I know I have not been active on this domain. Quite a number of events I attended recently that needed to be featured but I’ve put off due to my own personal commitments at work and at home. I did say some time back, I will only blog when time and circumstances permit. Time and circumstances have indeed allowed me to finally post something after this unexpected long break. I will not promise, but I will try to be more active in these upcoming weeks before I go for my annual hiatus again during the months of Ramadhan and Syawal. Those recent events I attended deserved featuring, moreso since I have always pride myself as a firm supporter of our local Malay entertainment scene. But I need to get something off my chest which has been bothering me the past few days. Hence I begin my comeback with this entry, which you can also categorise as a rant.
For those of you who have been silently following this blog, you might remember how I was in my first five years of blogging – I wrote with all guns blazing and very little mincing of words. Subsequent years of knowing many people in the industry and seeing how they go about doing their work has made me become more appreciative of their craft, more forgiving of their shortcomings, giving benefit as much as possible to most doubts. It had come to a point where when I met long-time followers of this blog domain outside, they wondered what happened to that firebrand writer who did not think twice to put others in their place or telling it bluntly with no sugar-coating of words. Something happened last week, which I felt compelled to come up with an entry that would rekindle the days of yore when my words would sting even those who are not directly involved.
For this post only, I am inclined to resurrect that feeling of anger for good reason. This comes as a result of my verbal tete-a-tete with a drummer of one of our local bands on Twitter last week. To recap, I chanced upon his tweet because his band’s official account (which I had followed up till our verbal jousting) had liked it, automatically making it appear on my timeline, even though I was not following him. The content of his tweet basically implied that one of our local radio stations was hypocritical and dumb, did not support local music like they claimed to be, did not have a segment fully dedicated to playing local Malay songs and only prefer to play songs from popular artistes whereas those who are not, require listeners to request for them – all in the name of popularity and ratings. These are extremely strong accusations and unfair, given the station’s stance in supporting local music and giving the necessary platforms for our local acts to thrive.
It struck a raw nerve on yours truly somewhat as I was scrolling my timeline just before I turned in for the night, not least because some of the people who work in the radio station are people I count as my good friends. I also spent a good three-and-a-half months interning for them when this drummer was probably still wet behind the ears. In my first reply to him, I said that there is already a locals-only dedicated programme every weekend which airs 5-6pm called “SG“. Every hour daily, at least 40% of the songs being aired are local songs, whether listeners realised it or not. As much as possible, the station tries to play and include as many local songs as possible, even if their respective quality leaves much to be desired at times. I ended off my first reply to him by saying, if their song is not being requested or aired as much as they would love to, then they should work harder and improve on the quality.
Of course, my first reply was not taken too kindly with the supposed 40% percentage deemed pathetic. I was also accused of not knowing or understanding his point of view since I am not, get this, “musically-inclined” nor played in a band. My reply to him was, if he is really musically-inclined, then he should know better than to rely on one radio station for his band’s exposure. We’re living in an era where social media is now an alternative path to being noticed. How many people actually tune in religiously to the station daily, for how long, and do they really take note of which songs are aired??? Or request for that matter??? There are only two to three song request segments per day, which are either an hour long, or at most, two each time. I have listened to some local songs which I thought were bang average, but the station still airs them and continues to air them. But there is only so much they can air when there are other quality or better songs vying for a spot to be heard.
Anyway, this is not the first time such accusations have been thrown towards the station and their approach. Over the years, there will always be disgruntled voices amongst local artistes as to why their songs are not being aired as frequently as possible. If one does take the trouble to listen, there will be times when local songs will dominate the airwaves for a particular hour, even if that hour is not a locals-only special. I for one have taken note that there were instances when six to eight local songs were aired in an hour, but like I said earlier, these kind of statistics are usually lost on most people. I dare say he lost his argument when he chose to use the age-old reason to back off by saying that I did not get what he was saying, that I am clueless and “fanning the balls” of the radio DJs. This is the standard kind of immature replies you usually associate with those who cannot argue substantially and somehow I kinda regretted stooping myself to his level by replying to him in the first place.
