Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza Launches Sity Avita Sdn. Bhd.

Over the past weekend, I went up to Kuala Lumpur for a short getaway trip with the wife sans the kids. This was my first trip to the place I affectionately call “The City of Dreams” this year, having last made my way there in July 2009 to catch my beloved team, Manchester United, in action. The wife had some loyalty vouchers to make use of (free accomodation at Grand Millennium Hotel for 3 days 2 nights) before the year is out, so the trip was a much welcomed idea as it was our opportunity to get away from our hectic lives and just spend quality time together.

As the title header goes, this trip also coincided with the official launch of Sity Avita Sendirian Berhad. As regular readers of this blog would note, I had attended the Avita Awards on 30th October 2010 at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre with Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza herself being the guest artiste for the prestigious closed-door event. I had mentioned in my blog entry on that event, that Dato’ Siti has a major share in the Malaysian and Indonesian markets of Avita. It turns out that she is the chief investor in both markets and by placing her trust in the Avita brand, this signals her next foray in the business world after her successful “C-Tea” and “SimplySiti” ventures.

Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza arriving, flanked by Avita CEO, Ms Lee Xiang Yin and followed closely by husband Dato’ Sri Khalid Md Jiwa

By virtue of my aunt Faridah being a member of Avita Singapore Pte. Ltd. and who has been promoting the products to our family members, it was an honour to replace her, since she could not make it to the launch and being there to witness a landmark event in the ever-colourful career of Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza. This launch was held at the Sity Avita Sendirian Berhad office situated on the eleventh floor of Menara UOA Bangsar last Saturday 27 November 2010. The event venue is not to be confused with Wisma UOA KLCC or Menara UOA Damansara, in which the wife and I initially went to before realising we went to the wrong location. For foreign visitors like us, it was perhaps forgiven for not knowing where it is, but for the taxi driver  who drove us there and the hotel concierge who said it was at Damansara, I think they should be shot at for not knowing their own town.

Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza unveiling the Avita logo…

Though the card stated that the event was to start at 9:30am, it actually began at 10:00am, with Dato’ Siti arriving, flanked by the Avita CEO, Ms Lee Xiang Yin, with her husband, Dato’ Sri Khalid Md Jiwa close behind. After a brief unveiling of the Avita logo at the office, the event’s guest-of-honour took her seat at the front of the conference room. Prior to her arrival, the guests were given translation devices as the Avita CEO, a Hong Kong native, would be speaking in Mandarin. The event proper began with Ms Lee addressing the audience in basic Malay and English thanking them for their presence at the unveiling of Sity Avita Sendirian Berhad before going on in Mandarin and speaking about how the company came about and how they managed to strike a common understanding with Malaysia‘s number one Diva. I will not delve much into the company’s profile as you can read them all via its website at www.myavita.com.

After a brief video presentation (above) to introduce her to the audience, half of whom made up of foreign members from the various Avita branches around Asia, Dato’ Siti came onstage and described how she was highly impressed by the Celergen product introduced to her by her sister-in-law, Puan Zaini, one of a few products being distributed by Avita. Besides rejuvenating her and improving her vitality, she noted that the product has given her immense freshness even when faced with a long day at work. Not only that, I saw the extra radiance as seen by her outlook so early in the morning, when most of us at 10:00am would sometimes still be looking listless or dreary and still wishing we’re in bed.

After taking the product for more than a year, she was suitably convinced to invest in the company, which officially started its operations under the name Sity Avita Sendirian Berhad on 1st October 2010. The company has been in operations in Malaysia for about three and a half years, so this rebranding exercise distinguishes it from other Avita branches around Asia. When quizzed during the media conference afterwards how much she had invested into the company, Dato’ Siti being her ever humble and modest self, declined to disclose how much she had put in, but she definitely hoped that this next venture of hers would also be as successful as her eight-month old SimplySiti brand of cosmetic products. She said that through her success in singing, she would want to share it with her fans. Through these ventures, they are also able to do likewise since this is another form of multi-level marketing. Sity Avita Sendirian Berhad will be helmed by Puan Zaini and the good people under her.

Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza flanked by Puan Zaini and Ms Lee Xiang Yin. Dato’ Siti managed to ask me, “Jauh sampai?” right after taking this photograph was taken. I could only managed a sheepish grin, nodded and winked back at her. We didn’t get to chat, but at least she still remembered yours truly for that brief few seconds…

Noting that she had shared the Celegen product with her good friend Kris Dayanti and how the Indonesian Diva had also been impressed by it, she announced that the Indonesian market will also have the Avita brand name being introduced in early 2011, barring any hiccups. Right now, they are still putting the finishing touches to the deal. The event ended with a short media conference meant for the media, who were all given a box of Celergen to try out for a month and for them to evaluate. I was fortunate enough to sit through the conference, thanks to my bulky camera, even though I had no official pass on myself. I was also the envy of my cousins, who sat out the media conference, as they said that the Celergen does not come cheap but yet it is very good and effective having tried them before.

