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Kasih Berbisik Media Conference

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(Graphics poster courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

You would have seen the music video by Taufik Batisah singing his latest single “Menakluk Cinta” on Mediacorp Suria since it was first aired right after the recent National Day Parade. It is probably from that music video that you would have taken note of an upcoming drama series titled “Kasih Berbisik” (Whispers of the Heart), that will soon be aired on the said channel. This joint production by leading Free-to-Air TV channels Mediacorp Suria and TV3 will bring you a moving drama of heartache, hope and unbreakable bonds of love, spanning three countries. Conceived and written by prolific script writer, Mr. Hamed Ismail, and directed by Jamal Khan, this tear-jerker has finally come to fruition after three years in the works.

(YouTube clip courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

Set against the backdrop of metropolitan Singapore, lush green fields of Malaysia and exotic Bali, the 13-episode drama series debuts for the first time simultaneously on TV3 and MediaCorp Suria on 1 October 2014 at 9pm and 9.30pm respectively. Its main and supporting cast members include Nurul Aini and Nick Mikhail from Singapore, Remy Ishak, Keith Foo and Tasha Shilla from Malaysia, as well as Demmy Febriana from Indonesia. Jointly produced by Mediacorp Eaglevision and Primeworks Studios, the collaboration is aimed at producing a high-quality drama series that appeal to audiences in Singapore and Malaysia, leveraging on both parties’ expertise in High-Definition (HD) TV production.

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The stage all set for the media conference…

I was extremely honoured to once again be invited by Mediacorp Suria to cover the media conference and exclusive screening held last Friday 19 September 2014 at Golden Village Grand Great World City. This was essentially my first time covering a media conference for an upcoming drama series and one which is monumental in that it is a joint-production between two countries featuring the scenic scenes, backdrop and actors from three countries. This was also probably the first time that I’ve been to a media conference where fans were allowed to soak in the atmosphere as well. At times, it felt a bit chaotic when the fans got excited seeing their favourite artistes, but generally they were well-behaved and I could see many smiling faces, contented with their respective signatures and photographs. The media conference was hosted by none other than Fauzie Laily.

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The main cast of “Kasih Berbisik” – (from left) Keith Foo, Remy Ishak, Nick Mikhail, Nurul Aini, Tasha Shilla and Demmy Febriana

I believe for the fans (a large majority were females, may I add) who paid to attend the media conference, it was rewarding enough to have been in close proximity to heart-throbs like Remy Ishak and Keith Foo. Even more rewarding when they witnessed Taufik Batisah himself making an appearance to sing the official soundtrack of the upcoming drama series live. Taufik it must be said, has matured so much since we were first introduced to his singing talents on national television exactly ten years ago. He was cracking jokes with the audience, sometimes even acting like a co-host and even took the time to promote his upcoming album launch this Sunday 28 September 2014, 6pm at Causeway Point. Ten years in the scene, he has blossomed and become more outgoing and even forthcoming in comparison to his earlier years in the scene.

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Taufik never fails to make the ladies swoon with his mere presence…

But where there was something good to say about Taufik Batisah, a not-so-pleasant vibe emanated when I was observing two of the main casts that night. I will not mention names but for those who were there, might probably agree with what I have to say. One was seen looking detached and uninterested with the whole proceedings, while another was seen fiddling and constantly checking on her handphone, even when she was up onstage facing the audience, not only made up of the fans, but fellow members of the media from Singapore and Malaysia, as well as the important heads from Mediacorp Malay Broadcast Division and Media Prima Berhad. I am just glad that the likes of Taufik, Nurul Aini and Nick Mikhail showed class and accorded respect towards those who came to watch them.

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Important figures behind the joint TV production – (from left): Ms. Zakiah Halim (Senior Vice President of Mediacorp Malay Broadcast Division), Ms. Siti Nurlisia Mohd. Nadzri (TV3 General Manager), Mr. Suhaimi Jais (Senior Vice President of Mediacorp Studios and Mediacorp Eaglevision) and Mr. Azhar Borhan (Group General Manager Production and Operations of Primeworks Studios)…

Two back-to-back episodes of “Kasih Berbisik” were screened exclusively that night before its TV debut. Just to give you a gist, it is a 13-episode drama based on love, separation and friendship revolving around an architect, Imran (Remy Ishak), who goes on a business trip to Bali and falls in love with Sulastri (Demmy Febriana), a Balinese dancer. Eventually, Imran marries Sulastri and keeps his second marriage a secret from his wife of 6 years, Nora (Nurul Aini). Imran also has a best friend, Andi (Nick Mickhail) who admires Sulastri. In an unexpected twist, Sulastri’s ex-fiancé, Dharma (Keith Foo), vows to win her back. Dharma is clouded by anger and vengeance when he finds out that Sulastri is married to Imran. Will Nora and Dharma accept their fate as second best? How long can Imran keep his second marriage with Sulastri a secret from Nora?

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Tasha Shilla entertaining one of the fans, while Remy Ishak was busy signing autographs on the promotional posters…

From what I’ve seen that night, and from speaking to fellow attendees from the media, the general consensus I got and personally felt was, the episodes were kinda draggy. I dunno if it was because the screening started an hour later than scheduled, due to the casts’ meet-and-greet session with the fans and various interviews with the media brigade, and people (myself included) were feeling tired after a long day. The buildup to what’s to come in the show felt a bit slow and when the second marriage was announced in one of the scenes, it felt like the director was pushing for an impactful outcome out of the blue. But what do I know about watching such drama series??? Am never a big fan of long episodic dramas involving love and romance. I just don’t have the patience for it. For the record, let me state there’s nothing wrong with the acting from all the casts involved, just that the storyline I feel could have been developed better and to give a good introduction to each individual character.

