Remembering a legend
> To mark the 25th anniversary of the death of renowned entertainer Sudirman, The Actors Studio will be holding a special tribute concert
NEXT YEAR will mark 25 years that Sudirman Arshad has left us. The music legend was only 37 when he died. The Actors Studio founder Datuk Faridah Merican is set to direct a special tribute concert next week to mark the occasion.
The concert, which will take place from Nov 3 to 5 at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, (klpac) will be entitled One Thousand Million Smiles. This is inspired by the name of the song that won Sudirman the title of Asia’s top performer at the 1989 Asian Popular Music Awards held at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Sudirman cemented his reputation by beating some of the greatest singers from around the region, such as Singapore’s Anita Sarawak, Hong Kong’s Leslie Chung, Japan’s singer-songwriter Epo, and the Philippines’ pop diva Kuh Ledesma.
The 90-minute One Thousand Million Smiles concert will feature performances by six local singers – Aaron Teoh, Amir Hazril Harith, Dasha Logan, Ian Chow, Joel Wong and Tria Aziz, each known for their dynamic and powerful vocals, much like Sudirman himself.
They will be singing 20 songs that he made famous, such as Balik Kampung, Chow Kit Road, Aku Penghiburmu, Lagu Anak Desa, Lagu Dari Kota, Basikal Tua and Merisik Khabar, among others.
Part of the proceeds from ticket sales of the Nov 5 performance will be used to start a Sudirman Scholarship Fund, which will be offered to Malaysians keen on pursuing their dreams of becoming entertainers.
“I have always thought of doing something to pay tribute to him,” says Faridah. “I never got the chance ... till now.” It took Faridah and her team months to get the concert off the ground. One of the challenges was getting permission from recording companies to use his songs.
“I must say that everything went smoothly,” she says.
“I would like to believe that he (Sudirman) is helping us from [heaven].”
She explains that the concert is to introduce the younger generation to Sudirman and his songs, and to take his long-time fans for a walk down memory lane.
The One Thousand Million Smiles concert will also feature Sudirman’s nephew, Razman Azrai, also known as Atai. He will also be singing a few of his uncle’s hits.
As a child, Atai had appeared alongside his uncle during a number of his concerts and television appearances.
Atai is especially thrilled that Faridah is helping to start a scholarship fund in his uncle’s name to help aspiring performers.
“The concert is for a good cause and that is why I am taking part in it,” says Atai.
For Faridah, the concert is her way of honouring an iconic individual.
“I loved the way he handled himself on the stage and the fact that he sang for all Malaysians.”
She cited Sudirman’s famous open air concert in Chow Kit Road – which drew a crowd of over 100,000 – as a testament of his love for the country and his fellow Malaysians.
“It was a great idea to [organise] a concert like that, and I ask myself why we [never did] it again,” she says.
“I do not think anyone [can follow] in his footsteps.”
Faridah strongly feels that more should be done to remember Sudirman. She suggests that someone could produce a musical theatre production on Sudirman’s life, just like what was done for late singer-director P.Ramlee and cartoonist Lat. One wonders what is the secret behind the timelessness of Sudirman’s songs. “In my opinion, his songs are still appealing because they relate to our everyday lives,” Atai says. “Malaysians are still patriotic. We still respect our parents and we still celebrate our religious holidays.” When asked to describe his uncle, Atai says: “Sudirman was a very humble person who was willing to sacrifice himself for others. “He was bold and brave enough to do things where people said it would be impossible. “Nothing was impossible for him.”
Musical tribute ... Memories of the late Sudirman (right) are still fresh in the minds of Faridah (left) and his nephew Atai (below).