Monday, April 28, 2008

Keroncong in the midst

Updated: 3 May 2008

Dateline: Sunday 27 April 2008
Objective: Searching for Malay music at the Craft Centre at Jalan Conlay

Early this year, when we went to the Education Fair, while chatting with a lecturer from the International College of Music (ICOM), I lamented about the dearth of music notes for Malay songs. Arif and Akmal are so immersed in classical musics and they would have their fun in the sun browsing the music section at Kino, or for that matter any other book store in KL.

But we can't seems to find notes for Malay songs.

Don't get me wrong, one can find books selling guitar chords. This you can find in abundant in bookstore for the Malays like to strum the guitars by the roadside by sunset.

But one can't find those meant for piano (piano music sheets) or violin.

Sorry I digress.

To cut the story short, we were told by the lecturer to go to the Craft Centre at Jalan Conlay; so last week, we decided to head to the Centre despite being unconvinced of the validity of the information. Afterall, I thought the craft centre is meant for handicraft and music notes are not known as handicraft.

Lurking around the main hall where the gift shop is situated, we could not find anything resembling to what we were looking for. No gambus or other instrument was sold there. Asking the information counter, my apprehension was answered and the answer was an emphatic no.

However, since we were there, we took the opportunity to browse around at the artist colony.

The nice setting at the Centre - this is the artist colony.

First stop was Galeri Kantan where a husband and wife team work. Abu Hassan, specializing in abstract, while Shima specializes in kampung scenes in monochrome. We were taken by one brownish scene of a kampung house. If I have RM5,000 to spare I would commission her to paint one for us.

Nizar Kamal Ariffin of Galeri Anggerik on the other hand specializes in sculpting mask, which is not my cup of tea. But I must admit, while I love the music and I am glad that Arif and Akmal have in many ways satisfy my curiosity in music, I admire painters and artists.

One can find info on him here.

Artist : Nizar Title : Mask Series (Consciousness)
Size : 91cm X 91cm
Year : 2001
Medium : Acrylic on Canvas
Price : RM3800.00

I told him the real reason we were there - that is to find music notes. "Oh I see. I play in a keroncong outfit," he confessed, "and in July we are having a show at Bank Negara. If you are interested, I will invite you to the performance."

Music to my ears indeed.

"And I do have something for you. I used to train under Dr Arif Ahmad and I have a few books by him that you can have," he offered. It was a dream come true. Dr Arif Ahmad is a well known song writer (Mohon Kasih among others) and a keroncong advocate.

So he took out a signed book by Dr Arif Ahmad, complete with notes and lyric. Fantastic. What we have been looking for. I need to visit UKM or the Pekanbuku UM and buy the actual book.

So now we have in our collection notes on PRamlee's songs (2 books), Keroncong from Malaysia & Singapura, Keroncong Indonesia III and Keroncong by Ariff Ahmad.

Listening to Arif playing the songs on his German violin is a real pleasure. It is worth all the money I had spent on his piano and violin lessons not to mention on the instrument itself. All the screeching noise that he had made while practising his violin is now replaced with the beautiful melodies of the yesteryears many of which were made for the violin. You should listen Sri Bunian, Tunggu Sekejap, Ibu or Jeritan Batinku (PRamlee), Jauh jauh (Jimmy Boyle) or Kenang Daku Dalam Doamu. At times, Akmal chipped in and back the play with his guitar.

So the ICOM lecturer was right - that we would find beautiful music at the Craft Centre. Many of these artists are multi-talented. They can paint, sclpture and play good music.

Like M Nasir - he is such a good artist himself, while making beautiful musics.

I am so glad we made it to Jalan Conlay and will definitely be back to check out many other things worth my time there.

We were mesmerized by the wonderful tropical garden

And of course by this wonderful Marhaban group - the group in the background. Not the front two! I was never a fan until today.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I love a rainy night (day)


Are you the laughing-in-the-rain type of person, or the crying-in-the-rain type? Or neither perhaps. To the uniniatiated, both are wonderful songs from the past.