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Nurul Aini, Keith Foo, Nick Mikhail and Demmy Febriana likewise were busy signing autographs on the promotional posters as well…

To be fair, two episodes might not tell a bigger picture nor relate the whole story, and that one should actually watch the series religiously to find out the twists and turns involving this complicated love saga. Fans of the two Malaysian heart-throbs would definitely not care at all about the storyline so long as they could feast their eyes on their idols weekly. My only concern was watching how the likes of Nurul Aini and Nick Mikhail performed when given their big break to go regional. Though I’ve heard rumours of how they were scolded by the lead actor for not giving their all, I thought both of them gave a good account of themselves and I really hope this will be their breakthrough drama and join the likes of those who have been success stories across the Causeway. No matter the artiste, I am always proud when I hear one of our own making a name for themselves abroad.

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Final group photo with the main casts, crew and television station heads…

As for Taufik Batisah, I hope as well that the soundtrack to this drama series, would go the same way as how “Seribu Tahun” had given Imran Ajmain so much success and newly-opened doors across the Causeway. For those not in the know or have forgotten, “Seribu Tahun” was the soundtrack to the drama series “Kerana Cintaku Saerah” on TV3 back in 2007. Ten years in the scene and still to be a household name regionally, I sincerely hope that “Menakluk Cinta” would go on to be an added success to the one that Taufik achieved through his duet with Rossa, “Aku Bersahaja“. “Menakluk Cinta” which was penned by Taufik himself, has every potential to be a haunting hit across our shores. It has been playing regularly in my head for the past few weeks or so leading up to the media conference and even moreso after I had watched the screening of the two back-to-back episodes. As mentioned earlier, “Kasih Berbisik” will air on TV3 and MediaCorp Suria on 1 October 2014 at 9pm and 9.30pm respectively.

Highlights of Kasih Berbisik Media Conference

Anugerah Planet Muzik 2014 Media Conference

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It’s been too long that I have been away. But I am trying to make a concerted effort to be more pro-active, especially since my favourite annual event is around the corner. Which probably explains why you are reading this post after seeing such a long hiatus in this domain of mine. Anyway, to all the SleeQ fans or those who are curious to view photographs of the recent wedding event of Alyph SleeQ and Azzah Fariha, I apologise that you have stumbled into this blog only to be disappointed. Yours truly was not invited to the wedding, hence I am unable to share the joyous moments with you. But am sure you could view them elsewhere, such is the power of social media these days. Anyway my heartiest congratulations go out to the newlyweds. May Allah bless this union till eternity and beyond. :)

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Simple but lovely set-up of the stage…

Right, back to my favourite event. I was invited to attend the media conference which was held at Grand Mercure Roxy Singapore on 2 September 2014. The last time the organisers (Mediacorp Malay Broadcast Division) did it outside of the Caldecott Broadcast Centre to announce the list of nominees for the upcoming event was two years ago at Rendezvous Hotel. This time they managed to secure a bigger space as compared to the last time they held it outdoors and I loved the place as it was conducive to move around as compared to two years ago. This year, Anugerah Planet Muzik 2014 (APM2014) will once again return to my favourite venue, Suntec Convention Centre on 17 October 2014, exactly a year from the last event. For a start, the official logo has been given a fresh revamp from the ones we’ve seen over the past twelve editions.

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The trophies up for grabs on 17 October 2014

Into its thirteenth year, APM2014 once again will be honouring the best and most popular of today’s hottest talents in the region’s Malay music industry. The two and a half hours show will be telecast live on Mediacorp Suria (Singapore), Astro Ria (Malaysia and Brunei) and Net. (Indonesia) as well as Mediacorp radio stations, RIA 89.7FM and Warna 94.2FM, on 17 October 2014 at 9pm (GMT +8) and 8pm (Western Indonesian Time GMT +7). The event is ably supported by Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA), Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS) and Indonesian Music Awards (Anugerah Musik IndonesiaAMI). A total of 19 awards will be presented this year, an increase of one category from last year.

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Hosts for the day – Aura Shai and A. B. Shaik

As is the norm of previous APM media conferences, this year’s event was once again graced by Dr. Edmund Lam, Chief Executive Officer of COMPASS, Ms. Zakiah Halim, Senior Vice-President, Mediacorp Malay Broadcast Division and Mr. Hassan Salleh, Assistant Vice-President of Mediacorp Malay Broadcast Division. Before the event started in earnest, the guests, which mostly made up of our own local acts, were treated to performances by Idi Hakim, of Dinodi fame, and his wife Erma Maulood with their current radio hit “Setia Cinta” as well as Haqym Mokhtar with his current single “Semuanya Alright“, which has already risen up the local radio charts. For those not in the know, Haqym is a former member of trio SupaMusiq, which has so far been disbanded due to the group members having different personal commitments. Ironically, the last time I watched them perform as a group, was the media conference back in 2012 at Rendezvous Hotel.

