Monday, November 24, 2014

Kembara - The Legendary folk group

I have a confession to make.

Kembara is not really my kind of groups. I love ballad and sentimental songs, and they are certainly not Alleycats. Their songs were normally soft-rock or folksy. They don't normally sing about love, falling in love, unrequited love - my kind of love songs, but they sing about train rides, about blue collar workers, about being in prison, about corruptions, and other social issues in the 80s.

Uh oh, and I am supposed to sing along?

Don't get me wrong. I am sure I have listened to enough Kembara's albums to call myself a fan. I thought each one of their albums is excellent, high quality recording and compositions, and are very different from any other group that existed in the 80s.

They have good melodies and good lyrics, and with the charismatic M Nasir at the helm, they are bound to be legendary. They could have taken all of M Nasir's songs (given to Alleycats) and became another Alleycats. But that they did not do. They took on social issues and ground them into soft- rock songs that bore no similarities with any other groups.

That's Kembara to me.

You know, I have been disappointed with last year's M Nasir concert at the philharmonic. Even with first class musicians, he did not sound like M Nasir, and his songs became detached. Listening to him at the MPO was a chore. I was straining my mind so much trying to figure out the songs that were played then, so much so I did not enjoy them at all.

You can read about my take here.

But this one is different. This Kembara concert is perhaps the best M Nasir concert that I have attended. M Nasir sounds exactly like, well, M Nasir, and Kembara sounds like Kembara in their albums. His voice is not a strain from trying to much and he sounded very natural, as if he had turned back the clock of time.
Taken by MStar

With apology to S Sahlan and A Ali, of course, since this is supposed to be a Kembara concert. Because I thought they were excellent themselves.

In fact, I thought it is because of A Ali and S Sahlan in their support roles, M Nasir is free from the burden of expectancy. This is the time he can become one with his friends, who understood his music.

Or perhaps in the absence of those Berkeley graduates, who messed up M Nasir's songs big time trying to westernize or philharmonizing them, M Nasir and Kembara were simply able to be themselves. Kidding, kidding hahaha, Dato. Love your Suatu Masa arrangement!

I would declare that this is the best concert in a long, long time at the Istana Budaya.

You know exactly what to expect from the trio, and it makes the concert more predictable.

You know the intro, you know the key, and you know exactly when they are going to sing, stop, or hit the high pitch.

And that's why I love this concert.

M Nasir is back at his best, to be honest. He was all over the place, and he made the stage his. It is so wonderful to see him so energetic and with a voice to match. I remember him saying many years ago how he could not get back the spirit when  many of his songs were written - after 30 years have passed. I can understand that - then he was young, naive perhaps, fresh, single and definitely looking for love. Life was full of idealism and energy. 30 years on, you may get a beaten-up-by-life guy, though I am sure that's far from the case for M Nasir. But he is back at his best. As far as I am concerned, he is the young M Nasir who could hit the high notes as per all the songs in Kembara's albums. And he did not have to try very hard at all.

A Ali was a bit more subdue; but he played his part with his low pitch voice.I really love di Perhentian Puduraya. So sad to remember the iconic bus station of Kuala Lumpur is still very much around after all these years. Or shall I say, so happy that it is still around, which is uncommon?

I thought the banter between A Ali and M Nasir was hilarious.
Taken by Arif
And S Sahlan? What can I say of this unassuming man. He was the perfect foil for M Nasir; a real anti-thesis of M Nasir; everything that M Nasir is not, and he filled up those remaining slots on stage.


The moment they stepped out with the sunken stage, I knew I was in for a treat. Even for sentimentalist like me. The music starts filling up the small concert hall; I knew most of the songs, though not necessarily all the lyrics. And with the background montage, we were all set.

Ekspress Rakyat was filling up the concert hall. 

The party is on.

Their music is normally for you to start swinging your body. You are not supposed to sit passively on one's seat. You need to move. You need to sing along. And you got just that with Bas no 13, according to M Nasir is the bus he would need to take to go to Geylang Serai, never mind that it would be the second bus (no 12) to be taken from his home. 

It is a catchy song.

(I did take Bas no 13 (and No 14). But is from Ampang Jaya. And it was bas mini No 13, of course.)