I read a blog last night about the kind of weather that has been hitting KL the past month - he was basically lamenting about the gloomy days and how it affects him. Every afternoon we would have dark clouds hanging over KL and within minutes it would be pouring cats and dogs. Many dreaded it especially if it rains just prior to the peak hour as traffic jams would be the order of the day.

The view from my table - the dark clouds starting to hover over KL from the right.

For me, with no traffic jam to battle, I love the rains - anytime of the day in fact. I love to hear the sound of the rain hitting on the roof - unfortunately we don't have corrugated zink roof anymore; I love the sound of the wind carrying the rain. I love watching dark cloud gathering and hovering over KL. I love it when suddenly KLCC and KL Tower suddenly disappear in front of my very eyes - we have no need for David Copperfield to make them disappear.

(And yes, I am fully aware of the potential perils of the dark clouds and the rains, much like the stories the Qur'an, but that would be another blog.)

I love the cool wind saturated with water. I love sitting at my verandah watching the rains dripping into the pond. Switch on the underwater spotlight and you would see diamonds whenever the raindrops hit the surface of the pond. Now I can understand the true meaning of Sudir's song. Lovely.

I especially love a rainy night. The sound of the rain outside my bedroom is so soothing that I would not remember all my problems I had during the day. About the only time I could oversleep (that by my definition is past 6 am) is when it rains in the wee hours of the morning.

Make you really feel good to pull the blanket over and continue sleeping, eh? Or to the incurable romantics, cuddling perhaps?

I especially love the air after the rain. It is so refreshing like no other time. I guess that freshly charged negative ions in the air have that invigorating effect on me.

Do you remember the scene from Antara Dua Darjat at Anggerek Villa where it was pouring hard? It is eerie. Or the scene where PRamlee and friends had to push Saadiah's car in the pouring rain? Aah, so romantic! Who would not remember the scene where PRamlee's was singing Tunggu Sekejap while it was raining outside.

Well, as a tribute to the rain - the gift of life from heaven, if I may put it this way, which we are getting a lot at this moment, here is a collection of songs about rains. Give me a gloomy day anytime. It makes my heart glow with the anticipation of the rain!

I love a rainy night - Eddie Rabbit

I love a rainy night
such a beautiful sight
I love to hear the thunder
Watch the lightning
When it lights up the sky
You know it makes me feel good
Well I love a rainy night
It's such a beautiful sight
I love to feel the rain
On my face
To taste the rain on my lips
In the moonlight shadow

Crying in the rain - Everly Brothers

Raindrops falling from heaven
Could never take away my misery
Since we’re not together
I pray for stormy weather
To hide these tears
I hope you’ll never see

Laughter in the rain - Neil Sadaka
Strolling along country roads with my baby
It starts to rain, it begins to pour
Without an umbrella we're soaked to the skin
I feel a shiver run up my spine
I feel the warmth of her hand in mine

One of the most beautiful Malay song about the rain

Hujan - Sudirman

Hujan yang turun bagaikan mutiara
Berkilau bersinar berkerdipan
Subur menghijau bumi terbentang
Dan bayu berpuput lembut
Cinta yang bersemi di waktu hujan turun
Menyirami ketandusan hati
Dan hujan turut mengiringi
Engkau pergi
Selembut hujan bercurahan
Begitulah cinta ini
Semesra bumi yang disirami
Begitulah hati ini
Hujan yang turun bersama airmata
Bersama pedih bersama rindu
Kau datang dan kau pergi jua
Rindu lagi

How about this song by PRamlee? Timeless.