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The husband and wife pair, Idi Hakim and Erma Maulood performed their hit single, “Setia Cinta“…

The organisers received about 639 song submissions this year, almost doubled from the previous year, but it has to be said that the qualifying period for songs produced to be submitted in this year’s event has been extended by an additional six months, so as to make it more concurrent with the times. As mentioned earlier, there is an additional category for this year’s awards event. The Best Collaboration category has now been segmented into two categories – Best Collaboration (Artiste) and Best Collaboration (SongArtiste, Lyricist, Composer). As highly expected from my review last year, “Kalau Aku Kaya” has been nominated for the Best Duo / Group and Best Collaboration (Artiste) categories, a testament to what a smart song it is and the equally panache delivery by both Awi Rafael and Altimet.

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Haqym Mokhtar didn’t disappoint when he performed “Semuanya Alright“…

But amongst the regional categories, it heartens me to see a number of our local acts making inroads when in the past, we wonder if our artistes or songs would ever make it along with their counterparts from the other two countries. Granted, the Best Male and Best Female categories still have a long way to go for our acts to challenge and be amongst the best five, but they are definitely bridging the gaps in other categories as seen by the nominations of Tujuhband, Aryan Band, Ryan Sufiyan, Sufie Rashid, Aisyah Aziz and Reyza Hamizan in their respective categories. Am actually pleased with Ryan Sufiyan‘s nomination. Here is an example of a guy who never gives up. I remember him being a serial reality show contestant, Anugerah, Singapore Idol and God knows what else, he has joined them all only to falter in the earlier stages. Even if he doesn’t win, it is a signal that hard work and patience will eventually pay off in due time. So for those wannabes out there, do not lose hope when you do not make it. There will always be other avenues for you to prove your worth.

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Dr. Edmund Lam addressing the guests during the media conference. Seated next to him were Mr. Hassan Salleh (left) and Ms. Zakiah Halim (centre)…

Speaking of wannabes, and even established artistes, Ms. Zakiah Halim made a very clear point that day. She urged all local artistes to maintain a degree of professionalism whether it is for rehearsals or during actual shows. Always give off your best, all the time and do not hold back, even if it’s a mere soundcheck or rehearsal. Of course, I would like to add about punctuality and respect as well. Respect for those interviewing you or those watching you. I did mention in my review back in 2011 for artistes to refrain from chewing gum before / during a performance or when accepting awards onstage and I believe the same reminder could be applied after attending the recent media conference event. Maybe those who attended the media conference and reading this will agree with me and understand what I am trying to convey.

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Group photo with all the local acts who attended the media conference event…

So who is performing on 17 October 2014??? As of now, I understand the likes of Sufie Rashid, Aisyah Aziz, Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, Hazama, NOAH, Tulus, Judika, Maria Calista and Cakra Khan have been confirmed and unconfirmed news that Malaysia‘s Raja Lawak second season winner, Nabil, will be one of the hosts for the night. More names will be confirmed in due time but just looking at the amount of star names on display is enough to whet my appetite as all of them are guaranteed to leave you astounded with their vocal capabilities and showmanship. Tickets priced at $28, $48, $68 and $88 (including GST) can be purchased now at all SISTIC outlets and online at www.sistic.com.sg. This year, the $28 tickets have been introduced to entice more students as well as full-time National Servicemen to attend the event. So what are you waiting for??? Grab your tickets now!!!

APM2014 List of Nominations

List of nominations graphic photos courtesy of Mediacorp Malay Broadcast Division

Snapshots of APM2014 Media Conference

Te:RaSeh! 2.0 Episode 9 Recap…

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The contestants might have felt uncomfortable performing the Boria during the earlier weeks but they seem to enjoy it as the weeks progress…

It has been a week since Episode 9 of Te:RaSeh! 2.0 was aired, but the high entertainment and humour aspects of that particular episode are still fresh in my head. I think it just edged the seventh episode as the most entertaining of the series thus far. The theme for the night (Horror), ensured that whatever costumes or make-up the contestants put on, were sure to tickle our fancy and scared those with faint hearts. Put in each contestant and how they immersed themselves in their respective characters, it was a laugh-a-minute fest that had people like me and my kids watching the re-runs and still laughing at the jokes days after. I personally feel that Fauzie Laily deserved the Celebrity-of-the-Match award as he was in character (dead World War II Japanese soldier) throughout from start till the cameras stopped rolling, and all the way, even after the show had ended.

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A. B. Shaik doing his best Michael JacksonThriller impersonation in front of his amused colleagues Khairudin Samsudin and Dalina Jaapar

I will not begrudge Azlin Ali as she too was also a deserving winner in her role as Makcik Keropok, when she appeared onstage at the start of the show munching on the Papadam in her hand and sharing it with the rest. When Danial Ashriq (Chucky) did his somersault from the stage during the Final Face-Off (Te:Ra! HabisBoria), Azlin responded in kind by jumping off the stage and treating the already-bewildered audience with her own dance moves. I thought there and then that she was to be anointed the Celebrity-of-the-Match for tickling our bones with her antics, and I was not wrong at the end of the show. For the record, Azlin joins Suzairhe Sumari as the only two celebrities who have won the award twice throughout this season’s competition. No mean feat, but it is also testimony to how good they were in their respective roles and characters given to them by the producers of the show.

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The Mats, always game for a fun shot like this…

It was also a good show as it put everyone at the edge of their seats and willing each team on to win. It was nervy, not only for the contestants but to the watching audience in the Mediacorp TV Theatre, as well as those at home. I felt that the fight between both teams were so close, anyone could have won it. Going towards the Final Face-Off (Te:Ra! Habis – Boria), both teams were separated by just ten points, with the Mats leading by that slender margin. In terms of showmanship, prose and creativity in delivering their lyrics, I felt the Mats edged the Minahs slightly, but with a guest judge who openly showed her support to the Minahs right from the first quarter of the show, I felt it was a losing battle for the Mats no matter how hard they tried and how good they were. I would like to believe that the show of support was deliberately done to shake the confidence of the Mat and dealt them a psychological blow, but no matter how I look at it, it’s not good viewing even for a show of this fun nature.

