Please Support Project V.O.A.!!!

This noble project is in support of the victims of the earthquake in Haiti and your humble presence is needed in giving hope to the less fortunate in the strickened country. Also, your support towards our less-than-glamourous, but nonetheless, artistes of decent calibre, would go a long way in bringing up our industry to the next level. They need a platform to showcase their talents. The platform is already given. It’s up to you now to show your support for the cause and to the artistes involved…

Anugerah Skrin Auditions…

Yesterday was the first day of Anugerah Skrin 2010 auditions held at Caldecott Broadcast Centre. It was a totally different experience personally for me after covering last year’s Anugerah auditions held at East Point Mall. For one, it felt more personal and most importantly I did not feel as stuffy having to mingle with the crowd as there wasn’t any supporters allowed to cheer the contestants on. This approach was very much deliberate, as it would give the contestants the perfect atmosphere to switch off from their surroundings and concentrate on the random scripts given for them to act out in front of the judging panel.

As opposed to my counterpart, Iskandar, who came early in the morning to cover the event, I only arrived at about 2:45pm, just in time to see the batch that had queued up since noon to go in for their auditions. It had rained since morning and when I arrived, it was still drizzling, but certainly the weather did not dampen the hopes and expectations of the hundreds who came. From that batch that had gone in when I came, I noticed there were a few familiar faces that had come to previous auditions, be it Anugerah or Anugerah Skrin, some as far back as 2001. I admire their passion, perseverance and resolve in trying their luck again and again to get noticed as a new face on television. 

Noor Liyana was a Top 10 finalist in the previous Anugerah Skrin competition. Her experience certainly helped her in getting a pass to the next round.

For those who got through the first round, good for them, as it showed that the gap in between previous years’ auditions and the current one had made them learn what is to be expected and that they have improved on their shortcomings. But it is also not a guarantee that they would ace through subsequent rounds of auditions and when they get into the competition proper. For those who still did not get past the first round after years of trying, I wonder if a bit of self-reflection and realism would kick in and that they are better off doing something worthwhile other than harbouring dreams of being a television star. Sometimes the grass is greener elsewhere or the fact that it is written that their destiny is not in this line.

Mr Hamed Ismail, Khairudin Samsudin and Mdm Neng Hayati were the judges in Room 1…

I’m not trying to be the spoilsport and wet blanket here cos I used to share the same dreams as them when I was younger. Though it is good to have confidence in one’s abilities, I believe only through observing and learning how the industry is like, how it works, experiencing continuous rejections and looking at one’s own reflection in the mirror would reality sink in, no matter how much it bites. I’m not a looker to begin with, nor have the patience to wait on others, which are part of what this industry is about. That is why I stressed upon the importance of doing their homework before coming to the auditions two entries ago. For the record, I’ve never gone to any auditions before to test my abilities, so sour grapes and cynics wanting to sharpen their knives to get back at me should know that I’ve done my self-reflection even before I jumped the gun.

Whereas Alfiah Abros Meah, Aryati Tyeb Papar & Johari Abdul Aziz were the judges in Room 2…

Speaking of that entry, I pointed out that “… too many people come for auditions unprepared, wearing indecent and improper clothes, having unkempt hair, wearing sandals and flip-flops and worse still, they looked as though they just woke up from the bed!!!” I still saw these things being replicated at the auditions. Those I observed being rejected were mostly stammering or uncomfortable speaking in the language, when their identity cards clearly state which race they belong to. If the very basics like linguistics and communication skills are too difficult an obstacle to clear, then how do you expect to memorise scripts and getting the feel of your characters once the camera starts to roll??? You have to be comfortable speaking in your own mother tongue.

This sibling pair experienced mixed emotions when the elder sister got through but the younger brother did not…

Then there are those who were still not dressed appropriately. Ladies, if you are blessed with ample bosoms, you don’t have to wear cleavage-bearing outfits screaming for them to be spilled out. If you wear tight-fitting pants, make sure you’re covered strategically so that we’re not treated to seeing “camel toes” or the shape of your butts. For the plus-sized, though I respect the confidence you have to wear what you wore yesterday, please in future do not wear “sarung nangka” outfits cos they are sore to the eyes and magnify your unsightly flabs two to three-fold. To the guys, I know K-Pop is in, but you don’t have to colour your hair, make them unkempt or wear caps which multiply the “Mat” factor in you especially when you wear tappered jeans. There is a way of making your hairstyle and fashion sense presentable. I don’t have to list each and every single thing out here cos you’re supposed to do your respective homework. Remember that first impressions count.

