Month: March 2009

For The Record: My Life Exploring Music

by Ahmad Izham Omar (The New Straits Times, March 30, 2009)

Music?

“Why did you go into music? Why did music become your career of choice?”

I’ve been asked this many times throughout my life.

Right now I’d like to declare that sometimes these questions are not the sincere hey-that’s-interesting-tell-me-more-cos-I-want-to-find-out! type. No-sirree.

Sometimes these questions are more the don’t-you-have-something-more-life-worthy-to-do-like-law-or-medicine-or-being-a-magistrate kind?

I think my fellow musicians will know exactly what I mean.

So for my very first foray in writing a column about music, I’d like to defend my fellow musicians, music students, rocker wannabes and anybody who have stepped into the seemingly deep, dark and dangerous world of being a music professional.

For after years of being peppered with this cynical and slightly sinister line of questioning, I have learnt to turn the tables around and come out victorious. After years of pressure, I have learnt how to reply with a strong conviction.

Yes people, after many years under this verbal oppression, I can now answer the question “Why did you take up music?” with confidence, a huge smile on my face and a dash of the oh-so-cool professionalism that would actually even induce relief from the listening party.

Indulge me.

So why music?

IT HELPS TO OPEN UP YOUR MIND

Music is not simply a random placing of musical notes. There are strict structures and rules that every musician needs to follow, yes, even punk rockers.

From just 12 notes, millions of different songs have come through the ages sounding individually different (well, unless, my friend, you’ve been listening to the Stock, Aitken and Waterman productions for Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue).

And the most skillful of musicians can effortlessly improvise, creating an instant work of art on top of a strict timing structure and from only 12 notes.

It’s like painting a masterpiece on top of a strict mathematical equation and limited tools. A dazzling combination of fluidity and logic, all culminating in a work of spontaneous and instant art from the most scarce of resources.

Yes, music teaches us to be creative on our feet, knowing that there will always be a new way to do something, that there will be more than one solution to any situation even with limited options (I can hear the collective sigh of relief from all of you who are currently sending your children to music classes now).

Even doctors agree, dispensing numerous tips on getting unborn babies to listen to Bach. Bach and Baroque music is sublimely beautiful and yes, ingeniously arithmetic.

By now, the person listening to my answer of “Why music?” would already be preparing a “But music is not astrophysics, my friend” reply. But before he or she could utter those words I would then quickly say…

MUSIC TEACHES YOU TEAMWORK

Nothing beats the teamwork of a group of musicians that play together. They interact with one another, allowing each musician to explore his or her instrument creatively, yet everyone works together to make beautiful music.

Listen to the ways arrangers would put together different musical instruments to create different moods.

Each instrument has its own part, but in an ensemble they contribute to create a work of art more beautiful than they could have achieved alone.

MUSIC IS WORK THAT ACTUALLY MEANS SOMETHING

I love the different feelings I get when I listen to different music. People say that music is the soundtrack of our lives. I truly and wholeheartedly believe in that statement.

We remember different snatches of music when we remember different memories. Music would be able to make us laugh, cry, feel depressed or elated, sometimes both at the same time.

In other words, music makes us feel alive.

Isn’t it great that we are able to be involved in works that capture the imaginations of people? Isn’t it great that we get to make a very powerful product, able to stir up emotions in people on a daily basis? (let’s see astrophysics do that)

And isn’t it great that we can contribute to the progression and evolution of our very own culture?

And believe you me, this piece of our culture, if done right, could be a potentially lucrative export.

We have the songwriters, we have the producers; heck, we even have the talent. All we need is a strong foundation to launch. And being a part of the creation of that foundation is not just a job, my friend. It’s a calling.

And usually by this time, the listener to my passionate defence of my fellow musicians would be heaving a sigh of relief, finally converted to be a fan of the music industry, and would walk away feeling that maybe he or she should do more to encourage young people to enter the music industry.

So do you believe me now? That we choose music because it makes us more creative human beings? Because we can contribute to the national interest? Because we can bring joy to the masses? Because we can export our culture to the world arena? Because we have a noble mission?