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The Minahs showing who was the number one last Tuesday

No, I am not saying the guys deserved to edge that last segment just because I’m a guy, but I think if we were to throw aside the bias and be more rational, we’ll agree that the guys showed better creativity when delivering their lyrics. Even some of the Minahs I spoke to post-show, agreed that the guys did slightly better. This is where I hope the Grand Finals tomorrow will be a fair affair. We already have two resident judges who represent each gender and can get away with the bias, though to their credit they have not been showing it so blatantly these past nine weeks. It’s the guest judges who hold the wild and trump cards. We could do without a repeat of last year’s mini-controversy whereby some of the guest judges showed whose side they were on. A judge has to be impartial afterall, even if this is a fun competition to begin with. One can show their quiet / gleeful support for their favourite teams via their votes during the Face-Offs, but not through openly-blatant display for the whole world to know. It somehow kills the spirit of competition and demoralises the other team, resulting in quiet discontent.

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Not surprised with the voting, with the Minahs clinching the overall win…

Though I am a bit disappointed with that particular aspect, I am still pleased to see the Minahs closing the gap as I had earlier predicted. Going into the Grand Finals tomorrow, from what I understand, the winner will win double the points, which means if the Minahs were to win, they would eventually leapfrog the Mats and end up being the dominant gender, not to mention the overall winner. As the score stands, the Mats are leading 5:4. With so much at stake for tomorrow’s Grand Finals, we’re going to see all the contestants giving their all in the special two-hour show. It’s gonna be another heart-stopping affair with the line-up ensuring there will be a good mix of contestants with differing abilities, capabilities and personalities. The Minahs will be represented by Nurul Aini, Huda Ali, Syirah Jusni, Azlin Ali and Nurfarhana M Noor. The Mats will have Suzairhe Sumari, Fauzie Laily, Fadhlur Rahman, Danial Ashriq and Hafeez Glamour fighting in their corner.

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Post-show interview with the Malam 2 Mat hosts Hafeez Glamour and Dyn Norahim. Azlin Ali stayed for the first ten minutes before going off as she had her daily morning show and needed to rest for the night. Nurul Aini and Danial Ashriq stayed throughout…

Before I end my entry, I would just like to commend Wawan Husen from Auraz Band for being the best Celebrity DJ throughout the nine weeks, at least from my personal standpoint. He did so much better and was so fluent as compared to some others who looked a little lost and unfocused, which resulted in some of the contestants and audience wincing and lamenting afterwards about points lost during the Q&A segment. For his reward, I believe Wawan will be back for another round tomorrow. Another three that did well so far and caught my eyes were Ashmi Roslan, Ryan Sufiyan and Shikin Imran. Not too sure though how many will be allowed in the radio conty tomorrow. But what is more important is that, I am hoping for a clean, fun, entertaining and fair fight from all contestants as they not only entertain us with their antics, but also channelling all their efforts for a good cause, winning points and monetary proceeds for their respective charity beneficiaries. I wish all the contestants all the best and play safe!!!

Te:RaSeh! 2.0 Episode 8 Recap…

TeRaSeh 2014 Episode 8 2014-05-27 2109Huda Ali got the better of Den Sabari this time round…

Episode 8 of Te:RaSeh! 2.0 last Tuesday (27 May 2014) served up a rare sight not seen in the previous seven episodes – a proper spanking for the Mats and a stunning win for the Minahs in all segments. Something had to give and the Minahs truly rose to the occasion to close the yawning gap that threatened to make this competition a cakewalk for the Mats. Whether the guys deliberately played the role of chivalrous gentlemen and gave the win to the ladies on a silver platter or the ladies found a fighting spirit from within, we will continue to debate for weeks to come, but the fact remains, a win for the Minahs was just the tonic for them to lift their flailing spirits and build on the momentum for the upcoming episode happening tonight.

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Judges Sheikh Haikel, Rilla Melati and Mr. Hassan Salleh were in no doubt who ruled the roost that night…

For the very first time in the competition, the Minahs aced through all the segments and the final scoreline was simply unthinkable, a landslide of sorts, the kind of spankings that they were used to receiving between Episodes 2 to 5 from the Mats. How nice and satisfactory it was that they finally managed to buck the trend and dish some of their own medicine back. The Minahs were also on the charm offensive right from the start with different team chants targeting each individual judge. Though I would give full marks for creativity, the execution and synergy during the delivery could have been done a bit better. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the guys getting walloped for once, even though I did detect that they were being generous by playing it cool.

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The hosts, Khairudin Samsudin, Dalina Jaapar and A. B. Shaik, in costumes depicting the theme for the night – World Culture

It was also nice to see Huda Ali finally get one back against hubby Den Sabari during the Final Face-Off (Dikir Barat). All those practices in private with Den, prior to the show, paid off big time for Huda. It also helped that Den was too immersed in his character to the point he was inaudible. The choice of anointing Izyan Mellyna as the Celebrity-of-the-Match was a long time coming in my opinion, as I felt that she should have been awarded that title in the very first episode when she did an extremely good impression of Diana Ross. A rising star in our local Malay entertainment industry, Izyan is set to make waves, starring in her first movie, “Banting“, which would be released this coming August 2014. A former child star having appeared in kiddy shows like “Ya Alif“, she is also a mean stage singer. Just type her name in YouTube, and you will see some of her performances as she belts out crisply like a professional singer.

