In Print for Posterity...
New Straits Times
14 December, 2018
#Showbiz: Terrific twist to timeless tunes!
by Dennis Chua
TARAKUCHA!, the big band with a retro Malay twist, gave an audience of more than 500 two hours of nostalgia recently, delivering songs from the 1950s to 1980s. This evening showcase, Marilah Menari, was its second major performance here and held at The Platform.
With the suave Sean Ghazi and sultry Ida Mariana as lead singers, Tarakucha! also fielded pianist and music director Nish Tham, bassist Amar Azalan, drummer Derrick Siow, percussionist Abdul Karim Zafiruddin, guitarist Wan Gigi, saxophonist Farid Izwan, trombonist Hanif Hamid, trumpeter Ikhman Zakaria, violinists Charmaine Lai and Wong Lu Ee, violist Joanne Aw, cellist Ershad Azalan and back-up singers Maya Tan, Ruzana Ibrahim and Izlyn Ramli.
The 17-member band delivered 22 well-loved songs, mostly in English and Bahasa Malaysia, with the occasional sprinkling of Tamil and Spanish lyrics.
And throughout the show which began at 8.45pm, lead singers Sean and Ida engaged in witty banter with the audience and related each song’s back story.
Looking stylish in his trademark black suit and tie, and “tycoon” glasses, Sean began the evening with an interesting merger of Nona Asiah’s Marilah Menari and Frank Sinatra’s Come Dance With Me. He made a fluid transition from one song to the other, and reasoned that both celebrated the joys of having a good time. “They capture the spirit of this evening, so all of us in Tarakucha! encourage you to get on your feet if you really feel like dancing!” he said,” he announced. Sean then paid tribute to one of his favourite singers, Indonesian legend Anneke Gronloh, who died recently; she had enjoyed an illustrious career spanning five decades. Promising more than one song by the “grand dame of Indonesian song”, he gave fans Rambut Hitam Mata Galak, which pays tribute to the exotic beauties of Southeast Asia.
Sean then shared two songs from his 2006 album Semalam, which earned him an Anugerah Industri Muzik award for Best New Artiste. First was Ku Impikan Bintang, on nurturing a dream and working hard for it. It is actually a Malay rendition of Pink Martini's Let's Never Stop Falling In Love.
The second was the title track, his personal reflection of the “old Malaysia”, when life was simpler and true friendships forged.
Sean then introduced Ida, who collaborated with him in a cover version of Tan Sri P. Ramlee’s and Puan Sri Saloma’s duet Gelora two years ago. Looking stunning in an indigo dress, Ida joined Sean singing Lou Rawls’ You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine, before delivering Ramlee’s Bila Larut Malam from Labu Dan Labi.
It was here that Ida introduced their back-up singers, also known as the Kuchettes, and when they chirped “tarakucha, tarakucha, tarakucha!” before and after the chorus, they unwittingly revealed the origin of the big band’s catchy name.
Sean, 49, and Ida, 46, subsequently went to Kollywood with the Tamil song Paatu Padava by A.M. Rajan, from his 1961 romantic film Then Nilavu. They revealed that it was “not easy” mastering the language, but chose to sing it as a tribute to Bangsa Malaysia. “P. Ramlee could sing in various languages, he’s our role model,” said Sean.
Having played the iconic artiste in the inaugural 2007 season of Enfiniti Productions’ P. Ramlee The Musical at Istana Budaya, Sean presented fans with four of his hits: the sad yet hopeful Hujan Di Tengah Hari from Perjodohan; the hilarious song on an extra-marital affair, Dengar Ini Cerita, from Hujan Panas; the Beatles-influenced Bunyi Gitar from Tiga Abdul; and the sing-along favourite, Kwek Mambo, which used to be ntv7’s corporate jingle.
The break proved to be brief and before some guests could leave the hall, Ida returned to sing Gronloh’s best-known song, the haunting Asmara. Her sultry voice suited the song perfectly, and the entire team of skilled musicians easily resembled a big band of a Gronloh showcase from the 1960s.
Sean then lifted everyone’s spirits by challenging them to say “umph”. This clearly signalled the beginning of Papa Loves Mambo, a boisterous hit for Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. Both singers tango-ed to the song’s Latin-influenced beat, and by now, audiences in the front rows had begun to stand up and dance.
“Yes, bring it on!” exclaimed Sean.
Sean’s next song was dedicated to his late mother who had a cameo in Tiga Abdul with P. Ramlee.
Titled Sabrina Kekasih Lama, it was penned by Izlyn, and referred to the character she played in Tiga Abdul, one of the ex-girlfriends of P. Ramlee’s character, Abdul Wahub. The catchy song nicely summed up the life, loves and dreams of Sean’s mother, a Singaporean who died in 2009. She had strongly supported his musical and acting career over the years. “My mother met P. Ramlee for the first time on the set of that movie, he was very impressed with her and vice-versa. I guess his magic rubbed off on her, and me indirectly!” he said.
Ida returned to sing the monster hit Besame Mucho and this time, she enlightened audiences with its composer and lyricist Consuelo Velazquez’s interesting story. Mexican musician Velazquez, whose evergreen Spanish song which means Kiss Me A Lot, had never been kissed when she created it in 1940, but since then it has been cited by musicians around the world as one of the most romantic of songs.
“Our singing legend, Nona Asiah, was the first person to sing a Malay version of this song, it’s one of my all-time favourites,” said Ida, who had starred in Enfiniti’s Puteri Gunung Ledang The Musical.
She then joined the Kuchettes delivering Anita Sarawak’s urbane version of Gronloh’s timeless children’s song, Burung Kakaktua. This version made lots of references to shopping in Singapore, getting lost in traffic jams and “keeping up with neighbours.
Sean’s final solo numbers for the evening were Broery Marantika’s Sabar Menanti and Michael Buble’s Feeling Good which was originally performed by Nina Simone. Sean proved to be at his romantic best, and the ladies were clearly bowled over by his voice, honed by years of performing in the West End and the United States.
Ida then ended the evening with two boisterous Latin numbers, Mas Que Nada by Sergio Mendes, and the infectious Conga by the Miami Sound Machine. The singers and musicians bid the crowd farewell, but promptly returned with two extra songs — Freedom’s iconic Mulanya Di Sini and Gronloh’s haunting lullaby, Nina Bobo, which is hardly known to young Malaysians.
Tarakucha!, formed by Sean, began as a series of workshop performances in 2016 at his popular nightspot Bobo KL in Bukit Bandaraya, Bangsar. Its first major show was at The Gardens Theatre in Mid Valley City last year, and last July 14, it performed at Singapore’s Esplanade in conjunction with Pesta Raya 2018.
Tarakucha! is an extension of Sean’s fascination with the Malaysian songbook, and its music celebrates being Malaysian with an old-world charm in a contemporary setting.
Marilah Menari was staged during a three-night run at The Platform in Menara KEN TTDI, Kuala Lumpur.
Options, The Edge
8 December, 2018
Tarakucha! Band: A Malaysian Big Band with a vintage twist
by Mae Chan
If the word “ tarakucha” sounds familiar to you, it might be because of the black-and-white movie Labu dan Labi, which was written and directed by P Ramlee, who also starred in the 1962 comedy. In a scene that produced one of its classic songs, Bila Larut Malam, the iconic Malaysian legend plays himself at a nightclub, performing with his wife Saloma.
Today, hearing the song’s refrain of “tarakucha, tarakucha cha” evokes a pang of nostalgia that brings a smile to one’s face, and for many, memories of a familiar melody that set the feet a-tapping.
This is the mood the Tarakucha Band has been creating in its shows since its first “workshop” performance back in October 2016 at Bobo Kuala Lumpur, and this week, KLites will have the opportunity to savour the same experience at the band’s Marilah Menari concert.
Cheekily dubbed “The Terrer Menerrer Big Band Experience”, the brainchild of veteran Malaysian singer and actor Sean Ghazi is also on the cusp of a leap towards what may be a game-changing season. What started out as an experiment has since grown into a vision of something that its founder and core members hope will exemplify entertainment of a distinctively Malaysian kind.
“The idea for Tarakucha was probably an extension of my 2006 album Semalam, and the idea — I’ve always wanted to bring back the big band sound — to make it a platform for the vintage Malay songbook. It has been sort of a quiet dream to imagine those great songs as a live act today,” Sean says of how the band came about.
As for what Tarakucha aims to encapsulate, he says, “It’s not just about Malay songs but also English, Mandarin and more, everything that the era embodied, that particular sound and spirit. I love that. I think it represents a time when we were very sophisticated, the golden days of our music history. I imagine it was a very exciting time to be around then; there was a lot of promise of being a new country, and people like P Ramlee himself as a prolific songwriter and filmmaker. Also, it was a freer and more stylish time, and I love that too — everyone dressing up, the kebayas, jackets and ties.”
His desire is for Tarakucha to become a brand that represents Malaysia abroad, a goal that, he says, is partly inspired by his experience working with American musical group, Pink Martini. Sean had recorded a Malay version of one of the group’s original songs for his album in 2006, and as a result, performed with it at the Hollywood Bowl and in a few other US cities as part of its tour. He was also guest vocalist at Pink Martini’s concert at Dewan Filharmonik Orchestra.
“Having seen the machinery behind Pink Martini, the way it has sustained this for 24 years, selling out show after show, with a line of people buying the merchandise after ... I think Tarakucha can be a Malaysian brand that truly ticks all the boxes of who we were in an inclusive way, a way that is instantly recognisable. That’s our challenge, and we’ve worked towards that,” states Sean.
Having worked on cultivating a particular style and growing the band’s repertoire in the last two years — last year, it put on its first big concert at The Gardens Theatre as part of the Diversecity KL International Arts Festival, and this year, the band performed in Johor Baru and Singapore, where it represented Malaysia at a Pesta Raya concert at The Esplanade — the founder says there is big potential for creating a lifestyle brand centred on the Tarakucha experience.
That said, he emphasises that music will always be the band’s focus, even though it has had the privilege to effect far more than entertainment. “We’ve had people come up to us, literally, with tears in their eyes after — even though it was a joyous show — and tell us that we’ve helped them fall in love with Malaysia again, or even changed their minds about moving abroad, I’m not kidding! They said they didn’t know why but they felt emotional. I think it’s the microcosm of Malaysia that they see on stage, and it’s the reason why we’ve kept going. This whole idea of an intangible but very human experience,” Sean reflects.
Marilah Menari promises a focused musical experience that will, nevertheless, carry the trademark playfulness and surprise elements that Tarakucha has come to be known for. “We have a lot of fun but it’s all very organic,” Sean adds.
Besides him and his co-lead, songstress Ida Mariana, the show will feature a boosted 12-piece band and three long-standing back-up vocalists, also known as the “Kuchettes”: Maya Tan Abdullah, Izlyn Ramli and Ruzana Ibrahim.
