Elit Suria Semi-Finals Episode Recap…


Time flies by so fast and we’re already heading into the Grand Finals of Elit Suria this coming 27th August 2018. It seems like yesterday I was acquainting myself to the sixteen contestants who made it to the weekly episodic rounds and within less than a week from the time this entry is published, two new stars will be crowned the winners of the competition. Six weeks of competition, of which the recent two I have had the privilege to cover and get to know them up-close and personal, have been a learning journey for all of them. For some, they have discovered hidden talents from within that they initially thought they do not possess. For others, this was their opportunity to test their capabilities, come out from their comfort zones and challenge themselves through unchartered territory. There are even those whose personalities begin to shine through as the weeks progress. I know I have gone through these situations on an annual basis with each passing reality television competition series since I covered my first live event (Anugerah 2009), but come the end of every competition, I will always have that feeling of emptiness and withdrawals for a few weeks afterwards, having had a certain affiliation and connection with the contestants. I actually loathe the end of every competition. This is why I seldom publish reviews of reality competition Grand Finals, because usually there is nothing left to say or assess which will affect the eventual outcome of it.

Hosts Fauzie Laily and Nurul Aini

The Monday before last, 13 August 2018, saw Elit Suria‘s Top 10 duking it out in the semi-final round, for the coveted six spots in the coming Grand Finals. With so much at stake, there were bound to be those who would buckle under pressure and weight of expectations. Personally before the semi-finals, the ones I had in mind who would advance to the Grand Finals were Amyrah Mustafa, Haziq Halim, Asyraf Iskandar, Hana Rosli, Hans Hamid and Fatin Taha. Not to discredit nor looked down on the other four, Farahnurmadina Farook, Farid Azhar, Erna Ellieyana and Faiz Zainal, but the six that I had in mind had showed more composure, consistency and aptitude in the weeks leading up to the semi-finals. In their favour, I dare say people like Farah and Ellie have more bubbly and outgoing personalities, traits which make viewers warm easily to them. Over the weeks I have come to grow and have acceptance for Ellie‘s style of hosting, whereas Farah‘s winsome smile instantly lights up the scene she’s in. For Farid and Faiz to overcome the odds, they have to have more confidence in delivery, being expressive and not mouthing their words through gritted teeth, with the former slowly showing that he was improving in his own quiet way. So how did they and the rest fare during the semi-finals, which had Food as its theme of the week and Imran Ajmain as the guest performing artiste???

A slimmer and dapper-looking Imran Ajmain graced the semi-finals with his soulful voice…

For the second time in the competition, Asyraf Iskandar came out tops in the Style segment. For this performance which the contestants accompanied to Imran Ajmain‘s “Yang Ku Perlu“, the ones who did well were mostly the male contestants, with four of them amongst the Top 4, whereas four of the female contestants took the following four spots. I did not get the benefit of seeing the scores as they were flashed momentarily on the big screen and I was busy snapping away photographs. But imagine the shock I felt when I watched again via Toggle‘s Catch-Up TV. It was no wonder the female contestants whom I chatted with post-show, all voiced their worries about this particular segment, even though the percentage marks are only 20% of the overall score. Why the male contestants fared better was because they had more defined roles as a chef or waiter for example, where they could play along and improvise. I am not sure what the female contestants roles were other than Ellie‘s, whose character was wooed and proposed to by Hans Hamid in the segment, and Amyrah Mustafa, who was a violin player. This was explained by judge Khairudin Saharom afterwards, the importance of this segment, to understand the roles they are given and to immerse themselves in the characters so that they will have a deep appreciation of them when they go out and interview such personalities working in these career paths.

The semi-finalists grooved along to Imran‘s single “Yang Ku Perlu“…

I was asked by some of the contestants how they could improve and do better in this particular segment post-show. I studied some of their previous performances as well as this recent semi-final episode and managed to understand where judge Khairudin was coming from. I think a lot of worries and concerns stemmed from having to remember their steps, where to position themselves, what to do and so on and having to groove along to the music performed by the week’s guest artiste, which probably led to them not giving off their full best because there were just too many things to remember at one setting. I take for example Amyrah‘s role as a violin player. I think she could have serenaded the pair of Hans and Ellie when they were having dinner in the segment, a little longer than she should have, rather than just a brief encounter. A certain amount of realism should also have been exercised in that when she fiddled the violin strings, her sways should have followed along to the tune of Imran Ajmain‘s “Yang Ku Perlu“. A lot of the female contestants’ movements were too rushed for my liking, which in turn spoilt a lot of my shots, and some tend to look to the floor probably to know where they were supposed to stand. When they looked up and smiled at the audience, it was too brief and in a way, you don’t feel that sincere connection which they should have done. The guys are probably more savvy in that they know what to do, how to improvise and using their eyes and smiles to connect with the audience.

A first in the competition for the hosts, who went over to the judging panel to get a feel of what the view and feeling were like as a judge…

For this particular episode and for the first time in this competition, the contestants were made to interview two guest personalities live on stage, Ms. Nur Safiah Alias from Halal Food Hunt blog and celebrity chef, Chef Siti Mastura. The interview sessions, each lasting about five minutes, were meant to recreate typical media conference scenarios where questions are opened to the floor consisting of reporters and bloggers and the contestants had to imagine themselves as one, clamouring to ask the guest personality burning questions they have in mind. Just from observing the questions posed to the guest personalities, one could see how much effort and homework were done by the contestants. Most impressive and a definite standout was Amyrah, who literally had Chef Siti Mastura‘s profile and accolades at the back of her hands. When she listed Chef Siti‘s personal achievements and also used big words like “takrifan” (statement of meaning), I could hear the audience gasping in awe and had impressed looks on their faces. She is indeed the epitome of what judge Najip Ali has been drumming over the course of the competition, which is the mark of a thinking host that they are looking out for. There was no doubt at all that she would ace this segment and she eventually did, sharing top honours with Haziq Halim. I can foresee Amyrah having the necessary calibre to host a programme of serious nature when given the opportunity in future.

Asyraf Iskandar, Farahnurmadina Farook, Farid Azhar, Fatin Taha and Haziq Halim interviewed Ms. Nur Safiah Alias from Halal Food Hunt blog…

Some might have the feeling of discontent that Amyrah was hogging the time given to her or probably showing off what she knew, but I think she was just doing what is required of her as a competitor, doing her homework and coming to the competition well-prepared. It is not her fault at all if her knowledge of someone’s background is probably more than the others. In fact, it should be a source of impetus for the rest to up their game and do likewise. The only thing she has to be wary about is the time limit that they have, so that her fellow competitors will not feel left out or outshined, as in the case of the semi-final episode where there was only enough time to entertain her open question and not the rest. I am not sure if they will be penalised in the Grand Finals for taking up time, but this is something that she and the rest should be wary of, to keep their lines as brief yet as impactful as possible. This is where their aptitude of the Malay language will be put to the absolute test. It is ok to use big or bombastic words, but it should be kept to the minimum so as not to turn off general viewers from the community who can be quite sensitive and anal at trivial things such as this. At the very least, Amyrah has so far lived up to her initial promise to use the competition to inspire more of her peers and generation to use the Malay language as a comfortable daily medium, something to be proud of and not awkward to deliver.

A light-hearted moment before Amyrah Mustafa, Erna Ellieyana, Faiz Zainal, Hana Rosli and Hans Hamid grilled Chef Siti Mastura

Not to be outdone, Haziq Halim was also another standout with two quality questions posed to Ms. Nur Safiah. In fact at the beginning of the competition, I have heard from people connected to the programme that he is one with huge potential. However, I was not impressed when I watched him in the very first episode because he appeared to be cocky and arrogant at first glance. But as the saying goes, he is the embodiment of the famous old Malay saying, “Tak kenal maka tak cinta…“. You have got to know him to understand his psyche and approach. Beneath what I would now classify as a “confident” outlook, lies a character who is hungry to learn and humble enough to accept his flaws asking where, how and what he can improve on to his performances. My advice to Haziq is to check on the way he expresses his feelings through his facial expressions, because sometimes it can turn off viewers when he appears to speak in a condescending tone and display a cocky outlook, usually seen during the X-Factor rounds. However, one cannot deny this guy is strong in many aspects, not least his ability to be more expressive and natural over his fellow male finalists, whom I still feel need to shed their cool and macho persona and be more outgoing. No, this is not me looking down on the likes of Hans Hamid or Farid Azhar who have qualified along with Haziq to the Grand Finals, but I would dearly like them to be more evocative yet expressing themselves naturally, to push themselves to perform as well as Haziq, because they are beginning to appear one-dimensional and a bit too formal in style of presentation.