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Izyan Mellyna, Huda Ali and Den Sabari had a great time at Warna 94.2FM‘s conty with Malam 2 Mat hosts, Dyn Norahim and Hafeez Glamour.

With all due respect to the Mats, I think tonight will be another episode where the Minahs will close the gap and make it 5-4 on aggregate, leading up to the Grand Finals next Tuesday (10 June 2014). I base my predictions against the line-up tonight and their performances in the previous episodes. The Minahs on paper look a bit stronger to contend with. In their corner tonight will be the one who leads by example – Nurul Aini, the one with the most determination and willpower in her – Azlin Ali, and the fiesty and gregarious Nurfarhana M Noor. For the Mats, we will see Fauzie Laily, Danial Ashriq and Fadhlur Rahman carrying their hopes. The Mats need to kick the show off in style by gaining the upper hand in the first segment (Fuhhh Te:Ra!). From there, they need to build on the momentum for the Q&A segment (Te:Ra Kapa?) and pick the right lyrics for the Final Face-Off (Te:Ra! HabisBoria). Can they do it and prevent the ladies from winning again for the second week in a row??? We’ll get the answers tonight at 8:30pm, only on Mediacorp Suria.

Te:RaSeh! 2.0 Episode 7 Recap…

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It was a hard fought and close fight between the Mats and Minahs in Episode 7 of Te:RaSeh! 2.0, even though the eventual scoreline betrayed what transpired throughout the hour-long show. Yes, the guys were simply brilliant, led by celebrity-of-the-match Suzairhe Sumari, but so too were the ladies, who fought with every sinew and guile within them. I was with the participants backstage prior to the show and the din they created gave me goosebumps, which made it feel like a carnival atmosphere or even the Grand Finals itself. I knew for the first time, this was not gonna be like any of the first six episodes. There was banter and mickey-taking all round, some friendly exchanges of thrash talk between both teams. There was certainly an adrenaline rush felt by everyone and I just knew the night was going to be a bit special as war was about to break out live on national television!!!

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Viewers at home and at the Mediacorp TV Theatre were not to be disappointed. Everyone onstage played their parts well and contributed to a very entertaining and humourous show. Everything we saw last Tuesday night (20 May 2014) was a mixture of planned skits and a spontaneous reaction to what went on. Both teams gave as good as they got. Those that were not slated to battle lent their support and just let their hair down as evident when we saw the Final Face-Off (Te:Ra! Habis – Boria). I personally think every episode should have been like this, with everyone enjoying themselves and making us forget for awhile that it is a competition. Even the judges were not spared from being surrounded and “manhandled”. In the case of resident judge Rilla Melati, she was yanked up to the stage by the ladies. Guest judge, BJ Kadir had his shirt accidentally stained by Mastura Kumari‘s (a.k.a. Mastura Ahmad) make-up. It was extremely hilarious and everyone was buzzing right up till the post-show interview over at Warna 94.2FM was done.

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For the sake of interest in the competition, I would really, really hope that those who are not slated to battle it out for a particular episode, to come down and lend their support for their colleagues and create an absolute corker onstage. Unanimously, people I spoke to from the audience, to viewers at home and even those behind-the-scenes agreed that it was the most entertaining episode to date. Evidently, everyone made the most of their presence onstage, some I have been told, had lost their voices from all the cheering, whooping and singing. Who can blame them??? My only regret is that the personalities involved in this competition would not be able to go on a road tour like last year due to logistical difficulties. We had so much fun last year atop the Hippo Bus and it’s just disappointing that the same could not be replicated this year, seeing how everyone enjoyed themselves this past episode.

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All the contestants played their parts well, immersed themselves in their respective characters and were more confident as compared to the qualifying rounds, where some were seen holding back. Tomorrow, 27 May 2014, the eighth episode of Te:RaSeh! 2.0 will have Den Sabari once again going head-to head with his wife Huda Ali. Joining Den will be Hasif Nasir and RIA 89.7FM‘s Dzar Ismail. Huda herself will be joined by Izyan Mellyna and Seriwahyuni Jaes. Another intriguing battle will resume and both sides will have experienced Dikir Barat enthusiasts for the Final Face-Off. After the euphoria of the past episode, I hope and anticipate for another repeat. If they can even get those who are not involved in the semi-finals to support, all the better. As they say, the more the merrier. Indeed it was a merry affair and long may it continue till the series end in less than a month’s time…

Te:RaSeh! 2.0 Episode 6 Recap…

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The Minahs clinched the battle for supremacy on Episode 6 through the Final Face-Off (Te:Ra! HabisDikir Barat)…

Finally!!! After four weeks of male domination, the ladies closed the gap on the sixth episode of Te:RaSeh! 2.0 last Tuesday 13 May 2014. I did say in my previous entry on the programme that the ladies were due for a win and that they had to earn it, and earned they did. I had sensed at the start of the programme that even though the audience was willing the Mats on even more than showing their support for the Minahs, the confidence that the ladies would do well was felt backstage, down to the two female judges. Some might say, yeah maybe with two female judges, the swing votes would favour the ladies, but even Mr. Hassan Salleh was equally satisfied that the Final Face-Off was comfortably won by the ladies. I personally had confidence they would, thanks to the presence of Seriwahyuni Jaes, who is not only a mean script writer, but also married to a Dikir Barat expert (R. Azmann), who might have passed down useful tips with regards to the lyrics.