I guess this is what is wonderful about Kembara's songs. They told a story and the story is not necessarily the boy-meets-girl love story. It is not even a significant story  to be told; but nevertheless, it is a social story for M Nasir. It is his story and the history of Singapore and Malaysia.

I wonder who is Wan  Chu and whether she is still alive today?

So they wrote song about a bus, and a bus station. And about labourers? And anything about insignificant daily events, and we paid them tonnes of money to watch them perform in 2014?


Akmal, let's write songs about our trip to Tapah, about starting up a company, about facebook page, about Air Asia, about Monash and Sunway, about mee goreng and roti canai. I am not sure if anyone would want to hear us at all.


Anyway, let's get sentimental a bit, shall we? Malam to me is perhaps the best ballad that night. I would cry listening to M Nasir crooning about the darkness of the night. I really would. He sounds exactly like in the original song, and it is full of longing and sadness.

What else can I say about this song? [sigh]

And what about Keroncong untuk Ana, and Kiambang? Wonderful ballad from a soft rock group.

But I thought the best song would be Kupu-Kupu. I barely remember this song to be honest, but once I hit play at Youtube, the night before, I know I am going to love this song live by M Nasir. This song, to me, is ahead of its time.

The composition, the arrangement and the lyric - awesome.

Having said that, of course the highlight of the night would be the theme song Hati Emas. M Nasir really milk the audience into singing along with him. And the audience was willingly being milked by him. (Yes, milk us, milk us, says my sister who was there the next day.) We were all eating out of the palm of his hands. The song was played like for eternity.

I thought if it went on for another couple of minutes, the panggung sari would collapse from the sheer sound of a full house audience singing at the top of their lungs, feeling very sure that they all sounded like M Nasir himself.

I thought too I was that good, to be honest. I thought at that moment that night, I sound like M Nasir. I am sure Arif and Akmal sitting beside their dad had noticed how their dad had transformed into M Nasir!

To be honest, I would have watched them twice. Ot thrice. They are that good, and remembering the good, simple time of 1980s is too much for me to handle on a single night. I want to experience it again, and if possible, re-live the 80s all over again. If I could.

Taiping, and Kuala Kangsar.

Mak, and bapak.

Melbourne and Perth.

Kuala Lumpur.

Monash Uni and Chemical Engineering.

Being single. Err.

No, I did not have a car for most of the 80s. I travel by bus, or even cycle to most places. I must admit I have little money then. Well, may be not exactly true. I have lotsa money from scholarship that I receive as a student.Relatively

I was not flushed with money. It is hard to come by. But I have little commitment, if any.

Certainly we had enough. Life then was simple, and cheap. 50 cents will get by going anywhere in Kuala Lumpur by taking the mini buses. You struggled with the crowds, and the sudden twist and turn and stop. And the smell of the sweating passengers, including yourself.

That was life then.

I didn't eat at 5-star restaurant or at hotel. I ate at warung tepi jalan. I didn't pay top notch money to watch a concert in a glittering concert hall, unlike on Friday night.

But that's life then.

We were happy. Much happier. Or at least, I thought, I was.

Welcome back, Kembara. Let's turn back the clock. As I have said, I would have watched them all 3 nights. I really would, if I did not realize that I am over 50s and have just recovered from near death experience. So I did not. I thought at this age, I should at least heed to Kembara's song about being sesat di Kuala Lumpur, about poverty, about corruption.

And being big hearted - being Hati Emas.

And not spend money on my own personal enjoyment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Serenading Juria


In the 70s, specifically from 1974 onwards, we lived in a government bungalow located within the compound of the police barrack of Aulong, Taiping. I guess the bungalow was built for senior government officer, so for security reason, it is placed within the compound of the police barrack. One can't be at a safer place. Most of the time, the police officer on duty would be opening the main gate for us; at times, we would open it ourselves to show respect.

As I have mentioned in a-much-earlier entry (2010) - Beautiful homes of my souls, the barrack boys are of different materials than us. They were much more hardy and resilient. Tougher, if you must. Unlike us, I must admit.

I wrote about them being thick-skin having serenading a particular girl that caught their attention. Yes, they would, much to my amusement. I would never do such thing. Of course especially not today and certainly not during those years.
But the song in particular was not really a big hit song, so I can't find it over at Youtube and posted in together with my entry.

