5 Ques­tions with Name­wee

Malaysian mu­si­cian fosters the muhib­bah spirit with his Merdeka-themed video.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Music - By SETO KIT YAN en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

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 con­tact.name­wee@gmail.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.

Photo: RICKY LAI/The Star

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