Viva Elektra 2014

Viva Elektra

(Graphics poster courtesy of Mediacorp Suria)

It’s been awhile since I did a review on an event that I attended at the Mediacorp TV Theatre. Simply because when I accepted the invites from Mediacorp Suria to attend these shows or events, more often than not, I did not see the need to review as they are either a light-hearted affair or for charity. I was there to just snap photos of the event and during the reception afterwards without seeing the need to comment much. Sometimes I don’t need to voice my thoughts as others have done it for me on social media. Anyway there are so many keyboard warriors out there too quick to jump on the bandwagon of criticising without giving substantial suggestions. I guess it’s a favourite pastime now to use one’s handphone keypads to comment every single thing they see on the google box, be it good or bad. I’m guilty of it sometimes when I watch football and passions are running high.

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I note from several people I’ve met of late that this blog has somewhat stagnated and that the writer (or should I say, typist???) behind the words on this domain has lost his zest and panache to hit where it hurts, or to put it kindly, give a wake up call when it mattered. Over the years as I mellow down and become less confrontational and got to know more people, I find that it is a challenge to be as hard-hitting as before. I had to tweak and fine-tune my style so as not to be too cynical or cause frictions with others in the long run. Maybe fatherhood has made me more forgiving, understanding and giving others the benefit of doubt but I like to think I type better when I’m having that red mist and I don’t quite experience that as often as before. Wish I could post more entries but like I said from time to time, I am not paid to blog and this is something I do as a community service as and when I am free from my work, family and personal commitments.

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The front row audience consisting of bigwigs in the local media industry as well as guest of honour Dr. Mohd Faishal Ibrahim

Anyway, I was honoured to be invited again to attend the recent Viva Elektra event at Mediacorp TV Theatre. The two-hour variety special was the fourth instalment by Suria and was previously known as Suria Elektra (2010), Rock Elektra (2011) and Bandstand Elektra (2012). The show belatedly celebrated the formation of MediaCorp’s Malay Broadcast Division, the merger between television channel Suria and radio stations Warna 94.2FM and RIA 89.7FM, hence there was an eclectic mix of performers from radio presenters to television personalities and established recording artistes that night. Viva Elektra in a way, symbolised the division’s hopes to establish a commitment to continually bring high quality programmes to their audience, be it on radio and television. Expect to see more of such shows in the near future involving the radio and television personalities. We are already anticipating cross-platform programmes like TeRaSeh 2.0, R&D and the sixth season of infotainment show JUS! this month. Viva Elektra was just the start!!!

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The men who made the night ticked – Dyn Norahim and Khairudin Samsudin

Looking at how the radio and television personalities collaborated on stage, I had a feel-good feeling that we can expect more entertaining shows on television and radio as well. Yes, I will not deny that I’ve heard rumours going round that certain gigs and jobs are affected due to the merger, but I would like to call upon all the artistes who might feel a little slighted that their places and roles in television programmes might be taken up by their radio counterparts, to treat this as a healthy competition. Granted we might not be like our next door neighbour where there are so many channels one can tune to and for radio and television personalities to still do well when they cross platforms, but there are possible avenues that can be explored. Radio could possibly have seasonal guest hosts like what Fauzie Laily did co-hosting Skoolz with Nity Baizura a few years ago. Or if they were to have a shake-up of personnel, who knows, they might just rope in some of these television personalities into their stables??? Let’s not see it as a form of hindrance to one’s rice bowl, but to work as a unit to lift the standards of our local Malay entertainment scene.

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The cast of Tak2ut (from left): Ashmi Roslan, DJ KC, Fadhlur Rahman and Wan Haddad

Maybe a little criticism I would have of Viva Elektra was that feeling of imbalance in some of their segments. While the skit involving the Tak2ut cast (Ashmi Roslan, Wan Haddad and Fadhlur Rahman) and DJ KC seemed a bit short, the Bangsawan and Pentas Radio segments felt a wee bit too long for my liking. I just feel that the song performed by Eiss, “Arjuna (Mencari Cinta)“, was redundant and only served to prolong the segment, even though the audience and myself were tickled by the humour presented by all the performers involved. It is nice to see new faces on television like Wan Haddad and Nurfarhana M Noor given their big break on a big scale event as this. Also Junaidi Sali who often plays a supporting cast to be given the limelight he deserves after all these years.