One complaint I have when watching the Personality segment was the apparent confused state of addressing the guests. When one person uses the word, “Awak“, the rest should follow suit and standardise. Likewise if the first person uses the word “Anda“, the rest should also take the cue and reciprocate in kind. Call me anal, but I think there should be a marked distinction between the two words, whether they are in a formal or informal setting. There was one particular moment where one of the contestants used both words when they had to repeat their question. Though there is no wrong in using either words, aesthetically it sounds a bit off aurally. Also, I still notice some of the contestants preferring to speak in Baku, which for a good part of the last five years, have seen many hosts dropping the lingo when they speak, unless they are hosting formal programmes or newscasters reading the news bulletin. The contestants have to bear in mind that the producers are looking for all-rounders, not just hosts for a particular kind of programme. Even radio deejays seldom speak in the lingo, unless they are reading the news or discussing current affairs matters in specially-dedicated programmes. They have to learn to adapt somehow to the requirements of the shows they are engaged to host and not limit themselves. In terms of quality of the questions posed, I think only about half of them gave good ones and this was lamented by judge Khairudin afterwards when asked to give his analysis.

Judge Khairudin was slightly disappointed with the quality of questions asked during the Personality segment…

I was surprised and somewhat disappointed that Fatin Taha‘s usual composure and calm demeanour deserted her when she needed them the most, to the point she repeated what had already been asked by Farid Azhar just before her turn. Such mistakes at this crucial stage of the competition could be the difference between progression or elimination. When I asked some of the contestants what happened post-show as to why some of them fumbled or seemed to have asked a similar question, they said that initially believed they were allowed to bring their notebooks to the live show, but they were told at the last moment that it was not, leaving most of them scrambling to remember who was supposed to ask which question. When I posed the possible scenario of meeting their respective guest personalities to rehearse whilst waiting for the live show to start, they said that the personalities were in another waiting room and they did not have access to them. I managed to meet Ms. Nur Safiah over the past weekend and asked if she could have rehearsed along with them had they asked her to, she said that she would have gladly done so, as she was somewhat bored playing the waiting game in the holding room. So in this case, I think there was a major communication breakdown between the contestants and guest personalities. The contestants were probably too shy to ask or even too worried having to remember so many things to do and say, that taking the initiative to ask eluded their minds. This is a valuable learning experience for them to take the initiative and just do what they feel is right for the betterment of their future performances.

The Bestari round which was keenly contested, yet the overall quality of answers were not up to scratch…

Wow I dedicated at least five paragraphs on the Personality segment alone!!! I don’t think I have much to comment on the Bestari round, where once again Amyrah came out tops to officially be the ace competitor for this segment throughout the competition. I do not know if it was just her rub of green, but I observed that she has been quite fortunate standing nearest to the monitor screen that was facing hosts Fauzie Laily and Nurul Aini every time, by virtue of standing according to names in alphabetical order. She probably had the slight edge in being able to read and see the questions, while those over at the other end were seen tiptoeing and squinting their eyes to get a good read of the questions that appeared on the screen. I could be wrong, but from where I stood, it looked that way, though when I asked her about it post-show, she said that she could hardly see the questions as the two hosts were blocking her view. If that is the case, then I really have to take my hats off to her for her general knowledge proficiency. Not that the rest did not try, they did do their best. In fact some were quick on the draw to answer, but in the end gave a wrong one. I think for the rest to have a chance of upstaging Amyrah in this segment, a tweak to the format of competition during the Grand Finals might give them that window of opportunity. I heard rumours that there is a possibility of it happening, so it will be interesting to see how next Monday‘s question-and-answer segment will pan out. However in the overall context, out of the ten questions asked, only four were answered correctly, with Amyrah edging Farid and Farah by one, a somewhat disappointing figure.

I usually do not focus much to what is being said during the X-Factor round, as my fingers are busy snapping away photographs of the contestants in action. This also probably stems from the fact that I know who have done well for Hosting and Bestari, and probably do not need much self-promotion to advance to the next week’s episode. I only watch it again via Catch-Up TV to analyse how eloquent, fluent, confident and expressive they can be. I must say that there have been several good oratories throughout the competition. I personally feel, given the criticisms I had earlier of Haziq for his apparent cocky demeanour, he actually knows how to play with his words and connect with the audience. Those who eventually managed to qualify for the Grand Finals are those having those four traits that I mentioned earlier, besides how much they were able to touch the audience with their voice sincerity, likeability and most importantly their smiles. This segment is where I really love listening to the soothing and calm radio deejay voices of Hana Rosli, Fatin Taha and Hans Hamid, not forgetting Haziq and Amyrah. As this is a make or break round, their grave facial expressions and hesitancy in delivery are giveaways to their respective lack of confidence levels. This segment sets apart the ones on the fringes of advancement and the ones on the brink of elimination.

Imran Ajmain performed his second song of the night and latest single, “Intan Dan Perak”, just before the final results were announced…

In the end, we said goodbye to the likes of Faiz Zainal, Erna Ellieyana, Asyraf Iskandar and Fatin Taha. I am actually gutted for both Asyraf Iskandar and Fatin Taha who have been consistently good in previous episodes. However, if we take into account that both Farid and Farah had answered one question correctly during Bestari, those correct answers proved to be the difference in them progressing into the Grand Finals, giving them greater weightage, even though Asyraf came in fifth during the Personality round. Both Farid and Farah came in sixth and seventh respectively, so one can imagine how close their marks were to have a significant jump in standings by the end of the show. Hence it is paramount for them to give off their best for all the rounds to set them apart from their fellow competitors. To be fair to both Farid and Farah, I do notice that there are improvements to their performances and styles of presentation. Being the youngest in the competition certainly does not deter Farah from giving off her best and improving as the weeks pass by. I dare say amongst all the finalists, she has been the most improved with her confidence levels the one that I’ve noticed rising a notch higher with every passing episode. Anyway the usual complaints about her from previous episode still lingers, but I’m happy to say that she has been trying to minimise it, which is a massive credit to her. Farid could be a surprise package waiting to explode during the Grand Finals. He has been quite the slow starter, but this Monday, the stars might just align for him and he may just bloom for all we know. He is one dark horse that Hans and Haziq need to be wary of.


The two I was gutted to see being eliminated from the competition – Asyraf Iskandar and Fatin Taha

I feel that amongst the finalists, Hana and Hans have been consistently good and comfortable without being pushed fully to the maximum of their abilities and capabilities. For the former, she has to distinguish herself as either a performer, given her background as a musical theatre practitioner, or a host. Of course being an all-rounder is good and it has to be pointed out that Hana is a prolific singer and budding actress based on her talents and previous small roles on local television. However, her speech during the X-Factor round worried me a bit, giving me the impression that she will be contented with not winning the competition knowing her other skill sets will ensure she becomes a regular fixture on our screens. Right now as I see it according to current form, Amyrah has the edge over the two female finalists, but I do hope that they will not give up easily without giving her a good fight. Both Hana and even Farah have their personal attributes and respective strengths to upstage Amyrah. They just need to find their inner self-belief and confidence that they can do it. I for one like how spontaneous Hana can be off-camera, just lost in her own world, yet having that steely confidence, poise, spunk and devil-may-care attitude to prove others wrong. She needs to translate them all on stage. Likewise Farah, even though she is naturally demure and probably one that can be dismissed as an outsider, her smile and quiet determination are two of her biggest assets. I think if there are possible chinks in Amyrah‘s armour which the other two can take advantage of, is that she can be a bit too formal in delivery and outlook. She needs to loosen up a bit and be a bit more expressive and outgoing, which Hana and Farah possess.

