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.