Anugerah Planet Muzik 2017 Review…

Graphics poster courtesy of Mediacorp Suria…

It’s been three long years since I last did a proper Anugerah Planet Muzik review entry. I personally did not expect not posting any review entries to be this long, given my previous penchant and eagerness to share my views and thoughts on the annual event. Personal commitments got in the way and time wasn’t kind enough for me to post them up. By the time I entered the second month after each event with photographs still not properly edited, I already lost that momentum and passion to type something out. Anyway, I had this feeling that I was recycling and rehashing my thoughts year in and out, to a point I felt like a broken record. I hope that the time I had been keeping my thoughts to myself would do me good, to evaluate the show with as much fairness and giving benefit of doubt where shortcomings are concerned. The question I have in my mind right now is, where do I even begin??? Hahahaha gosh it does feel a bit rusty after three years…

Ayda Jebat opened the show with “Nakal Nakal Nakal“…

I think for a start, let’s talk about the slogan for this year which came with the hashtag “#GilerTakGerek“. I tried to hark back to previous APMs before this, but I struggle to remember if they ever had a slogan or theme such as this. I believe this year was the first time they had an additional hashtag to go along with the usual “#APM“, followed by the event year (#APM2017 being the latest for this year). I think it was a fresh move to inject a bit of hipness to the event, in line with how much technology and social media have taken much of our attention on a daily basis. I initially didn’t like the usage of the word “Giler“, being the language Nazi that I am, moreso when they first announced it, we were still in the midst of our annual Malay Language Month. However, to put it into the context and lingo of today, the spelling reflected a fun factor rather than a serious element to being crazy. The usage of the word “Gerek“, even though we seldom hear people here using it now, is still synonymous with us Singaporeans as compared to our neighbours. I think generally this was a uniqueness of its own, to highlight a Singaporean flavour to the event.

The addition of Dzar Ismail and Nabila Huda to the line-up of hosts for this year, gave the show a certain freshness…

Since my last review in 2014, we’ve had a change of venues, from the rather spacious Suntec City Convention Centre, to the relatively spanking new MES Theatre @ Mediacorp. This year’s event was its second held at the new Mediacorp Campus at Stars Avenue. I do have a well-documented love-hate relationship with this new theatre, more hate than love actually, as my close circle of friends can testify. Well “hate” is actually too strong a word for me to use. I would probably use the word “dislike” to express my thoughts on this matter. For one, it is further away from previous locations like the earlier-mentioned Suntec City Convention Centre, Max Pavilion, Singapore Expo, and Singapore Indoor Stadium. North or east-siders like myself will find travelling here a bane, which is also partly a contributing factor why I have slowed down my commitments to cover events and answering invitations to attend a particular programme or show by Mediacorp Suria.

One of my favourite performances of the night, Gloria Jessica teaming up with Aisyah Aziz and Haikal Ali

My main gripe with the theatre is that it resembles a lot like a typical school hall setting, and I know I am not alone in having these same thoughts. The stage also looks smaller and limited than previous venues. The opening performance that featured Ayda Jebat and her dancers, as well as Maher Zain and his accompanying vocal group, felt a bit overcrowded. I observed the dancers especially, had to hold back some of their moves so as not to bump into one another. The one thing I dislike the most about this theatre is that I am no longer able to sit on the floor in front of the first row to capture close-up shots, just like in past APMs or even the times I covered shows at the old Mediacorp Theatre at the now-vacant Caldecott Broadcast Centre at Andrew Road. At this new place, photographers now either have to stand behind the sound engineers somewhere in the middle section or sit on the floor along the aisles by the side.

I know for one, the audience enjoyed this particular segment featuring Hael Husaini, Virgoun and Sufi Rashid

The positive thing I can say about this theatre is that it boasts a sound system which is very good. The acoustics and clarity is as good as the Esplanade, if not better. Well it is certainly much better than the one at Star Vista Theatre, a stone’s throw away. I also observed with this new place, the organisers save quite a bit on their budget, not to mention having the autonomy to dictate how the additional segments like the Red Carpet segment would pan out without having to splurge more than they should. I noticed that even with a venue as good as Suntec City Convention Centre, there were trade-offs, in that certain things had to be compromised or made do without altogether. The ones that come to mind were the “Walk of the Stars” segment, where the nominees / award presenters / performers were introduced to the audience by walking to the stage from the back and to their seats, which I personally felt was a poor man’s version of the Red Carpet segment and the lack of a post-event reception afterwards, which had a number of local and overseas guests / performers grumbling quietly afterwards, as they were famished after a long night. With the event held at the MES Theatre, these factors were taken care of and the event looked to be proper as it should be.