Until I uploaded it myself last night.

This is a lesser known song of Hail Amir, but in 1978, I would think, this girl Ju (or Juria) was The girl at the Aulong Barrack. Perfect. I was really amused with the boys' antics to remember it until today.

Serenading Juria

And I certainly would not forget during one of the rare occasions I was at home - circa 77/78, a group of the Berek kids would sing Juria, a song popularised by Hail Amir. And they would sing it out loud; loud enough for me to hear them and remember it.

Juriah, engkau cantik, engkau goes the lyric. I don't remember the whole thing now. It was not the most popular of Hail Amir's songs during those years, but there is a reason why the kids loved to sing this song in the 70's Aulong Police Station.

For obvious reasons, there was this (pretty) girl called Ju - I am not sure if her actual name is Juriah or the Ju is just an initial of a slightly different name, I think, living in the police quarters, and she was the object of their attentions and affections.

As for me during those years, there were already many pretty gals in Kota Bharu, so I had never been bothered with the Berek gals! Obviously, I am trying to justify that I have nothing to do with this episode.

And I would like to make full denial that I have anything to do with this! ;-)

I remember this incident because I thought they were funny, and downright brave - if not foolish, to be doing what they did. Actually I found it amusing. It reminds of movies where the boy would serenade the girl at their home - and sometimes they got kicked at their ass by the gal's dad. PRamlee also has similar scene with S Samsudin trying to woo the maid in one of his movie - was it Antara Dua Darjat? But of course Wak Karto would come to the 'rescue' much to his chagrin.

Brave indeed - these Berek kids. And they must have thick skin.


This is Juria, but not the Juria of the 70s. Of course I would not have a picture of the Barrack police Aulong's Juria.

This is the Japanese version Juria and a fashion icon in Japan.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Live-in Maid: Is it necessary?

I have never been a fan of the maid concept, especially live-in maid.

Why would anybody agree to work in another household, and to sleep and live there, and work day, and night, when there is no specific time to start working, and no ending time? It is like an open-ended thing, and with  no privacy of one's own.

And no dignity.

Yes, I do hire people to work in my office. But they have very specific terms of employment and it normally runs from 9-6 pm daily and for five days in a week.

Yes, there are many reasons for having maid or helper. To assist in the day to day running of the household. But I am not sure what the parents are doing then?

Oh I am sorry. They are both working people

But hang on a second, why are they both working? To get more money so that the family can live well, or perhaps just to making end's meet? Which one are they? Yalah, minyak dah naik harga dua puluh sen, teh tarik pun sama. There is not enough income earner in a family. I guess many have similar reasons for having maid. I don't have maid, had never had maids throughout my life and throughout my kids' lives, so I don't understand.

OK, I guess, everybody have their own reasons. I don't walk in your shoes, so we do what we need to do. Bik, buat air teh ya. While you are at it, why don't you goreng cekodok di dapur ya? Oh and clean up table. Basuh sekali pinggan di sinki. La, kenapa dibiar anak bermain sendiri? Tolong tengok2kan ya. Oh jangan lupa sapu daun2 dilaman, dan keluarkan sampah ya.

Jangan lupa cuci baju.

Eh hari dah hujan. Bik, jangan lupa jemuran!

Aah well.

It is one thing we work on whatever in our home. It is our home so if I wish to mow the lawn, it is my prerogative. I don't get paid for it. But I can choose to sleep all day in my living room, and no one will argue with me for doing that. So it is a big difference between voluntary and doing it as part and parcel of earning a living.

For the past year, I have been going to office very early. I normally leave home by 0530 hours and I would normally be in office by 0630 hours. No, it did not take me too long to reach office, especially at that hour. I normally spend at least 30 mins at the local mosque near my office for my early dawn prayer, before clocking in at my office.

No, I am not an exemplary boss, nor have I been an exemplary worker. I would vehemently deny that. ;) I just hate traffic, specifically traffic jam, so I would rather leave home in the wee hours of the morning than battling traffic at 7 am.

It is normally a blissful ride and the air is so fresh.

The maid washing the car at 5.30 in the morning. It is not that clear, but it is not my
 intention to have problems with my neighbours, so it is better it is not
clear so as not to identifythe location.. You could see the black figure
on the left side of the circle.
But I saw this scene last week. A maid cleaning up his boss' car at 0530 hours. Is it really necessary? I wonder what time she slept the night before, but normally it would be after everybody has gone to sleep, I am sure. 