Congratulations to those who had gotten the all-important pass to the next round and work on your flaws which the judges had pointed out during the auditions. Their tips and useful advice will go a long way to shape your subsequent performances so please heed them. The same goes to those who have failed to make the cut. Use them to better yourselves for future auditions…

Critical Thoughts Of My Own…

I’ve resisted typing this entry ever since I saw the various unhappy tweets from those who had attended the recording of the above-mentioned programme at Caldecott Broadcast Centre on 6th February 2010, a day after the Suria Elektra event. That particular weekend the guest panelists on the show included Anang Hermansyah and Edry, one third of the KRU brothers from across the Causeway alongside Kak Hanim (Mohd Salleh), Berita Harian‘s Entertainment Correspondent, no stranger to the local Malay entertainment industry, who was the resident judge throughout the recording of the Popagenda series. Why I decided to finally type this entry was because I felt the need to voice out on several issues I have been observing but keeping mum and reading a comment that appeared in Berita Minggu today, which I have scanned for your reading pleasure:

For the uninitiated, Popagenda, which is the brainchild of DuaM Productions, whose head honcho is also the host of the show, Najip Ali, is a new variety programme, that has been airing on Suria for the past month or so. In each episode, two local singers, and an established guest artiste would showcase their talents to the guest panelists who are industry people experienced enough to know what they are talking about. The singers would sing songs of their own / their own choices if they have yet to record a single, sing a song belonging to the established guest artiste for that particular episode and answer questions put forward by Kak Hanim, as a test to their media-savvy skills. If you had caught the first few episodes, you would have noticed that the panel of assessors are no slouches when it comes to making good, quality and award-winning music. Ajai, who is no stranger here and Yuvie, one half of Indonesian duo Yuvie & Nuno had been the judges in the earlier episodes.

I did not attend the recordings but from what I heard, there were a lot of unhappy voices from the audience who were shocked and taken aback by what Edry had commented on some, if not most of the contestants. Not meaning to defend this old friend of mine, but he has always been someone who is not afraid to speak his mind and calling a spade, a spade. Even when I first got to know him some fifteen years ago, I was initially left stunned when I heard his less than flattering comments towards some people, that I myself got kinda turned off at the very first impression. But after knowing and hanging out with him, I believe it’s his hard-driven nature and unsatiable hunger for success that has made him into the millionaire that he is now along with his two siblings. Brutal in his honesty, genuine in his approach and achieving success in what he does for a living are traits, I believe, and ample reasons why the good people at DuaM chose him as one of the guest panelists.

Granted KRU might not have been great live performers during their heydays and I think they know that themselves, nor have they produced artistes of legendary calibre under KRU Music Group but artistes like Indigo, X-Factor, Phyne Ballerz, Elite, Ezlynn, Juliana Banos, Adam and indirectly Feminin, can be considered relative successes being newbies in the industry in the past, even though cynics would gleefully point out that they rely more on their looks than talents. Still not convinced??? Anita Sarawak, Rabbani, Ella, Mawi and many other established artistes have also entrusted him to help produce some of their hit singles / albums. Their company’s stock grew even more when they branched out into making movies and tapping on the usage of modern technology into their films where most Malaysian film directors and producers have yet to jump on the bandwagon, perhaps due to budget constraints.

Of late, one of their latest films, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, have gained international recognition when it was picked for distribution in 25 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and the Middle East after it was exhibited at the recently-concluded European Film Market in Berlin. They have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Universal Studios in Hollywood, for distribution rights in North America once filming is completed. And that could only mean more dough coming into their coffers. He might have been a failure in the past to get into the hearts of Indonesian fans, but I’m sure the group had been one of the phenomenons of the 90s in Malaysia and over here. But again as I’ve said earlier, this entry is not about defending Edry. Neither is it to hype about his achievements to make him look good. Nor is it to extol his comments as examples to follow.

Instead I would like us all to ponder upon every comment that was made in the previous few episodes shown and also those that have yet to be televised, by each one of the guest panelists. We definitely want our local Malay music industry to thrive once again like two to three decades ago. And the only way for it to go up is for experienced and knowledgeable hands to give us a dose of reality check so that we can better ourselves and be well prepared. Singing is not just about holding the microphone to your mouths and being able to carry a tune. Anyone could do that, even myself. Nor adding dancesteps and groovy moves to your repertoire will make you an outstanding performer. A performer’s standing should be of some style and substance so that those who watch, will appreciate even if they are not loyal fans or supporters. Off-stage, the ability to carry one’s self in public positively, the presence of mind to answer (or evade tactfully) questions and being media-savvy (minus the controversies), will definitely put one in good stead.

Too many acts have been one or two-hit wonders. Just look at Anugerah Planet Muzik since its inception and you will begin to wonder what has happened to so-and-so, not only in our local industry but also in Malaysia and Indonesia as well. Not many have survived so long till this day especially our local acts. It is sad to see the likes of Bhumiband, Kaleidoscopicuriosity, Karim Supnan and many more, not maintaining  their longevity in the scene as they are all worthy acts. To attain longevity in the scene, one needs to have a certain amount of passion, originality and humility. Popagenda is definitely a positive step in that direction to see whether our budding acts are ready to take the next step to spread their wings and share their talents with the region. The sensitive ones would say the guest panelists were being too critical and uncouth, while the cynical ones would say that Popagenda only brought out the worse in our pool of local artistes, but this is where they learn to improve and work on their flaws.