Award presenters Hannah Delisha and Izzue Islam

Speaking of the Red Carpet segment, there was a notable difference between last year and this year. Last year, we saw the nominated artistes as well as the performers and award presenters arriving via limousines with both sides of the fences teeming with screaming fans like any typical Red Carpet segments you see around the world. This year, they did away with the limos but made the concourse level a long and winding stretch going into the MES Theatre. The Red Carpet segment literally began when the nominated artistes, performers and award presenters appeared from the lift just next to the escalator on the third floor. From there they had to pass by the specially-erected stage for the fans to see them clearly, as they were interviewed by newly-minted radio presenter, Kyrul Ashrie and Nity Baizura. After that it was stop after stop as they were greeted by a horde of waiting media brigade, eager to interview or photograph them, yours truly included.

Malaysian heartthrob Farid Kamil and Singapore‘s up-and-coming Sofia Dendroff

I must say I was surprised by the number of media people that attended this time around, not only from Singapore, but Malaysia and Indonesia as well. I basically had to jostle for a comfortable position so as not to block their view when they were filming, taking photographs or recording short clips. Previously this Red Carpet segment or a lack thereof, was one of my main complaint agendas whenever I do up any reviews of Anugerah Planet Muzik. Not anymore. The organisers have done very well to make this a much-hyped affair with live Facebook updates and online screenings via Toggle. For that they deserved much of the accolades for the effort to make the show as colourful as it should be. I saw the improvement being made since 2015 when the show was still at Suntec City Convention Centre, but I think with the venue of the event being at their homeground, more improvements and upgrade in outlook were able to be executed without running foul of the venue management, if any. They even have what I call a “battle command centre” for all the live social media updates as the show went on.

Actress-singer Kilafairy and another newbie to the local Malay entertainment scene, Zachary Ibrahim

Looking at the list of performers that night, I was surprised that this time round, there was a distinct lack of star names, save for those whom we know from our own respective countries or maybe the few established ones known to the three countries like Afgan, Ella and Maher Zain. For the very first time in the history of Anugerah Planet Muzik, there were no performing bands featured. Hard to believe but it was the reality. Up till the last moment, I had expected the organisers to pull a last-minute surprise and have at least one band performing, but that was not to be. Even though we were devoid of distinct star names, the ones who were onstage did not disappoint at all, at least to yours truly. The surprising thing was, even with a lack of stellar names, it was a sold-out event!!! The last we had a sold-out APM was back in 2014, when the event was at Suntec City Convention Centre, of which the main draw were legendary group Wings and Noah, plus a bevy of household names like Cakra Khan, Judika, Dato’ Rossa, Taufik Batisah, Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza, Joe Flizzow, Sezairi and more.

My personal favourite pairing of the night, the gorgeous Janna Nick and my “twin”, Fakkah Fuzz

I am not sure about those at home cos last year, I observed comments made online that the show was boring. I think there is a lot of difference watching at home and seeing it live. I do agree to some extent when I watched the repeat telecast much later, that visually it looked a bit plain. If I were to make a comparison with last year’s and this year’s editions, I think the latter was much better. Last year’s instalment had Caliph Buskers and Sufi Rashid to thank cos their respective performances individually and collectively together, were the highlights of the night, while the rest were forgotten in a hurry. Also the stage setup made it looked as though we were watching a variety show like Rapsodi or Muzika Extravaganza. However, I noted that the organisers had made visual improvements to the stage design, layout and backdrop for this year’s show. Maybe the show itself is meant to be appreciated by watching it live with our very own eyes and not via the television screens. We have to give the organisers a bit of leeway as it was their first time afterall doing it at the MES Theatre last year. I believe this year it was much better, as most online comments I monitored were kinder and more on the positive side.