“It won’t be any less of an experience. We have invested our resources in what is important — the music, be it covers or original songs. We’ve increased the strings section and for the first time, we’ve worked with outside arrangers as well. It used to be just our music director Nish Tham but to bring different colour to our songs, this time we worked with Vivian Chua, Dennis Lau, Luqman Aziz, and Leonard Yeap,” says Sean.
Tarakucha has also opted for a unique funding method that it hopes can become the start of a potentially long-term model, at least until it is on a sound financial footing.
For the show, the band launched a “Friends of Tarakucha” initiative that is not unlike the angel investor models used by theatre companies. “We’ve started via word of mouth, through our own contacts and friends — every member of the show — where we’ve invited them to pledge a certain amount. There are three levels: Diamond, Gold and Silver, which is RM5,000, RM2,000 and RM1,000 respectively,” Sean explains.
Confessing an interest in the shared economy, the founder says the idea helps Tarakucha eliminate the problems often faced in sourcing for corporate funding, including potentially being cut in the last period of preparations.
“In many ways, this is a purer relationship and transaction between the act and the person who wants to support it,” Sean says. Besides giving them show tickets as a gesture of appreciation and acknowledgement, the investors — whether individuals or companies — will also be invited for an after-show cast party, although Tarakucha is aware that the ultimate return on investment is for it to put on a fantastic show and succeed.
It will know that when people start dancing, which is happening more and more frequently at its shows. “Even when at the beginning I think this is going to be a tough crowd, at the end of each show, people get up and dance. And it’s becoming less of us needing to pujuk and more, ‘Oh, they’re dancing’. And it’s all kinds of people, from tudung ladies to uncles and children. That’s what this show hopes to do, to let people forget all their troubles and just come and dance,” Sean concludes with a smile.
The Malay Mail
3 December, 2018
P. Ramlee meets Vegas in Sean Ghazi’s big band experience ‘Tarakucha!’
by Melanie Chalil
PETALING JAYA, Dec 3 — How do you reinvent beloved retro Malay songs with a big band treatment?
Singer-actor Sean Ghazi took the challenge upon himself a couple of years ago and gave birth to Tarakucha!, the music ensemble that pays tribute to the great ‘Malaysian Songbook’.
It all began as a small workshop series at Bobo Kuala Lumpur in 2016 but has now morphed into full-fledged concerts since its public debut last year at the DiverseCity International Arts Festival.
From this Thursday to Saturday, Tarakucha! is back on stage and set to delight music fans with a 17-strong ensemble comprising lead singer Sean, his singing partner Ida Mariana and three backing-vocalists — Maya Tan, Izlyn Ramli and Ruzana Ibrahim — known as the Kuchettes along with a 12-piece big band.
The band’s name is derived from a P. Ramlee song Bila Larut Malam when the word tarakucha is sung as a backing riff.
“We were looking for a name that would rep the genre and the vibe without it being too literate,” the P. Ramlee The Musical star said.
Speaking to Malay Mail, Sean said this year’s show, entitled Marilah Menari, will focus on the musical aspect of the performance.
Tarakucha! gives old Malaysian songs a big band twist.
This year’s show is described as ‘P. Ramlee meets Vegas’ to give the unacquainted a rough idea.
“When we were performing it during DiverseCity, I realised that Tarakucha! was much more about the music, the pureness of the music experience with the audience and musicians on stage.
“I really want the experience to go back to the purity of the music. It’s about some of the old songs that we love and how we’ve Tarakucha-fied it in terms of today’s audience,” he said.
Noting that it was a challenge to toy with something so nostalgic, the musical theatre performer who has been in West End productions such as Miss Saigon and Rent said the goal was to make music from yesteryear relevant to today’s audience.
“I look at some of the stuff as national property. It’s so ingrained in local psyche and we’ve grown up with it so it’s a question of how you treat these songs with respect but still make them resonate with today’s audience and a younger crowd,” said Sean.
Tarakucha! plays around with culture and languages and ultimately celebrates Malaysia’s colourful diversity.
“We will be performing our crowd favourites and hits, and a few new songs to help our audience celebrate a momentous year because I feel we never had a chance to celebrate the major change we had,” said Sean, referring to this year’s election results.
Tarakucha! Marilah Menari runs from December 6 (Thursday) to December 8 (Saturday) at The Platform, KEN Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur at 8.30pm.
Tickets are priced at RM125, RM175, RM225 and RM300, and are available for purchase here.
29 November, 20185 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH TARAKUCHA BY SEAN GHAZI
By : Zurien Onn
Malaysian performer extraordinaire Sean Ghazi is back on stage this December with TARAKUCHA! his “terrer menerrer” big band with a retro Malay twist. Performing at The Platform at KEN Taman Tun Dr Ismail from 6 until 8 December, TARAKUCHA features Sean himself as lead singer, with singing partner Ida Mariana, backing vocalists The Kuchettes comprising Maya Tan, Izlyn Ramli and Ruzana Ibrahim, and a 12-piece big band led by musical director Nish Tham.
sean ghazi tarakucha
TARAKUCHA! Marilah Menari is headlined by Sean Ghazi and Ida Mariana.
The latest show, “Marilah Menari” (Let’s Dance) promises a new repertoire befitting the festive season, if you had “P. Ramlee meets Vegas” in mind for the season. With shows on 6, 7 and 8 December 2018, Sean and Ida share with us why you shouldn’t miss “Marilah Menari” during their last run for 2018.
Of Mari Menari and Terrer-Menerrer
Her Inspirasi: What’s “terrer menerrer”?
Sean & Ida: It’s something we use in our vernacular to mean “amazing”, jokingly but also aspiring to it, but in a Malaysian way. We’ve been using “terrer menerrer” as our tag line from the first time we performed and it stuck. It sort of lines up with our performance, which is like a “rojak” of English, Malay, Spanish, Portuguese and songs from other cultures. It’s just something people will have to see to see what we mean.
HI: What inspired you to create Tarakucha?
Sean Ghazi: It started with my album that came out in 2006, and to me it was a progression from the album. I wanted to put it on stage. Now, we still perform music from this album, so it has a lot of legs. And then, I performed with (American “little orchestra” band) Pink Martini, which performs a mix of songs in different languages that crosses the genres of jazz, classical music, pop and others, and thought we could do it in Malaysia – to take these old Malay songs and raise it to an international standard. I was looking for a name that said it all without it being too much of a parody or too derivative.
So “Tarakucha” (the background riff in P Ramlee’s popular song “Bila Larut Malam”) is something from the time but not too strict, attractive to the international audiences and has exotic appeal. It has an essence of the P Ramlee times without it being completely borrowed .
TARAKUCHA was wildly enjoyed and applauded during their run at Pesta Raya 2018 at The Esplanade in Singapore.
HI: Give us 5 reasons why we should watch Tarakucha and Mari Menari.
Sean & Ida:-
- The people who come to our show leave feeling very patriotic.
- It’s a great show that invites you to celebrate, and we have a lot to celebrate this year.
- It’s simply so much fun – people will get up and dance at the end of the show. We present the Malay songbook, which is romantic but fun. We’re very serious about presenting good Malay music but we don’t take ourselves seriously.
- To remind ourselves of a much more innocent time. In Singapore they started getting up to dance before we even called them to come up and dance. They would say something like “We danced to this on our engagement.”
- It’s for everyone regardless of age or race.
Presented in English, with songs in English, Bahasa Malaysia and other languages, TARAKUCHA! Marilah Menari is on from 6 to 8 December, nightly at 8.30pm, at The Platform, KEN Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. Get your tickets before they are sold out at www.proticket.com.my, priced at RM125, RM175, RM225 and RM300.
Find out more about TARAKUCHA at www.tarakucha.com or on their Facebook or Instagram pages.
10 July, 2018
Sean Ghazi's Tarakucha big band set to play shows in Singapore
Singer/actor Sean Ghazi is no stranger when it comes to breaking new ground abroad. He spent a few good years in the United States, making music and broadening his career base.
These days, Sean is spending time closer to home. He is also busy with Tarakucha, which he calls a “big band with a vintage Malaysian twist”. Tarakucha is a pet project that is coming into its own.
Tarakucha, formed by Sean, began as a series of workshop performances in 2016 at popular club venue in Kuala Lumpur.
The group, which looks like it could fit snugly into a tour bus, also features velvet-voiced Ida Mariana of Kebaya Jazz fame, while the 10-strong big band is led by Nish Tham on the piano, doubling as the band’s musical director.
On July 14, Tarakucha will be performing at The Annex Studio, at Singapore’s Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay in conjunction with Pesta Raya 2018 – Malay Festival of Arts.
“We are super proud to represent Malaysia in Singapore this month and we hope it is the first of many invitations abroad,” says Sean.
“We are also very grateful to the National Department of Culture And Arts (JKKN) for their support on this production.”
After two years, and several gigs, including a concert last year at the Garden’s Theatre, Mid Valley in KL, Sean feels the time is right for Tarakucha to venture further afield.
Sean leads his big band Tarakucha out for two back-to-back performances at The Annex Studio, Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay in Singapore on July 14.
An extension of his fascination with the Malaysian songbook, as showcased in his AIM award-winning album Semalam, Tarakucha’s repertoire celebrates Malaysia’s musical heritage with songs by the nation’s great composers, artistes and songwriters such as P. Ramlee, Sudirman and Jimmy Boyle.
It’s all about iconic tunes given new life while taking inspiration from global influences, set alongside contemporary hits as well as original compositions written in what Sean refers to as the provocative “semalam” genre.
The upcoming shows in Singapore will be presented in English, with a healthy dose of Malay and the songs are sung in multiple languages – all delivered with humour, heart, style and fun. Audiences can also expect to hear Spanish and Portuguese among songs in English and Malay.
Tarakucha also features three backing singers self-styled as The Kuchettes; Maya Tan, Izlyn Ramli and Ruzana Ibrahim.
“I am also proud of each and every band member who, from a very young age, has persevered with their music through the local education system – despite the odds – especially within a landscape that does not prioritise the arts. It’s our dream to take Tarakucha all over the world to tell our stories and represent our Malaysia,” concludes Sean.
Tarakucha plays two back-to-back performances at The Annex Studio, Esplanade – Theatres by the Bay in Singapore on July 14. Showtimes: 8pm and 10pm. Tickets are available through sistic.com.sg.
Marketing Magazine Malaysia
11 April, 2018
TM comms head Izlyn Ramli belts out powerful vocals in music video
Telekom Malaysia launches Hebat Negaraku music video, Izlyn Ramli mesmerizes all with her vocals
Telekom Malaysia released its Hebat Negaraku (My country is great) video marking TM’s milestone as well as other GLC companies – three years since the graduation of GLCs under the GLCT 1.0 program in 2015.