Ms Lee & Dato’ Siti answering questions from the media…

Speaking of which, let me just give you a brief introduction of the Celergen product. As summarised from its official website (www.swisscelergen.com), Celergen is a powerful, multi-faceted Cell Therapy treatment system that is clinically proven and potently encapsulated with the essential elements of Marine DNA Cellular Extracts which are known for their supreme rejuvenative, regenerative and anti-oxidant properties resulting in immense energy, enhanced vitality and ageless beauty. Researched and developed by prestigious Swiss, French and German anti-aging experts, cell therapists, gerontologists, biotech chemists, scientists and pharmaceutical prefessionals, Celergen aims to intercept and prevent, repair and maintain, rebuild and rehabilitate your body irrespective of one’s age. Best of all, it’s Halal-certified and approved by many health food organisations.

Dato’ Sri Khalid Md Jiwa was a keen observer of the proceedings by the corner…

A short chat with Dato’ Khalid after the media conference had ended, had him praising and espousing the product and the miracles it brought to people who had taken them. Whispering softly, he said there were cases of women who had experienced menopause taking the product and experiencing menstruation all over again. Looking at his youthful outlook, it was no surprise when Dato’ Siti exclaimed that one of the secrets to his age-defying outlook was down to consuming the Celergen product. Seeing is believing and I was generally swayed to try out the product. If Malaysia‘s number one singer has put her money on a product that she is genuinely convinced of, then I have to say that it is something worth trying for and so will I for the next month or so…

The cousins and wifey taking a photograph with Dato’ Siti before she left…

Pesta Raya: Hujan & The Fabulous Cats Review…

Pesta Raya“, to quote its description from its official website, is “the annual festival event that celebrates celebrates Malay arts by Malay artists from Southeast Asia and around the world“, made its return again between 22 and 31st October 2010. This year, its stellar cast had Amy Search, Datuk Ahmad Jais & Zaibaktian in “Konsert Kasut Putih“, the father and son combo of Elfee and R. Ismail, Malaysian thespian Fauziah Nawi, award-winning group Hujan and The Fabulous Cats gracing the festival amongst other stellar acts.

Reading through its official website where it stated that the “Pesta Raya” festival is “held during Singapore‘s Hari Raya Puasa“, it somehow left me feeling a bit puzzled as Hari Raya was already stale and six weeks gone by then. Of course in Singapore we tend to celebrate it for a whole month, but six weeks is a bit off in my opinion. Perhaps the organisers could consider changing its name to something other than “Raya“, if such future events fall outside the month of Syawal.

I’ve been an avid fan of this festival for years since its inception. I always look forward to its promotional posters, just to see what shows I could attend. This year was no different, and seeing that both Malaysian groups, Hujan and The Fabulous Cats – two contrasting groups with their own style and brand of music – were performing, I wasted no time in booking my tickets as early as before Ramadhan. I had missed out on Hujan‘s concert at the Republic Polytechnic last year and I was determined not to miss it again this time round. As for The Fabulous Cats, witnessing them live for the first time at last year’s Anugerah Roadshow at East Point Mall wasn’t enough, hence I had to catch them again.

 

Hujan Showcase

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

I was surprised that Hujan were given two nights to perform where most acts usually perform for only one. Not that I’m complaining, but it is quite rare to see a music act from this archipelago, an award-winning one, to be given the honours of performing more than once. Hujan performed on 28th & 29th October 2010 at the Esplanade‘s Theatre Studio, a humble venue but good enough for the audience to let their hair down. I went to the earlier show and since it was a Thursday, a working day, naturally there were only 150-200 people who came to witness it. 

For a rock concert and an audience making up of those in the 20s-30s age group, it is quite a mystery to me that the crowd was dead almost throughout the concert, only coming to life with the concert two-thirds gone. But looking at the earlier songs performed, mostly from their second album “Mencari Konklusi” and their soon-to-be-released album “Lonely Soulja Boy” (out on 25 November 2010), I cannot blame the audience for not knowing the lyrics to the songs as the only songs I’ve heard being given airplay over here in Singapore from the second album were “Mencari Konklusi” and “Kau Harus Ada“. Perhaps the show being held on a working / school day could have somewhat dampened the crowd’s mood, thinking that the next day is another day at the office / school.