Afgan doing what he knows best, making hearts flutter with his voice, smile and dimples…

I was surprised that Desta was called upon again to host this year’s APM. As I recalled his performance hosting last year, he was a bit lost and tried too hard to match up with the energy of his co-hosts Suhaimi Yusof and Sherry Alhadad. I was ok with the initial selection of the other hosts, Dzar Ismail and Nabila Huda, as I know both exude energy and fire. But lo!!! Desta proved me wrong on the night and emerged the “Man-of-the-match“, in the words of his co-host Dzar. He had the audience laughing to all his jokes and while those that were made at last year’s event looked a bit forced or unnatural at times, his punchlines this year were absolutely spot-on. He even had time to poke fun at several members of the audience unannounced. I was proud to see Dzar Ismail given the honours to co-host the awards show, representing Singapore. It gave the show a bit of freshness instead of the usual faces. He also has come a long way since being the raw and wide-eyed newbie in the scene. A word of advice to Dzar, he might want to slow down his talking pace, as at times he sounded a bit rushed and his words lost on our ears. At least no one tried to outdo the other like some of the previous editions and there was a nice balance of energy between the three. The best host so far for me in recent times, who gave their co-hosts equal limelight to shine was, and still is, Jihan Muse back in 2015. She’s adorable and I’m a big fan!!!

A beaming Ms. Zakiah Halim presenting the International Breakthrough Award

I would like to touch upon the award presenters. I assume, based on the reactions of the audience, the only ones they and probably those at home enjoyed watching were Janna Nick and Fakkah Fuzz and slightly later on, Afgan and Fiza O. With all due respect to the other presenters, I think generally the audience didn’t know who they were or there was hardly any chemistry or relevant banter between them. I remember there was one award presenter who presented twice in previous editions, but you could hear a pin drop when they were on stage with murmurings around me asking them to be quick with the award presentations. The same thing happened a few times on the night, and I don’t think the audience could tolerate the antics of some of the presenters, who tried to act cool but only served to turn them off judging by the silence or non-reaction. I also noticed a certain lopsidedness in the pairings which, save for the Afgan and Fiza O award presentation segment, were all from Malaysia and Singapore. There were other Indonesian acts seated amongst the audience, I doubt it would hurt to let them have a bit of the limelight as well. On a sidenote, I personally think Fakkah Fuzz just put his name into the hat to present either Pesta Perdana or future editions of APM. Twice he presented awards at both events this year, both times he had the audience in stitches and enjoyed his presentation style.

Maher Zain performed the Malay version of “For The Rest of My Life” right after his acceptance speech…

Winners-wise, I will not debate who was worthy and who was not, but there was one award which had me a little perplexed. In retrospect, I think all the winners and nominees are much deserving of their positions, lofty or otherwise. It has to be said that it is lost on many people’s minds, but we cannot take away the landmark achievement made by “Senyum Saja” at #APM2017. For the first time in its 16-year history, a Made-in-Singapore song finally managed to win the Best Regional Song award!!! This win was the fourth for The Lion Story in the space of seven years and their third in a row, cementing their status as prolific and respected songwriters our country has to offer. For the longest time, it has been something that we have come to accept, that the Malaysians and Indonesians are far superior than us. The glass ceiling has finally been broken. I hope this win will inspire more of our local songwriters to come up with more quality music because they definitely have the talent to match up with their regional counterparts. However, the Best Male and Female categories remain elusive till this day and I hope some day one of our acts can finally reach that pinnacle and recognised by the jury from the three countries.

I just realised when I looked at this photo, the last time Dato’ Adi Putra presented awards at APM2011, his partner was also Nity Baizura

I don’t care what the online brickbats might say till this day or have questioned ever since, if they had not listened to the song or never heard of it before, and there are many of them out there, the ones commenting and criticising for the sake of it. The beauty of awards shows is that you look at the nominees and you try to do your own research by listening to them on YouTube, iTunes, Spotify and what-have-you. The best is not necessarily the most popular. Likewise the most popular might not necessarily be the best. You only see the regional dissenters up in arms when a Singaporean comes on stage to win the regional awards. I observed some sour grapes who are definitely not from these shores, commenting this was a “Shiok Sendiri” show by the organisers when the Best Song category was announced. If it was, I think Singapore would have won more than they had expected to. It has always been that way but the best awards are judged by a panel of jury from the three countries. So it is definitely sweet when you see your own local product be recognised by not only your own, but from others. And for that we can only “Senyum Saja” at the haters.