The music video titled Hebat Negaraku – Inspirasiku(My country is great – My inspiration) features TM’s Vice President Group Brand and Communication, Izlyn Ramli as the lead vocalist together with musicians Hady Afro, AKZ, Amar Azalan and Uda Wahid. The music video shows footages from TM’s work such TM Program Sejahtera, Misi Bantuan Banjir and TM Scale Up.
The video, which runs on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and free-to-air TV, celebrates TM’s activities and efforts in nation-building. MARKETING reached out to Izlyn Ramli (pic) on her experience of working on the Hebat Negaraku video.
1. The song has such a melodic, chill vibe to it – especially the introduction, it draws you in immediately – what inspired this?
There are already a few upbeat versions out there and when I was tasked to do a more ‘soulful’ version for TM, I immediately asked Hady Afro to assist me. We decided to go for a more rustic chill lullaby vibe that was still very Malaysian at heart. Hady’s decision to go with an accordion was just spot on. At the heart of the song and the music video was the intent to reflect the values that drive TM’s vision in making life easier for a better Malaysia. This video celebrates TM’s activities and efforts in nation-building, whether it’s in helping the needy, contributing to the education of innovative minds and the future digital generation, protecting the environment, developing the advancement of sports especially Malaysian football, ensuring the security of our national networks and much more. All the footage you see in the video is real though we did also recycle some of our TVC. This is to show our authenticity in portraying the true TM values. We are grateful to have been a part of this video and hope it instils a sense of pride in all of us as Malaysians. TM is now ready, along with other GLCs, to embrace the new GLCT 2.0 journey that we will be embarking on until 2020. The new tide emphasises the continued commitment of TM, in fulfilling our responsibility as a vital partner in nation-building, in line with our role in building the nation’s communications infrastructure and as the nation’s Convergence Champion.
2.How was it like working alongside the talented Hady Afro?
I’ve had the serendipitous privilege, via Sean Ghazi and our amazing Malaysian big band Tarakucha; to work with Hady (Sheikh Hady Basmeih Mansur), who is one of Malaysia’s best fingerstyle guitarists in my opinion – as well as the other incredible home-grown and world-class talents in Amar Azalan (double bass/ bass) Muhammad Abdul Karim Zafiruddin or AKZ (percussions) and Uda Wahid (accordion). We also enlisted the help of the renowned Fauzi Marzuki to mix and master the track. I am so proud of them, of their artistry and work ethic. They bring a decidedly authentic flavour to any performance we do.
3.What was your memorable experience making the video?
You would not believe how quickly we did this! Hady arranged the song over the weekend 17th March, we rehearsed on 19th, recorded on 21st, mastered on the 22nd and shot the video on the 25th!!! All with raucous laughter and a lot of fun to while the long hours away…
4.You have amazing vocals, Izlyn. Can you tell us other secret superpowers that you’re hiding?
Thank you so much. Singing/songwriting/performing will always be life passions and I am lucky to be able to balance between my two worlds of corporate and performance; as both give me a sense of purpose and sit well with my personal values. (In truth I do wish I were Wonder Woman or a Jedi sometimes LOL)
The Marketing Interactive
11 April, 2018
TM comms head Izlyn Ramli fronts new brand video, stars as lead singer
by Janice Tan
Telekom Malaysia’s (TM) has launched its Hebat Negaraku (My Country is Great) video, reflecting the values that drive TM’s vision in making the lives of Malaysians easier.
Titled “Hebat Negaraku – Inspirasiku”, the new video features VP, group brand and communication, Izlyn Ramli (pictured), as the lead singer. In the video, TM also made use of past footages for the new video, featuring initiatives such as its environmental sustainability programme “My Coral Programme”, TM Earth Camp, flood assistance missions and TM Scale Up, its programme targeting women entrepreneurs.
TM joins other Malaysian government-linked companies, including Celcom Axiata, in unveiling their own take on the song.
In a statement to A+M, Izlyn Ramli said TM collaborated with DNA COMM and production house Effecthory music for the video, which was produced on a “minimal budget”. She also said that TM was going for a “rustic hipster lullaby vibe” while featuring homegrown talent.
“I am proud to be given the opportunity to do this for my beloved TM and Malaysia. For TM and my country!” Izlyn Ramli said. She added that the video was even more special to her as it was done in conjunction with alumni musicians from the National Arts and Cultural Academy, including Hady Afro, a well-known fingerstyle guitarist in Malaysia.
Check out the video here:
The video, which will run on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and free-to-air TV, celebrates TM’s activities and efforts in nation-building. These include helping the needy, contributing to the education of innovative minds, protecting the environment and encouraging the advancement of sports, especially Malaysia football.
TM’s story told in a musical
[Izlyn was the joint architect for the production and staging of TM The Musical - A Story of Convergence! This was a ground-breaking internal communications/employee engagement and brand profiling platform - 100 days from concept to the first show - to make TM and Malaysian history as the 1st GLC/Corporate to tell its story as a full fledged professionally staged musical. The overwhelming response culminated in TM taking the musical to Istana Budaya, Malaysia's National Theatre for 5 shows 14-16 August 2015; the Merdeka edition, to a total audience of 8,000 TM employees and key stakeholders.]
Telekom Malaysia Berhad created history of sorts when it became the first company in Malaysia to stage a musical in Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur, that engages with its employees and stakeholders.
Titled TM The Musical – A Story of Convergence, the story details the company’s fascinating journey from the days of its demerger exercise – one of the company’s many inflection points throughout its long history in Malaysia’s telecommunications industry – to what it is today.
The musical was first staged in May as part of TM Group Awards Night 2015, an annual award ceremony to recognise high-performing employees.
Commenting on the grand theatre performance, Telekom Malaysia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Zamzamzairani Mohd Isa said, “We are very proud to bring this masterpiece to a world-class stage such as Istana Budaya, which enables our stakeholders and distinguished guests to enjoy the show at its best.
“It is yet another milestone for us as we are arguably the first company in Malaysia, if not the world, to take this approach of staging our story as a full-fledged professional musical to engage our employees as well as our stakeholders.
“The musical is an innovative and creative approach in encapsulating, among others, the daunting challenges we faced post demerger, the struggles over the uncertainty of TM’s future then and how we overcame that together.
“Other notable points in the company’s history were the successful roll-out of high-speed broadband for the sustainability of TM, the rise of 1TM spirit to conquer the impossible and our working together in realising TM’s aspiration of becoming the nation’s true convergence champion,” said Zamzamzairani.
He said the performance also recorded TM’s transformative journey for posterity to inspire future generations while at the same time serve as a reminder and to ignite the spirit among the Warga TM to brave future challenges.
“The musical portrays the company’s aspirations of ‘Life Made Easier,’ in line with our new vision ‘To make life and business easier, for a better Malaysia’. And nothing delivers a message more meaningfully than in words, music and dance,” he added.
The musical, produced by KRU Studios Sdn Bhd, features a line-up of well-known as well as rising talents in the Malaysian theatre scene such as Tony Eusoff, Nadia Aqilah, Datuk Ahmad Tarmimi Siregar, Dian P. Ramlee, Adibah Noor and Datuk Jalalluddin Hassan.
Selected Telekom Malaysia employees and senior management also make cameo appearances in the show.
The renowned Pat Ibrahim joined the crew team as the director, lyricist and choreographer.
He also joined hands with Shamaine Othman to write the script for the performance while Edry Abd Halim took up the role as musical director.
The musical was staged at Istana Budaya over the recent weekend for a total of five shows including matinees.
Proceeds from the ticket sales will be donated to charity organisations to be identified later.
The messages embedded in the musical are also in line with the national theme for this year’s National Day celebrations – #sehatisejiwa which reflects the spirit of solidarity, understanding and togetherness shared by all TM employees no matter where they are.
In its own unique way, TM continues to inculcate the spirit of patriotism among its Warga TM, fostering the sense of pride of being part of TM and instilling in them a greater sense of belonging as a Malaysian.
Tuesday, December 4 2007
By : Nur Ainne Johar
Torn between her ‘real’ profession and her passion for music, Izlyn Ramli is, however, not feeling like a fool
WITH Malaysia's relatively small music industry plagued by piracy, the career prospect of a recording artist, no matter how talented, is uncertain, to say the least. Many artistes find it necessary to have a `day job,' and jazz artist Izlyn Ramli is one of them. Perhaps it's because of this that Izlyn is not quite as busy or as well-known as she ought to be as a singer.
With only two records under her belt - mini EP Sinopsis Hati (1995) and Duality (2001) - and her on-off appearances on stage, she isn't quite the household name she has the potential to be, despite being nominated for "Best Solo Performance - Voice" at the 3rd Boh Cameronian Arts Awards 2004 for Sean Ghazi's I Have Dreamed production at The Actors' Studio.
But then she has had to make the hard choice of determining her priorities in life - and how to balance her work with her passion.
"I'm living in two different worlds, my intellectual and practical side has helped me to get promotions in my job with a leading telecommunications company. But I am also feeling the pull of my passion for music, so I'm stuck smack in the middle.
"It feels like I would be paralysed if one side of me is neglected. To sum it up, my life will be incomplete without one or the other, and I must have these two extremely important elements in my life," said the TM management executive.
Actually she had been facing the same dilemma since her final year in secondary school: she was forced to choose between following her dream of becoming a performer by entering the Guild Hall School of Music in United Kingdom or respecting her parents' wish to study accountancy.
"It was a hard decision for me to make, but I believe that my success depends on my parents' prayers and well-wishes, which was why I put my `other' dream on hold."
"Later on, even after I had succeeded in my career, I still harboured the desire to perform - in fact, my mind hadn't been made up at all even by then! I'm just greedy as I want both, and that's not a good example," she said with a laugh.
Rationally, she knows that one can't have the cake and eat it too. There was no way for her to be equally successful in both fields as both require her full attention and focus.
"I tried to do it for my last album, I wanted to do all-out programme to promote my music but just as I was about to embark on that, I got an offer to do a Master's programme in City University. That isn't the only example of how my work and music have clashed in terms of timing. But I have realised that only time will tell when I should finally make the decision on what I really want to focus on," Izlyn said.
But again, Izlyn isn't just passionate about her music; she has recently discovered a love for acting. With the help of her pal, Sean Ghazi, she made her acting debut in the sold-out Enfiniti production "P. Ramlee - The Musical".
She was introduced to theatre when she worked as a lyrics translator for Puteri Gunung Ledang - The Musical and other international productions like Miss Saigon.
"When I was behind the stage and felt and saw the excitement on everyone's face, from the production crew to the cast, I was filled with envy and I promised myself that I would get myself a role in the next Enfiniti project.
"So, the minute I heard that Sean had `got a role' (in the next production) from our manager, I was compelled to audition for one too. Thank God I made it, you have no idea how happy I was!" she said.
To date, the singer has translated more than 15 songs from English to Malay and Malay to English.