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

I had heard that the Friday event was a sold-out concert, so I was hoping that Hujan deserved better from the watching audience. While I was busy jumping, headbanging and singing at the top of my voice to their songs from the comfort of the back (as I was too shy to come forward), the crowd in front of me were just bobbing their heads to the songs, which amazed Noh, the lead vocalist, who was wondering why the crowd wasn’t warmed up yet. I dunno if this is a Singaporean syndrome or not but it seems to be like that for a long time now when it comes to watching a concert, especially at one where it is extremely ok to let loose. Shows at expo events are mostly guilty of this scenario.

It was only when the group started to sing the song that introduced them to the regional music scene “Pagi Yang Gelap“, “Aku Skandal” which rose their stock further, and when they ended the night with “Jiwa Kelajuan“, was I able to see the crowd finally enjoying themselves. Observing them, I guess Hujan‘s first album which contained those three songs, including “Dugaannya” and “Bila Aku Sudah Tiada“, is still closer to the hearts of their Singaporean fans, even though there were loyal RAINgers (Hujan‘s Fan Club members) from Malaysia who made their way down. Even the lead singer of Tilu Band, Mira, was seen amongst the crowd to lend her support to the group. Local personalities like Tengku Adil and Adha (former vocalist of Bhumiband) were also there to enjoy Hujan‘s music and lend support to Dimas (Bhumiband‘s former keyboardist now in Hujan). 

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

I was suitably impressed with Hujan‘s remake of the old P. Ramlee hit “Tunggu Sekejap“, which is part of a tribute album meant for the late great Malaysian thespian. Though the arrangement has changed to suit their style, the substance remained intact. The problem with remakes sometimes is that it might come off worse or not to our liking, but the same cannot be said of Hujan‘s version. This tribute album titled “Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti: Satu Indiepretasi” is an excellent work of art by independent artistes across the Causeway, paying their utmost respects to the great man with their own versions of some of his popular works.  

Honestly it didn’t feel like a concert, but more like a school gig. A lot of friendly banter was exchanged between the group and the audience, with Noh doing a lot of the mickey-taking on familiar faces in the crowd. I guess that was his way of breaking the ice as most were rather subdued and prefer to just laugh at the jokes being cracked. To summarise, it was overall an enjoyable concert, the downside being the lacklustre audience and to some extent, the sound system, which drowned Noh‘s vocals at various parts of the concert. But it was a definitely a great experience to witness them live in action and hope that the songs in their third album would receive more airplay here, so that the next time they come here for a concert, their songs would no longer be alien to the watching audience…

 

The Fabulous Cats’ Showcase

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

I had typed in my last entry that I had to rush down to The Esplanade to catch The Fabulous Cats‘ showcase, straight from the Avita Awards being held at the nearby Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre on 30th October 2010. No thanks to the long delay by the valet service at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the short traffic jam at the Marina Bay area, I only reached the event venue, the Esplanade Theatre Studio (again!!!), ten minutes after it was supposed to start (10:00pm). The event timing was a first for me as previous shows I attended at the Esplanade have always started at 8:00pm. For the performers’ sake, I had hoped that the turnout would be good for them as I had heard rumours during the Hujan concert that tickets were not selling that well.

My fears were allayed when I stepped into the event studio, where DJ Ollie, the disc jockey for the night, was starting to spin the introductory tracks. The crowd that turned up was almost the same number as the ones who attended the Hujan concert on Thursday. There were more older folks as compared to Hujan‘s audience demographics, indicating that it was possible that family members of the performers were out in force to support them. Cynics might say it’s not a good indicator of one’s true fanbase but I personally think the presence of family members would prevent any onstage jitters for first-time performers on home soil like Dynda. And one can always count on family support through thick and thin. Local celebrity Marina Yusoff and husband Adel were spotted in the audience, as was popular Malaysian actor / director Ahmad Idham.

 

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

Being new to the scene and with only two singles to show for (“AM/PM” & “Hanya Kamu“) did not deter the new local female quartet of Dynda from warming up the audience for what else was to come for the night. Granted the newbies whose talents were spotted during the staging of “Impak Maksima The Musical” last year at the Esplanade, and subsequently polished by Cat Farish, leader of The Fabulous Cats,  are not excellent vocalists. But this was to be expected since the quartet are known as dancers more than their vocal prowesses. Where they might lack in voice, they made up for it with their brilliant nifty footwork. I thought it was a joy seeing them perform along with their back-up male dancers.