Say hello to the six finalists – Farid Azhar, Farahnurmadina Farook, Haziq Halim, Amyrah Mustafa, Hans Hamid and Hana Rosli!!!

Haziq‘s strengths and flaws have been mentioned already and I don’t think needs any repeating like a bad record. Amongst the male finalists, he is quite the favourite to win, though I do hope that he does not rest on his laurels or become complacent as a result of my positive analysis of his performances so far. I noticed something in common about most of the finalists when I am reminded of their very first introductory clips. Those who are in for the last lap of competition have lived up to their earlier promises. For Haziq, his desires and will to win in memory of his late father are keeping his determination burning bright. For Hans, I hope that he can break loose from the comfort of doing just enough to get by. He has the charisma and personality to do better. Given his career working as an animal show host at the zoo, he should have the experience in engaging the audience and be a bit more lively in delivery. I was extremely impressed with him from the very start of the competition, but in a reality competition such as this, you want to see improvements every week and not performance levels that have hit a plateau. Like Hana and Farah, I really do hope that both Hans and Farid will kick Haziq‘s ass (literally) come Monday, and not surrender meekly through personal contentment with what they have currently achieved. Right now amongst the guys, Haziq is the one with fire burning in his eyes to win. I hope the other two gentlemen can prove me wrong and I am sure they will. All the best to all the finalists and congratulations once again for making it this far!!!

P.S. Please do not expect to see me do a review of the Grand Finals. Most probably this will be my last entry on the competition.

Snapshots of Elit Suria Semi-Final Episode

#theSyarifs’ Wedding Dinner Event…

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Back with the third and final instalment of #theSyarifs‘ wedding. This entry will feature photographs of the wedding dinner event, which I felt resembled a mini Pesta Perdana event, with the local Malay entertainment scene’s personalities making their presence by gracing the occasion. It was a long day for the newly-weds as well as those who had worked hard to make the whole event tick, yet everyone was smiling throughout till the very end, happiness etched on their faces and sharing the joy of the newlyweds. The wedding dinner event was held at the same venue (Alkaff Mansion) as the earlier morning’s solemnisation ceremony and lunch reception.

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Like the solemnisation ceremony, those who had tuned in to the couple’s official Youtube channel, would have gotten a glimpse of what went on live via the webstream. Unfortunately I heard that the full clip has been taken down by Youtube due to copyright infringements of some of the songs featured. Though you will not be able to view the clip, I hope this entry would satiate your thirst to view some of the event’s happenings as well as see who’s who in the local Malay entertainment scene who had turned up. This was afterall THE “Wedding of the Year” for 2014, for me. It would be criminal not to feature this entry in my blog, especially when the groom took great pains to invite me and the wife to attend. For that I say “Thank You!!!” to Syarif and Malaque for having us, me in particular, for almost the whole day.

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The wedding dinner event was hosted by Ben Muthusalam, Syarif‘s intern-mate when he did his internship with Mediacorp back in 2009. Please don’t ask me why the host’s name has an Indian surname. Maybe his good friends reading this can help to enlighten me cos I’m in the dark myself. Guests were treated to lovely performances by local groups The Trisno Trio and Northbound, as well as a guest performance by Malaysia‘s Dina Nadzir, whose rendition of Katy Perry‘s “Unconditionally“, had my hairs standing. She is such an under-rated vocal powerhouse. We also witnessed Syarif singing a song titled “Malaque“, which he had composed with Trisno Ishak just two weeks leading up to the wedding event.

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The eleven-tier wedding cake was specially baked by Malaque herself, whom some of us know specialises in pastries, desserts and cakes. Also, the cheesecake recipe during the dinner event itself, was specially concocted by her, assisted and executed by Chef Siti Mastura and team. Female guests were fortunate to have received a make-up kit by Benefit Cosmetics, to go along with the main door gifts consisting of a Grey by Ortenhill bag, a lovely jar series, Sugee cake by Chef Siti Mastura and Calvin Klein parfum vials. The gifts oozed class in every sense, a reflection of the newlyweds. All in all, it was a wonderful and memorable wedding event and here’s wishing the newlyweds once again a blissful married life with filial kids in tow… 🙂

Anugerah Planet Muzik 2014 Pre & Post-Event Snapshots

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Thank God for the public holiday later today. Yes I’m typing this in the wee hours of Tuesday night. Done with the second batch of photo editing. This time I’ll be featuring snapshots I took before Anugerah Planet Muzik 2014, during the commercial breaks as well as the post-event reception afterwards. Hope this would satiate your thirst for more photos before I post even more with the “Walk of the Stars” event in my following entry, which I hope to put up as soon as possible and finish off with my APM2014 review, hopefully before the end of next week. Yes, am taking my time because I am only doing this on a passion and hobby basis. If I’m doing this as a paid career, I would definitely post everything before the week is out. So yes, please continue visiting this site soon. Enjoy the public holiday today and hope you like this entry as well… 🙂

Imran Ajmain’s “Setulus Kasih” Album Launch…

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Last Saturday (19 April 2014), situated at the Play Den, The Arts House, Imran Ajmain launched his third career album in front of a bevy of local media representatives, his friends from the local Malay entertainment scene, loyal followers from his Imtiaz fan club and other invited guests. The album titled “Setulus Kasih” (Pure Love) is a seven-track tapestry of love notes and empowering words for womankind. I’d like to call it an “Ode to Women” after listening to six of the songs performed by Imran that day, lyrics which gratify and giving gratitude to women of all ages, for their sacrifices and love. I think this album’s launch is apt, in the middle of International Women’s Day (8 March) and the upcoming annual Mothers’ Day celebrations on the second weekend of May, even though no mention of this was made that day.

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Imran doesn’t need extravagant settings and backdrop for his showcases. His voice and storytelling alone more than make up for it. In fact, it is a reflection of his humility…

This album has been long-awaited, given that it was supposed to be released last year, but due to Imran‘s family bereavement, the launch was delayed for about a year, with him taking time off from the scene to spend with his beloved mother. Now back with a renewed vigour, Imran has released his album exclusively with Spotify. In case you dunno by now, Spotify is a commercial music streaming service providing digital rights management-restricted content from established and renowned record labels like Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group and Universal. One is able to listen to albums for free without the need to download the songs. Spotify is also available as an application that you can download into your respective iPhones, Androids and Blackberries. For the record, the digital album was officially launched by none other than PERKAMUS President, Cikgu Yusnor Ef.

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Imran Ajmain and Cikgu Yusnor Ef…

Dispensing with melancholic and sappy ballads which he has been known for since bursting into the scene in 2007, Imran has painstakingly injected a positive and motivating outlook in all his songs this time round. A special feature of this album is that all the songs were written by himself with first-time composers and lyricists from Singapore, a project that spanned over two years. One thing I will always enjoy sitting in an Imran Ajmain‘s showcase over the years (and I am a huge fan of his music if you don’t already know by now), is that it has lots of substance, not just plain singing, nor just saying hello-goodbye-thank you to his fans. He makes the effort to relate something from his experiences in life or describe the trials and tribulations he has to go through into composing a particular song he is about to sing or have just sung. This recent album launch was no different.

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Dato’ Fazley Yaakob making a surprise appearance…

What he certainly did not expect was the surprise appearance of his boss, Dato’ Fazley Yaakob, owner of FIPro (Fazley International Productions Sdn. Bhd.). When Imran was about to play Dato’ Fazley‘s congratulatory greetings footage on his album launch, the technical guys purposely refused to play the video clip and instead Dato’ Fazley himself came in with some of the members of Imran‘s fan club, Imtiaz, with a birthday cake and singing him the birthday song. I could see from the looks of the faces of those in attendance, how equally surprised they were and of course some of the ladies gushing at how good looking Dato’ Fazley is. It was a befitting tribute and advanced birthday celebration for Imran (who celebrated his 33rd birthday yesterday 25th April 2014), who I know has contributed to the growth of FIPro through his creative ideas.

