Eijas Ariffin looks back on the music scene this year
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 ( fb.com/ 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 ( fb.com/alextbhmusic) and Airliftz ( fb.com/airliftz) 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 ( lurkgurl.bandcamp.com), Ichu ( soundcloud.com/ichu1) and Gard ( soundcloud.com/gardqazz) 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 ( fb.com/monoloQuerasmi), Ramayan ( fb.com/ ramayanmusik), Iqbal M ( fb. com/IQBALMrasmi) and Pitahati ( fb.com/pitahati), 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 ( fb.com/fono. kl), an indie show at ATAS by Bijan in Kelana Jaya ( fb.com/ 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