Can one not clean up one's own car? Or if you are like me, well, I have a very fine looking dirty car, perhaps the finest looking  dirty car in KL. Hahaha.

It is one thing if she is preparing breakfast or making coffee. I would not mind having my cuppa at 0530 hours. I am sure that would wake up all my sleepy limbs. But washing cars?

Unless one's car is Lamborghini or a Ferrari!

Come on lah, have a maid if you must. But restrict the hours, and have specific tasks that she needs to undertake. Nothing more, it can be less. She should not be cleaning cars at 5 am in the morning.

If possible, do not have live-in maid; otherwise it will be difficult to have specific working hours, similar to office work. But I am sure if we try enough, we can do it. We now live in the 21st century. There is no need for slavery anymore. People have dignity too. Just because we have money, it does not mean we can hire people and work them for 20 hours.

And pay them pittance.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Arif Fauzan Othman: Remember his name!

Eclipse 1
I can't - for the life of me - explain about psychodynamic figurative that Arif Fauzan Othman is renowned for. In the world of arts, I am illiterate, uneducated and uncultured. We may be cousins, but we are world apart in artistic sense.

"Ojan," I texted him a couple of days earlier. "AbangMan will be at the gallery on Wednesday." 

Fortunately I was the only one that time, so I have a monopoly of his mind, and so he explained to me every single details of the paintings hanging at Arti Fine Art Gallery in Melawati.

"Man and mother nature," Arif Fauzan Othman said of the theme of his solo exhibition. The man in all his painting represents – well - Man. Men. Mankind. 

Shadow Beyond A Catastrophe.You can see the smoke billowing out on the foreground
And the destruction that follows him.

Look at Shadow Beyond A Catastrophe above. A man standing over what I perceive as the body of another man. Murder case? May be. You interpretation is as good as mine. But for sure it is a destruction by men on men.

The ladies in his painting do not (necessarily) represent – well – the womenfolk. As usual, they are bigger than that. They represent Mother Nature; Mother Earth if you must. No wonder the colour he chose are earth colours and grim. No wonder I can’t find smiles on their faces. They are not - unlike the man - gruesome; they are beautiful as usually they are, but they certainly look sad. The paintings are beauties in sadness.

A friend, one Soraya M remarked: "She's so pretty, in a sad and haunting way. Makes a good subject."

It does.  

Who is she? I did not ask in detail from the artist. Perhaps I never will. Sometimes there are things best left alone. And unknown. It will be more mysterious that way. I have seen a few pictures of her as shown by the artist, but I do understand that the two are sisters. She made pretty good muse for the artist.

We shall leave it at that.

Eclipse 2
Arif Fauzan admitted that it is easier to sell painting of the girls and a bit more difficult to sell man's painting. I have no doubt of that. The paintings of the girls are more pleasant to the eyes, even to a neutral like me - especially to neutrals like me! I could easily consider them adorning my walls, but would be hesitant to - errrr - consider the gal's counterparts..

I am not sure I can look at him on a daily basis. Another man - a stranger at that in my house? Definitely not! (Hahaha)

It can also be reflected in the sale of Arif's masterpieces. Only a couple of the Mother Nature series have not been sold from an entry of, say, 10. I would consider them sold out. But if I am not mistaken the paintings with the male character have not takers at that time of visiting.

In any case, I would think it is a good solo exhibition by Arif Fauzan. According to the Arti Fine Art gallery owner, one En Yusri, in the old days (read:70s or 80s), it is difficult to sell even a single painting. Things however have changed over the years. The fact that more than half have been sold speaks volume for Arif Fauzan's talent.

Things have certainly changed. People are more affluent nowadays, and more appreciative of work of art, and are now willing to spend over a masterpiece.

Even I would be willing to spend money on this piece - she has certainly caught my eyes. If only this piece is available, I'd pay the asking price. But then again, may be I am willing to say that since I can't have it regardless.
And to be honest, I would need to buy a new house just to hang Ambergris. It is that big. You would need an empty wall in a big living room. Make that a living hall and your hall would look elegant, I can promise you that. Ambergris is a lively piece; very unlike other pieces. May be because of the colour scheme. It is cheerful.

