Shah, Zaleha Hamid and other EMI artistes of the day recording P. Ramlee’s catalogue of classics for the 10th anniversary of his death.
Over the years, there has been no shortage of them in the music circles – some memorable, some not. Whether Jamal Abdillah’s crooner darkness, the academic The Bolshoi Ballet Theatre Orchestra Of Tashkent Presents Tan Sri P. Ramlee album right to KRU’s expensively assembled “studio technology duet” with P. Ramlee on Getaran Jiwa or Kugiran D’Tepi Pantai’s spiky surf-inspired salutes, the legend’s music has been celebrated in diverse forms.
Owing more to the current indie climate of the Malaysian scene, a new P. Ramlee compilation project has taken shape in recent weeks aiming to introduce his music to a younger generation by having buzz-worthy indie artistes cover one of his songs in a digital-only format.
As an extension of Astro’s P. Ramlee monthlong celebration, the P. Ramlee ... Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti: Satu Indiepretasi compilation is a much-awaited labour of love assignment. It goes on air across Astro’s Malay radio channels on Monday while the project’s official download-only release date is Nov 1.
Though fashionably late for the P. Ramlee festivities on Astro, the 18 tunes in the project – from acts such as Sevencollar T-shirt, MonoloQue, Yuna, Hujan, Bittersweet, Couple, Meet Uncle Hussain, Pop Shuvit, Azlan & The Typewriter, Altimet and They Will Kill Us All – have generated immense interest through social media networks, viral videos and good ol’ fashioned word-of-mouth.
“It’s good to see young people talking about P. Ramlee in a cool way and buzzed about homegrown indie acts giving their very own spin to his songs. His unifying influence through music is so far-reaching that no matter what the generation gap, you eventually discover the man’s genius,” said Adly Syairi Ramly, XFM programme manager and project co-ordinator for Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti: Satu Indiepretasi.
“Everyone in the project has tremendous love and respect for P. Ramlee’s work. However, the brief was not to produce a mere karaoke version but rather for each act to create a unique and modern take on his music,” he added.
Originally conceived as an internal XFM project mid last month, Satu Indiepretasi barely had a budget to work with but it had heaps of enthusiasm and support from the participating indie artistes.
“There was no power point presentation or long-drawn proposals for this project. It was done the indie way. We just put out a suggestion about doing a couple of P. Ramlee covers for XFM through our BBM group (BlackBerry Messenger) ... we got early responses from Hujan, One Buck Short, Altimet, Yuna and Pesawat, all of them eager to get involved. That set the ball rolling.”
Adly noted that once the indie scene got wind of the project, the number of bands requesting to get in snowballed and most had to be declined due to
recording schedules and the compilation’s budget constraints. What started out as a five-song recording session ended up as an 18-track compilation knocked up in a three-week timeline, which began on Sept 19.
“ Satu Indiepretasi is a statement that Malaysian indie music has undeniable talent and it is not a rag-tag scene to be frowned upon.”
Two names that must also be mentioned in getting the recording sessions running swiftly and on schedule are AG Coco (from Hujan) – who provided production support – and project manager Ili Farhana, who helped out with promotions and chasing the deadlines.
“There was a strong sense of community spirit from all the indie acts involved ... no airs or celebrity egos. Some of the acts often spent hours in the sessions to help each other out or to lend moral support,” recalled Ili.
Just like the subject matter’s heart-warming persona, there were also some delightful stories from the recording sessions. Ili remembered soul jazz singer Najwa Mahiaddin, who was suffering from a foot injury, being piggybacked up two flights of stairs to the final recording session. Najwa was a part of the allstar girl group The Ramlees (featuring Yuna, Liyana Fizi and Amirah from Tilu), who came together specially for the project to sing a buoyant and breezy Itulah Sayang.
“Najwa was basically the last piece of the puzzle to complete the compilation. Despite being in pain, she insisted on taking part in the project. She could barely stand and had recorded her parts sitting down ... that sort of shows you the commitment and enthusiasm here.
“There was also the story of Awanband guitarist Ully inviting his father Che Mat (a former RTM singer who never recorded material) to sing on the band’s version of Malam Bulan Di Pagar Bintang. It was a birthday treat for Che Mat and the tune turned out to be an epic recording,” she added.
Indie rock outfit Bittersweet, which delivered a dreamy Britpop-inspired Getaran Jiwa, even had family members singing back-up vocals.
Spirit of a legend
It was P. Ramlee’s pioneering spirit that made him a giant in music circles and beyond. A new generation has to be made aware of his vast influences, as laid out by the project’s mission statement. Whether or not the wide array of genres – indie rock, punk, experimental, alternative pop or hip hop – on the Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti: Satu Indiepretasi compilation goes the mile in addressing this issue remains to be seen. The most important thing here is the presence of the nation’s new and vital voices realigning themselves with homegrown music’s rich lineage and past. With artiste ages ranging from the early 20s to early 30s, the restless energy and fearless ambition on board cannot be denied.
Passion and pride for P. Ramlee stir up easily when talking to some of the more established musicians signed up for this project.
This wasn’t just a case of plugging in and picking a P. Ramlee tune with MonoloQue. As a deep music thinker and compositional genius, frontman Loque
Echoes of the past: Yuna contributed two tracks to the compilation, singing Gelora
Jiwa solo and joining The Ramlees for a version of
– Pic by ItulahSayang. Ili Farhana