Her work has not gone unappreciated there - the audience and producer have been so impressed that there is now a call for her to release an album consisting of all these songs.
"It's still in the infancy stage. Nothing has been done yet as I have yet to find the time to do it. I'm busy with my clients throughout the week, and I usually also work on Sundays!
"Sean keeps pushing me to hasten it while the demand is hot; he is all set to help me out, to guide me through all of it, he has been such a wonderful friend," she said.
With a voice that aspiring jazz singers would give their right arm for, it is indeed a shame that she has yet to record her third album.
"Of course I want to record a new album, but the local market is just so small. It is so difficult to reach new listeners unless you're in the pop genre."
"Being an artiste is not all about the glamour and the fame as you are actually working extra hard to reach a comfort level compared to other less competitive and stable professions," she said.
And if she were to release an album, the Internet would be her first choice as a marketing tool as she would be able to personally monitor the promotion and outcome.
"Seriously, I don't mind if my album sells less than 1,000 units, fame has never been my dream, all I want to do is to share my music, that is all.
"Like I said earlier, singing is my passion that has never benefited me financially except when I find the time to perform at corporate events. I'm satisfied with the acceptance that I have gained among my fans. If Malaysians can't appreciate my talent, it doesn't upset me at all as I trust my time will soon come.
"Maybe the foreign countries are ready for me? Recently, a Japanese fan e-mailed me to tell me that she bought my album at a music store! That's totally bizarre don't you think?" she laughed.
Monday, October 22 2007
Ramlee musical a smash hit
By : DENNIS CHUA
All seats for the P. Ramlee musical have been taken, for the duration. DENNIS CHUA reviews the show.
TAKING on the life story of Malaysia’s King of Entertainment is a monster challenge particularly when the country is marking its 50th anniversary.
But executive producer Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina and Enfiniti Productions successfully created the first major musical on P Ramlee by focusing on the human side.
If one measures success by ticket sales, P. Ramlee The Musical ... The Life, The Loves And The Inspiration is certainly a winner, as all seats in Istana Budaya from Oct 18 to Nov 3 were taken on the first night itself.
Trimming Ramlee’s story down to that of a screen idol longing to be loved struck a chord with the audience, as few Malaysians know of him beyond his iconic status, songs and movies.
Props “carbon-copied” from Ramlee films, footage of his films, his movie posters and “newspaper reports”, accurate retro-fashion, stage technology which changes scenes by elevation, curtains emerging from all sides and credits in black-and-white, added to the show’s appeal.
The story begins and ends in 1973, with Ramlee’s last days at the Jalan Dedap bungalow in Kuala Lumpur that is now a memorial museum. Pudgy and tired, he busily composes his last hit song Air Mata Di Kuala Lumpur as a thunderstorm roars outside.
Ramlee (played by Sean Ghazi) retires to his favourite sofa and is joined by his third wife and soul mate Saloma (Liza Hanim), who assures him that the country will never forget him once he is gone.
Ramlee’s sadness slowly turns into a smile, as he reminisces on his journey to stardom beginning in Penang 36 years earlier.
Young Ramlee, played with zest by up-and-coming theatrical talent Mikhail Merican, 12, often plays truant from school, sings and dances to cendol customers and brings George Town’s streets alive.
The Penangites have high hopes for the boy to become a star, but Ramlee is soon distracted by his second dream, to win the love of rich girl Azizah, played convincingly by RTM Young Star 2005 winner Nurazliana (Lynn) Rusli.
Azizah and Ramlee are drawn to each other, but her mother (Soefira Jaafar) forbids her from going out with him.
Later, in his 20s, Ramlee wins a talent contest in Bukit Mertajam singing his first hit Azizah, composed with his childhood sweetheart, now portrayed by pop queen Datuk Siti Nurhaliza, in mind.
Film director B.S. Rajhans (choreographer Joseph Gonzales) who works with the Shaw brothers, Run Run (Colin Kirton) and Runme (Douglas Lim), and their company Malay Film Productions in Singapore, invite Ramlee to pursue an acting and singing career in Singapore.
Ramlee is heavy-hearted as this means leaving Azizah, but in Siti’s defining moment of her theatrical debut, she performs the moving Mulanya Cinta and encourages him to reach for the stars.
Joined by his best pal Sukardi (Chedd Yusoff of So You Think You Can Dance?), Ramlee boards a Singapore-bound train, and ends up at the Jalan Ampas studio, where he meets his future father-in-law, actor Daeng Harris (Wan Kenari Ibrahim).
Ramlee later marries Harris’ actress daughter Junaidah, played by jazz singer Raja Atilia Raja Haron, in a scene reminiscent of his comedies. The marriage is shortlived, as Ramlee is too busy chasing fame, and he soon ends up with the elegant Norizan Mohd Noor, the ex-wife of Sultan Yussuf Shah of Perak.
Sadly, Ramlee’s new added responsibilities as a director and composer keeps him away from the tempestuous and possessive Norizan who is convincingly played (right down to her facial expressions) by Saloma’s real-life niece and award-winning actress Melissa Saila. The couple often quarrel, and yet another marriage ends.
Ramlee eventually gets smitten by singer Salmah Ismail or Saloma, a fellow divorcee who was his secret admirer. They become duet partners, as she proves a gifted interpreter of his works.
Their professional relationship quickly becomes romantic for “Remy” admits to “Sally” that he cannot spend a day without her in the romantic Taman Tasik Titiwangsa.
Meanwhile, the Shaws face problems of their own as political instability rocks Singapore and the island chooses to leave Malaysia. Studio staff are angry with the Shaws’ act of retrenching and “underpaying” them.
Throughout the musical, Ramlee and his wives are confronted by four paparazzi members played by GangStarz pop group Infinatez. First-timers in theatre, they were cut out for the job.
However, the main supporting stars were Izlyn Ramli, Maya Tan Abdullah and Ida Mariana, who opened every scene as colourful, singing narrators.
While experienced Melissa proved the most applauded of Ramlee’s wives, Atilia and Liza also deserved kudos for mastering their respective characters, right down to their fashion and accents.
And all three are great singers who hold their own against Siti, who was not bad at all as a first-time actress.
Sean is living proof that hard work pays. While he hardly resembles Ramlee, the former Broadway actor and award-winning singer made extra effort to adopt the legend’s mannerisms, speech and style.
He was best as a distraught Ramlee freshly divorced from Norizan and a cheeky Ramlee wooing Saloma in between rehearsals.
Tiara picked the right man for the director’s job, her ex-Puteri Gunung Ledang co-star Adlin Aman Ramlie who is the son of Ramlee’s fellow actor A.R. Tompel.
Adlin co-directed the play with Zahim Albakri, and also wrote its 20 songs such as Mulanya Cinta and Lihatlah Dia. Ramlee’s evergreen hits such as Di Mana Kan Kau Cari Ganti, Azizah and Istana Cinta were also performed by Sean and Liza.
As Ramlee is also loved in Singapore and Indonesia, renowned Singaporean composer Dick Lee was roped in as composer and Indonesian maestro Erwin Gutawa as music director.
In a year of biographical musicals, Ramlee’s story stands out as first among equals.
A life too large
Tuesday 4 October, 2007
THE challenge now, weeks before the opening of P. Ramlee The Musical ... The Life, The Love and The Inspiration, is how to condense it into a two-hour show. Its executive producer Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina said the show currently runs for 2½ hours — and that excludes set changes.
“How do you compact someone’s life story?" she asked, adding, "Adlin Aman Ramlie (the director) and I are still debating whether we should leave it as it is. He and co-director Zahim Albakri don’t want to cut it... after all, Puteri Gunung Ledang: The Musical ran for two hours and 15 minutes."
She said there is much pressure due to the success of Puteri Gunung Ledang: The Musical.
“A lot of people ask me whether this is going to be better than that. All I can say is that it’s going to be a different experience. This is a bigger production — with 44 people on stage, a bigger orchestra and 12 major sets!”
The sets by Raja Malik took Tiara’s breath away. "It’s going to be another architectural achievement in local stage production. Apart from P. Ramlee’s house, cabaret lounges and a train station, there will be a train on stage!”
Tiara was also excited about the roles played by Izlyn Ramli, Ida Mariana and Maya Tan Abdullah, who play a trio of burlesque women (“just like in the musical Little Shop Of Horrors”), who dance and sing.
"They are everywhere — from the train station to the cabaret lounges. They swoon over P. Ramlee’s love story and also serve as narrators. I just love watching them."
Izlyn, Ida and Maya were also back-up singers in Sean’s first album Semalam.
"When they came to the audition, they sang as a trio so well that we created these characters specially for them, around their personalities."
Tiara was speaking to the Press at an event to announce Media Prima as the show’s media partner recently. Media Prima was represented by TV3’s chief executive officer Datuk Farid Ridzuan.
Through Media Prima, the show will receive promotional blitzes in shows over TV3, ntv7, 8TV and TV9 including Malaysia Hari Ini, The Breakfast Show, Apa-Apa Aje, Melodi, Galaksi, Keluarga Di9 and Hey Morning.
Viewers will also be able to catch a special programme, The Making Of ... P. Ramlee The Musical, on Oct 20 (5pm) over TV3.
So why isn’t Tiara in the show?
“I just want to focus on my role as an executive producer. I had a difficult time in Puteri Gunung Ledang — memorising the lines, songs and dance steps as well as looking after marketing and publicity and getting sponsorships.”
At this stage, she said sets are being built and costumes sewn. "Rehearsals are in full swing. I saw the entire show recently — both Act 1 and Act 2 (with piano accompaniment) — it looked fantastic!"
Will there be a soundtrack album to precede the show?
“We’re trying to see if we can release a mini album before the show because the songs are so beautiful. I go to the rehearsals just to hear the songs being performed, especially those by Atilia called Lihatlah Dia, and Siti Nurhaliza’s Mulanya Cinta. I get goosebumps listening to them sing.
On Liza Hanim she said: “Her voice is exactly like Saloma’s! We didn’t expect this at all. And you should see her when she’s all made up as Saloma — the resemblance is scary and overwhelming at the same time. She really becomes Saloma.”
As for Sean, "I melt when I hear him sing. It’s nice to watch Sean in action. He also contributes to the production’s wonderful dynamics and the cast’s camaraderie, just like what Steve (Stephen Rahman-Hughes) did in Puteri Gunung Ledang."
P. RAMLEE The Musical ... The Life, The Love And The Inspiration opens on Oct 18 at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur. There will be 18 shows (showtime at 8.30pm from Tuesdays to Saturdays, with matinees at 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays).
Tickets are priced at RM30, RM50, RM80, RM120 RM150, RM180, RM200 and are available at Ticket2u.biz counter at Istana Budaya and 24-hour Call Centre (03-2091-1666).
For online bookings, visit www.ticket2u.biz. Mobile phone bookings are available through java.ticket2u.biz with payment at Mobility One terminals at Petronas outlets.