As was pointed out by the comment in Berita Minggu about Sarah Aqilah, we all know what a great singer she is and witnessed her grow from strength to strength in the weekly Anugerah 2009 series. However that was in the past. The episode of Popagenda which she was featured in and could be classified as being in the current context, did not paint a true picture of what we know she is definitely capable of. If you had studied her body language, her somehow troubled facial expressions and slightly apparent lack of confidence during her performances in that particular episode, they were not good advertisements of her true abilities to the panelists, who I believe are also on the lookout to help market our local acts in their countries or at least collaborate with them for future projects. She also seemed unsure of answering the question directed to her during the question-and-answer segment with the media, which prompted Kak Hanim to lament that both she and Faizal Isa had blindly answered them.

Even though Anang had performed with her the day before at Suria Elektra, Edry was seeing her for the first time and we all have heard of the old adage “First impressions count” once too often. Granted I have to admit he was perhaps a little overboard and kinda exaggerated when he questioned how did she become champion, but I cannot fault Edry for directing it to the fans who voted and judges for giving a false sense of hope to someone who is yet ready to cross the Causeway. You have to recall how a certain judge during the Anugerah 2009 series kept on putting her on the pedestal and saying how she was ready to be a superstar and all, but the truths were laid bare during the show, simply because she did not perform to expectations and did not give the impression she was ready. As such you cannot blame Edry as what he commented was based on what he witnessed. To be fair, he did pass on useful advice that she could still make it abroad, provided she reinvents herself and create an identity of her own. So I hope people would look at it in one big perspective and not take things out of context and do selective hearing as we are all so fond of doing. There was certainly no hidden agenda nor hatred towards Sarah. She can only get better after this and I know she can.

I hope whatever negative comments that were passed throughout the series by any of the guest panelists would not be taken to heart nor make our artistes lose faith in their own abilities. Neither should they take these comments for granted and hope that their loyal fans’ support would be enough to see them through their respective careers. There is so much a fan’s support can do, but if there is no substance, then the non-fans would also not be convinced that you deserve to be respected and that you’re living in your own deluded world. If you take it in the local context, as of right now, the fan support is simply not enough, likewise the number of shows they can be involved in unless they sing at clubs for a living. If it is enough, our artistes wouldn’t harbour any thoughts of seeking greener pastures nor wanting to gain experiences elsewhere. No matter how good and successful you are over here, you might not get the same amount of success elsewhere and vice-versa. It has been proven without having the need to drop any names. Before taking the leap and plunge, please equip yourselves with the basic know-hows on what it takes to be a performer that people in the region could sit up and take notice of.

Learn also to accept criticisms – positive, negative, brutal and harsh and use them to better yourselves. The most amusing part to all these hoo-ha is the fact that the artistes themselves haven’t made much noise about nor complained about it (at least not in the open…), but the fans have been quick to go all defensive and downright sensitive. I had wondered for quite some time if we are ready for a show like Melodi or Terjah but after reading the fans’ comments, I don’t think we are, not even close to a million miles yet. We are so used to hearing all the nice and sugary stuff that sometimes it has made us all become too complacent and happy with what we have in our hands. A little pinch on the bums can result in controversy of epic proportions and or make our worlds come crashing down. Wake-up calls like Popagenda is a good gauge to see how ready we are for edgy shows and the fans are sad to say, clearly not. Yes the fans here have the major say here, but what about fans over there when the time comes to cross over??? I’m sure the mentalities are much different and their acceptance will not be so accomodating unless you are original.

This episode brings me back to the time when Rafaat Hamzah was sensationally slated and slammed left, right and centre in the papers for being too critical and harsh towards the contestants when the inaugural Anugerah Skrin competition was going on four years ago, him being one of the two mainstay judges, the other being Najip Ali himself. Even when we have someone experienced, a local, who knew what he was talking about and dishing it out in his own way, the public jumped and bayed for his blood. Some even went as far as to ask the organisers to remove him from the judging panel. And I remembered on the subsequent episode henceforth, he protested by simply refusing to open his mouth or comment much. Four years on and I expected our mentality to have made some progress but apparently it has not.

We should all be thankful that the mainstream media here for all their misgivings and sometimes lack of support for local talents (I say this because I seldom see them unless it’s for big / grand occasions, which is why alternative media like us bloggers have come to the fore. But to be fair, Kak Hanim does go to most of them…), are not as brutal as those in Malaysia and Indonesia. If comments like Edry‘s or Anang‘s can be considered too harsh for us, then I’m afraid our artistes will be slaughtered and annihilated by the various media sources once they take the bold step to venture abroad and these people are not forgiving at all. Our Asian Idol himself has experienced that before, even though we understand how guarded he is with personal questions, but it was misconstrued by the media there as him being aloof. We all know the kind of questions that the media abroad are capable of asking, and just by watching Melodi and Terjah on TV3, sometimes we even feel as though we want to bash up the journalists ourselves for being incredibly insensitive with the angles they’ve chose to concentrate upon.