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The judges (Nura J, Rilla Melati and Mr. Hassan Salleh) were unanimous with their votes…

Over the past six weeks of qualifying, several individuals have impressed me individually with their character portrayal, their strong will and determination to win for their respective teams or just by their personality shining through. For the Mats, Suzairhe Sumari, DJ KC, Danial Ashriq and Den Sabari were standout performers, whereas for the ladies, it was Nurul Aini, Nurfarhana M Noor, Sarah Aqilah, Izyan Mellyna and Azlin Ali for me. Sadly when the Top 9 for each teams was announced, Sarah Aqilah did not make it. Even someone with a strong following on social media like Norfasarie also did not make the cut, when I had personally predicted she would. DJ KC would have been one of the Top 9 but since his beloved wife, Fiza O, is due to deliver their firstborn any day from now, it would have been taxing to include him. Speaking of deliveries, my heartiest congratulations go out to Fadhlur Rahman, whose wife has just given birth a few days ago, their firstborn.

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The semi-final participants… (Graphic poster courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

For the semi-final rounds, which will last for three weeks beginning tonight, the themes for the weeks ahead will be Past Jobs (20 May 2014), World Cultures (27 May 2014) and Horror (3 June 2014). For tonight’s episode, the Mats will be represented by Hafeez Glamour, Suzairhe Sumari and Hyrul Anuar. The Minahs will have Mastura Ahmad, Syirah Jusni and Nity Baizura flying the flag for them. Based on last week’s showing, the Minahs might have regained their confidence and will be stepping onto the battlefield with renewed vigour. Will the Mats stand back and let the ladies close another gap or will they secure another win to extend their lead further. We will know the answer tonight, only on Mediacorp Suria, 8:30pm!!! Good luck gladiators!!!

Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza Live In Singapore 2014 Review…

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I know it is a bit stale to put up this entry more than a month after the concert has passed. But I have extremely good reasons why I chose to post this up much later as I gave myself time to cool down from unsavoury and moments of displeasure experienced after the said concert. In fact, I had been contemplating, hemming and hawing whether I should even post this up if it means having to revisit and open up old wounds. I have only decided to just publish it after much deliberation, as I feel that my bad experience after the concert was a separate matter on its own. You will be reading about it in the latter paragraphs since I had actually typed them in anger a day after the concert, but you will also be reading a more balanced and fair review of the concert per se in this entry. So if you were to see a difference in mood and emotions, you will know which ones were typed much earlier and which ones were much later.

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A showcase by Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza is always anticipated and expected over here, once she has done a tour or series of concerts in her home country. It was with great pleasure that I received the news of her impending concert here in Singapore as early as January this year and looked forward to attending it, just as I had done so for her past three solo concerts (Harbour PavilionMarch 2000, Singapore Indoor StadiumJuly 2005, Esplanade Concert HallMarch 2008) and the combined showcases with Dato’ M. Nasir, also at Esplanade back in January 2010 and Konsert Diva,all the way back in April 2000, where she shared the stage with Dato’ Sheila Majid, Anita Sarawak and Hetty Koes Endang. Every showcase and concert that Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza performs on these shores is a landmark and milestone on its own for me on a personal level. And this recent one at The Star Performing Arts Theatre in Buona Vista was no different. As she celebrated 19 years of existence in the music industry with the concert, yours truly celebrated ten years of blogging on our local Malay entertainment scene.

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Over the years, and especially since 2007, I have slowed down on following her career journey, a little less faithful to put it nicely, than I used to. When in the past I would buy every single album she released, I have since stopped doing so. No, it’s not a form of protest or anything, but I guess priorities and responsibilities in life make one a little less of a groupie than before. I have had extremely memorable and eventful moments supporting her journey in the music scene circa 1996-2005 before family commitments came along. One that still sticks in my memory to this day was helping out at the charity concert by Suria Records artistes (her record label which had stellar acts like Liza Hanim, New Boyz, Noraniza Idris, Aqasha and Handy Black, amongst others back then) back on 16 August 2002, where it was held at one of the halls of Singapore Expo.

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I was given a prominent role behind-the-scenes for that particular charity concert and will always be thankful to Kak Sabariah Hirma, her PR Manager here in Singapore for that experience, as well as the other times I was allowed to meet Dato’ Siti herself in person, mostly to send her off at the airport. It was from that aforementioned concert too that I made friends with several key personnel from Dato’ Siti‘s own production company, including her younger sister Saerah. Which is why going to a concert or showcase by Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza is not just to pay homage to her enchanting vocals, but also to say hello to the people working closely with her. Cos seriously, how often do we get to meet and catch up with one another, with all our respective busy schedules???

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I was initially sceptical as to how many would actually turn up for the concert. Not to belittle Dato’ Siti‘s pulling power cos her name alone would guarantee more bums to seats, but looking at the overall attendance for big concerts over the past five years, some have been hits, and some have been misses in the attendance factor, even with big names headlining them. Her last solo concert in 2008, if my memory has not failed me, was not actually a sell-out event as compared to the one in 2005. But it has to be said also that that concert back in 2008 was held on a weekday. People might have been hesitant to go as they would have to go to work early the next day. This recent concert organised by Hype Records was held on a Saturday night, so it was definitely heartening to see that the theatre was at least three-quarters full, given that the venue is huge and has about a capacity of 5000 people.

