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