Isyana Sarasvati showed her prowess at playing the piano prior to getting off and dancing along with her accompanying dancers when she performed “Kau Adalah“…

It was just one big award and suddenly the “My country’s song is better than yours” mentality reared its ugly heads. This village mentality obviously needs to go, but it will never be eradicated fully, not when online and social media is filled with irresponsible and brainless keyboard warriors. People keep on forgetting that this awards show is about forging friendship, extending ties and network amongst people in the entertainment and media industry between the three countries. It is never meant to be a competition per se, but a celebration of the best. Obviously people who were watching and commenting negatively afterwards, paid scant respect to some of the winning speeches calling for unity and ties to be strengthened. Sad to think that in this current day and age, people tend to form opinions and act upon what comes out from their nether regions rather than whatever rationale that is processed in their heads. It is difficult to educate these country bumpkins when they already have this mentality that theirs is better than others.

Another one of my favourite pairings of the night – Afgan and Fiza O, who showed off her multi-functional outfit created by celebrity designer Raffiey Nasir

I did say I will not debate who was worthy and who was not, but that I was a bit perplexed by the decision to award one of them. It did not take a rocket scientist to predict that Maher Zain would pick up the International Breakthrough Award when his name and photograph appeared on the promotional poster. I can accept the reasons given for him receiving the award when Ms. Zakiah Halim presented the award to him that night. However, I question his current relevance to the entertainment industry of the three countries. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy, and I love his positive-infused songs, but his last sold-out concert here in Singapore was back in 2011 when his debut album hit killer heights. Since then his songs have seldom been played on our airwaves. Other than “Ramadhan” which is played during the annual fasting month, we do get the odd airing of songs like “For The Rest Of My Life” being played, either in its original version or the one in Malay / Bahasa Indonesia. I might be wrong, but I highly doubt his latter albums have been well received nor promoted extensively here as compared to his debut offering. If I remember correctly, he recently held a concert here last year and the attendance paled in comparison with his first one, which was quite regrettable, given his standing in the eyes of many.

A very proud moment for our local Malay music scene, finally clinching the biggest award at APM after 16 long years…

If he had been the first recipient when this award was introduced three years ago, then probably I would not be dedicating two paragraphs on this matter. Cos I sincerely thought this awards show is specifically to honour those from the three participating countries who have introduced our lingua franca to the rest of the world through their songs. I am not sure how his Malay or Indonesian song versions have made people from the other countries sit up and learn the Nusantara languages, cos I believe he also has different versions of some of his popular hits in other languages as well like Urdu and Turkish amongst others. I had expected someone like Shila Amzah, and to a lesser extent, Anita Sarawak, to be getting this particular award. I foresee this particular award will probably not be able to stand the test of time (I give it five more years), unless more acts from this part of the world spread their wings and fly abroad and create a name for themselves wherever they are. The organisers probably wanted to have a slight difference in handing out the awards this time round, but it does feel a bit odd, and gave the impression that we have forgotten our own people from this part of the world. Take nothing away from Maher Zain. He probably did not ask nor expected to be awarded the accolade. His acceptance speech at least soothed my aching heart for the rest of our Nusantara acts who might have felt slighted as a result. He has always been a very humble person with no airs and you could see and feel for yourself through the message that his words or lyrics bring.

Our zany hosts closing the show by giving props to legend and rock queen, Ella

In the past I would usually compare which editions were good, which ones were forgettable, which instalments were memorable. I think for this time I will not make any as I observed each single one brought with them different sets of challenges and obstacles, difficulties and hardships of their own, not to mention which ones left indelible impressions on the mind till I can remember to this day. Take for instance, the great number of no-shows from some of the award recipients. I know for one the likes of Anuar Zain, Dayang Nurfaizah and Khai Bahar were invited to perform but they could not make it as each already had their own prior singing commitments in Malaysia and Hong Kong (Khai Bahar). Probably no one seemed to have noticed this particular trivia, but this year the event was held on a Saturday evening, when usually it is held on a Friday evening. I think had the event been held on a Friday evening, we probably could have had those earlier-mentioned names in attendance and probably had more star names to the line-up. For the show itself to be a sell-out event a good two months before the actual date, spoke volumes of its reach and that we can have confidence that not having stellar names can also attract bums to seats. But for how long???

