Rewind: 2017

Ei­jas Arif­fin looks back on the mu­sic scene this year

Time Out Kuala Lumpur - - Music & Nightlife - Com­piled by Ei­jas Arif­fin

THIS YEAR HAS BEEN A WA­TER­SHED YEAR FOR MU­SIC IN KL. No, there wasn’t any par­tic­u­lar event à la Wood­stock ’69 that sud­denly sparked a cul­tural move­ment or the sud­den ap­pear­ance of a rock band that changed our mu­si­cal land­scape. It was wa­ter­shed in that we saw the flour­ish­ing of the mu­sic scene – artists be­came fa­mous off the internet, rock bands got more ex­per­i­men­tal, and venues put on live shows more than ever.

The internet To un­der­stand how we got here, we’d have to un­der­stand some key mo­ments in the past. In the early 2010s, the in­die mu­sic scene in Malaysia was reach­ing a cre­ative plateau. The crowds that were pack­ing gig spaces and venues dur­ing the in­die boom which saw bands like Hu­jan ( fb. com/HUJANFB) and Bit­ter­sweet ( bit­ter­sweet­beat) play­ing in front of a thou­sand peo­ple ev­ery other month were dwin­dling. The hon­ey­moon was over.

Come 2015, the internet changed ev­ery­thing. Ev­ery­one started us­ing the internet to share, dis­cover and learn about mak­ing new mu­sic. Gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity through the web at the time was hip hop – mostly of the trap vari­a­tion – and elec­tronic mu­sic. A glance into our ‘Best lo­cal tracks of 2015 list’ re­flects that.

Artists who cut their teeth at the time are now reap­ing the fruits of their labour. Artists like alextbh (­mu­sic) and Air­liftz (­liftz) who be­gan as bed­room artists now dom­i­nate lo­cal charts and are draw­ing mas­sive crowds. The ac­ces­si­bil­ity of the internet and the suc­cesses of these artists have es­tab­lished the web as a le­git­i­mate means to suc­cess. As a re­sult, there’s more mu­sic on the internet now than ever. How­ever, de­spite the pro­lif­er­a­tion of artists there’s still a no­tice­able lack of women tak­ing the stage or spear­head­ing move­ments.

An­other thing to note about the internet is that it skews to­wards ex­per­i­men­ta­tion rather than ho­mo­gene­ity. As there are no gate­keep­ers on the internet, ev­ery­one has a plat­form to post any non-con­ven­tional ma­te­rial they have. Artists like lurkgurl (­, Ichu ( and Gard ( are clear bene­fac­tors of this.

Also, the de­cline of the in­die era – an era marked by lo­cal bands try­ing to in­ject some form of Brit­pop into their mu­sic – saw the rise of many Malay bands try­ing to in­te­grate some form of cul­tural iden­tity within their mu­sic. Spear­head­ing this move­ment is monoloQue (, Ra­mayan ( ra­mayan­musik), Iqbal M ( fb. com/IQBALMrasmi) and Pi­ta­hati (­ta­hati), who’ve made ma­jor strides this year.

Out­door mu­sic fes­ti­vals One key mo­ment that af­fected our lo­cal mu­sic scene was the can­cel­la­tion of Fu­ture Mu­sic Fes­ti­val 2014 fol­low­ing deaths due to al­leged drug over­doses oc­cur­ring on the sec­ond day of the fes­ti­val. Many thought that the in­dus­try might not re­cover as fes­ti­vals and con­certs such as Thirst and Life in Color were be­ing can­celled due to fears of in­ter­fer­ence from the au­thor­i­ties. And the fears con­tin­ued on to the next year as 2015 saw the ab­sence of sta­ple mu­sic fes­ti­vals such as Good Vibes Fes­ti­val and Ur­ban­scapes.

Ever since the tragedy, host­ing an out­door con­cert in KL was vir­tu­ally impossible. So, Good Vibes Fes­ti­val moved to Gent­ing High­lands and Ur­ban­scapes spread out all over the city. It took them only two years to re­cover from the in­ci­dent. This year’s Good Vibes Fes­ti­val be­came the first non-EDM fes­ti­val to ever sell out due to a stel­lar line-up of in­ter­na­tional su­per­stars and lo­cal tal­ent. Mean­while, Ur­ban­scapes went from a week­end mu­sic and arts fes­ti­val to a KL in­sti­tu­tion, pro­mot­ing the city and its cre­ative in­hab­i­tants as well as pre­sent­ing a great line-up of in­ter­na­tional in­die acts.

Gig venues This has also been a good year for our mu­sic venues. Many of the gig spaces and venues which opened in 2016 are start­ing to grow. These days, at any given time of the week, you’d be hard­pressed to find a day that there wasn’t a gig or a show go­ing on some­where in the Klang Val­ley. The best thing is they’d all be in dif­fer­ent parts of the city, play­ing dif­fer­ent sorts of mu­sic – think a dub night at fono in Kam­pung At­tap ( kl), an in­die show at ATAS by Bi­jan in Ke­lana Jaya ( atas­by­bi­janfx), or a metal gig at Garage Stu­dio in Am­pang ( fb. com/garages­tu­dio1).

Now, don’t get us started on Up­front, who’ve spoiled us with ex­cit­ing in­die acts from around the world through­out the year (Onra, Mew, Jun­gle). Aside from that, even the smaller pro­mot­ers and la­bels have brought in ex­cel­lent acts – Pusaka brought in Grammy Award-win­ning act Ti­nari­wen to KL, and Live Fact con­sis­tently plays host to left-field sounds from across the world.

In a nut­shell, mu­sic in 2017 was great. Our in­dus­try re­cov­ered from the hang­over that the old in­die scene left us in into one that’s go­ing through a re­nais­sance.

In a nut­shell, mu­sic in 2017 was great

Mew per­form­ing at Ur­ban­scapes 2017

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