Acoustic Jam 13

The Actor's Studio Theatre
Bangsar Shopping Centre
Kuala Lumpur

Sunday 7th September, 2003

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KLUE Review

Well, Acoustic Jam 13 didn't prove to be unlucky after all. Despite a mistake about both the day and the time, so that many people arrived two and a half hours late, despite the raised ticket prices, propelling us into the "Jazzosphere" and the "Sunday Night" syndrome (family night - but then people could bring their kids because it isn't a pub), the public - that is many members of it were happy to buy the last sybilline book for the same price as the original three - yes they were still lining up to buy tickets at 9.30 pm for a show that started at 6.00 and terminated at 11.30. So we achieved a distinguished and respectable figure of 128 seats sold. Many apologies for the bungling and thanks everyone for coming and making our show such a success with your appreciative responses. And thanks to various publications and media for putting it in and out - NST, Malay Mail, Star, Galaxie Mag, Klue Mag, Hits and Mix FM, Kakiseni and various internet sites, and anyone we have missed out of this list.

And above all thanks to the PERFORMERS - wow! what a team! We started with Gerard Singh, who sang - apart from one - his original songs with beautiful guitar phrasing, songs about personal matters like religion and topics of great social importance like child abuse. He put across these messages through fine melodies and tender, sincere vocals. Also a great variety of styles and accompaniments with a common identity that is his own individual artistry. Please buy his album "Slice of the Pie" when it comes out - a very good selection.

Next was Mei Chern, whose set was, I'm sorry to say (and earnestly apologise for) marred by drop out on the guitar. She was very quiet, almost as if she was trying to hide away. But you can't hide talent, not when it creates such fine songs two of which I've had all week on the brain. Just be a little bit louder and unshy about what you do, Mei and neither Avril Lavigne nor Michelle Branch will want to follow you on stage!

Then there was Mia. The night before her nineteenth birthday Mia brought along a deal of friends and supporters - thanks Mia. She sings and plays and writes songs with great aplomb, because underneath there's a passion waiting to explode and the songs are her safety valve. The angry songs were certainly the best and lifted her music up to a dramatic intensity and got the three members of the band gelling together behind her - especially the last one which was a diatribe directed at her boyfriend (they've made it up since, you'll be glad to hear).

Now came the unknown quantity of the evening - that maverick, Rehman Rashid. I'd heard him many years ago and been impressed by his songs and finger-style folk guitar. As it was he only sang one number, which as he admitted was filched from Joni Mitchell, The Righteous Brothers (actually he's technically wrong there - the song "Unchained Melody" was composed by Hy Zaret and Alex North). But lest we felt short changed, he made up for it by a long highly amusing and entertaining introduction which established him as more of a stand up comedian (although he was sitting down throughout - I just put that in in case you are sticklers for accuracy). When we first started Acoustic Jam I advertised for musicians, poets and comedians. So Rehman you are the first one of these last albeit a hibrid. Thanks for all the great laughs!

Then came Naked Breed. They were their characteristic raw savage selves, with rich gutsy vocals from Justin and Reuben plugging away on Acoustic guitar, doing fine riffs and solos; performing mostly songs from their album on Fat Boys Records. Not to forget Sara on drums and Jai Khan who provided a steady, punchy rhythm section so we all wanted to get up and dance. As well as the rocking numbers there were slower melancholy songs. These guys wrapped up the first half of the show, then there was an interval before Soft Touch performed.

As we had only four members available, I'joo played a cool bass instead of guitar and we were back to our laid-back style, featuring Markiza on vocals and keyboards, and me on Ac guitar and harp playing numbers from our previous albums. Mokhtar provided a strong beat and it was a tight set except for the last song "Return to Forever", which is under-rehearsed, but which curiously got all the praise. Mind you it is a very fine composition, sad and wistful in a minor key, written not by any of us but by Randy Waldman and Dick Rudolf and originally recorded by Minnie Riperton.

Now it was the chance of Lurks - three good-looking young men with an engaging, unassuming yet magnetic sort of music, almost hypnotic - singer with a voice that sculpts out the words with sometimes weird expressiveness, guitarist with a fine minimalist style and a drum and bass programmer who really knows what he is at. Wonderful stuff in my opinion, mostly originals but one cover by Depeche Mode. You can hear that Zak the vocalist and composer has absorbed all these 80s and more recent influences like Rap and Hip-Hop and made them into something personally his own.

Jason Lo with just an acoustic. This was a treat I have been waiting for for sometime and he didn't disappoint. He has an intimate style with the audience and his songs came across as important statements of reality experience especially "Driving" and "Rise and Fall" both from his recent album "Firefighter". These songs and others profited by being paired down to essentials and Jason's very relaxed approach which made them come alive as personal statements.

Now came the big sensation. I mean even if one didn't really appreciate Malay pop or Rock you couldn't help by being overawed by this lady Ruhil who is a Master (or should I say Mistress?) of vocal architecture both in the sad quiet mode and in the "belting it out with raunchy passion" one. Accompanied by extra special musicians one of whom she married this year, this whole group of songs set the audience alight and was a fabulous display of musicianship showing us all what can be done with just two acoustic guitars; gave a whole new dimension of meaning to our title "Acoustic Jam". Jamie Wilson and Greg Henderson were very cool but at the same time totally swept along by the music, sweeping all before them. Jamie did one of his songs too, describing his pilgrimage out of confusion and bad life-styles into a destiny of love, "Walking Out of Babylon". Predictably they got an encore. So the record companies don't think this music is quite right for Malay audiences? Well I suggest we all besiege the ERA station with e-mails requesting Ruhil's song, and even start a sit down outside major labels offices until they agree to the terms to release it.

It remains to say how fine and delightful a set the new line-up Nitrus delivered. With mostly Malay songs and a new vocalist Zul who can translate the Stone Temple Pilots and Matchbox 20 influences into that language in the way he sings, and fine guitar work from Eddy and Helmy - all very together, and went down very well with the audience. Here again, I hope they can release an album of these songs and make it successful. They also performed "Twisted" from Another Boring Sunday album. I'm sorry it was such a long wait guys, we are very grateful for your contribution.

Once again many thanks to Donal and Terence who did a great job on the Sound desk and arranging the stage. Thanks to Mokhtar for providing the big Marshall amp. And thanks to Faridah, Joe, and the The Actors Studio team: Ming Jin, Sing, Jai Wei, Jolene, Nicky and the other front of house crew - you were so nice to us it is a pleasure to work with you. Maybe another Acoustic Jam soon - probably early next year.

Thank you, please support live local music

Hassan Peter Brown

Lemang Music is an independent music publishing company,
occasional recording company and event organiser.

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