The question remains, how will the awards benefit the winners in getting known by the neighbouring countries??? For example, will winning the Best Song Award open more doors for the likes of Haikal Ali and The Lion Story to venture into unknown territory in Malaysia and Indonesia if they eventually choose to move in that direction??? How much collaboration and acceptance do artistes, songwriters, producers and such stand to gain from the exposure??? For one, they cannot rest on their laurels and to proactively churn out new works and release them, strike while the iron is hot and not sit on their laurels or just expecting our local radio stations to play their music. They also need to invest some time and money to go out and promote their music, to be heard on airwaves abroad. I really hope that our local acts who were nominated or those who have won, will continue the good work that they have, to always strive for perfection, to improve on shortcomings, to be better performers, songwriters, producers and what-have-you. We have seen good nominations from Singapore this year. Where there’s a need to complement one another, do so. Where there’s no need to compete to bring down the other, don’t bother. Your sincerity and passion will eventually reap its rewards, one way or another. This is my parting shot for my #APM2017 entry…

Snapshots of APM2017

Anugerah Planet Muzik 2017 Roll-of-Honour

(Graphics poster courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

It’s been a good five days since Anugerah Planet Muzik 2017 ended, but the euphoria of seeing our home country finally winning the biggest regional award for Best Song, for the very first time in the 16-year history of this prestigious awards show is still fresh and unforgettable, at least not anytime soon. I have lots to say since I have not been doing a proper review on APM since 2014, but I guess I will keep it and snowball them in another entry and yes, this year I will finally post a review entry. It has been that long but it has to be done. Of course as always, my first entry after an awards show will be to honour the best and the most popular who were awarded on the night itself. So without further ado, here’s my Anugerah Planet Muzik 2017 roll-of-honour’s list…

P.S. Additional graphic posters of winners who did not attend the awards show are courtesy of Mediacorp Suria. Photograph of Sonaone courtesy of Glam Malaysia

 

Gloria Jessica – Dia Tak Cinta Kamu

Artis Baru Terbaik (Wanita) / (Best New Female Artiste)


Virgoun – Surat Cinta Untuk Starla

Artis Baru Terbaik (Lelaki) / (Best Male Artiste)

 

Faizal Tahir & Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza – Dirgahayu

Duo / Kumpulan Terbaik (Best Duo / Group)

 

Afgan Syah Reza Feat. Sonaone – X

Kolaborasi Terbaik (Artis) / (Best Artiste Collaboration)

 

Tanda Tanya – Aisyah Aziz

Composers: Omar K, Ezra Kong & Ishazee Ishak
Lyricists: O
mar K, Ezra Kong & Ishazee Ishak

Kolaborasi Terbaik (Lagu) / (Best Song Collaboration)

APM2017 708

 

Armada – Asal Kau Bahagia

Band Terbaik / (Best Band)

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Anuar Zain – Andainya Takdir

Artis Terbaik (Lelaki) / (Best Male Artiste)

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Dayang Nurfaizah – Lelaki Teragung

Composers: Natasyah
Lyricists: Iman Imran

Artis Wanita Terbaik / (Best Female Artiste)

Lagu Terbaik (Malaysia) / (Best Malaysian Song)

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Isyana Sarasvati & Raisa – Anganku Anganmu

Composers: Isyana Sarasvati & Raisa
Lyricists: Isyana Sarasvati & Raisa

Lagu Terbaik (Indonesia) / (Best Song – Indonesia)

IsyanaRaisa

 

Aisyah Aziz & Haikal Ali – Senyum Saja

Composers: Aisyah Aziz, Haikal Ali, Haramain Osman & Judah Lyne (The Lion Story)

Lyricist: Aisyah Aziz, Haikal Ali, Haramain Osman & Judah Lyne (The Lion Story)

Lagu Terbaik Singapura / (Best Singapore Song)

Lagu Terbaik APM / (Best APM Song)

 

Sufi Rashid – Aku Sanggup

Lagu Singapura Paling Popular / (Most Popular Singapore Song)

APM2017 2453

 

 

Hannah Delisha

Artis Singapura Paling Popular / Most Popular Singapore Artiste

APM2017 2125

 

 

Ayda Jebat

Ikon Media Sosial / Social Media Icon

APM2017 2228

 

Khai Bahar – Bayang

Artis Paling Popular APM / APM Most Popular Artiste

Lagu Paling Popular APM / APM Most Popular Song

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Maher Zain

Anugerah Rentas Planet / International Breakthrough Artiste

 

 

Ella

Anugerah Khas Planet Muzik / (Special Music Planet Award)

