Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Into The Light

Yes, I am weird. Probably anomalous and one of its kind. One of the rare Malay guys with the kookiest medley of taste. I admit that I am going against the grain, dropping out from the norm, not fitting into the system where I am technically supposed to be. I have no Facebook, no Friendster, no Multiply. I have no desire to Pimp-My-Profile and MySpace is generally open to interpretations. The only thing that defines my virtual existence is here – this website and blog whose identity is constantly in permutation. Conformities are irrelevant when you align yourself in a situation where conventionalities became questions and not the solutions. Who am I to doubt my own preferences? Who are you to question my selections? We all have our own choices upon which we build that true (and sometime weird) essence of who we are. We can choose what we want to do and who we want to listen to. And with reasons beyond my own reasoning, I choose to listen to MISIA*.

Music knows no boundaries. Language is the lyrical icing on a piece of melody, not merely to be understood, but to be felt at times when you are perfectly lost in translation. And I am one who goes for those whose talent turns me on. I must say that MISIA is no less than an outstanding performer, a bringer of joy through songs and dances. The Tour of MISIA Discotheque Asia (in conjunction with her 10th Anniversary) last Saturday proves to be a night worth spent. And the night is embedded in the nethermost sector of my memory bank, still fresh, still hip-hoping in tandem with the pyrotechnics of my animated soul.

MISIA sang with much soul all through out the night. Her vibrant Afro-Japanese voice that goes up to 5-octaves high, coupled with her dynamic dance moves, brought down the house and got the audience tapping and snapping right from the very beginning when the DJ introduced his musical prologue. In between the saltatorial remixes, she hypnotized the crowd by belting out heavy, sonorous ballads, perfecting each note with ease and rendering them with her pure vocal magic. Everything was easily the best ballad of the night and Yes, Forever had its lasting, unparalleled charms. The unique radio remixes of soulful numbers such as Wings of Promise and Unforgettable Days were delivered in the second half of the gig, which were beyond my expectations. These are exceptional gems to be experienced live, and only live. As usually seen in her Japanese album tour, her punchy upbeat tracks (exempli gratia: Into the Light!) was delivered in the most spectacular of ways - with lasers, lights and confetti in shining gold and silver. A tad too much I must say, but hey, what’s a Japanese concert without the extreme and elaborate stage gimmicks? All in the name of good fun I presume.

Accompanied only by the poundings of a piano, she concluded the night with the mid-tempo Closing In With You, otherwise known as Tsutsumikomu You Ni. That particular song reminds me of my days in Bunk 3 at Jalan Bahar Camp. That is a story of its own; a story better hidden under the stacks of mess trays, crushed inside the uniform pockets stinking with starch, thrown out into the concrete hallways before the drunk session in water parades. Time remembered through songs – our life marked with a series of irrefutable sound notations.

And on a last note, I shall close by saying that MISIA is sensational.

*One of the main reasons why I choose MISIA over Ayumi, Utada or Koda is because of her dreadlocks. And because she is one of the most humble (and low profile) artistes in this region. And because she gives back to the community by participating in various charities. And because she is the “girl-next-door” type of person. But mostly because of her songs, which ranges from pop to hip-hop, from funk latin to R&B.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

On The Verge Of Thinking

I do not like to start an entry with the word ‘I’. But how else could I phrase that opening sentence without breaking my own rules? I can no doubt start by using words such as ‘Personally’ or ‘In all honesty’ or ‘Just for your information’, but I anticipate that it will not be as immediate as I want it to be. And I realised some time ago that self-references have turned me into someone whose sense of irony can go beyond comprehension. I am a sad case of conflicting ideals. I am living a life of perfect contradiction. I am alone with friends around me. Yet I am always nowhere, somewhere.

After a moderately long table-talking session with Moriz Sidah and Naes Tiang on Friday night, I am reanalyzing the present situation with a variety of solutions branching into different sets of future highways. I appreciate my pals’ concerns towards me and I know that they mean well. I am also glad that there are still friends out there who can laugh at nothing or making something out of nothing. There is really no better activity to be engaged in than sipping Chinese teas of the strangest herbal concoctions, trashing weirdest hypothetical issues with no regards to design regulations and with no interest in reinventing the wheel. And better still, after a round of offbeat discourses and thoughts-sharing moment, I am starting to map out my next transition. But I am not painting the completed picture, not yet you see. It is merely an outline of a ‘paint by number’ illustration. The numbers are missing their descriptions and here's hoping that the details will be in no later than soon.