Tunggu Sekejap - PRamlee (Sarjan Hassan)
Tunggu sekejap, wahai kasih
Kerana hujan masih renyai
Tunggu sekejap
Dalam pelukan asmara ku
Jangan bimbang
Walaupun siang akan menjelma
Malam ini Belum puas ku bercumbu dengan dinda
Tunggu sekejap wahai kasih
Tunggulah sampai hujan teduh
Mari ku dendang
Jangan mengenang orang jauh
Jangan pulang, jangan tinggalkan daku seorang
Tunggu sekejap kasih tunggu

Hujan oh Hujan, lekas berhenti (Uji/Hail)
Hujan oh Hujan, usah turun lagi
Lama sudah ku nanti

Masihkah kau ingat (Kopratasa)
Masihkah kau ingat kita berlari-lari
Di kaki langit mencari pelangi
Lalu hujan turun kita basah bersama
Masihkah kau ingat Masihkah kau ingat

Or Who would not remember Jose Feliciano's Rain.

Rain - Jose Feliciano
Listen to the pouring rain
Listen to it pour,
And with every drop of rain
You know I love you more
Let it rain all night long,
Let my love for you go strong,
As long as we're together
Who cares about the weather?

You should watch this beautiful video.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cinta Pertama

Kasih, bibirmu merah delima
Halus, seperti rambutmu
Wangi, bagai angin senja
Sesuci semurni kasihmu

Aku terperangkap dalam pelukan
Cinta pertama

So goes the song Cinta Pertama. I have always loved this song in the 70s. It was sung by an Indonesian girl group The Twins. And a couple of years ago, I was searching for this song in Jakarta; without knowing its title and the singer, it was hopeless. I thought that the name of the song was Dua Insan as that is the opening phrase of the song. I could not find it, though I did my best trying to humm this song to the sales girls there. The song was much older than them, I guess, for them to know it.

What I also didn't know is that this song was written by Bapak Idris Sardi, Indonesia's foremost violin player. To listen to Cinta Pertama (instrumental), click here.

I have the privilege to attend his concert at Istana Budaya last night, and he enthralled me with his skills. He is that good, even at 70. While he had won many awards and honoured in many ways, he was so humble. At the end of each song, while getting thunderous applause of appreciation from the crowd, he was pointing upward towards the sky, indicating that his skill is a gift from God, and that all the adulation should be given to Him and Him alone.

At times though, I wish Mustafa Fuzer Nawi had arranged the songs minus the horn section. In fact at times I wish that he would have chosen perhaps only a quartet of instrument (piano, guitar, a group of violins etc) to accompany Idris Sardi. That would have showcased his talent.

In last night performance, at times, the National Symphony Orchestra was simply too overwhelming. Even at times I feel the backup singers, Enam Dara, was not necessary. At times of course. Otherwise both did a good job. As always.

I would give him the thumb-up for Mawar Berduri, Dealova, Layu Sebelum Berkembang, Widuri and a host of PRamlee's songs. But I was eagerly waiting for Cinta Pertama. He didn't disappoint me.

It was not until at 10 pm (it was a no break concert) when he started to speak after performing practically non-stop. He starts learning violin at the age of 6. It was purely classical for him. If he learned the jazz, it would be pure jazz. He would wake up at 5 am to practise and there would always be a cane if he didn't or if he didn't do well in his practice.

Apparently he had been in Malaya performing in 1960 with a bunch of household names Indonesian singers. Bing Slamet (Nurlela, Serunai Malam), Sam Saimun (DiWajahmu Kulihat Bulan - the song I would melt for; and how I wish Arif would learn to play this song soon on the violin), (Titiek Puspa - she was young then (remaja was his word), and so sexy, according to Idris). They were here for a month going from state to state, even Terengganu.

According to Mak she has seen them performed, but didn't remember Idris Sardi. I am sure he was backing up the singers then.

All in all, he performed only 3 of his original songs while he had written about 800 songs. In fact he performed more PRamlee' songs to ensure the audience would have a good time. For the record Mohram (Mohar on flute and Ramlee on percussion) also took centre stage performing. I ho they will stick to their forte and be extremely good at it.