It is not easy having to sing and dance to energetic numbers without losing one’s breath. I must say the girls did a commendable job on their debut performance on home soil. I watched their performance on TV3‘s “Muzik-Muzik” programme a few months ago and back then, I wasn’t impressed. But the girls have definitely worked hard since then, going for vocal trainings etc. and it was there for all to see that through their own determination to succeed in this harsh industry, they have most certainly improved on that forgettable performance in “Muzik-Muzik“. Their vocals for “AM/PM” was much better this time round, with minimal mistakes being made. I certainly hope they would improve as they go along, cos this local industry of ours need a bit of colour, other than the domination of male artistes.

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

The Fabulous Cats did not immediately appear onstage once Dynda‘s set had ended. In fact the dance ensemble from Malaysia known as the “Floor Fever Crew” came on to enthrall the audience with their fancy synchronised dancesteps and breakdancing feats. It was only about ten minutes later did the main acts themselves came on with the hit single that introduced them to the music scene. No prizes for guessing that it was “Papa Jahat“. But the supposed quartet only appeared as a trio outfit. It was only much later that Cat announced that Wangi was due to sit for her exams, which explained her absence. Zizi, the other female member of the group, did well enough to cover Wangi‘s absence but still, it felt a bit awkward to see just the three of them onstage.

Cat Farish was in his usual humourous element, poking fun at anything and everything, with Zizi of course the main butt of his jokes. He could even afford to joke when they were performing their songs. What made it even more hilarious was his attempt at dancing, which he admitted he wasn’t good at. Adeep, back in his homeground, was the backup joker. It was nice to hear him belting out a Dikir Barat number out of the blue, reminding us of his musical roots and where he initially started from. I was surprised that before they went for a short break to give way to KomradThe Fabulous Cats actually changed the arrangement to their hit “Slot Akasia“, the official soundtrack to the “Impak Maksima The Musical“, and made it even more sappy and melancholic.

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

Komrad, the latest rapping sensation to emerge from our shores took centrestage afterwards. The duo formerly known as DURTY Minders, started their set with an English track before going on to perform their debut hit single on the local airwaves “Harapan“. The song, which was inspired by the tragic folklore of Tanggang, is one of my current favourites, and it certainly is a song that tugs on the heartstrings when one is reminded of what a mother’s love to her children is all about. I was hoping that since the song was in the Top Three positions of RIA Chartz back then, the crowd would at least be singing to the chorus of the song, but all around me, they were just intent to watch with just a few individuals nodding their heads in tandem with the beats and melody.

The duo, which reminds me a lot of our now-defunct “AhliFiqir” outfit with their brand and style of rapping in Malay, finished off their set with “Jatuh Hati Di Kuala Lumpur“, which is surprisingly the song that introduced them to the Malaysian listeners, rather than “Harapan“. This song, which saw them collaborating with arguably Malaysia‘s “Hip-Hop King“, Malique of Too Phat, relates their journey to the neighbouring country’s capital to spread their wings and show off their talents. These boys have it in them to make it big in the scene, and I for one believe that they will continue where the quartet of “AhliFiqir” had left off, and create their own identity and hopefully legacy. They should be, seeing that they are lyricists, producers, composers and artistes all rolled into one…

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

The Floor Fever Crew appeared onstage again with another display of fancy footwork prior to The Fabulous Cats returning for a second set. This time round, Cat Farish took the opportunity to introduce the individual dancers who made up the dance outfit. The second set saw another twist being made, this time to a classic rock ballad, Bumiputra Rockers‘ “Dari Sinar Mata“, which was arranged and sung in a reggae beat. The audience for once, came to life and sang along to a song they knew so well. Another song that the trio sang during the second set titled “Suka” had them mimicking artistes like Noh from Hujan, Yuna and Daly of AhliFiqir amongst others, which reminded me of Project Pop‘s “Aku Bukan Superstar“.

The group ended the night by belting out “Cinta Kosmik“, with the rest of the other performers returning for a final flourish. I was intrigued by the fact that for all the songs that The Fabulous Cats performed that night, they did not sing songs like “Fantastik“, “Lari” and the Broadway-styled “Ratu Novella“, songs that received decent airplay here in Singapore before. Overall, I thought I enjoyed the second concert better, simply because my personal musical tastes are more inclined towards hip-hop, rap and R&B, but I thought Esplanade did nothing wrong by inviting both Hujan and The Fabulous Cats to grace their Pesta Raya Festival this time round…

Post-Shows…

Old bandmates Adha (left) and Dimas (centre) with Tengku Adil

Noh Salleh (second from right), Hujan‘s vocalist, with Tengku Adil, Adha and Diyana, the latter’s spouse…