And I love the pose - the form, if you must. The setting has been carefully choreographed by the artist in his imagination. The girl is at peace; the setting is solitude.
The artist with the blogger with Ambergris. This is how big the painting is
Since that is unavailable, I would have to consider other alternative. I'd like to keep one of his painting at home. I already have one. So I decided on this piece. It is called Northern Light.
Northern Light
Northern Light may sound English - western to be precise but she represent the Malay demeanour with her attire and posing. It would suit my house decor, I believe. This would be coming to my home after 31 Oct, at the end of the exhibition. It is an investment. I'd pray that Arif Fauzan would become very big in the near future. And his work would appreciate in value!

But I am not buying to sell later. I am buying so that I have something I can pass down the generations!

Going back to his paintings, this is what the artist has to say; in Arif Fauzan's own words:

We live in the world of constant battle
Between Man and Mother Nature
The ones that should be living together
Not challenging one another
Intelligence morphed for more destruction
The faith is gone and so is humanity
For control and monopoly
In the name of freedom
freedom from our land'
freedom from our privacy
freedom from our will

Here are what I saw at the gallery that day.

Tree Hugger 1 series
Tree Hugger 2 series
Stain on Your Fingernails
Out of Devious Boxes

If you remember, in December 2013, I posted an entry called Old Painting by Othmansor. His real name is obviously Othman bin Mansor and of course he is related to Arif Fauzan Othman. He is the father.

You can read about the entry here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Membenarkan Yang Biasa, Membiasakan Yang Benar

Most of the time, I found riding a cab stressful.

It would normally be a matter of time when - not if - I would be cheated out of my fare.

Don't get me wrong. The last of time I rode one to Bukit Bintang from my office, nothing unusual happened. The last time a friend forgot his computer bag, it was returned by the cab driver who operates out of Bandar Tun Razak.

So it could merely be my impression. As people say, susu sebelanga rusak dik nila setitik, though again, I am under the impression that there are more than a setitik nila as far as errant cab drivers are concerned.
This is not Pak Sujono's cab. I did not hire nor can I afford this ride .
For the first time, I decided not to wait for my normal Bluebird Cab in Cengkareng. At peak hour, they did not seem to be coming at all. So instead I took Pak Sujono's Proton Persona Borobudur cab. As we were heading out of Sukarno-Hatta's Terminal 3, we passed by the flyover to downtown. That exit was manned by Pak Polisi, so traffic was under controlled even though it was peak hour.

So he said, "Well, only when the police are there!"

I laughed. I told not to be too hard on Indonesia. It is the same in Malaysia, though things are very different in developed country.

"Benar," he replied. "It will take many generations to correct the wrongs."

The he said something that caught my attention, though I have to ask him to say a few times to digest the content. Of course we were speaking in Bahasa, so it took me a bit longer to digest it. Be he said it beautifully.

"Janganlah kita membenarkan yang biasa; seharusnya kita membiasakan yang benar, " he continued.

I paused for many moments to mull over these words.I even had to ask him to repeat a few times.

"We have to go against the traditions, and do only the correct things. Traditions do not mean that they are correct. We may have done them for generations, but then, many a time we did not know any better. For example, if anyone dies, according to the tradition, the tahlil sessions will be conducted for 7 days and again at the 40th day. It causes a lot of hardship to the deceased's family. This is not right, but this is the tradition in Java. Muhammadiyah would not allow this anymore."

I nodded in agreement. Whole-heartedly.

"Have you heard of the predator fish and the small fish?" he asked me. I said no.

Normally they can't be together in an aquarium for obvious reason, but someone had done this experimentation. They put the small fish in a small glass compartment (in the aquarium), so the big, predator fish would attack the small fish to eat them. But of course, the predator fish did not realize about the glass wall, so it keeps on hitting the glass wall.

And it hurts them.

"It happens many time such that when the small fish is released to the main aquarium, it was never attacked again by the predator fish!" he concluded.

I'd take the story at face value and I believe we can be "conditioned" in similar fashion. 

If we have a good system, everybody would follow them. Look at Singapore, he continued, even Indonesians would follow the law there and would be a very disciplined driver in Singapore.