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Listening to all the songs Dato’ Siti performed that night was like a walk down memory lane. Almost every song brought back memories, some good, some not-so, but everytime I listen to them, they all tell a story or bring me back to the times I was in polytechnic, serving the nation in the Army or even during the economic crisis where it was difficult for me to attain a job with a stable income after my National Service stint ended. But as always, amongst all the songs that she performed that night or whenever she performs “Wajah Kekasih“, memories of her wearing a necklace I gave her and singing that song in a Hari Raya eve programme back in 1997 on RTM 1, would fill my heart with pride and my head with nostalgia and contentment that she does appreciate the gifts given to her by her fans. That necklace was given to her on the night she received her very first overseas awards which she mentioned during the concert.

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When she asked the audience if they knew she had received one of her first awards in Singapore, some knew, while most probably did not. I was so tempted to get off my seat and shout, “24 December 1996Anugerah Muzik PopularSuntec City Convention Centre“, but decided not to in the end. I remember that event till this day as the show was over-runned and lasted about four hours. But what was unique about that awards event was, it was not organised by our local Malay radio stations, even though they supported it as official radio stations. Like Anugerah Planet Muzik, it had a stellar cast of performers and big names from Malaysia and Singapore. Dato’ Siti was just a newcomer in the scene at that time, and together with fellow record label group 2 By 2, they were the next big things on show that night. Look how far she has progressed since that fateful night???

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Though Dato’ Siti remarked that night, that “Kesilapanku, Keegoaanmu” was more popular with karaoke-goers than on radio charts, I believe she said that probably due to its rather lukewarm response across the Causeway. But not here though, cos I do remember the song topped our local Malay radio charts for more than a month, more than a decade ago. She performed that song as well as most of the songs that night in a different arrangement to the ones we have been accustomed to from her albums. With such fresh arrangement, some being more upbeat than the other, it made for a concert that was filled with memories aplenty, nostalgic moments reminisced, as evergreen favourites were belted one after another, but still remaining relevant in this day and age, thanks to the astute mind of Aubrey Suwito.

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Being a veteran goer of all her concerts here, I could see a big difference from the time she first started out as well as noted a stark maturity in comparison to her first two solo concerts. Gone were all the fancy props and backdrops, not forgetting the minimal costume changes. Even the number of dancers which used to colour her concerts have since been kept to an almost bare minimum. Nineteen years in the music scene, Dato’ Siti is at a stage whereby she does not need all those razzmatazz to add flair to her concerts. People come to watch her for her melodious and enchanting vocals. No matter what she does onstage, people will just lap it up. She will always have the audience under her thumb the moment she steps onstage or opens her mouth to sing.

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Her almost two-decade long career has also moulded her into being an all-rounded entertainer. Who can forget how shy she was at interacting with the audience when she first started out??? That night however, she was like a stand-up comedian, poking fun at at the audience, at herself, her husband and even the invited guests. Her first decade as an entertainer showed up quite a number of flaws and rough work that needed to be polished. 12 April 2014, along with about 3000-4000 people in attendance, I witnessed a flower that has blossomed and bloomed to perfection. Even when she cracked jokes and made fun, they did not come across as rude, like some entertainers or comedians out there. She did it all with grace, poise and with a touch of class. The punchlines that came along with her banter were spot-on.

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Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza is known to work with a trusted working circle and if you are a regular concert goer of hers, you will also note the familiar faces onstage that back her up, either as sessionists or on vocals. In the past, I have been used to seeing Pak Ngah on accordions and Steve Thornton on percussions, so it felt a little strange to watch her concert that night without the presence of the aforementioned duo. I also note another change in approach by Dato’ Siti during the concert. When in the past, she would call up female members of the audience onstage to dance with her, that night, those that went up were all guys. Though I wished that someone would have gone onstage to sing “Muara Hati” with her. I know for a fact that a certain Hyrul Anuar in the audience would have jumped at the chance and do justice to the song, had she seen him. Or at the very least, have Taufik Batisah singing with her, rather than limit his appearance to the evergreen hits by Singapore artistes segment.

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Which finally brings me to my embarrassing and humiliating episode at the concert. Most of you who know me personally or have been following this blog would note that I am a huge fan of Malaysia‘s number one icon. Which was why I felt covering her concert would be the icing on the cake of my tenth year of doing entertainment blogging for our local Malay scene. When it comes to watching a show of immense quality, I have never been one to compromise on the seating price and would not hesitate to pay for the most expensive tickets just to get a good view of the show. The recent concert was no different, and I even booked it the minute I woke up when I was overseas back in February. Out of respect for the concert organisers, I did voice out that I would like to cover the concert and do a write-up. I was granted a media pass but was briefed that I could only snap photographs during the first two songs and during the duet segment with Taufik Batisah.

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I did as per instructed but was quite surprised to see other media-accredited photographers snapping away even after the first two songs were done. Since I did not see the ushers stopping them, I continued throughout the concert and I was not stopped either by any of them. However one of the organising staff came up to me somewhere near the end, when Dato’ Siti was mingling with the audience and singing one of her final songs (“Cindai“), and told me indignantly to return to my seat and that I was not supposed to be taking photographs. Imagine I was singled out, when at that point of time I was just standing by the side and not even aiming my camera lens at anyone, whereas there were so many others who got off their seats, came forward and snapped away with their camera phones. Throughout the course of the concert, the audience was taking photographs and video snippets and uploading them on their respective social media accounts. How do these people manage to get away with it when someone like me with a media pass gets told off by the same person who granted me the pass???