Wifey with Wahyu Rahman who was at the show and part of the welfare management of Hujan during their stay in Singapore

From left: Izzad, AG, Dimas, Noh & Am – the members of Hujan

The Fabulous Cats Cat Farish, Zizi & Adeep Nahar

Dynda comprises of: (from left) Reella, Vega, Renni & Elly

Salut to J-Boy & Fariq who make up Komrad

 Thank you to Gina Koh from the Esplanade  for kindly assisting me with the official photographs taken at both showcases. Appreciate your kind help…

Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza @ Avita Awards 2010…

(Image courtesy of Avita‘s official website at www.myavita.com)

I know it’s been a long, long while since I did a proper entry on the local entertainment scene. Other than the odd promos here and there courtesy of the information provided by event organisers, this blog has been somewhat dead. Even the supposed entries on past events that I attended and which I had initially promised to upload have been put to a backseat. I dunno if I should upload them now seeing that some of the events were like almost half the year gone and a bit stale but I guess better late than never. Since I’ve been away for so long, I need that wee bit of momentum to get me going.

Looking at the amount of stuff I would be typing, I believe this entry is gonna be quite brief, simply because I dunno what to describe about the abovementioned closed-door corporate event that I attended on 30th October 2010 at the Simpor Hall of the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre. I wasn’t interested about the awards or the happenings that went on at the event. The wife and I were only there for one reason – To watch Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza perform!!! Oh but before going on, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my aunt Faridah for getting us, the cousins, a table for the event, since she is a member of Avita. Also for the rooms at Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

Since the wife and I were only there for Dato’ Siti, naturally we only left for the event after Maghrib even though it stated we were supposed to be seated by 6:45pm. We reached the event hall close to 8pm and Dato’ Siti was already belting out her first song, Celine Dion‘s “A New Day Has Come“. She surprised the audience afterwards by singing the late Teresa Teng‘s hit “Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin“. She ended off her night by performing a familiar hit, “Destinasi Cinta“. In between, she addressed the audience through carefully scripted words in English. Much has been said about her lack of confidence in speaking the language, but I don’t give much of a damn really. Quite a few international stars out there also struggle to speak the language yet no one’s batting an eyelid. She should be lauded for at least trying and respecting the event as well as the guests. Some events don’t even respect the guests with the hosts speaking in another language and making them feel awkward and disillusioned.

The wife and I did not stay long and we left at around 9:10pm as we had to change and rush off to the Esplanade where The Fabulous Cats and two of our local acts Dynda and Komrad were performing at 10:00pm. But we still managed to say “Hi!” and took a photo with the diva herself and I got to shake Dato’ Khalid Mohd Jiwa‘s hands for the first time when Dato’ Siti introduced me to him. He comes across as stern but actually he’s a very nice and soft-spoken chap, even asking how was the event when we said our goodbyes. Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza for the record, has in the words of the event hosts that night, a major share in the Malaysian and Indonesian markets of Avita. So I believe we will be seeing her quite a bit promoting the products over at both countries in the near future.

The wife and my elder sister Farah with Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza

Anyway, speaking of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, if you’re intending to stay there, be prepared for poor service, massive delays, haunted hotel rooms (allegedly, based on my younger sister’s experience), a lack of Halal eateries (the nearest being Marina Square) with its only saving graces being the breathtaking views from the hotel rooms as well as the Skypark. Other than that, the place is a major letdown. A big disappointment really since it is supposed to cater to international guests and if it’s meant to be that way, it is not a great advertisement of our country to them. I really hope for its sake, the staff would buck up and provide tip-top service. No point in it being astounding in design architecture but not providing prompt and most importantly, service with a smile…

The only good thing about staying at Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Merah Pawana Promo II…

Last week I gave a detailed promo on the abovementioned event. This week, I’m uploading various interviews by the main and supporting cast, the director, Mr. Najib Soiman as well as the mastermind of the show himself, Mr. Rafaat Hamzah. So without further ado, I present to you the video clips. All credits of the videos go to “ayid85“…

 

Merah Pawana – Teaser

 

Interview with Sani Hussin & Hatta Said

 

Interview with Noris “Wandy” & Farah Ong

 

 

 

Interview with Najib Soiman

 

Interview with Rafaat Hamzah

Merah Pawana – Trailer 

 

 

Merah Pawana Promo…

 

 

Teater Ekamatra presents

Merah Pawana

Performed in Malay without Subtitles

Fort Canning Gate

18th, 19th, 20th & 21st November 2010, 8pm

$45 / $35 (Student Concession)

Group Promotions : $140 / $120 (Student Concession) for 4 tickets

Tickets from www.onetickethub.com or AXS machines.