But the mainstream media here could also do their part in getting to know our local acts better, reporting more on them, doing respective homeworks before sharing it with the masses, attending more indie events and not wait to be invited just because they are already established. I was particularly miffed when a part-time journalist wondered what happened to Aliff Aziz and why is he so quiet of late, ever since news of his controversy last year came to light. This person also lamented that Aliff has his mood swings and one day would greet and another day would not. I ask myself, whether this person really made the effort to get to know the guy personally or not, to pass off negative comments like that. For one, this person does not even know that he is now serving his National Service. Secondly, to say it out on a national medium on his character is akin to slender. As mainstream media, I’m sure they know that the masses would read, hear and believe what was being said since they are either published, aired or televised.

For the record, I’m not close to Aliff nor his family, but this young man would stop whatever he is doing and come over to greet me personally if he sees me from afar as my past experiences can vouch for. And I’m not even a journalist nor part of mainstream media to be accorded such respect to begin with!!! What does that tell you??? Aliff being someone who meets a lot of people and fans cannot be expected to remember each and every single person he meets. Likewise this fact goes with all artistes and normal people like us. If I’m being equally anal, I could also say that there is a certain artiste who greets me only when I’m in the presence and company of people in the industry and hype about it. But have I done that before this??? No, in fact I would still give this artiste the benefit of doubt that I am just a nobody and of course could be forgiven for not knowing who I am, even if we had been formally introduced before. It is time we start getting to know our local acts better and minimise reporting on artistes abroad or spreading gossips through hearsay. It doesn’t lend credibility to one’s worth, efforts and professionalism as an entertainment journalist.

Most importantly the genuine intentions of artistes in general coupled with sincerity and passion for your craft should shine through without the need to try too hard to win over fans and people from the industry. You need to question yourself why do you want to become an artiste, a performer, an entertainer or a singer??? Do you want to be one in the hope of being popular??? Or because your goal is to achieve awards and appear on red carpets on an annual basis??? Or you take great joy in fans clamouring at your feet??? Or do you just want your music to be heard and appreciated and if good things come your way, then all the better??? There is an art to charming the listeners and audience who are your consumers, and this does not include giving away personal achievements nor gifts at almost every available opportunity. You can do it once or twice, but if it gets done once too often, people might question whether you are sincere or if it’s part of your gimmick / showmanship to woo the neutral fans over.

As I had mentioned before in my “Be True To Yourselves” entry last July, always be thankful that you have a core group of supporters willing you on at every single show or appearance you perform or make, who would defend you at every single opportunity when the chips are down and look beyond your flaws no matter how glaring they are. These are the same people who will never tire of supporting, scrimping their weekly pocket money just to travel to the places you’re performing at or buying gifts for you, and taking photographs with you. At almost every show or concert I go to, I will practically see the same faces over and over again. Not that it is a bad thing, far from it, but these are the very people who deserve pats on their backs for their endless and undying support, and I take my hats off to them for being so loyal, come rain or shine. We definitely do not get this kind of rousing support  before Singapore Idol was conceived.

Never ever complain about taking photographs or receiving gifts from the same person over and over again. Unless you are genuinely sincere nor understand the essence and meaning of being an artiste, you will never know nor understand the feeling of making someone happy just by obliging with a photograph and smiling with a lot of warmth as a form of appreciation, which in turn would make the fans go home happy and being able to sleep soundly, heartened by the fact that every dollar spent on travelling, buying tickets to watch you, buy you gifts etc were all worth it. I was once a groupie and part of the fan brigade. As such, I totally understand what it means to feel appreciated by the artiste I adore because I know how it feels to be a loyal fan. Again and again I say, why Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza is where she is now, is because she is sincere and appreciative towards all her fans. I repeat the sentence I made in that entry: “The day the genuine and loyal fans ditch their favourite artistes, would be the saddest day of their lives cos their worth has just become less…

This small industry of ours is very small, still in its infantile stages. You can’t expect people to start liking and supporting with every performance you make. Like trust and respect, it grows over time. Whoever that supports you there and then, treat them with the same amount of respect and love that they have accorded you. Never question sensitive things like whether they only come to support you if it’s a free show, and not otherwise. It is already so difficult for artistes here to gain the support of the masses. One of the challenges being faced is to go beyond the loyal and core group of supporters and attracting the new / neutral ones who are still sceptical of the scene or more inclined to listen to K-Pop, which seems to be the in-thing these days or Western music. Whoever you have now as your fans, please appreciate and treat them kindly. Always remember that without them: YOU ARE NOTHING!!!  

Anugerah Skrin Returns!!!

(Graphics courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

After a 4-year hiatus in which we’ve seen Aliff Aziz, Rancour and Sarah Aqilah being introduced to our local Malay music industry, this year, Anugerah Skrin, the talent competition which saw Shahril Wahid and Huda Ali winning their respective gender categories in  2006 (and not to be confused with the awards ceremony across the Causeway…), returns for a second season to crown the next big star to grace our television screens in acting roles, be it in drama series, telemovies or big-budget films.

