A Weekend for Easy Listening

August 13, 2016

A Weekend for Easy Listening

Easy Listening? Well for that, there is no one than Perry Como who can do it in style. He belongs to a generation of crooners led by Bing Crosby. So here is as your entertainer for this weekend. All you have to do is to  sit back and take it easy and let Mr. Como do his thing with his opening number Papa Love Mambo, which was a hit in the 1950’s. With best wishes from Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican.



Enough Pressure, desegregation can occur

August 12, 2016

Enough Pressure, desegregation can occur

by Tunku Zain Al-Abidin

http://www.the star.com.my


The (Malaysian) government’s role in regulating the things (some) Malaysians consider to be fun has punctuated our country’s political life for decades.  The first Prime Minister brushed off protests by students of Universiti Malaya over certain concerts in campus, but perhaps Malaysians of my generation will remember the controversy over Michael Jackson’s performance in 1996 being amusingly portrayed by cartoonist Dato’ Lat.

In the face of religious objections to Selena Gomez’s recent concert, the Selangor Menteri Besar bravely replied “sexiness is God’s creation and subjective, do not be over excited by it”.  Prayers for her concert to be cancelled did not have the desired effect, but she dressed more modestly than usual, and 4,000 Selenators kept their hands to themselves.

Pokemon Go is the current target for calls for a ban. Apart from religious justifications, the mobile nature of the game has also led to arguments based on concerns about public safety and trespassing.

So far, only the Kedah fatwa committee has declared the game haram for Muslims, while the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission has released safety guidelines. Earlier, the minister gave himself some wriggle room by saying: “Even though some countries may restrict it, we in Malaysia have not reached that stage.”

The same minister also stepped in to modify the awards for the upcoming Malaysian Film Festival so that the Best Picture category will no longer be segregated by language, which had been the case since 2011, though the awards have been running since 1980.

This year, two acclaimed films (Jagat and Ola Bola) were nominated in the Non-Bahasa Malaysia category, and actor Afdlin Shauki announced he would be boycotting the festival because of the segregation, asking “When will Malaysians, no matter the race, be truly recognised for their craft as Malaysian artwork?”

This move was publicly approved by Dato’ Seri Nazir Razak and Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, triggering viral support, but perhaps the most dramatic act was cinematographer Mohd Noor Kassim returning his two awards (won in 2009 for Setem and 2011 for Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa) to organiser National Film Development Corporation (Finas) Director-General in a garbage bag. “In film, the language of film is what’s important,” he said.  Indeed, this week at the premiere of Temuan Takdir — a fully Malay film — its Malaysian multiracial credentials were rightfully highlighted.

While the minister’s intervention might be hailed as a progressive move as a result of listening to the people, we should question the very idea of politicians having such powers over culture in the first place.

There is a fine line between government being a facilitator and promoter of culture as defined by the people on the one hand, and of actually being the arbiter of what constitutes Malaysian culture on the other.  (In pre-Merdeka times, some art forms certainly enjoyed royal patronage, yet folk art also prospered outside the palaces.)

The creation and appreciation of culture (including our enjoyment of non-Malaysian output) belongs to every citizen, not to politicians, yet during cultural controversies, agitators often cite the Federal Constitution, the National Culture Policy, Bangsa Malaysia, 1Malaysia and of course, their own religious beliefs to press the government to take their side and use the power of the State to enforce it.

However, another cultural controversy came and went without any political involvement last week when local television show MeleTOP parodied Yuna’s performance with Usher (of them singing “Crush” at the Roots Picnic music festival) featuring an actor in blackface.

The video was widely shared online, leading Yuna to post a forceful message asking those who found it funny to educate themselves on the practice now considered highly disrespectful in the United States.  Here was an example of cultural sensitivity being developed not by political fiat, but by an appeal to history and education — and the show duly removed the video and issued a “sincere apology.”

Last weekend at KLPAC, I witnessed another precious cross-cultural phenomenon — Ahmad Yatim’s adaptation of Trisno Sumardjo’s translation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet directed by Dato’ Faridah Merican.