Email ticketing@ekamatra.org.sg for group bookings and enquiries.

 

This is a story of strangers coming to one’s land; of the changes, beneficial and tumultuous that come from this; and whose one is amidst this.

The land of Berantah is divided between followers of a native spiritual guru and a foreign faith. By pitting wealth against tradition, Berantah becomes a land devoid of peace. Dilemmas of religion and practice soon become confused with that of money and politics.

Berantah finds itself to be the centre of the struggle for dominance between the old and the new. One young boy, Merah, urges his people to reclaim their identity. At the same time, they live in fear of a prophesized disaster, a pawana that would sweep the land of Berantah. Will this pawana ruin and cleanse? And what will stand after?

To be held at the historic Fort Gate, this parable of the cultural and religious colonization of two tribes, invites the Malay community to re-look their historical and cultural position. This grand scale production that will make use of traditional Malay dance, music and stories even as it speaks of the contemporary society, aims to convert non-theatre goers into attending a family-friendly, community event.

MERAH PAWANA reaffirms the value of art and theatre for the community, and the importance of the community for art and theatre.

 

Written by Rafaat Hamzah Directed by Najib Soiman

Music Direction by Azrin Abdullah Choreography by Norisham Osman

Dramaturgy by Zizi Azah Abdul Majid

Live Music by Gerentak Network and Orkestar Trio

Accompanied by Sriwana dancers

 

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MERAH PAWANA BITES

Brotherhood of Big Guns

Rafaat Hamzah, personality and rebel poet; Najib Soiman, theatre activist; Azrin Abdullah, today’s traditional music man

Three veteran shakers of the Malay arts scene make an explosive recipe for either a collective output or competing inputs. Each having multiple expertise and wide-reaching visions, how would a novel script, big directions and authentic sounds come together?

Rafaat is a two-time award winning actor in SURIA’s “Pesta Perdana” and a regular judge for its talent competition “Anugerah Skrin”. True to his reputation, Rafaat shone in the lead role in “Rock Opera… Kisah seorang seniman” (2005, Esplanade Concert Hall), and as Jebat in “Wangi Jadi Saksi” (2007, Esplanade Theatre Studio), both directly addressing the Malay culture and history. Rafaat makes waves and noise not only for himself. His verses, collected in the anthology “Yang Bilang” (2007), are ripe with socio-political strife. He also lends his pen to emerging artistes, creating a new stable of credible Singapore Malay music. His talent management and production company, COKELAT, exists by the need to showcase current and contributing Malay artistes, having twice organised the “Festival Melayu Ada” event. Rafaat’s gripes are many and he writes MERAH PAWANA in continuing his concerns with the awareness of Malay identity among the Malay community.

Najib is a top-class actor, active in both Malay and English theatre, having won Best Actor at the 9th ST Life! Theatre Awards 2009. He has long had his hands in the dikir barat and traditional music scene, grabbing champion titles and recently forming his trusty band of musicians Gerentak Network. Najib’s flair for directing big-scale productions was apparent from the highly acclaimed “Gentarasa 2007: Titisan Cacamerba” where he worked with community talents to create professional theatre. His latest presentation, “Jiwo Jiro” (2010, M1 Singapore Fringe Festival), exploring marginalised people through marginal forms with a cast made up of students, had the press raving about his commitment to involve younger people in theatre-making. Always in the driver’s seat, Najib was the President of Teater Ekamatra from 2006-2007 and the Artistic Director of Panggung ARTS from 2008-2009. Najib is the very person to spearhead MERAH PAWANA.

Azrin Abdullah’s sounds, created with Sri Mahligai, is the mainstay used in traditional Malay dance in Singapore today. Azrin has thus collaborated with every professional, semi-professional or community Malay cultural group, working closely to compose, arrange, produce or engineer a variety of musical visions. His expertise now has him in demand for commercial albums and TV programmes as well. The People’s Association has identified Azrin as a valuable asset, thus bringing him to various overseas festivals. As the go-to for traditional Malay music in Singapore today, Azrin would not pass off the opportunity of influencing an influential work like MERAH PAWANA.

This collaboration has been years in waiting. Najib has long been trying to work together with whom he calls “two maestros”. MERAH PAWANA is the first time Najib is directing something he has not written himself, and the first time Rafaat is not directing his own writing. Rafaat is excited to see how different his work will turn out in Najib’s hands and how different Najib’s work will be with his influence. Will these maestros be able to handle themsleves and each other?