This year, the organisers are doing away with the hosting segment unlike its predecessor, which means there will be less stress on the contestants. Did I just say “Less stress“??? Though the stress is apparently lesser without the need to memorise more scripts than they have to, the expectations on giving credible and quality performances week in and out are still to be expected on each and every contestant. Please do your respective homework before you march your way to Caldecott Broadcast Centre next Saturday 20th March 2010 between 9am-5pm.

You might be wondering why I said that??? Cos too many people come for auditions unprepared, wearing indecent and improper clothes, having unkempt hair, wearing sandals and flip-flops and worse still, they looked as though they just woke up from the bed!!! Do jolly well read the rules and regulations stated on the Anugerah Skrin Official Website before embarking on this road to stardom. The participating forms are also downloadable there. There is one thing about wanting to be glamourous and wanting to be in the limelight, but ask around and the experienced ones will say that glamour is only 10%. The rest is hard work, sweat, blood and tears. All the best!!!

Video clip courtesy of Mediacorp Suria’s Official YouTube Channel

Happy 61st Mama!!!

It’s been more than five months that you’ve been in a coma and till today, we’ve not lost any hope nor given up on seeing you up and about like before. Today is a very special day in your life. But it would be even more special if you could wake up from your deep slumber and see your second grandson for the first time. We miss your warmth, we miss your jokes, but above all else, we miss you.

On your 61st birthday, I pray that Allah will bestow upon you the extra strength to open your eyes and see us all again. You are and will always be our inspiration, our guide and our shining light when it comes to fighting the odds and overcoming obstacles in life. You have beaten the odds in surviving the worst, your willpower even in your state of unconsciousness is an admirable example. Happy Birthday Mama!!! I’ll see you later today… 🙂

Festival Melayu Ada Celebrates Its First Anniversary…

Long-time readers of this domain would note the fact that I have been an ardent and loyal supporter of the Festival Melayu Ada (FMA) event when it was first conceived and had its successful run circa MarchMay 2009. Celebrating its first anniversary, the good people at Cokelat Events & Production have decided to resurrect the event in tribute to Hajjah Esah Cafe. The kind people of the cafe had been a strong advocate and supporter of the FMA series, allowing the artistes to use their outdoor premises for the shows to be realised. Now that the cafe is about to close down, the event not only will celebrate its first year of existence but also as a form of gratitude to the cafe.

Looking at the line-up of artistes on the poster, I see familiar names and regulars of past FMA events like my distant cousin Ard (Adha), Zaibaktian, Boy Raven, NSA (No Strings Attached), Tengku Nurlela, DianaSamsuri, Elmi Zulkarnain, Shafyre, Rafaat Haji Hamzah and Nizamulmuluk. One year on, they’ve added new acts to the list like AqmalDiorama and Kraton who are all nominated at the upcoming anugeraHitz.sg event. A pity though that I am unable to attend the event as I have prior engagements with the family. But I do hope that you guys would set your Saturday, and if possible Sunday as well, aside to support this event as the acts on show are of decent quality… 

Best of all, the whole event is FREE!!!

RIA Big Bash Flashback…

2010 seems like a special year for our local Malay entertainment industry thus far. Mediacorp Suria turned ten years old late January. By mid 2010, we will be seeing new faces who would be gracing our television screens in the near future when the second edition of Anugerah Skrin comes along. Last Saturday 27th February 2010 at the Canning Ballroom, Raffles City Convention Centre, for those who attended, we witnessed the launch of the Malay Artistes Association to look after the welfare of Malay artistes and industry movers in this country. And for the first time, 2010 will see our first local Malay music awards presentation show on 3rd April 2010. Landmark events all around, which also includes the twentieth anniversary of the existence of RIA 89.7FM.

Over the past two decades, RIA 89.7FM has evolved from a station that inspires its listeners through its tagline “Radio Inspirasi Anda” to a station that plays music according to the current generation’s trend (“Tren Generasi Terkini“). There was a time when Dangdut was the in thing and boybands were the craze. RIA certainly lived up to their tag by playing songs from these genres / eras. Its tagline has since been updated to “Tren Muzik Terkini“, in line with its role in playing the latest hits. RIA has also inadvertantly taken up the role of a station that promotes our local acts through the constant airing of their new singles upon their release. Of late, their weekly RIA Chartz, which reflects the weekly Top 20 requested songs in the station, has shown a healthy number of local songs in it. As recently as the previous weekend before last ending 28th February 2010, of the Top 5 songs on the charts, the top three belonged to local acts with Hady Mirza‘s “Angkasa” at the pinnacle. This past weekend he topped the charts again for a thirteenth straight week!!!