Yeah, right.

Let me to tell you the real reason. It’s for the screaming girls.

Have you seen how their eyes light up when you play an instrument? Woo hoooooo…

The writer is CEO of 8TV, Head of Media Prima Radio Networks (HOTfm, FLYfm and ONEfm) and director of Monkey Bone Records.

Dr Mahathir’s 40-Year Deja Vu And The Malay Dilemma Redux

from The New Straits Times: Dewan Dispatches on March 23, 2009

In his socio-political piece de resistance, Dr Mahathir envisioned radical concepts of Malay ownership of Malaysia – Malays are the indigenous race of Malaysia, the national language is Bahasa Melayu which must be learned and conversed by other races, Malays’ tolerance and non-confrontational nature allowed them to be subjugated in their own land by the other races with the collusion of the British and an affirmative action programme later headlined as the NEP must be instituted to check Malaysian Chinese economic dominance. He reconstituted it yesterday.

His 1970 masterpiece has been resurrected with an aggressive undertone that reprised his ideas into a more cogent appraisal of all things current. Call it The Malay Dilemma: Redux, an extensive missive detailing the daunting critique of probable Malay dispossession.

How fitting it is that a little under a year after he left the party over repugnant differences with the current Umno leadership over the direction the party was headed, Dr Mahathir employed his “political wilderness” as an influential platform for discourse, experimenting with novel ideas and the occasional critique of the political leaders’ style of administration and what he sees as “oblique” polices.

Here are excerpts of his declaration yesterday at a summit on Malay supremacy: “Today’s situation is more dangerous than the time of the British when they planned to conquer all the Malay states under the Malayan Union precept. Now, Malays cannot describe this state as a Malay state, cannot describe this state as the Malay Peninsula. Japan can be called a Japanese state, Korea as a state for Koreans, China as a state for the Chinese and India as a state for the Indians. Previously, it was possible but not now. Now Malaysia is everybody’s right but not a Malay right. The willingness of the Malays to share ownership of this country is not a little bit appreciated. The bestowing of one million citizenships by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra to the other races is not only not appreciated but unremembered, forgotten just like that…”

“Malays are said to be immigrants in their own state and other immigrants cannot be referred to as the immigrant race. If anyone does that, they have to apologise (but) nobody needs to apologise if they say Malays are an immigrant race…If Malays are not allowed to talk about their own problems, there is a possibility they will become dispossessed in their own country. This is the dangerous truth because we have seen the pressure and the contempt towards the Malays when they became a minority in a region that was once a part of the Malay states.”

“Nevertheless, I dare say this a bit about the Malays in Malaysia although I will be accused of being a racist. I emboldened myself because Malays are practically in state of emergency, afflicted with all kinds of problems and threats…”

Dr Mahathir also reserved some of his captious remarks on Chinese educationist group Dong Jiao Zong, dismissing them as “racists” who practised apartheid. “We proposed that everyone study together in one school, then only can you have bangsa Malaysia. They did not want to mix with the other races, especially the Malays. They did not want their children to mix with Malays and that is apartheid, not us,”.”

Dr Mahathir’s remonstration caused MCA Youth some measure of hyperventilation, its Youth chief Datuk Wee Ka Siong retaliating by characterising Dr Mahathir’s accusation as baseless and made with ulterior motive. “If the Chinese educationists and the Chinese community do not like to mingle with other races, I would like to inform him that almost 90 per cent of the students that complete their primary studies at Chinese vernacular schools continue on in national secondary schools,” he told a news conference at the Parliament lobby.