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Imran‘s fan club members – Imtiaz – coming forward with gifts for his surprise advanced birthday celebrations…

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Imran Ajmain on the launch of his “Setulus Kasih” album as well as wish him many happy returns on his 33rd birthday, albeit belatedly by a day. May this album mark another milestone and growth in Imran‘s steady career and may he achieve more success than ever before. You can now listen to his digital album live via Spotify or if you are the traditional kind and would like to get your hands on its physical CD format, it will be made available in an event that will happen on 7 June 2014. The CD will be sold and proceeds will go to An-Nur Mosque in Marsiling, of which Imran is a benefactor. All for a good cause, so why not lend our support to Imran and the mosque on that day??? 🙂

 

PujanggaMalam.com – Ten Years On…

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I actually typed this entry way back in 2010 and left it in the Drafts section because I wanted to make a victory speech of sorts as a means to hit out at my haters and detractors who were undermining me for my entries, commentaries and analysis. This was initially meant to be an entry to silence and show them, “Hey, if the mainstream media has finally recognised my work for them to invite me to cover their events, then I must have been doing something right all along!!!” Also I did not realise I have reached this milestone till the recent Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza concert, which dawned on me that I have been blogging for the past ten years since February 2004. It has been a long journey, filled with ups and downs, joy, bliss, rejections, and for the first time at Dato Siti‘s concert, embarrassment and humiliation in the presence of my fellow media counterparts (more on that in my upcoming review of the concert).

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I used to and still feel small whenever I am invited to cover any entertainment events, for the fact that I am mostly a one-man team. There is nothing spectacular about my blog either, as I do not have the expertise to create a more vibrant design, nor add adverts or frilly scripts to make it more pleasing to the eye, being the tech idiot that I am. I also do not have the luxury of a fellow writer, photographer or videographer tagging along with me. My wife helps me out from time to time with recording video snippets but even then, I find it tedious and time consuming having to edit and upload them afterwards. Already editing photographs take up a lot of my personal time. Through entertainment blogging, I find joy in attending live shows, getting to know people in the industry as well as learn and understand why certain things are what they are, especially when the general public demands to know why certain things cannot be done or impossible to execute, for instance.

Another set of people I enjoy working with, the radio fraternity…

Through such learning experiences over the years, I developed a more empathic approach towards producing a balanced entry. I now try to be more understanding why certain things transpire and even when things go wrong, I am able to forgive and give benefit of doubt. I am very sure those who have followed this blog for the longest time would note how much I have mellowed down since when I first started out with all guns blazing whenever I see something to my chagrin. Bombing away and forming seething (and sometimes wild) observations, used to be the hallmark of my entries, but I still maintained decorum and without the need to use vulgarities to get my points across. I believe this was partly why I was finally received by Mediacorp Suria to cover their events beginning with Anugerah 2009. I am also honoured to be the first Malay blogger back then to have broken barriers and opened the doors for more to join in covering entertainment events.

Covering one of my close friends’ wedding (DJ KC & Fiza O) was one of the highlights of the past ten years…

This blog has indeed come a long, long way since I first started out using Blogspot as my host. Not to sound calculative with what I had done to increase the stature and reputation of this blog, but this domain of mine has witnessed evolution from its humble beginnings. From grainy photographs taken from my Nokia handphone, to buying a high-end DSLR camera, complete with extended zoom lens as well as a video camera, these were my commitment to the cause of providing quality pictures and video snippets of events and shows I attended. Oh and how can I forget how my domain’s logo and watermark changing over the years to give it a more professional outlook??? Previously it was just a simple word on photographs before I realised they were ugly and spoiling them. That’s when I made trials and errors on the watermark logo before finalising what you see today.

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I did not get to blog on bro Hafeez Glamour‘s “Demi Adriana” book launch due to my busy schedule back then, but I did share photos I took that day in my Facebook account…

You can regard whatever evolution or small changes I’ve done to improve or increase the reputation and quality of my blog, or even whatever promos or reviews I’ve done all these years, as my community service to provide useful information on our local Malay entertainment scene, introducing new acts, reacquaint others with established ones, providing differing views from mainstream media and providing a useful resource in general. From time to time I have people working in the scene thanking me for what I have done, assisting them with valuable information in the process, and it fills me with pride that I have gone in someway to help others, even though I felt like I have done nothing much. It has been a joy so far covering events, helping out with promos and fundings, sharing joyous moments of celebrity weddings, attending concerts and awards shows, book / product / album / single / music video launches, behind-the-scenes filming etc., even if they sometimes come with pain and heartache which most are unaware.

Sri Warisan, very forthcoming and easy to work with when I helped to promo their Bendahara: The Musical event…

Like all those who dare to tread on whatever paths they deem as right or answering the call of passion / challenge, I have faced numerous obstacles and heartbreaks, some of which have affected my relationship with friends I once regarded as siblings. Like anyone who has dared to venture in this line or in this industry, I too have had my fair share of doubters, haters, brickbats and detractors over the years, from comments left in my entries to smses on radio segments, in blog posts right down to Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and the now defunct Multiply site. People questioned my credibility and qualifications in pouring forth my thoughts across, not to mention those that have bitched about my flawed interest in the entertainment scene and how I was just trying to fit in and make a name for myself. Cos truth be told, I’m not cut out to be a singer / actor / host / radio presenter – possible career paths which at some point of time in my life I had tried to be involved or had some interest in, but did not work out. But what did not kill me only made me stronger.

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Covering the whole edition of Ratu Suria was an unforgettable experience for the fact that I had to defend the contestants alot in the face of online criticisms, bombarding them from their looks down to their level of intellect…

Call me arrogant or conceited for dedicating an entry reminiscing my past ten years in entertainment blogging, but I believe I have come a long way to proving that what I have been doing for the past decade have always been genuine, sincere, honest, patient, responsible, having self-belief and having loads of passion for the media / entertainment line – seven important traits you need to possess to survive in this harsh industry. The good people who have kindly invited me to cover their events, other than the Malay Broadcast Division of Mediacorp (Suria, Warna 94.2FM and RIA 89.7FM), might have taken notice of those values and principles I so dearly hold on to, and for that I’m extremely thankful to them for acknowledging the work I had painstakingly put up all these while. Even though I am unable to attend all of these invites to launches or shows due to work and family commitments, I still appreciate the invitations and feel honoured that people do recognise my efforts.

I was honoured to have covered Rita Zahara‘s heritage cookbook launch back in January 2012

Unlike other famous entertainment bloggers across the Causeway, I’m not paid to do what I enjoy doing and even though I’m only doing it as a hobby during my recreational time, I try to give off my best, every single damn time. Most of the concerts I had reviewed so far in my domain, I paid with my hard-earned money and received no sponsorship whatsoever nor official accreditation from the respective organisers. Even when I try to get accreditation, most of the time, my requests were turned down or comes with certain limitations. Which is why till today I am a bit peeved with certain concert / show / event organisers, why they can invite foreign entertainment bloggers and even pay them to cover their events when a small fry like myself who is trying to help and promote new acts for free featured in their concerts, did not even receive any invite to cover and still had to pay to enter the concert venue.

And Fiza O‘s beauty product launch a month after, possibly the first Malay personality to lend her name to a beauty product…

There is something seriously wrong with the local Malay entertainment industry when foreign journalists / bloggers are being paid to cover events and shows, yet the local ones are not being considered or thought of. Also I find it perplexing till this day when I got to know some of our local acts had to sell tickets to one of their concerts to earn their rightful commissions, whereas the foreign acts featured together did not have to go through that form of treatment. While I appreciate the organisers wanting to instil a sense of business-minded tact in our local acts, it creates a form of quiet discontent, that there is a form of double standards being practised, especially when the foreign artistes were being paid and provided lodging without having to sell the concert tickets. And I do not blame them for feeling low and down as a result. Over the years, I’ve been like an Agony Aunt to some of the problems faced by our local acts, and from time to time, will highlight their plights in my entries.