With the rise in number of local acts making their marks in our local Malay music industry, it was no surprise that RIA marked their first outdoor event for 2010 called “RIA Big Bash“, to celebrate their twenty years of existence, with an all-local line-up. I’ve been to countless shows organised by them and have also performed on a number of occasions after winning the Impersonation Category at Kriatif RIA 1997, one of their many organised talent competitions. I must say the response in attendance has always been resounding. But what I felt was something special for “Big Bash“, an A-classed event by their standards, was the fact that they did not feel the need to invite artistes from across the Causeway to grace the occasion. It definitely was a statement of intent for them to show how far our local acts have progressed over the years and that the audience would come and give their support. It also helped that we had Hady Mirza and Taufik Batisah performing that night, sure bets for bums on seats, as the main attractions. Though I knew all along it was deliberate, but if it ever was a gamble to have an all-local line-up, it certainly paid off as the event was a sell-out.

Besides the local acts  and the twentieth anniversary of the station being the draws of this event, the night also saw the announcement of the Top 20 songs over the past two decades aired by the station. Since the end of December 2009, listeners were invited to cast their votes on which songs have been their favourite ones since RIA was incepted on 1st December 1990. They were given a list of 100 songs to choose from. How the 100 songs made the list can only be answered by the good people working in the station. But I was quite surprised that songs like KRU‘s “Awas” and “Ooh La La” did not make it to the list, monster hits back in 1995 and 1996 that defined the group, but “Di Dalam Dilema” (the list reflected the song as just “Dilema“) did. There were also other absentees which I thought deserved to be on the Top 100 list to choose from, but I guess they already have their hands full coming up with one and try to include songs from different artistes as much as possible. I think if I had come up with the list, Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza would have at least ten of her past hits on it.

This entry though it will be quite lengthy with photographs that I have taken that night, I will just comment or caption as I go along. For the record, “RIA Big Bash” was held at Republic Polytechnic‘s The Republic Cultural Centre on 21st February 2010 at 8.00pm (the show actually started approximately 8.20pm). It was brought to us by main sponsors Breeks Cafe and Seoul Garden Restaurant. The event was also in support of  Tabung Amal Aidilfitri charity fund.

This percussions group call themselves “Sambateria” and they opened the show with their rousing performance which made us all want to get up and dance along with them…

There was something distinctly fresh about how dikir barat group Si Anak Seni performed that night right after Sambateria. They ditched their traditional outfits and broke away from the norms of what you would expect from a normal dikir barat performance by taking up the different musical instruments and playing to a song honouring RIA 89.7FM, its segments and presenters, which they specially composed for the bash. A pity that the sound system did not fully give them a good account of themselves. I was straining my ears trying to figure out what they were singing.

The hosts that night and the previous morning show hosts on RIA, Aura Shai and Hafeez Glamour. Their antics certainly entertained the audience and gave each performance a smooth transition between one another.

This three-piece band, The Lion Story, is famous for the catchy ditty “Kucing Kemari” which they performed that night, along with another single. They remind me a lot of those bands from school gigs, clean cut and definitely with loads of potential.

Ever the charmer, Didicazli serenaded Ms Zakiah Halim to Jamal Abdillah‘s 1991 hit “Kekasih Awal Dan Akhir“, which came in 17th on the Top 20 list of popular songs on RIA over the past two decades. He dedicated the song as his way of saying thank you to her and the station for believing in his music when he first started off as a singer.

He then followed up his performance by singing his latest hit single “Takkan Kembali“…

S.K. (Suriani Kassim) and T.G. (Tahar Ghalib), two very popular radio presenters previously on RIA‘s roster and now at Warna 94.2FM, rolled back the years when they performed the classic hit “Dua Insan” made famous by first M. Nasir & Yunizar Hussein, and then Ezad from Exists & Iva Virginia. It was heartening to see S.K. in the pink of health after what she went through some time ago. Coupled with the fact that their performance was backed up with still footages of previous RIA events over the past twenty years, I felt a lump in my throat, getting nostalgic watching and reminiscing them. I was also momentarily stunned when I saw a photo of myself featured during the Tingkap Tingkap 897 event in 1997 a few months after my group’s win at Kriatif RIA and we were invited to perform.

Zaibaktian always gets a resounding reception  from the audience whenever he comes on stage. A very warm and likeable character, he performed his two hits “Dunia Yang Fana” and “Ejen Cinta” that night…

I think it is fair to say that the only female artiste on show that night, Nana, blew the whole auditorium away with her two songs. Rather than singing her hit “Lafaz“, she sang two songs that made it into the Top 20 hits of the past two decades, Misha Omar‘s “Bunga-Bunga Cinta” and Aishah‘s “Janji Manismu“. My hairs stood on end listening to her. Somebody of her calibre should be creating storms and causing ripples in our local music industry and I hope she gets all the support she needs. I for one thought that she should have been one of the longer standing performers in Singapore Idol Season 1 alongside Jeassea Thyidor.

The night not only saw performances by local acts, even the RIA presenters had something up their sleeves for the audience. Of late DJ KC has been practising street magic skills, of which he has incorporated into his weekend hosting events for weddings and functions alike. Though not many knew of this new-found interest and skill of his, that night, he showed his abilities to the audience alongside RIA‘s Programme Director, Mr. Hassan Salleh. Generally everyone was impressed. Just that I felt that it was a bit too draggy as they invited some of the audience to participate in the segment. It was a Sunday afterall and a lot of people had to work the following day.

