Pesta Raya: Hujan & The Fabulous Cats Review…

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

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

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


Hujan Showcase

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

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

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

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

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

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

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

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

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


The Fabulous Cats’ Showcase

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

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

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


(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

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

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

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

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

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

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

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

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

(Photo Courtesy of The Esplanade Co Ltd)

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Fabulous Cats Cat Farish, Zizi & Adeep Nahar

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

Salut to J-Boy & Fariq who make up Komrad

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

Pesta Raya 2010 @ Esplanade – Theatres By The Bay

The annual Pesta Raya celebrations at the Esplanade -Theatres By The Bay returns this year with a stellar line-up from our local acts as well as established ones across the Causeway. Amy Search, no stranger to these shores lead the cast of performers performing throughout the ten-day festival. Besides Malaysia‘s thespian Fauziah Nawi,  award-winning group Hujan and groovy The Fabulous Cats, Singapore too has the father-son combo of Elfee & R.Ismail as well as Zaibaktian teaming up with evergreen singer Ahmad Jais amongst others. Up-and-coming girl group Dynda too will be performing with The Fabulous Cats. Not to be missed definitely. Get more information and book your tickets by clicking on the promotional poster below!!!

Promotional graphics poster courtesy of Esplanade – Theatres By The Bay…