The fact that a play written in Tudor England can resonate with a Malaysian audience in our national language emphasises the universality of storytelling.

While there are brave pioneers in the arts world leading the way forward, the political world remains stuck in the past, or at best constrained by what apologists will call “political realities.”

Our country’s newest political party has an explicitly racial name and there are two classes of membership based on race.  Our arts pioneers have shown with enough pressure, desegregation can occur.

It is up to voters to apply the same pressure in our politics towards towards the same objective.

* Tunku Zain Al-’Abidin is founding president of Ideas


Your Weekend of Songs–Rick Nelson

July 16, 2016

Your Weekend of Songs–Rick Nelson

After a short break when Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican were in New York and Washington, we are pleased to feature the songs of teenage idol of the 1960’s, Rick Nelson for your entertainment this weekend. He needs no introduction to men and women of Din’s generation. The millennials, however, can visit wikipedia. org for his resume which is indeed impressive.

BTW, our visit to the United States was always exciting with plenty to see. We also made new friends and renewed our contact with old ones.

We were fortunate to be in Washington on the Fourth of July and had the time to spend some time at Mount Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington and Hanover, Va and revisit monuments around the capital and the campus  of The George Washington University, just a few blocks from The White House. The Fourth of July Fireworks in Washington DC was a spectacle. Smokey Robinson and other entertainers were there to entertain all of us. It was an unforgettable occasion, thanks to our host and friend, Ambassador John R. Malott.

Please have a good weekend.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Tribute to Frank Sinatra and His City: NEW YORK, the City that never sleeps

June 26, 2016

New York

Tribute to Frank Sinatra and His City: NEW YORK, the City that never sleeps


New York’s Son and Golden Voice–We miss you, Frank

Sunday in New York. And beautiful day. Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican send you and yours our warm greetings from this fabulous city and financial capital of the world. Both of us have been busy with our respective professional duties. Things have worked out well for us and we must admit that being in the Big Apple is always business like, rejuvenating (despite the jet lag) and fun.

What better way  can we pay tribute and respects to this city and its people for their kindness and hospitality and honour the memory of its illustrious son than to feature  Hoboken (New Jersey)-born Francis Albert Sinatra for your weekend entertainment.  Thank You, New York.–Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican


Your Weekend Entertainer–Ricky Nelson

May 29, 2016

Your Weekend Entertainer–Ricky Nelson

I began my journey in search of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and found out there was none, but that quest has been worthwhile. Having taken that the first step 7 + decades ago,  I realise at near my journey’s end that that illusive pot of gold is in Aristotle’s idea of a virtuous life.–Din Merican

Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican take you down memory lane, way back to the late 5os and 6os when Ricky Nelson, the teenage sensation  of that era who burst on the music scene which was dominated by Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and his Comets, Fats Domino, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis,  Brenda Lee, The Platters,  Cliff Richard, and Beatles. Yes, it was Rock N Roll time.

Ricky Nelson was an early teen idol who had a considerable amount of talent to complement his blue-eyed good looks. On television, he and his older brother David acted out their real-life roles as the sons of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. As a rock-and-rolling teenager on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Ricky Nelson practically grew up in the nation’s living rooms.

For a period of years, beginning in 1957, each episode would conclude with a song by Ricky Nelson and his band. Many teenagers tuned into the show because of him, and these performances – a harbinger of the kind of impact MTV would have decades later by bringing popular music to TV – helped keep Ozzie and Harriet on the air until 1966.

Nelson was a handsome Fifties teen idol who wore his hair in a fashionable flat-top with a ducktail. For his musical debut, he did an Elvis Presley impersonation on Ozzie and Harriet in order to impress a high-school sweetheart who had a crush on Presley. Thereafter, Nelson became a self-contained rock and roller in his own right. His principal influences were Presley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. On Presley’s side, the feeling was apparently mutual, as he told guitarist James Burton that he never missed an episode.