I smiled. Of course, I noted in my mind, even the supposedly discipline Singapore driver would drive as recklessly as their Malaysian counterparts when they are driving on the highways of Peninsular!

That's Pak Sujono for you. He seems like a well read and knowledgeable person. But he was only schooled up to Kelas 5. He told me so. I guess that that would be standard 5 in primary school. "Dulu bapak saya seorang preman and he had not encouraged me to do well in school."

But do not get him wrong. He did not blame his dad. Just telling the fact as it is.

I guess he learned a lot in the university of life. He even quoted me Ayat 85 in Surah al-Baqarah. I can probably quote you the first 10 verses of the same chapter!

We talked about many more stories from Sukarno and the ideological war that went into Indonesia's independence, between him and this two other buddies. This uneducated cab driver from Java is really educated about life as a whole.

Thank you Pak Sujono for a very enlightening ride.  To me, he is a Porche class cab driver and a great ambassador for Indonesia.


Actually I did not try to argue with him on the fish story. I read about fish 30 years ago, just after I returned home in 1986. Monash would send me their post graduate magazine to me, I am not sure whether it was yearly or twice yearly. I remember about one of the article was about fish and whether would feel pain (as we human would).

I am not sure about the conclusion then. But browsing through the net, I am told that fish do not feel pain as we would. They do not have the neuro-physiological capacity as we do.

Fortunately for us.
Because if they do, we might be banned from eating fish.
The hook of a fishing lure is stuck in the upper jaw of this rainbow trout. Whether the animal feels pain is not verified beyond any doubt, according to a new study.
Credit: Alexander Schwab

Read about it here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Damba di Dada

This song reminds me of Dungeon, the coastal town of  the state of Terengganu. A town with no shopping mall.

But with a beautiful beach. Perhaps the most beautiful beach in Malaysia.

I had been working for sometime by then, but may be only a year in Terengganu, when I decided to move from Kerteh. I had to commute daily as it was 30 km from office, but luckily I have friends to pool car with.

She was a not the most glamorest of singers in the late 80s. May be because she was not a looker, but I was caught by her voice and the Malay melodies of most of her songs. Her album has no killer song, but I must say most of her songs are candies to my ears.

A time when when rock music was the music of the time, so her keroncong and Malay melody laden songs were a breath of fresh air to me.

Then I was living in a kampung house - on stilt. 

Simple music for simple time.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Syed Haron - Songwriter/Composer Extraordinaire

"Tuan Syed Haron!" I called him,

He turned around, and I grabbed his hand and shook it. Not knowing me obviously, he was puzzled by the attention this stranger is giving him.

"Thank you for Hujan, thank you for Warisan and thank you for Hanya Lagu. I think Hanya Lagu is yours, right? " I said, while still holding his hand. (Hanya Lagu was his first composition for Sudirman that caught my attention in his first LP in 1978.)

"You remember alll his songs?" his wife exclaimed, listening intently to my monologue with her husband. "I was brought up with Sudir's songs, dan tentunya mesti ada lagu-lagu tuan Syed. Masa itu saya sekolah menengah." I replied.

He squealed in delight, obviously embarrassed by the attention, and clearly overwhelmed by the occasion. Being a humble man, suddenly he was surrounded by more and more people wanting to take pictures with him.

Hujan and Kepulanganku are probably his two best songs; they are a delight to my ears. Kau Akan Kembali, Tak Perlu Diucapkan and Hari Itu Dalam Kenangan were amongst the other many hits he had with his best buddy Sudirman. Untukmu is another pleasant song to me. Beautiful. Back then I would only know him by name, and had never seen his picture. They were all beautiful songs and I can only then admire this gifted songwriter.

Warisan has been used many times over, over many events and occasions, especially Merdeka day celebrations. Yes, I don't understand why he is not being recognized and rewarded by the government. He deserved better for sure. Lesser mortal had been rewarded much more.

Thank you again, tuan Syed Haron. Your songs live on in my mind, and I am sure I not exaggerating if I say in thousands others. Make that in million others!

The boys also memorializing the occasion with this picture


You can read my take on Kepulanganku here. Otherwise here is the song.

 Hari Itu Dalam Kenangan

I uploaded this song. Now with over 24,000 views and 77 likes.

This is the first song he penned. I like this song. It is close to my heart.