Maher Zain Concert Review…

I believe this has been one of the most anticipated concerts on our shores for quite some time. For the past year, rave reviews on his music and inspirational songs have filled our ears and injected a newfound love for the Nasyid genre, especially to those who were initially not inclined or have never gotten themselves acquainted. With the emergence of Maher Zain in the international music scene, Nasyid songs have suddenly become hip again, like the time the likes of Raihan and Rabbani amongst others, have successfully found their ways into our hearts back in the late 90s and early 2000s. His rise in the international scene has been nothing short of meteoric and dare I say, phenomenal as his music has transcended upon different lands and cultures across the globe. Stopping short of calling him a Messiah, I believe his music and songs have the ability to unite Muslims together as well as inspire us to better ourselves as servants of Allah and followers of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Along with positive response to his music and humble character, the clamour for his presence on our shores for a concert grew louder as the days in 2011 went by. Finally on the ninth day of March 2011, the news was confirmed that Maher Zain would be coming to town for his first solo concert. Such was the fervoured anticipation of his maiden concert here that when the day of ticket sales began on 1st April 2011, the SISTIC website slowed down and a lot of people found it hard to book the best seats possible, yours truly included. I had heard a lot of good things prior to the concert, on his previous performances around our region, and I had hoped that Singapore would also be able to witness it first-hand. The anticipation heightened further when the official radio station of the concert, RIA 89.7FM, did a stellar job in promoting it and by playing songs from his album on a regular basis, an initial move which caught me pleasantly by surprise, as radio have not played songs of an outright religious nature for quite some time due to Media Development Authority‘s strict guidelines.

Irfan Makki from Canada… 

And so when the day came (Saturday 18th June 2011), I attended my first concert with my kids in tow, when normally it’s just the wife and myself. It is not uncommon for children to be heard singing songs by Maher Zain these days and my kids are no different. They always pester us to play his songs every day, so it was only natural that we brought them along for their very first concert. We were one of the early birds to enter the concert venue (Singapore Expo Hall 3) at around 7:40pm. It was heart-warming to see people of all ages entering the event venue all wanting to savour the soulful voice that has captured our imagination and perhaps brought us closer to appreciate the beauty of God and HIS creations. It was even more heartening to note that no matter how early some of the concert-goers were, they were seen at quiet spots on the second level of the Singapore Expo building performing their obligatory responsibilities.

Just to sidetrack a bit. Out of courtesy, I had applied for media accreditation for this concert, mainly to use my own camera to snap photographs but my request was turned down by the organisers, Offshore Entertainment Production. I was told to use the photographs taken by their official photographers and to credit them once they are up on their official website. I thought it was no big deal as I have had to experience this kind of arrangement when I covered the Pesta Raya showcases involving Hujan and The Fabulous Cats at the Esplanade – Theatres By The Bay back in October 2010. The positive point was not having to lug my camera bag along with two active kids in tow. However, a concert which was supposed to begin at 8:00pm ended up starting only at 9:05pm. I dunno what was the cause of the delay but I had heard and seen from various complaints online that quite a number of people had to queue up a long time just to get into the event venue.

The multi-lingual Mesut Kurtis who hails from Macedonia. He speaks as many as five languages fluently…

I dunno if this was due to the various exhibitions happening at the same time last weekend, but I had anticipated the place itself would have been swarmed by about 10,000 odd people attending various events in the area. That was the reason why we chose to come earlier to get good parking spots and also because we were informed that prayer areas would be provided. But I certainly did not expect the wait to be so long. Even when it was 8:30pm, the concert venue was only about half full. I’m not sure who is to blame for this delay, the organisers or the people who came to watch the concert. I just feel that the organisers should have just started the concert right on the dot or at the very latest, half an hour after the stipulated timing printed on our tickets. This is afterall a concert of an Islamic nature and our religion certainly did not teach us about flawed promises.

It was slightly after 9:00pm that the host of the night’s event, none other than RIA 89.7FM‘s Hafeez Glamour, came on stage dressed just like Maher Zain himself and began to warm up the audience. He had three passes to give away and asked for three members of the audience to come on stage to claim it but somehow, the instructions got lost along the way and about twenty people of all ages ended up on stage. Each took turns singing Maher Zain‘s songs and those justifiably eliminated missed out on their chance either because they couldn’t sing as well as those who ended up getting the passes, they were impatient and rowdy or they were not able to pronounce simple words like “Allah” properly. Yes, it was a surprise to me and perhaps those seated watching the proceedings as well. I will reserve further comments henceforth regarding the matter and hope that we take the time to perfect our pronunciation on words found in our Holy Qur’an, as reciting them wrongly would give rise to different meanings.