From the amateurs, the centrestage then belonged to the professional, none other than Imran of Illusi fame. He wowed the audience with a few tricks like making himself disappear on stage and in his place was Fiza O, before reappearing at the back of the auditorium. He also made Nity Baizura and Aura Shai appear on stage. God knows how he did those tricks. However, certain sections of the audience especially those at opposite ends, saw through him. He has to make sure that in future, his surroundings are well covered and that no one should be able to detect his flaws.

Proceedings were then halted for awhile as RIA‘s presenters, current and former, came on stage to cut its twentienth anniversary cake. It was heartwarming to see some of the former presenters being invited and able to attend the event. Azmi Sempoi who was based in Kuala Lumpur, made the effort to come all the way down just to see his former colleagues. Some of them like Fiza O and Azlin Ali, were overcome with emotions upon seeing him. He is now based in India on a business venture.

Boy Raven who was supposed to perform alongside Man Toyak, ended up performing alone. He is seen here singing his current hit on radio “Kesuma Jiwa“.

Boy‘s second set came with a surprise. He sang “Mentera Semerah Padi“, which came in ninth on the Top 20 list of songs over the past twenty years on RIA, alongside Didicazli and Zaibaktian, to the cheers of the audience.

Kraton was up next. This RIA Band Remix champion in 2008 received mix reviews from many quarters. While most people did not like their rendition of Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza‘s “Cindai“, me included, I felt that overall, they were a breath of fresh air with their elaborate costume and unorthodox showmanship. The male singer, Jufri, pranced around and kept jumping up and down the stage. Fortunately there were no pregnant ladies seated at the front row, lest they would have gotten unwanted shocks and trauma, especially since he was wearing a special kind of contact lens that made him look scarier. He certainly performed like a man possessed that night. I for one love their hit single “Fanaq” as it reminds me a lot of “Puspasari Penawar Puteri“, made famous by the now-defunct Malaysian rock group Metalasia and Ning Baizura sometime in 2004.

Since its inception, RIA 89.7FM has organised several talent competitions for aspiring artistes and performers to showcase their talents. Over the years we’ve had competitions like Karaoke 897, Kitalah Bintang, RIA Band Remix and Kriatif RIA amongst others. Such competitions have been good foundations for artistes like Hetty Sarlene, Rudy Djoharnaen, Mansor Warren, Izzla (Malaysian artiste), X-Tech, Kraton and many more. So it was apt that during the event, Styles From Beyond, who were the winners of Kriatif RIA a few years ago and also participated in 2008‘s The Dance Floor competition on Channel 5, were invited to showcase their talents once again.

The twist to their performance was they had Fiza O and Nity Baizura dancing along with them and the two of them did not look out of place at all. Yours truly also belong to the Kriatif RIA alumnus but I don’t think my group would be relevant in the current context had we been invited to perform, seeing that we were only impersonators of KRU and the real McCoy have since cooled off to concentrate more on their music and filming empire. Anyway, we’ve had our time and what great memories they were. My only regrets were the lack of videos and photographs of our past performances. If only YouTube was invented earlier.

I could sense the restlessness amongst the audience when Styles From Beyond were performing as the night was getting late. But all those feelings disintegrated when Hady Mirza came onstage to sing “Merpati“, which came in third on the Top 20. He even took time to come down and shook hands with everyone seated on the front row. And what is a Hady performance nowadays without his gargantuan hit “Angkasa”??? I have to repeat again that it is tops for thirteen weeks now on the current RIA Chartz, a phenomenon of sorts.

Taufik Batisah‘s appearance towards the end was a no-brainer. But I was surprised that his song “Usah Lepaskan” came in first on the Top 20 list of songs. Not that I have any doubts or have an axe to grind with Taufik, far from it, but it reflects the current demographics and patterns of voters out there, not to mention preferences. Had this poll been done in 2000, there will be no surprises as to which singer or song would top the charts. However Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza could be pleased with the fact that three of her previous hits “Cindai“, “Aku Cinta Padamu” and “Percayalah” made it to the list, thus making her the top artiste over the past two decades. That’s another no-brainer really given how much she has achieved in her career spanning fifteen years and counting.

What was unique about Taufik‘s performance was the fact that the producer of RIA Big Bash, RZ himself, came on stage to sing the first few verses and chorus of “Usah Lepaskan“, just to keep the audience in suspense, anticipating the arrival of the first Singapore Idol onstage. Though he forgot the lyrics at some point, I thought RZ did a decent job singing the song. The tiredness on his face was evident and I knew he has been spending long hours at work preparing for this big-scale event. Taufik followed up his performance singing “Tiada Dua“, a song that is fast gaining its admirers. But it is not a surprise to me at all. Taufik seems to have the Midas touch in that any single of his that is introduced to the listeners, it will surely be a guaranteed hit. No question about it.