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Fauzie Laily (left) seldom gets comedic roles but when he gets them, he excels…

Nurfarhana it has to be said, is a name and face to watch this year. Her stock is rising and it is not easy to score a lead role in one’s debut drama series (Rima Hatiku) and subsequent ones like Follow Fasha, unless one has the potential and package to succeed. She is currently seen in the new season of Di Luar Garisan and will be one of the participants for TeRaSeh 2.0. I won’t be surprised if she scores a hosting gig in the near future cos she has that bubbly personality to do it. You heard it first on this domain. Another one to impress me was RIA 89.7FM‘s Dzar Ismail. I’m a big fan of his daily Singa Maksima programme and from one karaoke session we had some months ago, I could see his hidden talent and passion in rapping, which was displayed that night when he performed “Cerita Kedai Kopi” with Tukangkata and Sezairi Sezali. I know some people do not quite like his sometimes excessive energy levels, but I think he is a breath of fresh air on radio. And yes I still claim credit unashamedly for saying he belongs in radio when I assessed his performances when he entered Anugerah Skrin back in 2010.

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The one to watch this year – Nurfarhana M Noor. A flower blossoming at a continued pace…

Another criticism I would add on will be the choice of performing artistes and some of the songs they performed. Before the show, I saw on social media how people lamented that it’s basically the same faces over and over again. To some extent, I would agree with them as I too felt the same way when I saw the list of performing artistes slated to perform. No I am not attacking or blaming the singers who performed cos they are all excellent in their own respect. My complaint would be a lack of more variety than what we’re used to. Take for instance we have so many bands producing good quality music in Singapore. The likes of Diorama, Tujuh, Klutz are some of the bands that are under-rated here. And if you speak of individual acts, there’s Reyza Hamizan, Sufie Rashid, Chomel, Aidil Akmal, Nurdiana Saad, upcoming acts who deserved to be given their dues and be introduced to the masses.

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The hosts replicating Ellen Degeneres at the recent Oscars and taking a selfie photograph with the audience…

I appreciate that we would want to entice people to watch as their favourites would be performing but it does not send a message that the artistes feel appreciated, even though radio plays their music on a daily basis. There is no point having your songs known on radio when people still dunno who you are. Just ask Audionauts when they won at APM2013. There were still people asking on social media and on newspaper reports wondering who they were. “Rentak Laguku“, the song performed by Aliff Aziz, Eiss and Sezairi Sezali, was another one that I felt was a bit redundant as it was only as recent as last October that we witnessed Amy Search and Bunkface performed the song at APM2013. And even though I love Taufik Batisah‘s “Sesuatu Janji” amongst all his songs to date, I think that was the fourth or fifth time he performed the song at a Suria event, in addition to APM2008.

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Group photo with all the performers that night once the cameras stopped rolling…

Overall, Viva Elektra was an enjoyable show, even if it did overrun by about eleven minutes. The choice of having Khairudin Samsudin and Warna 94.2FM‘s Dyn Norahim was a good one, with both trading barbs at one another and the latter being the brunt of many of the former’s jokes. At certain points, Dyn looked jittery but it should be forgiven as this was afterall his first live television hosting gig. Speaking to him afterwards, he said that it was nerve-wrecking and a very different experience compared to his daily live show on radio. Like many others before him, I am sure he will grow into the role and be better. Am certainly looking forward to seeing him host the new season of JUS! alongside the gorgeous Ainon Talib and Nurul Akhmar come the end of April. For now I can’t wait for TeRaSeh 2.0. It’s gonna be an absolute riot!!!

KC & Fiza O’s Wedding Event (Day 3)

Second outfit by Raffiey Nasir

I’m back again with another entry on arguably, no, make that THE wedding of the year between RIA 89.7FM‘s KC and Fiza O. The third day of celebrations, 21 October 2012, saw the couple sharing their joy with guests from the bride’s side, over at Customs House, situated in the vicinity of the Fullerton Bay Hotel. Appearing twice wearing outfits by first, Weddingku Gallery, and the second by Raffiey Nasir, the couple was a picture of pomp and regalia befitting their title as King & Queen for the day. Not even the early downpour and subsequent gloomy weather could dampen the spirits of those who came to celebrate along with the wedding couple.