Maher Zain – An image of serenity and tranquility…

Irfan Makki from Canada came on stage to open the concert with four songs (or was it five??? I lost count). Though I like the songs he sang that night namely “Mama“, “Waiting For The Call“, “I’m Sorry“, and “Mabrook“, I could not help feeling a little shortchanged as I had a feeling that Irfan did not perform live. I was seated near the speakers and I could hear the stark difference in the clarity of his voice as compared to when Mesut Kurtis, the second act of the night, and Maher Zain himself came on stage later on. I could be wrong about the part on singing live, as Irfan sang without the accompanying live band, relying instead on minus one / recorded tracks, while the other two singers of the night performed with the band. Due to the poor sound system, the music emanating from the accompanying live band drowned the richness of Mesut Kurtis and Maher Zain‘s voices throughout the night.

A song that left an indelible impression on me during Irfan Makki‘s set was “Waiting For The Call“. The song was accompanied by a video montage of scenes from the two holy cities of Madinah Al-Munawwarah and Makkah Al-Mukarramah. I felt a lump in my throat seeing the footages and clips of people performing the Umrah and Hajj rituals. Though I did not cry like some in the audience, I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I recalled the times spent in the two holy cities during my honeymoon back in June 2006. I did not enjoy Mesut Kurtis‘ performance, not because it was not good, but I was already feeling bored that the main concert itself was late and it was close to 10:00pm, almost two hours of wait for Maher Zain to come on stage. But I have to say I like the old classic “Thala Al-Badr” sung by Mesut. Though the concert had its shortcomings, I tried to find positives out of it and listening to evergreen songs in praises of the Almighty and also to our beloved Prophet more or less made up for it. I felt that it was not a bad decision afterall to bring my kids as they were exposed to these kind of songs, which for Syahindah is like a refresher course as some of the songs or zikir found in the songs have been taught to her in school.

I will not describe Maher Zain‘s performances per se as I am sure you would have viewed them via YouTube. All I can say is that the boredom, the impatience and anger I felt earlier at having to wait for his arrival on stage disappeared when he came on. And what a way to start his concert with the blast of pyrotechnics. I certainly did not expect it even though I saw the nozzels being lined up on stage. I thought they would shoot confetti instead. Maher Zain is a phenomenon that no matter what he does on stage, the audience would love it. Just that I felt the audience was kinda dead when the man himself asked us to sing and clap along. Actually it was not a surprise at all to me as Singaporean audience in general are known to be dead watchers of most concerts anyway. It was just unfair to the man that a 7000 strong crowd, a sell-out one for added measure, failed to display why his first concert here was an anticipated one.

Maher sang all but one of his songs from his debut album “Thank You Allah“. Not quite a surprise as the song could possibly have political implications attached to it and seeing that we’re not an Islamic country to begin with. But in any concert, you don’t expect the artiste to sing every single song in his / her album anyway. What he did not sing, he made up for it by singing twice for “Insya-Allah” and “For The Rest of My Life“, both songs he sang in English and Malay. It was impressive that he managed to sing the Malay versions without any promptings, especially “Sepanjang Hidup” which was released as a single quite recently,  a mark of professionalism on his part. It was also heartening to note that he addressed the audience by throwing in basic vocabulary from our language. He did not have to win the audience that way, but it truly showed his utmost sincerity, humility and honesty in sharing his happiness at performing for us and we were all satisfied with it. What was dissatisfying was of course the bad sound system. It was difficult to appreciate his voice and performances as a whole because of that.

After the concert ended, I joined several lucky winners from the Singtel and radio contests in meeting him backstage but my dissatisfaction returned once again when from being one of the earlier batches of people queueing in the line to meet the man himself, myself along with several others were whisked away by security to another side and we ended up being the very last to go in. Even though I tried reasoning with the security guys that we were all part of the Singtel and radio contest winners, they said that since we were wearing VIP passes, the instructions they received were for VIP Pass holders to join in the other queue outside the event venue, when we were all already queueing up backstage. Major cock-up on the organisers part and it is no surprise that I see quite a few people already venting their frustrations with them online, some going as far as saying they were treated like dogs. Though I would not go as far as to say I was treated like a mutt, the whole system itself was a major catastrophe which had no standardised uniformity.