I do not want to disappoint anyone, even more so to myself. There are friends who are worthy of companionships. And I am trying to make them proud of me, and for what or who they have become, I am already proud of them.

She said to me, and I quote:
“You can be anything you want to be - Love, Carol.”

Just with that one simple line written in blue on the first page of A.L. Kennedy’s Everything You Need, I am already pushed, and the impetus was gratifying. Anymore, I must say that Caroline Chew has an exquisite taste in music, and it’s unequivocally mutual.

When you feel crestfallen and your spirit hits an all time low, reassuring gestures and words can bring you back on the firm track.

And it’s true that friends come and go. Yet I am particularly happy for those who have gone that extra miles, landing on their dream jobs, pursuing higher levels of education, being inquisitive once again like kids who desire to learn more, being openly contemptuous of existing dogmas, researching, realigning, streamlining, always on the verge of thinking, rethinking, reexamining, reshaping, learning by osmosis while the passion is still blooming, bettering skills and making marks on territories once existed only in musings. I have observed their progress, each one with a different end in view and each in their own private dreams. Big or small, their successes become part of the remarkable celebration of life. Stories to keep in mind, little reminders to self.

Be hungry and steadily tread the sand with both your feets, you will get there someday with your face casting heavenwards, hearts beating in rhymes, without woes, without rues. Madally Wurlpiz, you must not give up.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Rent Is Due

And so it ends. The dusk of an era. The demarcation point of a much-acclaimed theatrical chef-d'oeuvre. Four days from today, on September 7, 2008, the final curtain call will take place at the Nederlander Theatre, making RENT the seventh longest-running Broadway show in history, with a total of 5,019 performances and a production gross of over $280 million.

RENT, Jonathan Larson’s modern day interpretation of Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Boheme, gains huge success while clinching all the major awards including The Tony Award, The Pulitzer Prize, The Drama Desk Award and The New York Drama Critics Circle Award, among others. Jonathan Larson did not live to see his magnum opus came alive with such acclaims. He passed away on January 25, 1996 at the young age of 35 due to an aortic aneurysm, coincidentally on the very night before RENT opened at the New York Theater Workshop. A musical genius of his time, Larson will always be remembered for creating a 360 degrees change in the theatrical world for his unreserved storylines and characters of ethnically diverse casts. He was one of the few who dared to voice out controversial topics such as AIDS, homosexuality, drugs and bohemian lifestyles by ways of a truly traditional and conservative medium, consequently increasing the awareness of theater amongst the MTV generation and opening the doors for more theatrical works of debatable subject matters. To date, RENT has been performed in 22 languages and in no less than 45 countries.

RENT’s kaleidoscopic burst of lilting pop-rock tunes will ring in the ears for years. Ordinary spoken words become passages of harmony, hummed again and again. Non-fictional stories creep out of hiding and into the light, assuming identities and making histories. RENT may be contrived in its structure while the implicit sociological context within acts might have lost the contemporariness in the face of today’s urban lingo. No matter, the underlying issues are still relevant when seen from a broader, expanded perspective – and I am someone who needs to be constantly reminded of life’s realities even if the messages are displayed through a pompous, melodramatic song. RENT will continue to stay in the hearts of those who measured life in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights of coffee; and ultimately in love. To those who dare to fight for their rights, RENT will reflect their desires, their overly renewed passions, their stubborn determinations to never say never in times of adversity. The candle remains bright, for even in darkness, hope is survival. But all good things will expire eventually. Everything, including the most celebrated of arts.

Jonathan Larson said it best when he wrote that everything is RENT.
An incontestable aphorism truer than we could ever believed.

I was lucky enough to catch RENT in 2005 when it ran for a limited period in the Kallang Theatre as part of it’s 10th Anniversary Asian Tour. Karen Mok played Mimi Marquez, the mezzo-soprano exotic dancer cum heroine junkie. ‘Light My Candle’ is the song best listened (and seen) when its performed live on stage.