First outfit by Weddingku Gallery

The event was equally as beautiful as the previous day at Serangoon Gardens Country Club and this was evident by the good organisation by all parties involved, as well as the likes of Rose Catering Services, Dessert Artisans and Madame H Creations pulling out all the stops in ensuring that guests were spoilt for choice on what to savour during the celebrations. To top it off, Malaysia-based Singapore artiste Imran Ajmain serenaded the couple with his haunting ballad “Seribu Tahun“, a song that is so apt for a wedding event and performed with so much emotion by the crooner himself.

Before I leave you with the photographs, here’s wishing all Muslim readers of this blog, Selamat Hari Raya Aidiladha… Have a smashing celebration and long weekend with family and loved ones… 🙂

KC & Fiza O’s Wedding Event (Day Two)…

First outfit by Weddingku Gallery

I know many are anticipating more photographs to be uploaded in this blog as well as my own personal Facebook account, but sifting through hundreds of shots (in the case of the third day, thousand-odd photographs) snapped, having to choose the best ones, edit, enhance and watermark them is quite a process which takes hours and days. I beseech your kind understanding to give me some time to post the photographs I have snapped during the wedding event of RIA 89.7FM personalities KC and Fiza O. I also have a day job, a family to commit myself to and that I have to strike a balance, more so as blogging is just a leisurely passion done on my own free time. But of course I do try to hasten as quickly as possible for your viewing pleasure just to please readers of my blog. 🙂

Second outfit by Hatta Dolmat

Day two of the wedding event was held over at the groom’s side at Serangoon Gardens Country Club, to be more precise, at the Kensington Ballroom last Saturday 20 October 2012. A meet-the-fans session was also planned at the Singapore Flyer vicinity. However due to some unavoidable technical glitches, the appearances of the newly-weds were delayed and some of the fans who had waited at Singapore Flyer were disappointed and left early. Still, about a hundred-odd well-wishers remained and were given their opportunity to snap photographs with the newly-weds who donned a stunning red outfit by Weddingku Gallery. Not to be outdone, they came back to Serangoon Gardens Country Club in the evening wearing a black ensemble by renowned Malaysian fashion designer Hatta Dolmat. I guess I will not bore you any further with my ramblings. Enjoy the photographs!!!

“Bendahara – A Betrayal” Review…

I did say in my promo entry a week ago that I am uncomfortable to review theatre plays and productions for the fact that I do not have a theatre background nor understand most of the technicalities to dispense my thoughts. But as I was typing my thank yous and gratitude to the main people at Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts Ltd, notably Madam Som Said and Marina Yusoff, for an extremely enjoyable experience last night, it dawned on me that not only should the main people be reading my thoughts, but the whole production team as well as the performers who numbered more than 117 should also be reading this on a more public platform, since I am not connected to everyone on Facebook due to my personal policy of being connected to only people I have met before in person. Hence this entry.

This rather short entry is also to share my personal experience as a watching audience, rather than as an astute observer or critic. Also for the fact that I want to surprise Marina and the production team, since they surprised me last night with a heartwarming gesture (more on that in a bit). Last night was one of the rare occasions that I did not bring my trusty DSLR nor video camera to catch the moments, but I think it is perfectly alright not to include photographs nor video clips in this entry, as I do not want to act as the proverbial spoiler for those who will be watching the final two shows later today. Anyway for those who are wondering, tickets are still available and can be purchased at the Kallang Theatre entrance. Just note that the two shows today are at 3pm and 8pm.