Another momentous moment in 2012 was covering Siti Zahidah‘s album launch and showcase…

Another gripe I have with some local event organisers is their lack of gratitude. Back in 2012, I had planned to cover an event which showcased solely on upcoming local acts. It was a free concert held outside a community club. Out of respect, I just messaged the organisers to say I would like to cover their event and record video snippets of the performers. The plan was to introduce some of these acts on my domain, so people would be made aware of their talents. The reply I received was the event was not theirs per se, but the community club’s so they were unsure if they could allow me to record any video snippets. I was extremely fine with that till I came and saw so many in the audience recording away via their smartphones and iPads. In addition, I did not see any staff from the community club overseeing the whole event or anyone stopping these people from recording.

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Another event I covered but did not manage to blog about was the Te:RaSeh! Road Tour last May

Here I am trying to do a kind service for our local acts, yet my intentions got knocked back just because of a trivial reason and lack of responsibility. Suffice to say, I have refrained from attending any events or shows organised by this event organiser till today. I just cannot understand people turning down free promos online, when they have to fork out hundreds for a space on mainstream media. For the longest time, I have refrained from charging a fee to do promos and write-ups. Because I know our local industry does not pay as well as that across the Causeway with production houses and other organisations limited with fundings. I have been asked by people close to me, why have I not charged or earned anything out of what I enjoy doing??? There is simply no market for it over here, sad to say, or companies would be loathed to part their money for a simple promo.

Den Sabari and Huda Ali‘s wedding back in July 2010 was the first celebrity wedding I covered in this domain…

Speaking of promos, I’ve had over the years event /expo organisers taking my photographs on the Net without asking for my permission, even if my watermark is there for all to see. I will not go as far as saying they “stole” my photographs, even though the promotional photos used have clearly wiped them out, or just a cutout image of the artistes featured. I cannot blame the organisers fully, as from one classic example recently, I found out that the ones doing their promotional poster design was from an external department, a case of communication breakdown somewhere during their planning stages. Something they could have avoided doing when they agreed on what photos that could be used. But me being the ever-forgiving one, will always give others the benefit of doubt and accept people sometimes overlook these sort of things.

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Another one of those events I covered, but only shared in my Facebook account, Fiesta Suria 2013

If I want to be extremely anal about this, I could even bang on their doors and ask for a cut of their earnings, cos seriously expo events are a business windfall to some of these organisers and helping them promote via your photographs, you definitely feel that you deserve at least a little token of appreciation. For concerts and shows, it’s 50-50. One can earn a lot if your show is a sell-out, but what if only a handful turn out??? Even I won’t be so mean and damning as to want a certain cut from their earnings, cos I’ve heard some companies closing down after organising a big-scale sell-out concert in Singapore. Strange fact but true. Maybe I’m too nice or feel the legal route can be messy. But we are a small nation with an even smaller community. I don’t wish to kill or create ill feelings out of such matters, but sometimes people don’t realise that being the big fish, they forget simple ethics and courtesy. Sometimes I wonder, is it so difficult to seek permission or reward in kind???

A significant landmark for me was attending Hyrul Anuar‘s “Mata” music video launch back in September 2011, possibly the first of its kind in our local Malay entertainment scene…

I have to admit that I cannot be a journalist as I’m never able to meet datelines or type in a brief and concise manner. My entries are testament to how long-winded I can be. This entry is no different than the rest. I cringe and feel extremely uncomfortable when the term “celebrity blogger” is used on me, nor like to be called and considered one, cos to be one, you need to get thousands of hits daily and doing it on a full-time basis. My domain’s visitorship is not even 400 on most days. Being a celebrity blogger also means you have to share your private life or what you do on an almost daily basis. I am not prepared to be scrutinised, have my privacy exposed and subject my loved ones to be ridiculed or ogled at, especially since I have two young daughters. Some quarters have also labeled me as a “photographer”, but I am just comfortable being known as an “entertainment blogger”, thank you very much!!!

Thanks to Mini Monsters, I was able to cover the launch of their “Lagu-Lagu Kita CD”, aimed to preserve the heritage of songs we grew up with and to continue its legacy for the coming generations…

When this blog first started out in 2004, I did talk about my life just like any decent blogger out there. I think I also shared some of my photographs taken with famous personalities. I was also more vocal and critical when it came to reviewing and assessing shows / concerts I attended. But as my blog statistics rise over the years, I began to shy away from talking about my private life or putting up photos of myself, or with personalities, preferring instead to highlight the real stars themselves on this blog. With more eyes glued on this domain, building networks with people in the industry, gaining some form of respect through my brutal honesty, as well as being aware of the implications I might run into because of my often-harsh comments, I believe over the years, I have matured as a blogger and being more responsible and tactful with what I say or put across. I believe that nowadays I blog more with my head than my heart.

(Photograph courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

I will forever be thankful to Mediacorp Suria for inviting me to keep goal for them in the tournament that honoured my late uncle, the legendary Dollah Kassim from 2010-2012

Which might explain why some people have wondered of late, how come I’ve gone soft and less scathing for the past three or four years. Perhaps fatherhood has changed me to be more understanding, to be more forgiving, to be more tolerant and of course to be more accepting of what is presented in front of me. I know I began as a gun-toting, trailblazing, devil-may-care writer (or typist), but it is only effective to a certain extent. People respect views when it comes from the heart, but at the same time, the head needs to balance the emotions so that one does not become too critical or damning. Anyway, my network has grown over the years. Any criticisms that I dish out henceforth, needs to be laced with a certain degree of empathy or at the very least, giving others that benefit of doubt. I don’t just look at things from my point of view but also from the points of those I am commenting on. This holistic approach might soften my style, but I am sure you know I will not mince my words when I experience the red mist.

Am glad to say I was physically there when Fiza O celebrated her 30th birthday and simultaneously announced she was getting married to her colleague, DJ KC

Being popular and mentioned in the same breath as artistes is not what I had intentionally set out to do. Unable to realise my dreams as a singer / actor / host / radio DJ were also not the main reasons why I became a blogger whose entries are focused on our local Malay entertainment scene, mostly on the musical side of it. I believe there is only so much we can rely on our print media as they have their own limitations and space constraints in terms of monthly / daily publication release, what they can talk about and how much they can feature. Personally, I would like to see more people doing what I’m doing, cos it would be nice to hear differing views and opinions on our local entertainment industry. It would also add more colour and vibrancy since our industry is slowly growing and expanding. I became a blogger who types on local Malay entertainment stuff because there was a dearth and general scarcity in people doing it. I hope more would be inspired to follow my path, given that blogging at one point of time, was quite in and spread across the generations.

Attending events like Sinaran Hati makes one appreciative of the efforts of the artistes who set aside time to give back to the community…

Hand on heart, I would rather remain in the background than be what my haters claimed me to be, and to quote one comment I stumbled upon years ago, that I am “feeling-feeling artis gitu“, probably due to the fact that I dressed to the nines on a number of occasions that I attended previous music award shows. I was merely respecting the occasion and since my weight was ballooning, I couldn’t fit into my old shirts and had to rely on my kind outfitters. If people have a big problem with that, then so be it. I might have uploaded some of my personal photographs in my Facebook account, which I apologise is only limited to those I know personally, but to share them in my blog is a bit too much to ask for. I do not understand where these people get the idea that I’m using the blogging medium as a means to prostitute myself and be famous. If people appreciate what I do as a yeoman service, then it gives me as much pleasure to provide them with news, promotions and reviews of events, concerts and shows which some of them did not manage to attend, or for those who did, to relive them all over again. What I wear to these events are very much secondary.