You can get more information about the show by visiting www.pramleethemusical.com.
Voices in aid of hospices
Wednesday September 5, 2007
By CHRISTINA LOW
Photos by AZHAR MAHFOF
Come Nov 4, Hospis Malaysia will join hands together with 60 other countries worldwide in a ‘Mexican Wave’ of simultaneous concerts for the Voices for Hospices 2007.
The event started in UK, and is celebrated every two years in hopes to bring awareness as well as to fund for the access of better palliative care services through music.
“Access to good palliative care should be a human right. Funding the services is challenging and the Voices for Hospices event brings both awareness and much needed funds to reduce the burden of suffering to this marginalised community,” said Hospis Malaysia chief executive officer Dr Ednin Hamzah.
Donating their time and voices: Izlyn Ramli (second from left) and Sean Ghazi handing out gifts to friends of Hospis Malaysia.
According to Hospis Malaysia general manager Rosehayati Ahmad Noordin, said the non-profit organisation initially started off the Voices for Hospices in Malaysia with small choir groups before moving on to organising concerts.
This time round in Malaysia, the event is celebrated about a month later than the actual date (Oct 6) because of the fasting month.
The charity dinner will be held at JW Marriot Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 4 will feature AIM (Anugerah Industri Muzik) winner Sean Ghazi and singer Izlyn Ramli with their 60s inspired music supported by an Accapella group, The Wicked Pitches.
“If one cannot donate in terms of money, donating their time as volunteers at the centre would definitely help make a difference too, because sitting around and watch just won’t help,
“The funds raised from the event will be able to assist our ability not just to care for these patients but also to enhance our capacity to provide for more,” said Dr Ednin who estimates about 1500 patients would be referred to the centre this year.
Tables for the dinner is priced at RM20,000, RM15,000, RM10,000, RM8,000, RM5,000 and RM3,000 respectively. For details call 03-9133 3936.
# Voices for Hospices is a UK-registered charity which co-ordinates a ‘Mexican Wave’ of simultaneous concerts round the globe, on the same day, once every two years. The concerts, involving up to a million people each time and raising at least £1 for every one patient, raise awareness and encourage new volunteers for each local unit involved.
The Malay Mail
Friday, June 30 2006
Charity event to help shelter street children
STREET children in the city’s Chow Kit area may soon have a shelter, thanks to the efforts of several individuals who organised
a fund-raising dinner last night.
The event at The Wine Room, Asian Heritage Row in Jalan Yap Ah Shak, saw many artistes and generous Malaysians chipping
in to help the Chow Kit Children Activity Centre (Pakk).
Pakk is a day-care centre for the homeless and displaced children. It needs a hostel to help the unfortunate children.
At present, Pakk is providing day shelter and activity programmes to the children – mostly offspring of sex workers, drug
addicts and the disabled. It operates from 10am to 5pm daily.
Yayasan Salam Malaysia consultant, Dr Hartini Zainudin, who helped in the fund- raising event, said the shelter needs
RM80,200 to build the hostel.
“There are 90 children registered with the centre. At least between 16 and 20 of them sleep on the streets nightly. That’s why
the centre needs a three-storey shop house to place them,” she said.
She also said some of these children have had to steal to eat.
The centre’s director, Raja Azizan Suhaimi Raja Abd Latiff, said the centre also needs volunteers to help with the children.
About 200 patrons, including VIPs, attended the charity event.
They each donated RM50 as entrance fee and bought RM5 raffle tickets to win prizes sponsored by YTL Hotels and Properties,
CoChine Restaurant, Spa Village and others.
Local celebrities like Izlyn Ramli, Ferhad, Nora, Ida Nerina, M. Nasir and The Platters entertained.
Among those who attended the event were Yayasan Salam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail and wife, Puan Seri Dayang Razali,
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Mohd Effendi Norwawi and wife, Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina,
and actor/model Hans Isaac.
Glitz and glory
NST 09 May 2006
Honouring top achievements in the performing arts last year, the 4th Cameronian Arts Awards was a glitzy affair with music, dance
and theatre performances. SHARMILA BILLOT writes.
THEMED “Your Malaysian”, the recent 4th Cameronian Arts Awards saw guests coming in an interesting marriage of traditional and
modern garb, though some opted for out-and-out traditional attire, reflecting the different cultures in Malaysia.
As for the awards ceremony itself, it was a gathering of the performing arts fraternity, in recognition of their accomplishments in
the past year. The glitzy affair was helmed by singer/songwriter Shanon Shah and Izlyn Ramli, whose witty comments set the
tone of the evening.
The event, which featured music, dance and theatre performances by some of the country’s celebrated artistes, started off with buka
panggung (an opening ritual before a mak yong performance) by Akademi Seni Kebangsaan dancers.
When Evelyn Toh, Mia Palencia, Bhavani Logeswaran and Tony Eusoff took centre stage with a hilarious sketch titled Negara Lu, you
knew the evening was off to a wonderful start.
Via their opera-styled singing, they hinted at some of the controversies that have befallen the performing arts scene through the
songs. The biggest winner was Inner Space whose dance performance, Inside Out, bagged eight awards in the music and dance
categories. A posthumous Lifetime Acheivement award was presented to wayang kulit master Dalang Abdullah Ibrahim.
The evening also featured a video tribute to the late Datin Seri Endon Mahmood, Krishen Jit and others whose passing was strongly
felt in the arts community.
Strangely, no awards were given out for Best Original Script in Theatre in Bahasa Malaysia, English and Chinese, although each category
had two shortlisted nominees including Bangsat (Khalid Salleh), Separation 40 (Jit Murad and Haresh Sharma) and The Black and White
Executioners: The Never-Ending Ghost Stories (Ho Shih Phin).
Award presenters included theatre and film personalities Datin Tiara Jacquelina, Samantha Schubert, Melissa Saila, Rashid Salleh,
Gavin Yap, Marion D’Cruz and Hishamuddin Rais.
Several new categories were added to the nominations this year, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Choreographer in a
Mixed Bill, Best Choreographer in a Full Length Work, Best Artistic Direction in Dance and Best Inter-Disciplinary Production
It was indeed a herculean effort to put together a show like this but organiser kakiseni.com did a commendable job.
Cover Story: Hey sistas, go sistas!
Sunday People: 5th March 2006
Coming together for laughs and support
They chill out at coffee outlets and almost always celebrate special occasions together. They are each other’s sounding boards,
writes RACHAEL PHILIP.
The group of boisterous girls I met last weekend was a far cry from the poised 30s women I had expected to meet. Well, for one,
they raved on about the dishy boys they bumped into at last night’s party and what lipstick shades are in. What’s telling about
their ages are perhaps that one or two of them may be including serums in their daily beauty regime and the discussions about
needing to stay calm when baby falls out of bed... again.
“Our group has been through some form of evolution,” Ida Mariana points out. “Some of us met way back in secondary school
and some of us are friends of friends but we clicked.”
“I guess it’s because we have the same values,” Izlyn Ramli chips in. Izlyn is assistant general manager for group strategy
and technology at Telekom Malaysia. The girls call her “the diva” as she has two albums to her name.
The group of six took off in 1996 and consists of Ida, Izlyn, Simone Singh, Dr Kiran Nair, Chandrika Bhaskaran and Prabha Moorthy.
Prabha, a full-time-mom, could not make it for this interview.
“It’s not like we meet very often. Sometimes we just get so busy with our lives, families and jobs that we don’t meet for almost
six months,” Kiran, a mother to two young boys, says.
“But should anyone of us needs anything, anything at all, we will all turn up in full force,” she stresses, rapping the table
So what’s the craziest, zaniest thing they have ever done as a group. A lot of “ahhs” and “ohhs” and sniggering and giggling
but they are not telling. Probably something to do with boys but girls will have their secrets.
Nevertheless, all say the group has been good for them. It’s as if this interview is giving them the chance to assure one another
of the important role they have played in at least one other member’s life, if not all.
When Kiran’s father was very ill some years back, Ida took one month off her chambering to come live with her friend and help her
look after her father.
“Where can you find a friend like that?” Kiran asks.
When Ida’s mom passed away just months before her wedding last year, the girls came to her house every night for seven days.
“It really helped. Besides acquaintances conveying their condolences, it was nice to have good friends who really knew my mom
around, it was good that they made me laugh at such a low point in my life,” she says.
Ida teaches part-time at Sunway College and is a radio DJ on Red FM. She is childhood friends with Kiran and Simone.
Just then Simone, a full-time-mom, bursts out with: “Oh listen to this. We organised and wrapped 300 laddus for Kiran’s wedding!”
That is the perfect start to Kiran’s epic love and wedding tale. The wedding was held in Penang and, among other things, the 300
laddus had to be painstakingly wrapped in Kuala Lumpur and transported there. Peals of laughter follow as each gives her take on
how some of the sweetmeat went missing and were later recovered.
On a serious note, Kiran noted that the wedding would not have taken place but for the girls. “It wasn’t just that they approved
of my fiance but once again, they turned up in full force to help with the planning and running around. My father was ill and my
mother was torn between nursing him and the planning of the wedding.
“The girls looked gorgeous in their saris, singing Surangani (a popular song in Tamil) during the reception,” she says with a laugh.
“Chandrika is the beauty-cum-fashion expert and we go to her for tips, bangles and bindis, and of course how to tie the sari,”
Individually, they all had to endure difficult times — with exams and studies, deaths, relationships and work-related stress —
but being part of the group has made the journey a lot better, they concur.
“There were times when we were so down with one thing or another and just within minutes of meeting up, our spirits would
be lifted,” Simone says.
“It’s very grounding for me,” Izlyn points out. “I mix with a very influential group of people and I can get carried away. The girls
make sure this does not happen.” [POST-ED: Erhmmm youch does not sound like ME at all .... ok, need to point out been
MISQUOTED here!!! What I meant was, KL "high-living" can get one carried away, the girls keep it real]
For Chandrika, the girls are like family for her. Just knowing that someone is there to look out for you is very reassuring,
Call it what you want — sisterhood circle, female bonding, bosom buddies — but like water, air and lipgloss,
every girl need her girlfriends.
NST: L I F E S T Y L E
Sunday September 18, 2005
by K.S Usha Devi
Close encounter of the cancer kind-->
SINGER Izlyn Ramli’s brush with cancer came in the form of her brother Azmir Ramli. Azmir was 18 when he was diagnosed
with testicular cancer stage 4 (as it had spread to his lungs). Fear and panic set in, of course, but as a family, the priority
was to get my brother through it,’’ recalls Izlyn, adding that up to that point nobody in the family had been seriously ill.
Furthermore, I did not know much about cancer. Suffice to say I knew that it kills,” she admits.
Immediately, Izlyn did research on testicular cancer so that the family would have a better idea of what they were dealing
with. The positive part, she discovered, was that testicular cancer had a particularly high rate of treatment success (over 90%).