From a watching audience’s perspective, the missus and I enjoyed the whole production very much, and this is not because of what happened towards the end (again more on that in a bit). For me personally, I was blown away by the digital backdrop and various stage props which made the kampung and beach setting come alive. Each character was responsible in bringing out their respective roles and played with our emotions, in a good way literally so to speak. We felt tickled by the actions of Amza (Hamzah Adon), we felt anger by the dastardly acts of Memanda Menteri (Fauzie Laily), we felt the sadness and anxiety of the kampung folk towards the end. While the tears welled in my eyes towards the end, I noticed many others in the audience as well as my other half sniffing and dabbing their eyes, thanks to the excellent combination of the script, the actions as well as the soundtrack and its meaningful lyrics.

Like what I told Marina via Facebook, everything that was promised during the media conference three weeks ago was delivered and executed, even going beyond my wildest imaginations of what the surprises would be. But during the media conference itself, something in me detected that Bollywood elements would be injected into this production, even though it was not mentioned by Music Director, Zubir Abdullah. I was pleasantly surprised that my gut feelings came true last night. What astounded me in that particular segment was Marina herself. Put her in any costume and she will bring the character to life. She can be a kampung girl, a princess, a palace maid and you can be sure that she will look the part. Likewise during the short Bollywood segment, I saw a Hindi actress on stage.

There were also other twists in store like the injection of rap and hip-hop into the mix. Traditionalists might frown upon that particular segment since it was done with the performers wearing traditional royal costumes. But I thought it was a nice twist, a fresh element breathing life into royal subjects who are normally known as uptight and serious people at the mercy of the King or Sultan‘s commands. Though I have been waxing lyrical towards the production, I did detect a minor shortcoming. At times the characters’ voices were inaudible or drowned by the background music. I think that can be taken aboard and improved upon for the final two shows. Still, the minor problem was not enough to make me detract from saying it was an excellent show. If you ask me, given the injection of support and sponsors, it would be good if this production is staged abroad and adding more colourful elements. I’m hoping Malaysia‘s Istana Budaya would invite the production over for starters.

And finally to that pleasant surprise at the end of the show. As a small-time blogger, not paid for what I do as a hobby and mere passion to report and promote stuff on our local Malay entertainment scene, a mere mention of my moniker on the public address system at the end, made the heart flutter in excitement, to go along with the list of social and mainstream media mentioned for their respective coverage and promotional works. To be thanked in print on the programme book, made it even more worthwhile of the work l’ve done all these years. This is a definite first for me and one that I am very much thankful and feel honoured for. It gives me the impetus and inspiration to continue, as doing what I do on my own does not reward me in monetary terms. There were times too that I felt it wasn’t worth it, no thanks to several bad experiences. It has however given me satisfaction in making others smile and feel encouraged. Above all, it has introduced me to talented and inspirational individuals as well as groups. Thank you Sri Warisan!!! This means so much to me…

P.S. I said this was a short entry but knowing long-winded me, six paragraphs is kinda long, don’t you think??? 😛

Rita Zahara’s “Malay Heritage Cooking” Book Launch…

Have you ever been left feeling at a loss over what to cook for the family daily or simply have no idea how to whip up a simple Malay dish if you’re alone or abroad??? I’m sure many of you out there must have gone through those moments of dilemma from time to time. I used to hear that from my mother before I got married, and now the whole cycle repeats itself with the queen at home asking the same set of questions almost every weekends. For a family that eats just a simple dish daily, perhaps they might not face this problem, but when you have different family members with different taste-buds and preferences (or dislikes) for certain dishes, more often than not, the person doing the cooking will be cracking their heads over what to cook, just so they could please everyone at home. Fret not, because the recently-launched “Malay Heritage Cooking” book, written by Rita Zahara, is the answer to your cooking needs.

The book, which is published by Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) in hardback, is the third publication from the “Singapore Heritage Cookbooks” series, which showcases delicacies from the different communities in Singapore, the Indian, Peranakan, Malay, Eurasian and Chinese communities. The cookbook contains sixty different known and traditional recipes, synonymous with our Malay community. The heritage cookbook series aims to document and preserve the cultural and culinary heritage of the different ethnic communities, passed on with passion from generation to generation and this particular book was inspired no less by the recipes taught to the author by her late mother and grandmother. Additionally, readers get the value-added feature of learning the history of Rita‘s family and their contributions to society, particularly her late grandmother, Che’ Zahara, whom she was named after, who was a well-respected philanthropist and a moving force behind the proliferation of the Women’s Charter in Singapore. Not surprising that this book is well-backed and supported by our very own National Heritage Board.