But Dr Mahathir’s strongest carping was rained on the Malays themselves like a smart bomb manipulated to hit a precise target. Here’s another striking assessment, which had been Dr Mahathir’s repetitive theme during his administration years. “…Malays are self-destructive. They don’t want to capitalise on opportunities presented to them. University places are not taken. Business opportunities are abused. Malay youths don’t want to study, preferring to loaf around or become Mat Rempits. The majority of Malaysians abusing drugs are Malays; the ones infected with HIV-AIDS are mostly Malays while rape and other crime cases are mainly Malays. The ones who failed in business are mostly Malays, debt delinquents are Malays, dishonoured contracts are Malays too, the AP predilection involves Malays too…”

“We don’t want to hear all this. We are humiliated. But if these problems are not voiced out, the problems do not disappear by themselves. Other people know it too. Better to be humiliated if it makes some of us aware and they change their habits to avoid committing the same mistakes. The ones who don’t care about being humiliated, it is all right. It’s improbable to make us all aware. The ones being hit will always be hit…”

At its national assembly on Sunday attended by 1,500 participants from 65 NGOs, Malay right-wing group Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa, led by the indomitable Ibrahim Ali, unanimously adopted a 10-point resolution that urges the safeguarding and defence of Malays’ special rights, supremacy and monarchy. Ibrahim stepped up the ante by challenging Umno to adopt some of Perkasa’s determination when the party assembles this week. It was not startling that Perkasa advocated resolutions based on the principles stated by Dr Mahathir. “We want Umno to be watchdogs, to be the eyes and ears to ensure our resolution can be adopted by the administration,” he told the media at the Parliament lobby.

It is intriguing how Dr Mahathir felt the pulse of seminal Malay problems that had been ignored for a two generations. If we were to review the progress of the generations since the New Economic Policy was implemented, Malay economic proliferation had always been an imperative while social deterioration, especially the ones placed under the glaring spotlight again by Dr Mahathir, had been treated with somnambulist insistence.

Al-Ma’unah, incest rape, ritual killings, black magic, hexing, slander, character assassinations, poison-penned Internet postings and SMS texts, chronic drug abuse, homicide, infanticide, parricide, corruption…a sickening list of the gloomy and the grotesque, the mysterious and the violent, germinating within an environment of degeneration and decay as the horrors and the disease that pervade the Malay psyche unfurled.

Dr Mahathir’s latest provocation may be embraced wholeheartedly or be disregarded with the aplomb of the same kind of caricature politics that had besmirched the classic ideals of Malay leadership. Forty years past, Dr Mahathir has been proven the visionary that he is, authoritative in his management of people and tough in the defence of his policies.

Nevertheless, his army of virulent critics will delight in lambasting, ridiculing and molesting his prescience. Dr Mahathir is used to that hostility. But, can we afford to ignore him?

Baby’s Got Phuturecam Back

See that image above on the home page? It's back! To the uninitiated, back when this website was running on the old weblog engine, there was an image that simply showed whatever stuff that was captured by my computer’s video card at any random moment when it’s online. It went away when I introduced the new version of this website (the current iteration). Fans of the Phuturecam can stop with the textual harassment now that I brought it back.

We now return you to your normal scheduled programming.

I Phoney Baloney

People who complain about the ridiculous price plans for the iPhone that just made it to our shores via Maxis should get a little bit of perspective. For one, while a mobile phone is a necessity, the iPhone itself is not. It's a nice to have phone. Just like a car is a necessity for most of us, a BMW/Mercedez is not. If you can't afford the iPhone, there's always Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, LG, etc. just like there's Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, or heck, even Proton. As for the somewhat limited functionality of the iPhone as compared to others (MMS, 3G video calls, etc.), again a BMW doesn't exactly stack well against a hybrid Honda Civic in terms of gas mileage for instance, even though the former is pricier. Catch my drift?

So in case you're still stuck in Steve Job's reality distortion field or just being overly kiasu that you have to get the latest phone in town but can't due to the immenent recession, there ARE other cheaper alternatives out there. And stop preaching to those intent on getting the iPhone over others and just leave them to their own choice of device.

Now that I got that off my chest, if you'll excuse me, I'll be collecting my overpriced limited function portable telephone come March 21 to replace my previously overpriced 4 year old phone that's giving me callouses on my thumb from all the navigation done on its sticky joystick already.

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