5 Questions with Namewee
Malaysian musician fosters the muhibbah spirit with his Merdeka-themed video.
NAMEWEE may often court controversy with his bold statements and blunt social commentaries, but the homegrown musician and filmmaker says he loves his homeland like any other anak Malaysia.
And this is apparent from his latest viral hit Ali AhKao Dan Muthu, a patriotic song he wrote for this year’s national day celebrations.
It has been more than a week since the song was released on July 29, and fans have started to make their own cover versions as the catchy tune continues to trend on YouTube with some 1.25 million views to date.
The six-minute music video shows the three main characters – Ali, Ah Kao and Muthu – growing up together and forming a tight bond.
To make up the trio, Namewee, 34, called upon his frequent collaborator Datuk David Arumugam, 67, and the champion of Ceria Popstar 2016 Aniq (real name Muhammad Aniq Iffat), 11, to represent three generations of three different races living together in peace and harmony.
“Since I was writing Ali AhKao Dan Muthu as a tribute to Malaysia’s 60th Merdeka celebration, I used basic terms and a catchy tune to make it easy for everybody to learn how to sing the song,” said Namewee (real name Wee Meng Chee) in an interview last week.
“Now, anybody can enter my Ali AhKao DanMuthu Singing Competition and show me how creative they are. I look forward to receiving entries with fresh ideas,” he added.
There are only two rules: Performers have to be from three races and the entry must in a music video format.
The singer is also putting his money where his mouth is by offering cash prizes of RM10,000, RM6,000 and RM4,000 to the top three entries.
The winning music videos will be uploaded onto Namewee’s official YouTube channel. Deadline for submission is Aug 19 and winners will be announced on Aug 26. Submit your entries via e-mail to email@example.com
1. What are your thoughts about the upcoming national day?
Now that the country is turning 60, I hope that with this maturity, there will be a more open-minded outlook towards art and a greater acceptance for creative ventures.
This is crucial to artistes like us who work in this field and look forward to having more space and creative freedom to explore our art.
I also hope that we continue to maintain friendly race relations, as national unity is most important. We must not let negative voices upset the racial harmony that we have been able to achieve.
2. Are there any scenes in the music video that mirror your own childhood while you were growing up in Muar?
When I was in kindergarten, I had classmates of all races. As a kid, I used to play in the lorong (alley) with my neighbours, many of whom were Malay boys.
We would ride bicycles and run along the beach and play with guli (marbles) and tanglung (lanterns).
My grandfather ran a well-known kopitiam and his mee bandung was such a popular dish that TV stations came to interview him.
Policemen and other Malay friends became regular customers, and they would even pay us a visit during Chinese New Year.
My mother’s family grew up living under one roof with several Malay families. Being poor meant they had to share the same house so they grew up speaking Malay. So, both sides of my family have lots of Malay friends.
3. What were some of the challenges you faced producing the music video?
The whole production took two months. I treated it like shooting a movie.
The biggest challenge was when we had to set up scenes to look like the 1960s. We had to get the right costumes, accessories, hairstyles as well as props. We shot it at locations where we wouldn’t see new cars and other modern infrastructure.
Ali, Ah Kao and Muthu may be only three characters, but we had to cast 12 people to play those roles as our story shows them at different stages of their lives. So, we had three babies, three boys, three young men and three old men.
As most people would tell you, it is challenging to work with animals and children.
So, we literally had our hands full as we had to hold on to the precocious kids who would not stay still. Luckily, the scene with the babies was a brief one.
4 Which stage of musicmaking do you enjoy most?
My favourite part has to be the early stage – conceptualising. Most of my time is spent doing research, whether I’m writing songs for myself or for others.
When inspiration hits me, composing a song can be a speedy process, ranging from five minutes to half an hour.
5. What are some of your current and upcoming projects?
These days, I have to fly around a lot as I have work commitments in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore. These jobs include projects with television and radio stations as well as writing songs for movies, commercials as well as other singers.
Personally, I am working on my fourth album, and I’ve already recorded several songs.
My first album was titled Asia Most Wanted; my second, Asian Killer; and the third is called Crossover Asia. So, the title of my fourth will also have something to do with Asia. I will be including Ali AhKao Dan Muthu in the album, which hopefully will be released at the end of the year.
As for filmmaking, I am working on a new script. I always have ideas for movies, so I’ve got more than 30 scripts that I have yet to develop. And that is partly because I’ve been more focused on making music the last few years.
But, what I really want to do is to hold a solo concert in Malaysia.