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Hatta’s Star

Hatta Said, having been in the industry since 1998, has slowly built his bases over the years only to explode into the fore everywhere in the last two years. If one has forgotten his boyband (Echoboys) and TV personality (IKON Suria) days, or even constant appearances in popular productions by TheatreWorks, ACTION Theatre, Toy Factory and WildRiCE (1998 through 2005), you cannot miss him now. These days he is a regular on TV and on stage, starring in Kopi Bujang (Suria) and Gerimis Di Hati (Suria); on Fried Rice Paradise The Musical (SRT), Fewling (Panggung Arts), Chestnuts Does Christmas (STAGES) and Nadirah (Teater Ekamatra). After MERAH PAWANA, which Hatta feels is an unprecedented offering in Malay theatre, Hatta is slated to appear in Charged, written by The Fingerplayer’s Chong Tze Chien and directed by Teater Ekamatra’s Zizi Azah. Judging by his drive, and growingly impressive arsenal of experience, Hatta is now unstoppable.

Oldies Overthrown

The combined forces of acclaimed industry names – Sani Hussin, Rizman Putra – is not enough to carry MERAH PAWANA through. MERAH PAWANA is completed in presenting fresh faces – Nadiah Mohamed and Faizal Abdullah. As rising names in the scene, we want to see them match up to the veterans. These are the artilleries of talents we bring to MERAH PAWANA.

Sani is a household name, with a Pesta Perdana win and numerous nominations under his belt. He is institutionally recognised bagging the NAC Overseas Theatre Award. Sani has had a long history directing productions for Teater Ekamatra and pushing our works. Now regarded as a mentor, as the recent SURIA’s Anugerah Skrin competition witnessed, Sani is well-placed to motivate the younger generation of up-and-coming actors and actresses.

Rizman’s cutting-edge work bagged him the President’s Young Talent Award with performance art traveling internationally. Active in the bigger English scene with CAKE Theatre, Rizman regularly returns to local Malay theatre, contributing to a train of Teater Ekamatra’s children’s programmes, in his dedication to affect and excite the scene. In Rizman’s view, “the new faces are a great bunch to work with, they are very energetic and committed, having a good level of discipline and earnestness in their approach.

In catching up with the elder two, Nadiah and Faizal have in just the last year been seen everywhere. Nadiah Mohamed, deemed the face of NAFA Theatre, has gained a little following for herself since her appearance in Cinta Ixora, Princess & JuruKamera 2 and the current Kopi Bujang on Suria Channel. She is also collecting stage experience and training with productions under Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Variasi Performing Arts Group.

Faizal has turned out to be the highlight player in productions with Panggung Arts, Young & Wild and Stages. Hungry for experience, Faizal has also made TV appearances on OKTO. MERAH PAWANA completes their year”s whirlwind. They are humbled to be working with the big guns now and are glad to finally arrive.

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Malay Music Movers

In presenting quality and reflecting progress, MERAH PAWANA wishes to catch and exhibit the real movers in the industry, before they move too fast for us.

Orkestar Trio sets out to explore the versatility and context of music in the Malay Archipelago in the modern world; to break the barriers between musical genres; and to share their voice. Orkestar Trio has performed Singapore-Malay traditional music beyond our shores and beyond the region, to China, Japan, Italy and through Java, to overwhelming response. Most recently they were invited to “Solo International Ethnic Music Festival” and “Yogyakarta Gamelan Festival”, adding to their list of international gigs. Despite their raving success beyond our shores, Orkestar Trio does not shy from going back to performing for the community. In the search of an authentic voice, MERAH PAWANA is right up their alley.

Norisham Osman – Creating New Wave Malay Dance Theatre

In Najib Soiman’s words, Sham is “the new Osman Hamid”. In fact, having trained under Osman Hamid, the name synonymous to Contemporary Malay Dance, for the past ten years, Sham has almost become his right-hand man. Now it is time for Sham to hold his own ground in a new teritorry known as theatre. Keeping his roots in dance, this LaSalle Arts Management student, is propelled to explore its multi-faceted function in theatre proper, not merely in theatrical dance. Is this revolution or evolution; and is there a difference? His first outing as choreographer was also entrusted to him by Najib Soiman who threw him a chorus of thirty odd student-performers to work with in Jiwo Jiro. MERAH PAWANA is his the biggest-scale project to date. He hopes to achieve Najib’s epic vision in this grand offering of music and dance.

Stars & Upstarts – Introducing MEREKA

MEREKA is the new youth wing of Teater Ekamatra with 14 hand-picked young individuals embarking on a year-long programme. MEREKA aims to ensure the continuity of Malay theatre by nurturing young enthusiasts into committed professionals, with extensive knowledge of theatre.