One of the events I enjoyed covering – the outdoor Festival Melayu Ada gigs, organised by Cokelat Events and Zaibaktian

This entry was typed not only to celebrate and reminisce this blog’s journey over the past ten years, but was typed both as a means of defiance to the brickbats as well as to give hope to aspiring writers / bloggers out there that if your intentions are genuine, sincere in your approach, passionate in what you do, honest in how you think, responsible in what you say, having faith in yourself and being patient in the face of adversity, one day your efforts will eventually be recognised, people will begin to respect your views, readers will learn to accept and trust you, knowing full well that you’re not merely running your mouth off for the sake of it. People will be able to discern whether you command respect or lack thereof. It took me five years to finally receive official credibility from a very distinguished national media, a long time frame that perhaps could break one’s resolve if your intentions are flawed or you are chasing after personal agendas, fame or glory.

If not for celebrity blogger, Diah Mastura, who could not make it to this event, I would not have been able to feature this exclusive showcase of Anuar Zain in my blog back in 2011

Even if I’m not invited again to cover future events after this entry is published and people think I’ve suddenly grown too big for my own shoes by harping about my personal achievements, I think I would be happy and assured to know that future Malay entertainment bloggers, if there are any others in the first place, could always hang on to the hope that anything is possible so long as they stick to the seven traits I stressed upon in the earlier paragraphs. I would love to have added an eighth trait which is humility. But I’m afraid some of you out there would gleefully point out that I am being hypocritical by talking about what I have achieved so far in this entry, which of course would undermine everything I’ve mentioned. However, I believe people who meet and get to know me personally would be better and wise judges of that. Cos words typed on screen have an eerie tendency of having double meanings or tones, which in turn can sometimes mislead into swaying one’s judgements of a person, since you do not know if he is being serious or joking.

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My very first album launch event I covered back in December 2006, Imran Ajmain‘s debut album “Dengan Secara Kebetulan“…

I’m more or less a grounded person, and I don’t believe in holding extravagant parties just to celebrate the anniversary of this blog or my existence in the scene. Heck I even forgot that I have reached this milestone till I was on the verge of covering Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza‘s concert last weekend. That’s how much I feel that such celebrations are unnecessary. Even if I can afford to do that, I will still not do it. I think the money is better off spent somewhere or donate to charity / welfare organisations. Anyway, am just considered a “Kucing Kurap” in the scene, which is why sometimes when I cover events, I get restricted privileges or am limited with the things I can share or feature in this blog. I don’t expect nor want anyone to do any celebrations for me either, cos every entry for me is a celebration to those that I feature, the real stars themselves.

The very first media conference I attended – Suria Elektra – in February 2010

I know too well that over the years, I have ruffled a lot of feathers with my honest-to-goodness comments, be it in my blog entries or even comments made on radio segments. I am naturally a very opinionated person and a non-conformist. I can be tactless sometimes and too brutal, to the point I do not mince my words when I am really pissed off. Which is why, it is best that sometimes I cool down before typing my coming entry with a clear head and with a better choice of vocabulary I can use to describe what I feel. To those who have been at the brunt or wrong end of my lambasting words, insinuations, points of reference, examples and felt small, angered or even disappointed, I am taking this opportunity to apologise for words that might have hurt you. I am only human, and I try all the time to improve on how I address things as they come. I cherish every friendship and acquaintanceship I make along the way.

Covering Anugerah Planet Muzik, an event very much close to my heart, is something I look forward to annually…

To all who believed and have placed your trust in me for the past ten years, and continue to be loyal and silent readers of this domain, words cannot describe how thankful and appreciative I am to you. I will continue striving to provide good reviews and better quality photographs of events, concerts and shows, launches, celebrity weddings etc. I attend in time to come, and I will always be thankful to those I had worked with and continue to be sharing a good working relationship like the Malay Broadcast Division of Mediacorp (Suria, Warna 94.2FM and RIA 89.7FM), Manggiz, Sri Warisan, Cokelat Events, Gridmedia Productions, ATeR | ReTA, Mini Monsters, WorkHeart, Gumbira, amongst many others I am unable to mention thanks to my ageing memory. Also, to all the lovely celebrity couples who have allowed me the privilege to cover your respective wedding events and shared the joyous moments with my readers. This blog is nothing without your kind support… 🙂

Anugerah Planet Muzik 2013 Review…

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(Graphics poster courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

It is exactly a fortnight since Anugerah Planet Muzik 2013 (APM2013) was held successfully at the newly-refurbished Suntec Singapore Convention Centre. Over the years, and with the increased participation on social media by the masses, this event has slowly come to the fore and made its presence felt with the regional audience. One can see how the event has created a buzz positively and negatively, when you see comments flying around on Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks, especially in the last three years when the show caused a lot of unhappiness amongst the regional audience for being “boring” in terms of entertainment aspects (their subjective criticisms) and for being biased towards our homegrown artistes in the popular award categories. Well, you can’t win them all, but it was indeed pleasing to hear after the show that “#APM2013” was the most trending topic on Twitter on the night of 18 October 2013, in both Singapore and Malaysia.

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Wacky hosts who lifted the show with their nonchalance – Adi Rahman, Sarah Sechan and Dato’ AC Mizal

As for this year’s edition and before I proceed on with this review, let me first congratulate the good people behind Anugerah Planet Muzik for a job well done and for improving the standards of the show as most of you who had witnessed it live would agree. This was indeed the very first project since the Mediacorp-owned Malay radio stations (Warna 94.2FM & RIA 89.7FM) and television channel (Suria) merged together to form the Malay Broadcast Division of Mediacorp. Officially this was not their first project or APM together, but one can see that since the merger, the cooperation and working in tandem has resulted in a more concerted and synergised effort with more interactions now being done online to engage viewers of the event. Ok I know there will be those who would disagree based on individual preferences and personal judgments, but I believe if there are any, then maybe they are of a minority clique. Let’s start off with all the good and positive stuff that went on that night.

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S4 of Indonesia pumped up the audience with their hit single “She Is My Girl“…

For years I had been complaining of the poor state of affairs over at Max Pavilion Singapore Expo, where the event was held in 2006 and as recently as the previous two editions (2011 and 2012). For all the star-studded cast that had performed in those editions, it did not bring justice to their pedigree and reputation as outstanding acts in the region, since the sound system and acoustics of the venue were absolute letdowns. Like a bad record, I had appealed on an almost annual basis for the event to return to Suntec Singapore Convention Centre where the best edition was last held in 2005. Eight years since it was last held there, I finally got my wish and God knows how elated I was upon hearing the news as personally I feel that Suntec offers a far better dynamics than Max Pavilion. What made it even better was the fact that Suntec had undergone a major refurbishment recently and it definitely promised a far-better viewing experience, not to mention the crystal-clear sounds. What’s more, no matter how far you are seated, the stage still seems near enough to you. With a potent combination like this, you simply cannot go wrong with any production, as those who had purchased tickets to watch the event live would agree with me.

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Jamiel Said, Citra Scholastika and Jazz Hayat performing “Sahabat” made popular by Syamkamarul, Najwa Latif and SleeQ

Performances-wise, I personally don’t think there was one performance that was bad or boring, but it has to be said however, that the closing performance by Amy Search and Bunkface felt a bit weird for the fact that the song they performed together towards the end (“Rentak Laguku“), did not quite resonate with the watching audience as most had not heard it before on our local airwaves. As a result, the energy levels and anticipation which were felt earlier when Amy Search sang “Isabella” and Sam, Bunkface‘s vocalist, performed “Situasi“, went down slightly and the audience were not bobbing their heads as much as before. Perhaps both could have finished off with their respective fast-tempo hits like “Isi & Kulit” and “Panik“, just to name two examples. Still, if you were to ask me, this was a much better ending to the awards show when you compare it to recent years. At least the show still went out on quite a high.

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Jazz Hayat was the sole Brunei representative that night. Previously, his compatriot Faiz Nawi performed in the 2005 edition, which was also coincidentally held at Suntec Singapore Convention Centre as well. Let’s hope to see more Brunei acts in upcoming editions!!!