For his first recording, Nelson cut a double-sided smash: “A Teenager’s Romance” backed with Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin’.” Both songs made the Top Five shortly after the single’s release in April 1957, instantly launching Nelson’s musical career. He was all of sixteen years old, and this was just the beginning. All totaled, Nelson would score three dozen hits, making him one of the most successfully prolific of all rock and rollers.

Even though his role on TV had been the launch pad, he more than made the grade as a rock and roller. As unlikely as it may seem, he turned out to be the real thing: a mellow-voiced singer/guitarist with an instinctive feel for the country-rooted side of rockabilly. Moreover, he had good taste in musicians, hiring guitarist extraordinaire James Burton as the mainstay of his band. With his arsenal of expert rockabilly licks, Burton brought serious credibility to Nelson’s musical endeavors.

His less frantic brand, more poppy brand of rockabilly went down easily with America’s suburban teenagers. After the success of his first two singles on Verve, Nelson quickly signed to the Imperial label, where his hit streak extended into the early Sixties. In 1958, Nelson reached #1 with “Poor Little Fool” (written by Sharon Sheeley, who was Eddie Cochran’s girlfriend). His discerning taste in material also led him to “Hello Mary Lou” – his signature song, penned by Gene Pitney – and “Travelin’ Man,” both of which topped the charts. During a three-year period from 1957 through 1959, Nelson owned the pop charts, placing 18 songs in the Top 40 for nearly 200 combined weeks.

For his sixth album – Rick is 21, released in 1961 – Nelson dropped the “y” from his name. As the maturing Nelson’s appeal with the teen audience waned, he foundered for direction in the mid-Sixties. However, he got back on track when he turned his attention to a more country-flavored sound toward decade’s end. A well-received performance at Los Angeles’ Troubadour nightclub, yielding the album Rick Nelson in Concert, helped fuel his comeback. One of the first country-minded rockers – he’d cut an album called Bright Lights and Country Music in 1966 – Nelson experienced a creative flowering on such albums as Rick Sings Nelson (1970) and Garden Party(1972).

He had formed the Stone Canyon Band, whose mellow, California-based country-rock sound anticipated the laid-back likes of the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt. One of his band members, in fact, was bassist Randy Meisner, a founding member of Poco who’d later find fame with the Eagles. During this era, Nelson had a minor hit with his easygoing remake of Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me.” All the while, he resisted the idea of becoming a nostalgia act, pointedly addressing the issue in “Garden Party.” Based on his experience appearing on a bill of oldies acts at Madison Square Garden, the song became one of the biggest hits of his career reaching #6 in October 1972. Somewhat ironically, early rockers Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley were also in the Top Ten at the same time.

Although Nelson stopped having hits, in the Seventies, he remained a hard-working musician who performed up to 200 dates a year. The decade wasn’t entirely kind to him, as personal problems (including a cocaine addiction) began to mount as his popularity waned. His life ended tragically in 1985 when his tour plane caught fire and crashed near a highway in DeKalb, Texas, killing him and six others.


Let us remember this unique talent and acknowledge his contributions to American music and for Din’s generation, Ricky Nelson will  bring back thoughts of the golden era when life was pretty simple. It was a time when our elders were working hard  to recover from the ravages of  the Second World War and the Japanese Occupation of Malaya (Malaysia in 1963).–Dr.Kamsiah and Din Merican

Double 7-Down Memory Lane

May 21. 2016

Double 7–Down Memory Lane with Songs

For my special Double 7 Birthday, I skyped Dr. Kamsiah this evening to ask her what I should do to entertain you. She suggested that we play tunes of the ‘ 40s, ’50s. ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. In addition, I have added my all time favorite voice, Nat Cole. Once you have listened to the crooner with a velvet voice, you will perhaps understand why Nat remains my special man through the last  6 decades.

I hope, you like what we have chosen to play for you this weekend. Be of good cheer, my friends. Pursue your dreams and make them real, I say. Thank you for your good wishes for my Double 7 and for your continued support of and interest in the Malaysian DJ Blogger.– Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Best of the ’60s

Best of the ’70s

Best of the ’80s

Din Merican’s All Time Favorite –Nat Cole