I appreciate the fact that the organisers have done all they could to allow as many people as possible to meet and take photographs with Maher Zain, but the way we had to queue and wait and then queue again and ending up being the last was a bad experience as a whole as a lot of time was wasted. Even when we met him in person, we were not allowed to take photographs with him using our cameras and instead take as a group with complete strangers via the official photographers on standby. Being the last, I thought I could at least make small talk with the guy, but we were rushed through by his minders and I ended up just greeting him with the salam, shook his hands and taking that last photograph. But take nothing away from the guy, just by that few seconds of looking into his tired eyes, he was a picture of calm and serenity, his sincerity and aura of tranquility just shoots right through you. The anger I felt at being pushed down to the very last in the line disappeared when I saw his patience at entertaining his ardent fans, even when he was clearly tired.

Those who got to meet Maher Zain in person received these premiums as mementos…

True, there were hits and misses at the concert. Me being my natural self, my patience was severely tested that night as I am naturally a stickler for time. I felt a lot of time was wasted that night on waiting and waiting. But the concert itself, if you were to take away the waiting time, the bad sound system and the “dead” audience aside, was what I came to see and expected from a man who has been quite the music phenomenon in the Islamic world. I know some of you reading this entry might say that I am being ungrateful with my complaints when I had the opportunity to meet him in person in the end, while most could only wish they were in my shoes. I paid for the most expensive seats for myself and my whole family, it is only natural I expected the best out of the experience. I’m sure for those who paid less, they too would have complained on how far they sat from the stage etc. To some extent, I did enjoy the concert but I’m sure it could have been much better had what I listed above been realised. Hopefully the organisers could learn in kind and take in all the feedbacks received and make it a better one the next time. Still, thank you Offshore Entertainment Production for bringing in Maher Zain for his maiden concert in Singapore.

P.S. The photographs featured in this entry belong to a renowned caricature artist, the original “Mat Tocang“, who has been contributing his art works for a long time in our local Malay papers. He has strictly given the instructions that his photographs are not to be downloaded. So I hope you guys would respect his decision. Thank you brother for letting me share the photos you have taken that night in my blog entry. Appreciate it much. I simply love the caricature you made and gave personally to Maher Zain. What a stroke of genius!!! Thank you also to bro Hafeez Glamour for giving me the opportunity to meet Maher Zain in person via your radio contest.

This is the caricature that Mat Tocang had made for Maher Zain. Beautiful isn’t it???

It’s Confirmed!!!

After much haggling and teasing for the past few weeks / months, the wait is finally over for Singaporean fans of international Islamic music sensation Maher Zain!!! According to information received via the official radio station of the concert, RIA 89.7FM, this afternoon, it will be held at Singapore Expo Hall 3 on 18th June 2011 at 8pm. Tickets will be on sale at all  Sistic outlets in April and they are priced at $68, $98 & $128. This concert is brought to you by the good people who also brought in Janet Jackson last month, Offshore Entertainment Production. I’m very sure the concert will be a sell-out. Start saving!!! 🙂

Event: Maher Zain Concert

Venue: Singapore Expo Hall 3

Date: 18th June 2011

Time: 8pm

Ticket Information: $68, $98 & $128 at all SISTIC outlets beginning 1st / 3rd April 2011 (to be confirmed)

Event Organiser: Offshore Entertainment Production Pte. Ltd.

Official Radio Station: RIA 89.7FM

 

Is He Coming To Singapore Soon???

Rumours have been bandied around since late 2010 that the latest Islamic music sensation, Maher Zain, will be performing on these shores very soon, a stumbling block being his reported high fees. But based on this video which was uploaded by sis “SueHan12” (credits to her), the dreams of Singaporean fans of his music (me included) to watch his performance live would soon become a reality sooner than expected. I’m sure it will be a sell-out just like a certain teenage sensation who will be performing here next month. We await with bated breath. In the meantime, for those of you who have not seen this video clip of his interview with RIA 89.7FM deejay, Hafeez Glamour, in the latter’s Facebook profile or the radio station’s official Facebook page, hope you would enjoy viewing it…