My personal performing favourites of the night were S4, W.A.R.I.S., Awi Rafael, Altimet and The Trisno Trio, to go along with crowd favourites Judika, Shila Amzah, Hafiz Suip, Cakra Khan and of course Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza. S4 of Indonesia, born from the reality show, “Galaxy Superstar“, might have been strangers to viewers or music lovers in Malaysia and to some in Singapore, but they certainly announced their presence in definite style when they kicked off the show excellently with their hit single “She Is My Girl“, complete with their slick dance moves and all. It is not easy to perform and sing live like them and even though one can detect that they had accompanying vocals in their track, I believe they sang live throughout even though some members looked a little unwell, judging by the constant coughing I heard when I met them backstage an hour before the event started. It could be an unexpected technical fault cos when I witnessed them during the soundcheck the day before the event, the group breezed through their rehearsal and sang live immaculately.

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The rapper who hails from Negeri Sembilan, W.A.R.I.S., performing his debut hit “Rembau Most Wanted“…

I was extremely pleased to see a very much under-rated talent performed that night and he is none other than Malaysia‘s Altimet. I have been a silent fan of his for years, always loving his new singles that touch upon social issues and relate to our everyday lives. It strikes a chord with the listening audience and his lyrics allow us not only to self-reflect, but to self-improve on our personal level. It was unsurprising that he was nominated for the Best Collaboration and Best Duo / Group awards for “Dunia“, his collaboration with The Trisno Trio. I did say back in 2007 when he last performed at APM, that I was not too impressed with his opening act that night, but everything about his performance a fortnight ago oozed class, attitude and confidence. He is like the Pitbull of Southeast Asia, a master collaborator with so many local and Malaysian acts and churning out radio-friendly hits after hits. And who is to say “Kalau Aku Kaya” will not be among the five nominees for Best Collaboration or Best Duo / Group in APM2014??? I’m confident enough that the song will be one of them. The only complaint I would have would be that he should have performed with The Trisno Trio and Bushmen that night, as “Dunia” is still technically his song as well. Two to three minutes of him rapping to “Kalau Aku Kaya” was just not enough.

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Altimet and Awi Rafael performing “Kalau Aku Kaya“…

This was the first time since the advent of our local reality singing competitions like Singapore Idol, that none of the touted local Big 4, namely Taufik Batisah, Hady Mirza, Sezairi Sezali and SleeQ, took to the stage to perform at Anugerah Planet Muzik. I dunno if this was a calculated decision made by the organisers wanting to feature other local acts or the fact that both Taufik and Hady had their own personal commitments on the same night (the latter was out of the country performing his Hajj from what I heard), but it was a decision I personally felt was a good one, a fresh perspective, even if some of their fans had complained that it was the same faces every year. I wonder where some of these fans have been all these while when the likes of Taufik, SleeQ and Hady have been performing in APM since 2007 on an almost annual basis. Even Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza skipped the last one to attend to her husband’s well-being from his motorcycle accident last year and the show still went on smoothly.

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Adi Rahman and Sarah Sechan…

With all due respect to the touted Big 4, Singapore‘s talents are not limited to them alone, as we still have other acts crying out to be featured every year. We are definitely not short of talents as we all know by now the success and strength of our community when it comes to performing and winning national talent competitions. And now with Youtube giving birth to indie talents and wannabe artistes, it has become another platform to display their talents to the world. I was extremely proud of our local contingent who performed above themselves and showing that they were worthy to be featured that night. Maybe a little gripe I might have, was the non-availability of a female singer from our shores, as I had at least expected The Final One winner, Farisha Ishak to be invited to perform. Even Audionauts, by virtue of being last year’s Best New Duo / Group award winners and this year’s Most Popular Singapore Artiste award recipients deserved an invitation to perform.

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Syahrini was joined onstage by Aliff Aziz, singing the former’s debut hit “Jangan Memilih Aku“…

Speaking of the latter group, I believe their win in the Most Popular Singapore Artiste category caused more than a ripple that night. In fact it caused shockwaves on social media accounts asking who were they and questioning if they deserved it. Well one could hear a pin drop in the arena when their group name was mentioned by award presenters Syirah Jusni and Dzar Ismail. To the detractors, wake up and start smelling the many roses in the garden. For the past two years, Audionauts have been churning out hits after hits on local radio. Quietly, their fans have done their job to put them up where they currently belong. Accept their win and take it that the fans from the other nominated artistes in the popular category were complacent and sitting on their laurels. The idols will always be respected and deemed of a higher status, that is a given, but we should also not begrudge the winners of their achievement as it was their fans who had been instrumental in their win. For me at least, it gives the group the opportunity to reintroduce themselves to the regional as well as home audience and showing that we have more talents on our shores than our Big 4.

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Sarah Sechan and Dato’ AC Mizal hosting next to the front row audience…

The three hosts that night I felt carried their responsibilities down to a T. Before the show, just by looking at the promotional poster of the event and seeing their faces, I had a good vibe that they would do the show justice and I was not disappointed. Sarah Sechan being the chilli padi that she is, and Dato’ AC Mizal being quickfire with his jibes are a common sight on television in their respective countries. The newly-wedded groom, Adi Rahman, is also no stranger to dishing out witty punchlines in his daily morning show on radio. The chemistry between the three was certainly evident, but I just felt Adi was perhaps a little too cordial to his fellow presenters. While Sarah and Dato’ AC were trading barbs at one another, Adi was a little laidback and played more of the “good guy” card. Which perhaps prompted some people to comment online that Adi was “boring” that night. But somehow people dunno that the characters and traits of personalities differ onstage or the deliberate roles that they are supposed to play to keep the momentum of the show to a considerate level.

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Trisno Ishak (The Trisno Trio) and Mohammad Izaar (Bushmen) did Singapore proud that night with their performance…

In years past, people have complained that the script was either too “in-your-face”, vulgar or redundant. I think credit should go to Adi Rahman, being the script writer, for keeping it simple, eradicating the sexual innuendos (even though the other two hosts did slip their tongues once or twice, probably taking the mick out of Adi‘s newly-minted status) and without being too excessive. Speaking to him after the show, he did say that it was a huge challenge to write the script as he first had to study the characters and backgrounds of not only his fellow presenters but the award presenters as well. For them to click, he had to find a common theme or subject for them to talk about (the small talk and banter between the presenters). He found it especially challenging to blend the conversation between Aura Shai, Mike Kasem and Dato’ Rossa (I am still getting used to the title which was recently conferred to her). While Aura Shai did not look out of place, the latter two did look a bit uncomfortable, at least from my own observations. Which made me wonder whether Mike Kasem‘s presence was relevant at all, no disrespect to the guy. But I was all too happy not to hear the “Gerek Seh!!!” phrase being mentioned at all, cos seriously nobody in Singapore uses this on a daily basis anymore.

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Stacy Angie always packs a punch in her livewire performances…

I would like to reserve a special mention to the “Radio Ultras” (or also known as the “Singamania” group that attends football matches involving Singapore / Lions XII) who came in numbers and filled up the rear seats. I thought their presence lifted a rather subdued atmosphere (what’s new anyway about Singapore audience???), but prompted the audience to clap and cheer along to their chants before the show began. Those at home were unfortunate not to witness this spectacle of a performance and I doubt it was shown on television. It was typical of what you might see if you were to watch a Malaysian Super League match at the Jalan Besar Stadium. But this felt much better as perhaps the arena is enclosed and their singing was heard loud and clear. I think the foreign delegates from Malaysia and Indonesia were very impressed, judging by the smiles on their faces upon witnessing it. The rousing applause that accompanied their performance was testament to that.

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Sarah Sechan and Dato’ AC Mizal were poking fun at one another the whole night…

Every year, the same complaint has been made time and time again of the lack of a Red Carpet segment or the “poor standards” of it whenever it was held. If one were to observe similar segments in other countries’ award shows, you would note that this separate segment alone has either a main sponsor or several sponsors attached to it. Unfortunately, even for a progressive country like us, sponsors are hard to come by when it comes to supporting our local Malay entertainment scene. There is only so much the organisers are able to budget and rental of the auditorium alone is expensive. Add to payment of artiste appearances, performers, accomodation, flight tickets etc, certain aspects had to be dropped and unfortunately they saw no need to have the Red Carpet segment, which was fine by me and one I have come to accept over the years. Even some of the other acts I talked to said they were ok with it.