Introducing Rita Zahara – The author of the “Malay Heritage Cooking” book…

For those still wondering who the author is or have some vague memories of her, well you might have seen her covering news events on location or reading the news on News 5 Tonight on Channel 5, ChannelNewsAsia or Berita @ Suria on Mediacorp Suria some years ago. For a period of time, she was also one of the anchors for ESPN‘s Sportscenter programme on ESPN Star Sports channel. What many of us do not know, me included, is that Rita Zahara has been a guest judge / panelist in several food festivals in Singapore and Malaysia. Reading the “About The Author” section of her cookbook, I also learned that she is also heavily involved in humanitarian work for Muslim communities in Asia, empowering women and children with access to education. Certainly an influential person in our community, an asset that we should be proud of.

This book launch might have been more than a fortnight old, but memories of how grand and regal it was are still fresh in my head. As I had told the author of the aforementioned book herself when she was signing the cookbook for my missus and mother, this was one of the, if not THE grandest book launch I’ve ever attended. For those who know Rita well enough, they would acknowledge that any production that she comes up with, she will pull out all the stops to ensure guests have something memorable they could go home with, and this book launch was certainly one of them. From the decorations outside the Vanda Ballroom of Marina Mandarin Hotel where the event was held, to the ones inside, the tight four-piece percussion band playing traditional / classic hits, the opening dance item by Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts Ltd., right down to the glorious spread of food, it was a launch fit for a king and was attended by about 250 people, some of whom are distinguished personalities in our community lending their support.

The hosts: Adi Rahman and Steve Dawson

The amazing part about this book launch was that it was conceived and planned within three weeks by Rita and her sisters, Rita Zarina and Rita Zuhaida, that too taking into accounts the Christmas and New Year holidays. They were certainly blessed with the kind help from no less than twenty-eight sponsors and friends, who came forward to help one way or another to ensure that the launch was a resounding success. The goodie bags that we received upon buying the cookbooks contained, a Satay set and a $30 voucher by Tupperware, a brand name which is no stranger to us. Besides the items sponsored by Tupperware, there were also a book on microwave cooking and a publication by Marina Mandarin Hotel. With that kind of goodwill support from the various sponsors, it was no wonder that during her speech, Rita made the effort to thank each and everyone who had helped from the time the book was conceived, to the day of its official launch.

A feature of the book launch was the live recording of the semi-final rounds of Queen Juara Memasak, the reality cooking show currently shown on Mediacorp Suria and produced by Mediamorphosis. The segment of the semi-final round, was recorded in front of the audience and it required the four semi-finalists to weave the ketupat, something which most of us from the younger generation have no idea on how to go about doing it, me included. Out of respect for the show, I did not take photographs nor recorded the segment, and for those who had missed out on watching it when it was aired last Tuesday, you can do so by going to the XinMSN/catchup website. The best part about this segment was when Rita herself joined in weaving the ketupat and she did it all in two minutes!!! She started weaving slightly later than the contestants and finished doing it much earlier than them, a sign that the years of helping out in the kitchen with her late mother, did not go to waste at all. It is quite a skill to learn and execute, and my word, that was impressive!!!

Rita answering questions during the Q&A session…

Lest I forget, the winner of the Queen Juara Memasak programme will be featured in Rita‘s upcoming cookbook, which will feature contemporary Malay dishes by successful / influential Malay personalities in their respective fields, across Asia. The “Malay Heritage Cooking” book is now retailing at $38 (before GST) from good stores such as Kinokuniya, Times and Popular. You can also get it online via NoQ. Amazon will start to sell it from February 2012 onwards. An added feature that will be introduced in the not-so-distant future will be the cookbook being made available on e-book format. A simple click on a particular recipe and one would be able to view how the cooking is done or how a dish is prepared. That is how technology has evolved and we’re able to enjoy the interactive features introduced to us.