The last act of the night belonged to the RIA male presenters who formed a band amongst themselves and are simply called RIA Band, with DJ KC on vocals, Brader Bo on lead guitar and RZ on drums. Apologies as the identity of their guest bassist was lost on me though. The band, which was formed during the first Band Remix competition back in 2007, performed Ricky Martin‘s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and literally burnt the house down with their virtuoso and energetic performance.

It was also a nice gesture for them to call up Zan Sofiyan, one of its original members, and Azmi Sempoi to perform on stage with them halfway through the song to signal its finale. And what a finale it was with Brader Bo smashing his guitar. It truly felt like watching a proper rock concert.

RIA Big Bash was overall, a resounding success in my opinion, not because I’ve been a loyal listener since 1st December 1990, or because I used to be an intern back in 1998 or for the fact that I regard some of the presenters as good friends. The main thing for me is that for a big-scale event like this, RIA can pat themselves on the back for being able to attract a full house (the empty seats in the auditorium I believe, belonged to representatives from sponsors and invitees who did not turn up) and most importantly without the need to call upon a guest artiste from Malaysia or Indonesia. It was an all-Singaporean affair which in itself is a landmark and progress that we have made over the years to see our local Malay music industry bloom. Indeed since its inception, RIA has done a commendable job to introduce and support local acts, even to the point of granting airplay to songs which do not meet the basic quality standards.

However, there were flaws that could have been avoided. The day of the event which was on a Sunday was top of the list, bearing in mind that the next day was a Monday and people had to go to work or attend school. It was too evident when the show started almost half an hour late and certain segments were too draggy or absolutely redundant. The magic show for instance could have just been done by KC or Imran. The opening acts involving Sambateria and Si Anak Seni I felt was just a repetitive segment which could have been done either by fusing their respective genres or limited to just one. With so many acts on show, there was a tendency of the old adage of too many cooks spoiling the broth rearing its ugly head.

The event also felt like a repeat of last August‘s Rentak Singapura event organised by both RIA and Warna 94.2FM. Even though I did not attend that event due to personal commitments, the main artistes on show that night (Taufik, Hady, Zaibaktian, Nana and Didicazli) were also the same headliners on 21st February 2010. Not meaning to take anything away from the five talented singers, I believe we still have other acts patiently waiting for their opportunities to make themselves be heard and seen. But I can understand why they were chosen because they have their own sets of loyal supporters who would go the distance in supporting them. As a result, we saw that the event was a full house. The sound system was also left to be desired as the vocals of the singers were sometimes drowned by the music that accompanied them. Which was a pity really cos the talents on show certainly deserved better justice to their performances.

The positive side of it is that this event is only the first of many for 2010 and one could expect more local acts to be invited for upcoming ones in store. I just don’t want to hear something like so-and-so is a golden child to so-and-so or this person charges lesser that’s why he / she was invited. Have heard of such things like that across the Causeway and I don’t want our industry to suffer the same thing. Have yet to anyway, that’s why I’m just throwing caution to the wind. Not pointing fingers at anyone in case some of you feel that way. Jealousy breeds contempt in so many ways and what I brought up has happened before, so I wouldn’t like to see it repeated here. Before I end this entry, here is the full list of Top 20 songs on RIA over the past twenty years:

Top 20 Songs on RIA 89.7FM (1990-2010)

  1. Usah Lepaskan – Taufik Batisah
  2. Demi Waktu – Ungu
  3.  Merpati – Hady Mirza
  4. Cindai – Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza
  5. Percayalah – Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza
  6. Kaulah Segalanya – Hazrul Nizam
  7. Janji Manismu -Aishah
  8. Dealova – Once (Dewa 19)
  9. Mentera Semerah Padi – M. Nasir
  10. Mungkin Nanti – Peterpan
  11. Kenangan Terindah – Samsons
  12. Seribu Tahun – Imran Ajmain
  13. Bunga-Bunga Cinta – Misha Omar
  14. Aku Cinta Padamu – Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza
  15. Cenderawasih – 2D
  16. Menghitung Hari – Kris Dayanti
  17. Kekasih Awal & Akhir – Jamal Abdillah
  18. Bilang Saja – Agnes Monica
  19. P.U.S.P.A. – ST12
  20. Hijau – Zainal Abidin

Strange Happenings…

Those of you who know me, would acknowledge the fact that I’m not just an entertainment blogger. I do have vested interest in the supernatural world as well. So much so that I am currently assisting DJ KC of RIA 89.7FM maintain the official Misteri Jam 12 blog for him.

KC was on leave between 24-26 February 2010 and 2-3 March 2010. In “his place” wasn’t a part-time deejay but KC himself, only that he had pre-recorded his four-hourly programme beforehand. Such is his dedication and love for the listeners that he painstakingly recorded his programme before going on leave. It’s also widely known that the most popular programme in the station would never be the same without its original storyteller and the sound effects that accompany him every night.

The pre-recorded programmes somehow did not come with sound effects as KC opted to do something different for a change and to show that he was really not in the conty doing the show live. However on two occasions, mysterious incidents occured which left listeners and myself puzzled when we tuned in. If you would like to listen to them, just click on the clip and enjoy…

What they were, your guess is as good as mine…