“This eased our fears somewhat and we set about planning his surgery, chemotherapy and care immediately,” says Izlyn. Coping
with the situation, Izlyn describes it as an incredible journey of discovering reserves of strength that we have within ourselves.
I had to calm myself and take a pragmatic approach to educating myself and be involved in the proceedings throughout
his treatment,” she says, adding that Azmir had very good medical and emotional support from all concerned.
It was also during this time, as one of the caregivers for her brother, she learnt to put the needs of others first before her
own. She would spend time in the hospital when Azmir would go through chemotherapy and surgery. “I learnt inner
strength, compassion and prayer. And how a family who sticks together can weather any storm,” she says.
Thankfully, her brother Azmir survived the ordeal. He is now 24 and cancer-free.
And because of her personal experience, Izlyn is happy to use her celebrity status to help the cancer awareness cause and
make people more informed and capable of dealing with it. “If being in the public eye can help the cause, by all means,
I’m all for it,” says Izlyn.
As for her own family, Izlyn says the whole experience has taught them not to take their health and relationships for
granted. “Life is for living to the fullest,” she says simply.
Jazz singer Izlyn Ramli (left) and her family … brother Azmir Ramli (third from right) had testicular cancer.
New Straits Times » Features
Entertaining. Dramatic. Emotional. This year’s 3rd Annual Boh Cameronian Arts Awards 2004 was all these and more in spite of a ‘phantom menace’ issue. FARIDUL ANWAR FARINORDIN writes.
DRAMANYA... The theme of this year's 3rd Annual Boh Cameronian Arts Awards 2004, held last Friday, could easily be interpreted as self-mockery to the hulla-baloo surrounding the event.The controversy arose from the list of nominees in the event organised by online magazine listing kakiseni.com. Naturally, it didn't go down well with many who, apart from feeling snubbed, felt that cronyism was involved. It turned ugly when a series of anonymous postings on the website's forum took a bitter, angry and defensive tone over the controversy. There were finger-pointing and name-calling, just like in a Quentin Tarantino movie. The good thing is, the organisers handled the situation well by not taking themselves seriously. They poked fun at the whole issue, conveniently turning the drama into a battle of costumes in this bizarre Star Wars episode. That's right. There were Jedi warriors and princesses, aliens and anything in between. Some looked as if they were going to a Halloween party, while others were just stunning and glamorous — yes, that's you — Ida Nerina and Jenny Daneels (of kakiseni). "Welcome to an evening of sissy men and bad couture," said the night's host Jit Murad later, adding "look around and you know it's true."
Whatever the real concept was, the night was well-produced. The Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur ballroom was beautifully transformed into a glitzy theatre hall with a simple stage and wonderful backdrops, with the one in the centre doubling as a video screen. But why oh why did someone have to bark via the speakers to tell guests to take their seats? What's wrong with a simple and courteous announcement? It really felt as if we were going for a school assembly.
The dramatic entrance by Jit and his co-host Izlyn Ramli for their opening number, a tango-infused opening duet Will You Be Mine Tonight? (composed by recording artiste Shanon Shah, last year's Most Promising Award winner), got my undivided attention. Witty, cute and punchy, the song encapsulated the event's light-hearted attitude towards the message board controversy. "Will it be Mac Chan, controversial but sure will get one" went the lyrics, referring to Chan's multiple nominees in a single category (a total of five, for Best Lighting Design). It didn't just stop there.
Harith Iskander, the presenter of this award category, later remarked just before announcing the winner's name: "Oh, the tension... it cuts like a knife!" Naturally, Chan, in his acceptance speech, said: "First of all, believe me. This isn't my fault." So huge was the controversy regarding the online debate that it was even translated into a skit, Kaki-kakiseni Anonymous (based on actual postings compiled by Niki Cheong and directed by Zahim Albakri).However, the performance was a tad too lengthy that it lost its punch. By the time it was over — you could go for a toilet break and have a glass of iced lemon tea at the foyer and still wouldn't miss much — all it left was a soft slap on the wrist. "Fight, fight, fight... That's all you guys know. This is stupid!" remarked actor Khir Rahman who played one of the anonymous writers. Other talents were Reza Zainal Abidin, Nell Ng, Chin Li Ling, Lennard Gui, Farah Ashikin, Cheong, Ida and Edwin Sumun.
For Sumun, it was a memorable night when his maiden production, Five Letters from an Eastern Empire (presented by his newly-formed theatre company Sumunda), bagged three awards — Best Set Design, Best Lighting Design (for Chan) and Best Costume Design/Styling/Make-up (for Dominique Devorsine). Another big winner was the gamelan ensemble Rhythm In Bronze, which bagged three awards for its last year's performance in Rhythm In Bronze: Wujud Antara. It won Best Group Performance (both for Instrumental and Voice) and Best Musical Direction.
The event ran for more than three hours, but watching thespian Faridah Merican delivering her heartfelt acceptance speech after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award — the last award for the night — was worth the wait. "I should ask all of you to come up on stage with me. This is something I want to share with everybody," she said to a standing ovation, a clear display of affection and respect for the much-loved theatre actress, co-founder of The Actors Studio (which she formed with husband Joe Hasham). She thanked Joe ("my friend, lover, confidante, enemy, partner and husband") as well as renowned theatre directors including Rahim Razali, Krishen Jit ("who called me a moron in one of his shows in 1972") and Chin San Sooi for their endless support and belief in her talent. "My heart is always in theatre. This (the award) is not the end to my pursuit in promoting the arts. I am not going to rest until I see theatre (performance) at every corner in the country."
New Straits Times » Features
The force is strong in Izlyn
By Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan
April 16 2005
SINGER Izlyn Amylia Ramli is crazy. In a good way. By day, she is a corporate strategist at Telekom Malaysia but her true passion is singing. She has already recorded two albums, sings Broadway standards at theatre performances, is addicted to reference books, holds an MBA degree and is a huge Star Wars fan. Can one really squeeze in all that passion, emotion and energy in one person? Well, Izlyn can. In fact, she does it with such ease and gusto, all at the same time.” My philosophy is balance. I believe there are two sides to everything, like my work and my singing, being born a Malay and spending years growing up abroad, and having Eastern and Western values," she said.” Things exist in duality, like yin and yang." She could not resist adding, "or like Jedi and Sith." "Ooohhh... I cannot wait for Revenge of The Sith (Episode Three of the Star Wars saga scheduled for release next month). I am so excited! You know, when I was 11, I memorised the whole of the Return of The Jedi dialogue," she exclaimed excitedly.
And just like that, the talk about her life philosophy moved to a galaxy far, far away. That seamless shift is an indication of her ease and confidence, as she moves back and forth in her free-flowing, non-compartmentalised life.” I even wrote a paper on George Lucas and his merchandising strategy for Star Wars for my MBA degree. I was so happy with the paper because initially, my professor wanted me to write something else," she explained, bringing celluloid firmly back to real life. In 1995, she recorded a mini-album, Sinopsis Hati and in 2001, this talented singer produced an independent bilingual album titled Dualiti/y. She wrote all the songs, financed it and even sold it herself "from the back of my car”. By the time she completed recording the album, the offer to do her Master's degree came and she had to choose whether to go on with the album launch or to fly abroad to study.” I made up my mind and printed 500 copies of the album. I held the launch party before leaving Kuala Lumpur for my studies at City University Business School in London." The Kuala Lumpur-born singer holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from University College London and was once an auditor at PriceWaterHouse Coopers.
These days, Izlyn has another passion in her multi-faceted life — her Motorazr V3 mobile phone from Motorola, the only gadget she brings with her everywhere she goes."I don't like wearing watches so this handphone is my alarm, my watch, my calculator and ledger all rolled into one. Yes, I keep my accounts in it too.” The built-in camera has a zoom and that's a bonus.” I use the tools a lot, especially when I'm out. If I need to write something, I'll write it on the phone." The phone also comes with a voice recorder, something this singer finds very handy.” Sometimes, when I'm out somewhere and a tune comes to mind, I sing it out and record it. It's so useful." Aptly nicknamed Sizzlyn' Izlyn, this cheerful, lively singer often travels for leisure and work. Just a week prior to this interview, she was in Bali, Indonesia and Terengganu. Before that, she was in Washington.” Because I travel often, the world map is useful. I just scroll the location for the local time," she said. Her mobile phone is obviously an indispensable part of her life. "Anything to do with work, I have them in my personal computer. Anything to do with my social life, I have them in my phone," she declared."I think it's the slimmest, coolest thing around," she said.” If this phone is a woman, she would be a broad, but still a lady; sassy, but still sleek. Hah, there! Dualism again," she said, smiling.
That's Izlyn for you. Phone and philosophy can exist in one short breath.
NEW STRAITS TIMES » Centrestage - Spot on
A mega successful event, the Konsert Kasih saw local artistes lending their powerful vocals and celebrity status to raise funds for tsunami victims. FARIDUL ANWAR FARINORDIN writes.
IT WAS a concert with a difference. Held at the Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur in aid of the Malaysian Tsunami Disaster Fund, the two-night Konsert Kasih was a marriage of humanitarian messages, entertaining songs and uplifting spiritual notes.
It featured beautiful vocal and instrumental performances by local artistes as well as insightful poem recitations that left the audience humbled. Among others, the evening brought us closer to the glory of God and reminded us of how vulnerable we are.
...The performances were commendable, keeping the audience entertained in a sombre but uplifting way despite the absence of back-up dancers and choreography.
Performing without props — except for the moving wagons — with wonderful accompaniment from the National Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Mustafa Fuzer Nawi, was understandably no easy feat.
However, the powerful vocals of the performers made up for it.
Siti Nurhaliza and Adibah Noor, who belted out Bukan Cinta Biasa and Jauh Jauh respectively, clearly had the audience eating from their palms. They proved that having a good voice goes a very long way.
Seasoned rocker Ramli Sarip was a winner too. His powerful and raspy rendition of the popular tune Kamelia (accompanied by Man Keedal on acoustic guitar) was an instant hit. The crowd even sang along to the song’s chorus in unison when he signalled them to take over (“tiba... tiba, langkahku terhenti”).
A duet performance of The Prayer by Sean Ghazi and Izlyn Ramli also won the crowd’s hearts, while R&B crooner Anuar Zain walked up to the audience and shook hands during his rendition of Semuanya Untukmu. Bravo.
...Organised by the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry with the support of the New Straits Times, Berita Harian, TV3 and 8TV, the two-day Konsert Kasih raised RM1.9 million.
THE SUNDAY MAIL
KUDOS to the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage for organising Konsert Kasih – Tangan Yang Memberi in lightning speed last Monday and Tuesday. It helped raise RM1.9 million for the Malaysian Tsunami Disaster fund.
The concerts at Panggung Sari, Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur, showed how highly efficient Malaysians are in times of need, and the generosity of the people.
