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.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - by DARYL GOH

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

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