I do hope his tale would inspire Arif and Akmal to work as hard. He would not be where he is without hard work on his part, despite the talent that he has. One should be single minded pursuing one's purpose in life.


met with Cikgu Hizam and Cikgu Faridah at Istana Budaya. Both of them were the Hariri's teacher with Cikgu Faridah being my Standard 3 teacher in 1972 in Lenggong. I have written about her for last year's teachers' day celebration. Read it here.
Mak chatting with Cikgu Hizam and Cikgu Faridah.

The Hariris while waiting to go in at Istana Budaya.

it easy to just address someone as merely Pak Idris Sardi or as the host that night addressed him, Mas Idris. No Tun, no Tan Sri. No big head!

The day Dr M paid for my lunch

We arrived in Tioman one late morning in Aug 1987. The flight from Subang on a Twin Otter MAS flight was uneventful - the way I like a flight to be. We could not have made this trip without an uncle PC Ya sponsoring this trip for a 3 day 2 night honeymoon.

Upon arrival at the Tioman Island Resort, we had to wait a bit as the room was not ready. As we sat on the sofa at the lobby, I could not help but noticed a Dr Siti Hasmah-look-alike sitting on the next sofa. We glanced at each other; but to be honest, I didn't bat an eye lid as I was not aware of her coming to Tioman.

Back in the room later, we could not help but noticed the sound of heli hovering the island resort.

But then I was naive. That was my first stay in a 'hotel', and definitely a first on a island resort. I thought the scenes were typical - I must have watched too many American movies!

At noon, we decided to head for lunch. At the cafe, we say a group of people having lunch, with a buffet spread. So we approached the buffet table - thinking that this is nasik campur stalls, pick up a plate and start filling it up with food.

As I have said before, being a first timer to the hotel culture - I had just started working a year before, I was puzzled how we were going to pay for the food. So I called upon the waiter to ask him if they are going to estimate the cost of the food we took.

He looked very puzzled with my question. "You can take anything here," he responded.

So we continue eating; but to be honest I didn't feel good about it. I knew food was expensive in Tioman. Then a bottle of coke would cost over RM3.50 and RM3.50 was a lot of money then, especially for me. I have to make sure we would only pay what we eat; nothing more, nothing less!

So I called another waiter and asked the same question. "Oh, you mean you are not with the PM's group?" he asked me. "PM? What's PM's group? The Prime Minister?" I asked him back.

"The PM is on an official visit to Tioman," he replied, "and this is the lunch for the group." (It could be an official visit to Rompin actually.)

I was embarrassed by then. It was obvious by then to the waiter, we were not part of the entourage. "So, how?" I asked him.

"Tak pa lah, abang dah dekat sini. Makan sajalah," he said. (Nevermind, since you are here already, just eat I guess.) He practically saved the day for me.

So we quickly eat our foods at his behest, not making eye contact with the rest of them, finished them off and making our way out from the dining hall.

Only later it clicked to my mind that it was Dr Siti Hasmah at the sofa and I didn't quite recognize her. I hope she didn't think we were 'sombong'. Honestly it didn't click to my mind that she was her. Obviously that was the last thing on my mind then! ;-) Obviously too was the sound of heli hovering the island resort. It was the heli carrying Dr M!

And I guess that was the first and the last time a Prime Minister would be paying for my lunch.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Time Travel: Can we change the past?

No, you can’t.

At least not according to Alexander Hartdegen, Professor of "Applied Mechanics and Engineering" at Columbia University, New York.

“I could come back a thousand times; she would have died a thousand ways”, so said Prof Alexander Hartdegen on his (second) attempt to save his fiancee Emma from being murdered during a robbery attempt at a park by travelling to the past in order to change it. She died (again) when she was hit by a carriage the second time around, after he managed to intercept her prior to the time she was murdered during a robbery.

Alexander Hartdegen was determined to prove that time travel is possible. His determination is turned to desperation by a personal tragedy that now drives him to want to change the past. Tried as he did, but he simply could not do it - change the past, that is.