It is not easy to bring together famous artistes, both veterans and young ones, since most are occupied with their own shows. What more for two shows, for which they would get no pay apart from some "thank you" souvenirs. But there they were, and for two nights they sang their hearts out to an audience who paid generously to see them perform.
...[excerpt] Sean Ghazi, Izlyn Ramli and Adibah Noor threw the night into a different rhythm, with their broadway and opera-inspired vocal techniques. Adibah Noor sang Jauh Jauh, while Sean and Izlyn sang a duet on The Prayer.
* Konsert Kasih – Tangan Yang Memberi will be shown over TV3 on Wednesday 26 Jan 05 at 11pm.
Sean Ghazi once more? For JACKIE FERNANDEZ, it’s a dream come true.
SOMEONE had to do it – and I am glad Sean Ghazi did it, twice! Billed an evening of pure entertainment, the return of I Have Dreamed – An Evening with Sean Ghazi last week did not disappoint. This brilliantly conceptualised show, with timeless classics rendered with soul and passion against a simple yet elegant setting, was a welcome change from the soulless scream fests that infest modern pop. Timeless tunes were rendered even more poignant because of the powerful delivery by four very talented performers.
Playing to a packed auditorium at The Actor’s Studio Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Sean had the audience mesmerised from the word go or rather from the opening strains of Nature Boy and My Heart & I.
In pin-drop silence, you could almost feel the audience holding their breath as they were treated to Sean’s perfect renditions of all-time favourites The Way You Look Tonight and Getaran Jiwa.
Joining Sean in a tribute to musicals Miss Saigon and The King & I was the elegant Aura Dewa from the Philippines. They complemented each other beautifully on Sun & Moon and Last Night of the World from Miss Saigon and excerpts from The King & I.
Izlyn Ramli then swept the audience off their feet with her awesome, soulful voice that has you wondering why we don’t see more of Izlyn commercially. Her pitch perfect execution of Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster’s The Prayer with Sean Ghazi sent shivers down the spine with its poignant dips and dramatic crescendos.
A talented line-up of musicians were led by the gifted Adam Farouk, tickling the ivories of an austere black baby grand. A passionate performer who seemed to genuinely enjoy himself on stage, Adam made playing the numerous tunes totally effortless, fingers dancing across the piano keys, seemingly with a will of their own. The handsome musician who only had to offer a shy smile to make the ladies swoon, was just as convincing when he sang. His rendition of Elton John’s Your Song drew loud approval from the audience and left us wanting more.
The four performers were no less convincing as the pace stepped up a beat with a jazzy “kampung” medley of popular Malay ditties like Rasa Sayang; Enjet, Enjet; and Chan Mali Chan, which even featured Aura singing in perfect Malay!
Sean’s stirring delivery of Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up, had the audience teary eyed and wanting an encore. A repeat of the kampung medley had the audience tapping their feet and bobbing along to this big band version of popular folk classics.
The evening was full of perfect, cherishable musical moments that hopeless romantics craving for more.
SUNDAY PEOPLE (NST)
THEY ALL HAVE IT. No, not just super powers, but a double life too. Superman – dorky journalist by day but, as soon as trouble looms, the caped crusader is out to save mankind. Likewise, Spiderman, our mutant wall-climbing hero, and Batman, the nocturnal hero also perform such heroic deeds. Somewhat like them, Izlyn Amylia Ramli too has an "alter ego". Though she doesn't leap across tall buildings, she makes a jump of professions at night.
She is the assistant general manager for ICT and strategy development (corporate strategy and planning division) for Telekom Malaysia. This entails looking at medium- to long-term planning for Telekom Malaysia. She also monitors external factors affecting the industry. When darkness falls, she turns into a singer.
The transition is easy for Izlyn, 33, who grew up with music as a part of her life. Together with her sister who is six years younger, and two brothers, who are eight and 11 years younger, they would "form a band" and belt out Spandau Ballet numbers, which were among their favourites.
"I've always loved singing. Yes, my first performance was when I was five years old," she says in between picking up the phone and turning down a gig because she had promised to sing at a cousin's wedding. "Even at boarding school (in England) I was in the choir," reveals this fan of James Taylor, Carol King and Joni Mitchel. While this bubbly girl could have easily gone into music full time, she was also academically inclined. While she was actively involved with the choir in school, she was also studying for the qualifying exams to Oxbridge. She finally ended up at University College London where she graduated with a degree in Economics. "I was afraid of my parents!" she confesses. "My father felt it was important for me to have an education at the same time. Music is not an easy industry to break into, so I knew inwardly that I needed something substantial as well. After all, I will always have music." True to the title of her second album Duality (her first was Sinopsis Hati, recorded when she was 21), Izlyn is a little bit of both. "I'm kinda like a Jill of all trades. I guess the fact that I'm a Leo/Virgo cusp makes it possible. While I may have a double life, it makes for a whole. The two halves complement each other very well," she stresses. "At work, my arty side allows me to be more creative, while my academic-corporate side keeps me more grounded in my entertainment life, so to speak.
"Singing for me is all due to passion. Money is never the issue, though when I do get paid, it is good. "My first performance was at a Tiny Tots performance of the Wizard of Oz," she recalls. Since then, she has made appearances at corporate functions, weddings, clubs, dinner shows and her most memorable of all, a stint titled I Have Dreamed with singer-theatre personality, Sean Ghazi.
"I met Sean when we did another show, Musical Chairs for the Instant Café Theatre last June as part of a theatre festival, Raise the Roof at the Actors Studio. From then on things just snowballed," she says. "Performing again with him for I Have Dreamed was just amazing. The reviews, the audience, the people, everything just made the show fantastic. The chemistry we all shared on stage was just perfect." The experience has done her a world of good.
"When I recorded my debut album, I didn't know what I wanted. But now, I'm really comfortable having both my worlds," she confesses.
"I don't think there's a need for me to choose. Some people think that I have sold out. To them, being an artiste means doing just that and having to struggle. But as a friend once pointed out, you don't have to suffer for your art. You should ‘love the art in you and not the you in art'," she says. Her family is supportive. "My father knows that though I dabble in music, I'm very sensible and am not about to run off with the lounge band!" she says with a laugh. The best compliment she's ever had? "I was singing at this place and every night this young lady would come and listen to me. Then one night, she walked up to me and said: ‘You move me, you really move me'. It just felt so good. It just made it all seem so worthwhile," she smiles.
Though Izlyn believes that her voice control is "all gone", one sit-in at her show and you'd know that this is one songbird worth listening too. Her most requested number is still Frank Sinatra's Fly Me To The Moon. "Every time I perform, someone is sure to ask for that number. I am a big Sinatra fan myself and would love to perform with him." Izlyn had "a taste of Sinatra" not too long ago. "I got to sing a bit with (Sinatra sound-alike) Michael Buble when he was here and that was great!' she recalls. "I sang Getaran Jiwa for him." Her dream is to some day make it to the international stage where she can sing to a live audience or to perform with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. "I'm better ‘live'. When I go up there, I give it everything I've got. That doesn't mean that I'm not panicky just before a show. I'm usually doing scales in the toilet or still looking at lines," she explains.
When she's not belting out Summertime, Sailing or in the office looking at the latest corporate plans, Izlyn is normally travelling somewhere, seeing the world. Whether it's Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Cancun or the South of France, she would normally be in a rented car, with the top down and singing at the top of her voice. After all, Izlyn believes that her life should run to a soundtrack and she is, in every little way, compiling the songs for it...!
INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS
[Extract].... The second half of "I Have Dreamed" was a far livelier affair. Sean bounded onstage, resplendent in a white jacket, and proceeded to belt out "My Fair Lady"'s "On The Street Where You Live". Next, joined by the divine Izlyn Ramli, Frank and Nancy Sinatra's "Something Stupid" was the precursor to a set punctuated by Izlyn's alternately smoky, breathless and soaring vocals. Sultry and classy at the same time, Izlyn's magnificent voice and obvious enthusiasm was one of the afternoon's highlights...
OUT OF THIS WORLD
IT was one of those magical evenings. If you had the privilege of attending ‘I have Dreamed: An Evening With Sean Ghazi' recently, you would know what I mean.
Sean Ghazi, our very own multi-talented (he must be tired of the description!) star has proved again that he is as much a fine singer as he is an actor in his recent presentation at the Actors Studio, Bangsar.
The deafening applause and standing ovation at the end of the show said it all.
Sean, this time round, called on some of the finest voices and talents in this part of the world to help him out, including West End performer Aura Deva, Izlyn Ramli, and Adam Farouk.
So even those who initially gasped and griped at the ticket prices (evening shows ranged from RM92-RM142) came out feeling it was worth every single cent.
The show offered an elegant evening of songs. Indeed the majority of the audience took the trouble to dress up.
Oh, I must mention that the nearest toilets to the Actors' Studio had been ‘beautified' as well, complete with a maid, to add a touch of class to the production I guess.
Looking dashing in his three-piece suit, Sean opened his show last Thursday night with Nature Boy, followed by My Heart and I, The Way You Look Tonight and one of his own favourites, the classic Getaran Jiwa. His voice was smooth and magnetic.
The band that provided the music was simple but brilliant.
On the grand piano was the talented (and cute) Adam, the music director for this show, with Wan Azfarezal (double bass), Vivian Chua (violin) and Julian Chan (flute and saxophone).
By the way, I Have Dreamed was produced by Sean's own company Baby Grand Productions which he runs with Deborah Michael, the co-producer of the show.
In between, the singer made small talk with the audience and we got to learn a thing or two about Sean – this was his 30th year in show business! He was referring to his debut as the Vix boy in a commercial when he was five.
Sean's first guest was the sexy and petite Aura who displayed a bright and powerful voice. This star of Miss Saigon and The King and I had worked together with Sean in the 2000 London Cast Recording of The King and I.
There were some funny moments when Sean tried to do a Cuti-Cuti Malaysia promotion to Aura, and kept teasing her by telling the audience that Aura pronounced thank you in Bahasa Malaysia as ‘tiramisu'! Aura dazzled when she sang with such feeling and gusto the haunting On My Own from Les Miserables. She then was joined by Sean to sing Sun and Moon, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, We Kiss in the Shadow and the evening's title song I Have Dreamed.
The second half of the show, which just got better and better, saw the entry of the sassy Izyln, whose voluptuous figure was quite a contrast to Aura.
She had a deeper, mellow, but equally powerful voice that could rasp like a R&B singer, and she could move like a vamp. Sean and Izlyn won a roar of approval from the audience when they sang Something Stupid with naughty twinkles in their eyes.
The two continued to thrill with such numbers like Can't Take That Away from Me and the beautiful The Prayer – which had Sean crooning some parts in Italian.
Adam was then thrust into the limelight as he played and sang My Song so wonderfully that the response was so overwhelming. In fact, the thunderous applause for Adam prompted Sean to mock protest.
