October 30, 2010 § 1 Comment
The concert at Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS on 12th October was rather spectacular for those who showed up and the people involved. It was not a full house filled with unknown strangers as audiences. We, Malaysia’s National Laureate who is well loved by the Rakyat, Datuk A. Samad Said and I, an aspiring mother, who happens to sing and write songs, were surrounded by very supportive close friends and fans we have never met up close and personal. It was an evening so special as it was the first time for the Sasterawan Negara (National Laureate) to experience reading his poems over the music I had composed from his beautifully constructed poems Suara Tulus, Rindu Ibu and Khazanah. It was special for me for many reasons I can’t even write in just one article.
It meant the world in a way. Such an honour to be given the opportunity to be singing your own pieces with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and trying to depict the meaning of a national laureate’s poem and making the listener feel the emotion and understand it. It is plain hard work. I just felt and still feel, truly blessed. I am not trying to be a great poet or compete with the people who have struggled and fought their fights in justifying the arts but I just had to write the songs over these words. Why? Because I know I will never be as brilliant as they are. And so, I just sing use whatever means I have to create melodies that rhyme with my dear mentor’s words. These words are a Malaysian heritage and I treasure them dearly.
When I first received the music scores arranged by Ramlan Imam, I was speechless and proud to see it in the full form, alhamdulillah. Then, when the orchestra played the pieces, I was in awe to hear every line. I almost cried there and then. Oh yes, the stage was full of panic due to only one rehearsal that morning and the concert was at 6.30 that very evening. The musicians at this hall are like every other Philharmonic Orchestra musicians in the world: straight out professional and brilliant. And what was more surprising was that I didn’t remember how to sight read (Malaysians call it taugeh which also means chinese sprouts). Due to pressure, it came back very quickly, at least as far as the tempo, movements and bars were concerned. It was nice to be in control of all these elements when it is your work and the musicians respected it. I noticed how difficult it was for a non classically trained singer to sing with a 20 piece ensemble consisting of just strings, violincello, the double bass, harp, flute. For them it was also a challenge because, this was their first time playing to back up a poet.
It is very different from singing in a Big Band where you have a rhythm section and have someone keep the groove. In classical terms, it’s hard to say: let’s groove it or feel the groove. It is as if you are talking English, but you have to speak a different accent like for example Malaysian English or American English, or Australian English but it is still English. SO IS MUSIC. There’s adagio, forte, allegro, oh the terms. In contemporary music, you have funk, blues, rock terms. It was fun though I must say.
Our dear Sasterawan Negara was the coolest guy on stage that evening. His presence has always been something close to a light coming through your window when you’re in the dark. However, there was a moment when he came backstage after reciting Rindu Ibu and sat and spoke to me slowly with a little rekindling of sadness in his voice, “This is the first time I cried reading Rindu Ibu. Not sure why. Maybe it was the music, the hall, the whole ambience…” (His exact words were “Ini pertama kali Bapak menangis membaca Rindu Ibu. Selalunya ok. Tapi mungkin kerana muziknya, dewannya, ambience nya..”
In the background during this break, Foo Mei Yi, the guest pianist featured that night played Debussy’s avant garde pieces, which I think help create drama to the presentation of Pak Samad’s paintings from Kata Luhur. And then the soothing harp solo. Can’t recall the pieces the harpist was playing but I particularly enjoyed it. As the finale, I sang the vocal piece of Suara Tulus but it ended too soon. Maybe it felt like a cliffhanger moment but I went home still hearing the harp playing in my head non stop for two days.
I do hope that I will get this chance again, with Pak Samad and any orchestra hall for that matter. There was this certain unspoken feeling that everyone did not need to say. It was a wonderful and memorable hour of just music, poetry and art. Onstage, I remember vividly that although the spotlight was on me, I was just a tiny speck on earth. I thought of Al-Khaliq, The Creator.
I thank everyone who has been involved in the making of this project and the DFP management. I thank Pak Samad and his family for their continuous support. I thank those who came and wished they could but couldn’t. 🙂 And most thankful to The Almighty for this blessing, Alhamdulillah.