The missus tried out one of the recipes, “Mee Telur Daging“, and I have to say, it was heavenly. No, I’m not saying this because I have to say nice things about her cooking or give face to the author, but because the cookbook, was really helpful in introducing us to a new dish we are able to try out and enjoy. I’m sure the other dishes that my wife will whip up in future from the cookbook will be delectable as well. Even though I have only tried out just one recipe so far, I strongly recommend you to get this as this is very useful for cooking beginners, for those abroad missing simple Malay dishes and even for those who are new to our dishes. Not only does the book have recipes, but the author took great pains to talk about each and every single one of them, relating how the dishes are linked to the community, its history or even memories whilst helping her late mother in the kitchen.  Like what the guest-of-honour of the book launch, Dr. Fatimah Lateef, had mentioned in a television interview, this book is indeed a treasure…

Snapshots of the Book Launch

Symbols of our culture and heritage greeted us at the front door…

Guests lining up to buy the cookbooks outside the event venue…

Guests awaiting for the event to begin…

A familiar face spotted amongst the list of guests is local actress Ariati Tyeb Papar

Another one was Marina Yusoff, seen here with her equally famous parents-in-law flanking her…

So too was Nurul Aini, the host of Queen Juara Memasak

Adi Rahman looking suave in his traditional outfit…

While Steve Dawson was all business-like…

The event was graced by the traditional Malay dance item performed by Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts group…

Rita Zahara with her opening speech…

She broke down when she was speaking about her mother, I too felt a lump in my throat and tears welled in my eyes at this point…

The guest-of-honour, Dr. Fatimah Lateef, MP for Marine Parade GRC

The cake cutting ceremony. The cake was made to look like the cookbook. A pity I did not get a snapshot of it, as many people had gone up to see and eventually taking a piece of it to eat…

The percussion band that played traditional and evergreen hits…

Madam Som Said and daughter-in-law, Marina Yusoff, endorsing the book…

Rita signing the book for my mother…

Anak Wayang Promo…

I had given my word to a good friend of mine that I would be putting this promo up by the past weekend but as I had other commitments to look into, I could only upload this today. Apologies dear friend, hope you don’t hold it against me for not keeping my word. Anyway, I hope for those of you who have the time and would like to immerse yourself in a theatre production, then I suggest you keep the dates and times mentioned below free. Attached with this promotional poster is the synopsis of the production, which I have edited to give it an edgier outlook:

ANAK WAYANG

Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts Ltd will be producing “Ának Wayang a dance theatre, as a tribute to all performing arts activists also known as “Anak Seni“, who have contributed in abundance, in the effort of promoting “Performing Arts” in Singapore, through dance, theatre and music.

Sri Warisan has invited Sri Mahligai, Sri Anggerik Bangsawan and Sriwana, names that are synonymous in the local traditional Malay dance and music fraternity, to collaborate in this grand production.

Initiated and conceptualised by Mr Adel Dzulkarnaen Ahmad and Marina Yusoff as the Script Writer and Director, the ultimate goal of Ának Wayang” is the assembly of the new-generation teams of the respective four traditional performing groups in one production, thus providing a platform and avenue to gain artistic experience and cohesiveness amongst them. They are our future and our hope; they are Singapore’s “Anak Wayang“.

Anak Wayang” portrays how the journey of an “Anak Wayang” begins and experiences, way back in the 1920’s. Beginning with scenes from the kampung / village to the Bangsawan era, the journey would then shift to the booming film industry back in the days of Jalan Ampas, highlighting the sacrifices made by “Anak Wayang” to be a full time performer in the 1950’s. For those of you who miss the days of yore, flashbacks depicting the Dondang Sayang club in the 1980’s would be a walk down memory lane to savour. Also in a surprising twist in scenes of the future, “Anak Wayang” will make inroads by going global & international, progressing and achieving success in the modern, technology era.

This production will also feature Shahril Wahid, a renowned theatre activist, dancer, presenter & Mediacorp Suria’s freelance artiste. Shahril came to the fore in the local Malay entertainment industry when he was crowned the inaugural Anugerah Skrin winner (Male Category) back in 2006. Since then he has played a variety of roles on television, of which the recent one as a handicapped and paralysed character in the drama series “Gerimis Di Hati“, has been touted as his best performance to date.