Part of the group led by Irfan Kasban makes the MERAH PAWANA chorus. Juggling rehearsals with the MEREKA training schedule attests to the commitment by our youths to learn and be immersed in the the scene. MERAH PAWANA provides a hands-on platform for the MEREKA group and other new faces to work with experienced and acclaimed names, further honing their skills. Teater Ekamatra is committed to creating such opportunities, seeing it as a vital part of developing the theatre industry.

Bukit Larangan – Malay History for the Malay Community

The venue pick for MERAH PAWANA is deliberate. Fort Canning houses the Iskandar Shah Shrine, believed by some locals in Singapore to be the burial site of Raja Iskandar Shah, the last of five kings to rule Singapore in the 14th century. The Malay chronicles state that the first King of Malays, Sri Tri Buana and his Chief Minister, Demang Lebar Daun were also buried at Bukit Larangan, the former name of Fort Canning. This site thus evokes histories of Malay royalty and ancestry. MERAH PAWANA hopes to recreate a sense of belonging by gathering the Malay community together in witnessing their stories played out with a grand visual and musical offering that is theatre.

The Ekamatra Circle – History & Growth

MERAH PAWANA manifests the full circle that Teater Ekamatra has come around. Since its founding in 1988 by Lut Ali, the company has been pushing the boundaries of theatre and language, to uphold both individual equality and cultural pluralism.

MERAH PAWANA revisits the scale and concerns of DHAVUSYA, also done at Fort Canning in 1998, directed by Khairudin Hori, then Teater Ekamatra’s Associate Director. Amidst the stripped down and minimalist character of our past works staged at The Substation Theatre and The Esplanade Recital Studio, we are embarking on more ambitious and embracing form to reconnect with a potential mass audience. Whilst maintaining the highest level of artistic integrity, this new approach by Teater Ekamatra ties in with the formation of our new working committee in September 2009 that includes fresh faces to create new synergies and revitalise the company. The cultural issues brought forth in MERAH PAWANA is also a reflection of Artistic Director Zizi Azah Abdul Majid’s plans to take Ekamatra on a season that will dig deep at the issue of the Malay identity.

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Production Team

Dramaturgy: Zizi Azah Abdul Majid

Playwright: Rafaat Haji Hamzah

Director: Najib Soiman (bijaN)

Music Director: Azrin Abdullah

Choreographer: Norisham Osman

Cast: Farah Ong, Norisman Mustafa, Faizal Abdullah, Muhammad Affan Noor, Hatta Said, Rizman Putra, Irfan Kasban, Sani Hussin, Nadiah Mohammad, Sulaiman Ismail, Nafisah Anwar, Syaiful Ariffin

Chorus: Amalina Shukor Khalid Supandi, Atika Marwan, Nur Amalina Juffri, Daeia Rahim, Nurul Asyikin, Farah Yasmine, Siti Zuraida Rahim, Ghazali Muzakir, Yazid Jalil, Habibah Mohckeram, Zhein Mu’adhib, Haizad Adam

Musicians: Alhafiz Jamat, Fauzi Basir, Hafiz Hamzah, Ismahairie Putra Ishak, Riduan Zalani, Ridwan Ramli

Lighting Designer: Zizi Azah Abdul Majid

Set Designer : Izmir Ickbal

Costume Designer : Azni Samdin

Production Manager: Norisham Osman

Stage Manager : Fezhah Maznan

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Company Profile

Teater Ekamatra is a non-profit theatre company that is dedicated to developing and producing socially relevant plays that reflect the contemporary Singaporean vernacular. Teater Ekamatra believes in integrating the arts, social services and the different cultures as a vehicle for entertainment, education, tolerance and affecting social change. The company believes that theatre must be seen as an integral part of Singapore’s artistic evolution. To renew itself, theatre must constantly reassess its role in society and address what role it may play in the future.

In existence since 1988, Teater Ekamatra is recognised for its dedication and commitment to developing and expanding definitions and forms of Malay Theatre, and is a recipient of the National Arts Council Annual Arts Grant. Teater Ekamatra does not define nor restrict Malay Theatre to performances in the Malay language, but seek to give voice and visibility to the Malay condition and experience with regards to contemporary local and global climate. Ultimately, Teater Ekamatra is about individual equality, cultural pluralism and artistic excellence.

Contact:

Fezhah Maznan

General Manager

Teater Ekamatra

Telok Ayer Performing Arts Centre

182 Cecil Street, #01-10, Singapore 069547

Tel: +65 6323 5443

Fax: +65 6323 6528

Hp: +65 9168 4158

Email: general@ekamatra.org.sg