But yes according to Dr Sam Beckett.

“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished .... He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.”

So can we or can’t we?

Never mind that both characters are fictional! ;-)


Well, the first movie was from a novel by H G Wells published in 1895 and was made into movies in 1960 and 2002. The 2002 movie starred Guy Pearce and was directed by Wells' great grandson Simon Wells, and it incorporated a revised plot of paradoxes, which I hope to touch later.

The second character was taken from a popular TV Series The Quantum Leap starring Scott Bakula.

From Wikipedia:

Quantum Leap is an American science fiction television series that ran for 96 episodes from March 1989 to May 1993 on the NBC network. Reruns will air in primetime at 9pm on ION Television starting Monday, April 7, 2008 [1].

The plot involved scientist Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) leaping to various points in time, usually constrained within the period of his own lifetime.

The show overlaps a number of genres, including science fiction, family drama, comedy, social commentary and nostalgia, thereby acquiring a broad range of fans. Protagonist Sam Beckett occasionally has minor encounters with celebrities such as Buddy Holly and Michael Jackson as youths, often helping to inspire their eventual fame. These are examples of a type of predestination paradox.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Malaysia thru the eyes of a foreigner

When he first entered my car when I picked him up at the hotel in Bangi on Friday, he chided me for changing the radio station (from Klasik Nasional) to Light and Easy. I was just being polite; I thought he would not be able to stand Malay classics.

I told him that even my two engineers - both twenty somethings - could not handle my kind of music, much so a foreigner. I thought he would be having an ear cancer - to quote an old friend berating my Sudir music in the 1980.

"I didn't come to KL to be listening to George Michael," he said. "I want to listen to Malaysian songs."

So I meekly changed the station back to my favourite, lowering the volume a bit just in case he (and another American friend, Peter) could not handle songs from the fifties.

So I knew then he would be different. Very different from other foreigners that I had known over the years who would not give a damn over local food and fruits.

I thought I would have to bring him to KLCC and KL Tower, just to showcase him KL, but no; he wanted to visit a market.
"A market? Why would you want to go to a market?" I asked him. "I just want to see how Malaysians live their lives," he replied.

OK, I bring you to Central Market," I said, noting that this is where many tourists would go. I even told him that the last time I brought his son there, he seems to enjoy him.

But on the way to KL, suddenly I saw a night market at Bandar Tun Razak. So we decided to stop and let him savour the sight, and the smell of a Malaysian night market. I even lent him my camera and let him take the pictures that attract him and here are what he took.

This Andrew savouring 3 pieces of durian at the parking lot near Kg Congo in Tun Razak. He didn't bat an eye lid smelling the mercaptan-sulfur like smell and was surprised when I told him that durian is banned at hotels, train and aeroplane. I think we should be able to export more durian to Holland, where he currently lives.

Below is yours truly picking up a fruit for Andrew.

The rests of the pictures were taken by Andrew himself.

These guys were making curry puff.

He seems fascinated with the fresh fish available at the market.

He loves the mangoes. I bought him a kilogram and he told me he could not finish them all (5 pieces). So I said, "if you can't, you can pass me back before you leave." He later told me that his first mango was so good, and when he had the second, it was the best mango he had ever tasted!

And he took the rests home with him.

One can't get a better compliment than that!

He must be fascinated with the satay. The night before, we had satay Hj Samuri in Kajang. We finished off everything. Chicken, beef and -guess what? - liver!

This is Andrew having dinner with yours truly at Saloma.

Monday, April 14, 2008

"Put the shrimp on the barbie"

as a popular phrase in Australia goes....

I was praying hard that rain would come early and leave early too. In some ways, my prayer was answered. It came at 3 pm, but didn't subside till about 5 pm. It however came again around 6 and drizzle a bit through out the night.