I made the effort to ask Brader Bo, the Executive Music Director at the two Malay radio stations, afterwards with regards to the claims. He pointed out one important factor, in that the radio stations are responsible for maintaining good quality music being played to boost ratings. He has already explained to the local music producers what is expected for a song to be aired. In fact I dare say, at every Anugerah Planet Muzik media conference, the mantra is repeated annually like a bad record. He said even if he listed down 1001 rubrics for others to abide by, at the end of the day, the radio station themselves have the editorial rights to dictate what can be aired or otherwise. Ultimately, the producers and artistes have to respect that. Which I felt was extremely fair and having no bias towards any other artistes who are considered more popular on our shores over those that are not.
Still I feel that it is lost on some people. That feeling of self-entitlement ever since their debut single propelled their name to the fore. You know, it is sometimes easy to hit the heights at the first time of asking, but maintaining that level of quality sometimes can be a hit and miss. If you ask me, there is hardly bias and favouritism being practised. For one, I still continue hearing this band’s songs being aired even after what their drummer had accused the station of being. Up till last week, a day prior to this uncalled-for outburst, Fiza O complimented the band and how good they were after airing their song when I tuned in to the evening programme. Some broadcasting stations across the Causeway might just block them out and decide to ban their songs had this kind of accusation been levelled at them, but it shows the high level of professionalism in our local radio station when they choose to look beyond the trivial and just get on with their daily jobs.
This feeling of discontent, being ungrateful, having self-pity and entitlement need to go seriously. Just because your debut single was a big hit on the local charts doesn’t mean your follow-up songs are equally good. There are other local artistes who have hit the heights only to drop their standards with subsequent offerings. Some of the current household names didn’t exactly hit the big time at the first or second time of asking. Sufi Rashid took ten bloody years to get noticed, Ryan Sufiyan was a constant serial reality talent competition reject before he finally made it (I know because I had covered three of his auditions). Heck, even the golden boy himself, Taufik Batisah, has had subsequent singles which didn’t get much positive response from listeners. Did any of them bitch on it on social media or any of the printed ones wondering why they were rejected or why their songs were not aired??? No, they just kept their heads down and continued working hard to make their next one a better one.
I ended my argument by asking this guy what is the purpose of him making / playing music??? For glamour??? Fame??? Or passion??? Or is it to be recognised and be nominated at Anugerah Planet Muzik??? I told him to correct his intentions first and foremost. Many others before him have come and go. Those still doing it after more than ten years are those with passion, determination and never-say-die attitude, even if for the most parts, they do not get the kind of exposure or recognition their talents deserved. These are the ones who do not rely solely on one or two local radio stations to get their music to be aired. Nowadays, it is all about social media. He and his band should at least take full advantage of it and promote their songs through the various social media platforms, boost their page and posts to get noticed. Who knows, stations from abroad might just get in touch with them and give them an even bigger break. The world is an oyster only if you know how to seize the endless opportunities it has to offer. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a clued person to realise this. One just needs to be informed and if they do not know, to ask. Especially to the radio people and not rant behind their backs. You do not improve nor realise your shortcomings that way.
Am still humoured at the idea of a two-year old newbie in the scene trying to school a 14-year veteran about being musically-inclined and for being clueless to his plight. Privately, I empathise with his and his band’s plight knowing what a talented bunch they are, cos it is hard work after all, and it gives one great satisfaction to hear your music being aired. However, that feeling of sympathy dissipated with the rude language and vocabulary aimed at yours truly, which I have kindly not mentioned in here nor provided screenshots of our conversation as proof. I’m a fair person where I feel if injustice is being dished out at others, I would take it upon myself to help correct the misinformed. The radio station didn’t pay me to write this long-winded explanation and I doubt they would have wanted me to. But I believe some people need to get off their high horses and smell the roses of the reality of being in this harsh scene. Honestly with that kind of language used, I’ve lost whatever last amount of respect I had for them. A sad day indeed when all of us need the support of one another to grow…