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When the concert ended, I was told by a fellow media friend that there was a meet and greet session and that the media were allowed in. I was initially together with them, discussing the high points of the concert and was ushered into the waiting area for the media along with them. Followers of this blog would note that I do not do interviews and would just snap the goings-on of what transpire in front of me. Even if I were to “disturb” the artistes, it would be for them to pose for my camera and that too does not take more than ten seconds, fifteen at the most. Which was my initial intentions when I entered the room meant for the meet-and-greet session, which was just to snap some memorable photographs of Dato’ Siti meeting her fans and the media. The same staff who had told me off earlier, this time raised her voice in front of my media counterparts and asked what was I doing there when I was not supposed to, upon seeing me standing by the side. I had not even snapped any photos at that point of time.

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I could have kicked up a fuss but I felt perhaps I was really in the wrong for flouting rules which were not briefed to me much earlier, and since I was already embarrassed and humiliated enough from the raised voice and treatment I got, I immediately left after she reiterated again that I was not supposed to upload photographs I took after the first two songs and other than the duet segment. When I left, I could see the faces of my fellow media colleagues, how apologetic and sorry they were for dragging me into this mess, but I do not blame them for it cos I felt they brought me in along with them in good faith and out of goodwill. I am just utterly disappointed that things turned out very badly in the end. I could have been told off nicely or at the very least brought to a corner and explained why I was not allowed inside. I could have accepted that even if it was grudgingly. Not being told off in front of others like that. Respect, whatever I had for this particular staff all these while, has gone out of the window.

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For the first time I felt that, even with a media pass hanging on my neck, it was meaningless. Contrast this to the treatment I got during Anugerah Planet Muzik 2013 where I was ushered in to the waiting area for the performers when I first arrived, even when I had no plans whatsoever to disturb or interview them knowing they were doing their last minute preparations. I refrained from entering the changing rooms and just waited for whoever to come out to pose for my camera when they were ready, and left them to do their private rehearsals in peace. That has always been my style and approach, to let the artistes do their thing in peace, yet this treatment made me feel like some kind of pariah. I was not hard up for an interview, neither was I disturbing anyone in that respect, I was just standing by the side watching proceedings. Yet I was singled out as a gate-crasher and uninvited guest, even after giving support to some of the artistes and events by this particular organiser over the years.

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In my anger, days after the concert, I almost decided to boycott doing any write-ups nor reviews on the concert itself, even if I have good things to say about the performers, which also included The Final One winner, Farisha Ishak, as the opening act. For all the support that I had given, paying for the most expensive seats, hoping to give a good account by saying good things about the organisation and execution of the show, yet the treatment I got was like a slap to my face which is still ringing in my ears till today. It is extremely difficult for our local entertainment industry to grow when there is apparently little to no synergy, good working relationship and trust between media and record labels, show promoters and event organisers. When the media wants to help you in anyway you can, you embrace it, or even when you cannot reciprocate in kind, you respond with the same respect they had accorded to you. Kindness begets kindness.

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I am not sure if there is any exclusive arrangement with any media organisation for this recent concert, but I wonder why should the big players always have the bigger slice of the pie in the name of exclusivity, when there is only a handful of media companies / individuals here in Singapore??? We all want to see the industry thrive and we all would like to help in one way or another to see it blossom. Yet this segregation and ostracising has left a very bad taste in my mouth. I know as an entertainment blogger, people might not take me seriously, even after ten years of being in the scene. But at least treat me with the same respect and support I had given them all these while. There are only two television channels (Mediacorp Suria and Sensasi), two radio stations (RIA 89.7FM and Warna 94.2FM), two print medias (Berita Harian and Manja), two entertainment portals (Sungguh.com and Gumbira) and one active entertainment blog in our local Malay entertainment industry. I personally rate mine being at the bottom of the pile. Perhaps that’s why people don’t give two hoots with what I offer on the table.

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I also wonder what significant impact I would gain out of sharing the other photographs I took from the concert with my readers??? I don’t earn through blogging and I certainly do not earn from sharing photographs with my readers. Though I understand copyright issues can be a legal problem when it comes to video recordings and to some extent, photographs being sold for a profit, I believe it is high time concert organisers and venue operators relax some of their rulings and allow at least photographs to be taken. In this day and age, with people carrying smartphones and androids, there is no way they can stifle and refrain the audience from taking photographs during the shows. There will always be people who would want to take for personal memories’ sake. It is blatantly shared on social media accounts like nobody’s business. Even other media outlets were sharing live updates of the concert. And what is the percentage of people making money out of them??? My personal guess is: Not much!!! Or even zilch!!!

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If I were to be blacklisted after this for my rant and honest comments by the organisers, then so be it. I have been mentally prepared since I typed them out in anger a day after the concert. My intentions and conscience were clear with regards to covering the concert. I wanted it to be celebrated and remembered for all the right reasons, to even help promo as best as I know I could. Unsavoury incidents like what happened to me, spoilt what I had so excitedly wanted to share to my readers. But do let it be known that my anger is not aimed towards the organisers who had done a stellar job in bringing Dato’ Siti to our shores, as well as done everything to near perfection, but the staff who had so overzealously created an unnecessary friction and tried to play hard ball. The concert itself was an immense pleasure to watch, sadly the conclusion at the end soured a great night and what was supposed to be a celebratory event for me on a personal level as an entertainment blogger in the local Malay scene…

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