(On the other hand, Sir Alex would not invoke God's name to pray for a winning match for Man United. He said that there are more important things to ask from God, and winnning football is not one of them!)

But it is good enough I guess. Drizzle or not, the barbeque has to go one.

I thought I would have to supply everybody with a gas mask if we were to BBQ indoor - with all the smokes it would generate, but with only the drizzle out there, we managed do it near the edge of the verandah away from the door, so in the end no one would have any need to wear the mask.

I thought since we have not been barbecuing for so long, it would be time for one. Especially with Mak around, having just came back from a month in Australia.

Well, everybody was here. Well almost. Practically everything was finished off that night. No chance for the BBQ meat to be included in the morning nasik goreng or something.

The sausages were a hit with the kids, but the adults were more eyeing on the prawns.

All the meat on the barbie. The shrimp too, I must add. The 'Aussies' love putting shrimp on their barbie!

Akmal and two of my fav nieces helping out; well, enjoying themselves I guess. And posing too if I may add. It is a jungle out there where we had the BBQ.

Yours truly just tukang start api; batu 'ronson' to be precise, if you remember the term!

Mak & Farah

Mak, Farah and Ani chatting at the verandah.

The scenes at the dining table. Well beyond the barbecued meats, laksa, karipap, cheese cakes were served. It has been awhile since the last gathering of the Hariris.

I guess these are the last remnants of the night still on the barbie.

Ata, Shikin and Shasha.

The budding pianist Iman, showing off her lesung pipit.

Where would kids be on a drizzling night if not in front of the PC?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Modernize the Religious Department please

I am feeling the chore of maintaining this blog.

For more than two years, I work independently out of my own garage and I would alway find time to do things that would give me the most pleasure i.e. writing. I am beginning to think that those days are beyond me.

I hope not!

Anyway, when there is a will, there is a way, I guess. So here I am, trying my level best to keep pounding my soon-to-die HP notebook. I know I have a responsibility to keep this computer alive as Arif has been wanting this one for himself, but we shall see.

I went to the Pejabat Kadhi Kajang on Monday.

And I can't resist saying, "No, I am not getting a divorce nor am I getting married again!" though I know I might get brick-bats for making such insensitive joke whenever one made a remark about such office.

Can't help it, ahh!

The view from the waiting area at Pejabat Kadhi Kajang. I would be able to hear every single words of issues being discussed at this inquiry counter. Shouldn't they be accorded a small room where conversation is more private? Anyway, that's my two sisters at the counter and my bro-in-law. Mum is waiting too for the day when another of her daughter would get married - hopefully soon, one down, one more to go!

Actually one of my sis is getting married and for some reasons I am not willing to disclose, she can only get married with a court declaration. Which is not problem, really.

I found the office to be backward with the waiting area for enquiries not private enough.

They should have made it ala income tax department (or any other ultra modern government departments) and there should be small rooms available for consulting away from the the peering eyes of the public there.

I know while I was there for about 45 mins, that this young couple wanted to 'rujuk' but they were in the dark of the whole process. They need a counsellor who could advice them away from the leery eyes and ears of the public (like me!).

I think you would know the kind of cases that would go to this office. All kind of kawin, cerai, nafkah etc and I am quite sure all would want some privacy when talking about the case. Can't our religious officers realize this? Aren't we in the most developed state in Malaysia, and the Pejabat Kadhi can't even give us a small room to discuss?

My eldest sis also mentioned that at one time, they were even scolded by the officers for wrongly filling up the form. Petty, I thought. Is this the kind of religious officers serving us? Not everybody is fit to serve the public in any capacity, be it he is a religious person or not. It needs the personality and it needs training.

I wonder too if our religious officers at these offices are trained with the modern knowledge of psychology and conselling, beyond the religious rules and laws.

I think we should be modernizing our syariah system in line with the modernization of the world we currently live in. The Kadhi office too should be made user friendly.

For one, the office is set to service us Muslims and they are there to serve us. It should be just that, and not the other way round.