"Is this ‘An Evening with Adam Farouk?" he said to laughter. And then Sean went over to Adam and the actor in him said with a stern and jealous look, "Okay, we are cutting that song tomorrow night," he declared.
We had a 180 degree change in the musical genre when Sean, wanting to return to his roots perhaps, dished out a medley of Malaysian folk songs joined by Aura and Izlyn. You wouldn't have heard Rasa Sayang, Enjet Enjet Semut, Chan Mali Mali Chan and Aku Cari arranged, played and sung in such a way before! With a reprise of Bewitched and You Raised Me Up, we came to the end of the evening. The applause and cheers went on for the longest time and many were on their feet! With such a response, a grateful Sean could only oblige with a final song – You're Still You, sung by himself beautifully to the accompaniment of the piano and the violin.
The musical showcase I Have Dreamed – An Evening With Sean Ghazi evoked an awe-filled and passionate response on its opening night last week, when the show ran from May 6 to May 9. As the lights dimmed, the spotlight shone and Sean Ghazi hit the first few notes of the evening, it was clear that this was going to be an extraordinary performance.
The Malaysian entertainer, who has contributed to Kuala Lumpur’s musical scene through performances at No Black Tie, is a Cameronian Arts Awards nominee, and has starred in several West End productions, delivered a golden performance in this elegant evening of song, alongside special guests Aura Deva, a West End star from London (Miss Saigon and The King & I); local jazz diva Izlyn Ramli; and Adam Farouk, musical director, composer and pianist for the night.
To kickstart the evening, Ghazi put his soaring high-baritone voice to well-loved classics such as Nature Boy, The Way You Look Tonight and My Heart And I. As he belted out one of his favourites by P. Ramlee, the much loved Getaran Jiwa, smiles broke all around.
His first guest of the evening was old friend Aura, whom he had worked with in Miss Saigon and The King & I.
Alongside Ghazi, the beautiful Filipino songstress acknowledged their West End partnership, amongst other performances, with the moving Sun And Moon from Miss Saigon and the title song for the evening, I Have Dreamed from The King And I.
In a heart-rending rendition of the Broadway hit, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, Ghazi and Deva brought a kind of magic to the stage as the ambient lights reflected the tears trickling down the cheeks of quite a number of audience members!
After an interval, Ghazi took to the stage to wow guests yet again in the lively On The Street Where You Live.
With a Big Band and jazzy repertoire lined up in the second act, the audience warmly welcomed local celeb Izlyn Ramli, who has two albums to her credit.
Izlyn’s towering rendition of Since I Fell For You / At Last and Something Stupid alongside Ghazi, supplemented the show with a bit more spice and gave the evening a glamorous feel.
A poignant performance of The Prayer by Sean and Izlyn elated the hearts of many and left them savouring the delight.
Later, Adam was given his moment of glory when singing Your Song alongside Ghazi and received heartfelt applause from the appreciative audience.
In fact, Adam received louder and a longer-lasting applause than Ghazi, prompting the night’s star to jokingly say that particular number would be, in future, cut from the programme!
Adam’s creative musical directing, backed by a talented five-piece ensemble, gave the evening a special something that made intervals and performances flow with effortless elegance.
All artistes united their gifts in the astounding kampung medley of Malaysian vintage songs, including Rasa Sayang and Can Mali Can which were given a unique jazzy Big Band flavour.
In this very personal performance, all the artistes proved that they have a very authentic way of connecting with the audience, spreading their charisma, charm, wit and sensuous melodies across the auditorium.
The well-picked venue for the occasion – small and cosy The Actor’s Studio Bangsar – as well as the artistes’ elegant attire, helped capture and emphasize the magical atmosphere that prevailed all evening.
The show finally ended after two hours of great chemistry, with Ghazi’s invigorating version of You Raise Me Up, and received a zealous standing ovation forcing an exhausted Ghazi to deliver a worthy encore in Josh Groban’s You’re Still You.
I couldn’t help but feel intensely moved by the show. The evening’s only drawback was that it didn’t last the whole night...
Sean Ghazi: I Have Dreamed: Journey to the West End
“There was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy,” so says the song by Eden Ahbez, a hippie who slept under the stars and styled himself to look like Jesus – the song might very well have been self-referential. It is the same song that introduces Moulin Rouge’s tale of tragic love, and was the song that Sean Ghazi had chosen to open his concert last weekend (May 6 – 9) at The Actors Studio Bangsar. Singing this ballad on stage in the quiet halo of dim blue lights, Sean seemed to be referencing himself in the mystique too. After all, his is a charmed life.
At the age of 11, Sean’s parents – his father an advertiser and his mother a model (she was in one P. Ramlee movie) – took him to the London Palladium to catch The King & I. At once Sean decided that when he grew up he would do just that: play the tragic young lover who gets to sing those beautiful songs. And so he did, ending up in the very same theatre exactly 20 years later, playing Lun Tha, who gets beheaded for courting the King’s daughter, but not before singing songs like ‘I Have Dreamed’. Appropriately enough, Sean has titled his concert after that song. The concert was in part a retelling of his journey to West End and back.
And so the opening song continues: “They say he wandered very far, very far,” – and at this point Sean made a sudden early crescendo, as if to emphasise the ‘very far’ in italics. For the next few songs, including ‘Getaran Jiwa’, Sean seemed to telegraph in his emotions and his ‘getaran’ purely through such use of dynamics. While I was sufficiently charmed by Sean’s onstage banter alone, his vocal technicality left me a little cold in the first half.
Then Aura Deva stepped on stage. Aura was part of the enchantment of the night – she had acted and sang opposite Sean as his lover in both The King & I and Miss Saigon. She was petite and stunningly gorgeous, but her singing was raw with emotions. When singing ‘On My Own’, a Les Miserables song in which the singer makes believe her lover is with her, she was so wrecked I even felt concerned for her sanity. But that’s Broadway for you.
There was less hurling of emotions in the second half. Sean loosened up dramatically when Izlyn Ramli, the big-voiced mama herself, came on stage with her bouncy, bluesy phrasing. Their take on ‘Something Stupid’ was cool, but their version of Gershwin’s ‘Can’t Take That Away From Me’, was positively on fire. Music Director Adam Farouk had spliced the gutsy riff from a blues number, ‘Treat Her Right’ (by The Commitments), into the song’s jazzy syncopation, and produced such good vibrations I swear it will burn up the radio charts if it was released as a single.
Just when I thought this was the climax of the night, the four of them, including Adam and Aura, burst into a Bossa Nova medley of Malaysian folk songs. The catchy four-part barbershop harmony of ‘Chan Mali Chan’ near the end should be an entry into the Malaysian Book of Records for being the most musical bridge in the country.
Adam Farouk was something. After he sang Elton John’s ‘Your Song’, I could smell the pheromones in the theatre. I had never heard so many people ask if a pianist was single or not.
By this point, the concert had already more than made up for the first half. When Sean took to the stage alone again, he was in top form. The plaintive ‘The River is Wide’ was delivered with just the right touch of weariness and sweetness; whoever he was singing the song for must have deserved the sentiments. Whereas in the first half of the programme Sean was singing at the audience, now he is singing to us. His closing song, You Raise Me Up, a song of gratitude, made me grateful too that Malaysia has indeed produced such a wonder as Sean Ghazi. Okay, so he took some warming up. But the wonder of Sean lies not merely in his singing. It is in his precise pursuit of his dream and his desire to share that dream with us and his ability to inspire a collaboration of such explosive creativity.
“The only thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love, and be loved in return.”
TO be able to draw inspiration from life and to have the gift to work it into a song that catches the moment is a blessing.
Izlyn Ramli is one of the fortunate few with that gift. She is no newcomer to the local music scene having released an ill-fated debut, six years ago.
“I was packaged and sold to PolyGram, and tied down to three albums,” she said at her recent launch of her second effort, Dualiti/y.
“I was as disappointed with the effort as they were with sales and we arrived at a mutual decision to let it go after the first album.”
She said she did not want to fault any party but felt the album was not of quality material and production.
“It didn’t even sound like me. But then again, the initial excitement of being to do an album actually numbs you from thought.”
Izlyn was far more comfortable, in her element really, as she showcased songs from her second album.
Performing eight numbers – slow, mid-tempo and pumping tunes – Izlyn evoked memories of other artistes who had talent but faded into obscurity.
Names like Liza and Azlina Aziz and Adibah Noor come up as artistes who have been recognised, idolised even, for their vocal abilities.
All too often, however, record companies are only too interested to pick up a good looking whiner than a singer, if they can tart her up enough to be put on a show rather than to be listened to.
Izlyn, has to battle against being a diva unrecognised.
Her vocals are amazing, her impressive album tinged with folk, R&B, soul and a healthy sprinkling of pop is an impressive serving.
The 10 songs are great works of pop and the name of the album is attributed to a bilingual approach – half Malay, half English – and Izlyn is adept at both.
One song which sadly did not make the album was a cover of Christopher Cross’ Sailing, retitled Pantai, which Izlyn re-recorded in Malay.
“I sought his permission to include Pantai in Dualiti/y, but he did not allow use of it. I will, however, perform it at ‘live’ shows as well as send him a copy of my version.”
Izlyn’s songwriting is also impressive and one wonders why she bothers trying to establish herself as a singer when she has such a gift.
The thing is that, while she adores songwriting, a medium which allows unlimited expression and serves as a diary of her life, she still loves singing.
Her songs she says are her ‘little treasures’. “I don’t record my material because I’m a little selfish. I write so few songs and each and every one is a personal treasure which documents and maps my life.
“I can’t contribute because I don’t churn out songs and I’m unable to write about something repeatedly.
“You know, once something has been said, it’s been said.”
The 31-year-old manager of corporate strategy for a telecommunications giant prefers her material in Malay. “I think it is more poetic.
“It is easier to get a feel of things with the language as it is more flowery and expressive.”
So, has she achieved her dreams of releasing a ‘real’ album?
“Yes of course I have. This album, this is me happy, and I’m happy with the product, and I am that I have finally achieved my dreams.”
Izlyn’s Dualiti/y will be distributed by Ragtime, an outfit that represents such stars as Amir Yussof.
So why did she choose Ragtime?
“Well, everything I’ve done has been so maverick so far for Dualiti/y.
“On this album I worked with non-mainstream musicians, recording was done at the back of someone’s house. The recording and production was self-funded and cost me about RM30,000.
“It was a very indie, DIY effort, and I wanted someone along those lines to represent me and Ragtime fits the bill. Just hope that they get something out of this,” she laughed.
“Another reason is that I still retain creative control, and am able to sing the way I want.
“More importantly, I’m not bound by any contract and that’s good because I still have a day job.”
So what recognition does Izlyn hope for?
“Well, sales never hurt, but I think acknowledgement from listeners and aspiring singers is good,” she said.