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Art Fazil and Imuda with their hit “Rilek Brader“…

People always complain that the organisers have no budget and that if they did not, then why do up such an event??? Sometimes people fail to look at the big picture and sometimes too it is a matter of “damned if they do, damned if they don’t“. This is an event that honours the best in the region as well as our own cos we certainly do not have our own awards show save for Pesta Perdana and the only Anugerah Hitz.Sg event back in 2010. For all the success and more hyped-up entertainment industries of our neighbouring countries, do not expect them to do something similar to what Mediacorp has done. Yes, they might have one separate category for foreign artistes in their award shows, but that’s it. This event brings together big names from the region, a chance to collaborate and network, honour the best and it is because of that you see the likes of Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza lending her support on an almost annual basis, either through performing or just making an appearance as a guest, bar the 2012 edition. It is not about payment, but endorsing the credence of the event. Mediacorp I think has done well to work within their means and funding. Of course we would all like to see all the other razzmatazz associated to award shows but it’s also how best they can come up with something that others might not / do not want to do.

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Judika and Shila Amzah put in a memorable performance singing “Aku Yang Tersakiti” together…

However, I did not quite like the “Walk of the Stars” segment that much, which occurred half an hour prior to the show. This somehow replaced the Red Carpet segment, with the artistes who were either performing or presenting awards coming out from the back to be introduced to the audience. It seemed a bit too rush for me as only the big names were stopped by the hosts, A B Shaik and Fiza O, to be interviewed. As a result and as mentioned in my entry before last, I could not get good shots of some of those who had walked onto the stage for their introductions. I think if they were to do this in future, they should extend it by another fifteen minutes or so, interview each and every artiste that walks onstage and not only that, include the other award nominees who did not get the opportunity to perform nor present an award. I think it is only fair to include them as this is a day to honour each and everyone of them. Especially the local artistes, am sure the audience too would like to catch a glimpse of them and get themselves acquainted to their own homegrown acts.

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Another thing that baffled me was the post-event reception or lack thereof of one. I actually heard about its non-availability when I came for the sound check a day before the event, and I thought perhaps my informer had pulled my leg. But there wasn’t any, much to the surprise and disappointment of the other artistes and industry people who had come to watch the event, either as nominees or guests. They had told me that they were indeed looking forward to the reception as they had wanted to use it to do some networking with their neighbouring counterparts and of course to catch up with one another, seeing their respective busy schedules. Confusion reigned when ushers showed them to the back once the event ended, but there was no reception nor instructions telling them where to go and the waiting area was pitched black before the lights came on about ten minutes later. Some ended up walking aimlessly at the back before they were able to go out from where they first came from. I knew because I was there too.

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Dato Siti Nurhaliza with her duet partner, Hafiz Suip, performing “Muara Hati“…

For all the hype and star-studded cast on show, I was surprised that the auditorium was only about two-thirds full. I mean, don’t people want to pay and watch performances from artistes you know exude professionalism, charm, charisma and not to mention quality anymore??? I think gone are the days when the likes of Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza are able to perform to a sell-out audience. In the past, just one big name alone was able to fill up an entire arena. In recent years, it has been quite a struggle. I dunno if it’s due to the ticket prices, timing (Friday night is actually the start of a weekend so what excuse do we have???) or the lack of knowledge on some of the other neighbouring artistes, but if it’s Anugerah Planet Muzik, one should know by now that the quality on show has never been compromised since its inception in 2001. The problem with us is that we want quality but are not receptive enough to want to pay for it. And like what I had often mentioned in the past, I blame those monthly expo events for devaluing the artistes.

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Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza joined Cakra Khan in singing “Harus Terpisah“…

One thing I’ve been quite consistent in pointing out yearly is the lack of time for the winners to give their acceptance speeches. Bar the recipients of the Special Achievement award, all the other winners were only accorded about thirty seconds to express their gratitude to the people that matter. I know that they are afraid of the show being over-run as they had only allocated two-and-a-half hours, but such an event demands at least an extra fifteen minutes to half an hour’s grace for any unexpected occurrences. Just imagine, the winner is busy preparing himself / herself backstage or perhaps granting an interview with the media scribes and they have to rush to the stage to accept their awards. By the time they reach the stage, at least fifteen to twenty seconds (half a minute in some cases) would have been wasted and they are only left with about ten seconds worth to thank the people behind their success. I think the thirty seconds rule should start the moment they open their mouths to speak.

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I had a major peeve that night with the lack of decorum and self-respect of some artistes towards the event. Even if you are not performing or presenting an award, the least you could respect the event was by turning up and wearing something presentable other than donning t-shirt and jeans. At the very least you could have done was wear a jacket over the t-shirt or put on some simple / fancy accessory to go along with it. As an artiste, I am sure you want your works to be noticed and in turn gain recognition. I think we are living in an era where making music alone is not enough and consumers would look to see if their favourite artistes would be presentable or have no sense of style at all. Am not asking you to play dress up, but such an event has not only the eyes of those in this country watching, but the region as well. If artistes like Raven, Northbound, Seyra, Diorama, just to name a few, could look presentable or stay true to their genre, why can’t you??? It reflects badly on not only you, but the other acts in your country as well, as it only shows that you don’t care at all. And when you don’t care, do you expect others to do the same towards you??? It works both ways. Never forget that impression counts or you remain forgettable / not worth being featured if you do not have any self-worth. Think about it and don’t be selfish!!!

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A great tribute performance to Black Dog Bone by Awi Rafael, Judika, Jatt Ali and Hafiz Suip

I remember beginning last year’s review by hitting out at the brickbats of this event. This year, am pushing it towards the end. Simply because, I am heartened to say that they belonged in the minority. I think majority of viewers were quite pleased with the performances on show as well as the winners. Though it has to be said that I still saw a few sour grapes / wet blankets / spoilsports who questioned the credibility of the winners in the popular categories. In recent years, our Singapore Idols were the subject of their ire. This time the “honours” went to Hafiz Suip and “Muara Hati“. And the ones making all the noises are the ones in Indonesia, well to be fair, just a few of them. As usual, the common complaints we hear are, “Who is Hafiz???” and “Why haven’t we heard Muara Hati before???” I’ve been monitoring the Facebook page of Anugerah Planet Muzik and there is one particular guy whose name starts with a calendar month, who has been consistent in putting down the show, its credibility and the winners, while saying how good his countrymen and music industry are. He obviously did not realise that the judging panel for the best categories also included a few of his own countrymen and that the popular categories were voted by people from outside his country (and perhaps some from his own, cos c’mon Dato’ Siti is extremely popular in Indonesia as well!!!). This is one example where you get too big for your own good and disrespect those outside your sphere. Continue living under your coconut shell, pal!!!

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Rousing end to the show by Amy Search and Bunkface

Overall, Anugerah Planet Muzik 2013 was not too bad, certainly not shabby at all, even when you have the shortcomings I mentioned in the latter paragraphs. In fact I would rank it the best within the last six or seven years. In terms of entertainment, esthetics and sound quality, I think the organisers have done extremely well to stop the rot and improved different aspects of it. For that alone, they deserved full marks cos simply put, an event of this magnitude demands quality, the audience paid for it and they got it and more. Of course in a live event, there will be the unexpected technical glitches but other than the botched video clip during one of the awards presentation, it was a smooth one throughout. To those who had attended and watched the event live, I salute you for coming to support. I am sure most of you brought home sweet memories of the event. Here’s looking forward to APM2014, hopefully a better one than this year, or at least maintaining the standards that it has set this year. Congratulations to all the winners and to the organisers once again on a job well done, not to mention, for the kind invitation as well… 🙂