Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Keroncong Delight

IT’S not every day that keroncong gets the royal treatment, being performed at the Petronas Philharmonic Hall, where the great acoustics of the world class venue served to enhance the listening experience of one of the well-loved traditional Malay music genres. Originating from Java with Portuguese influences, keroncong was brought to Malaysia in the 15th Century and gained a foothold back then in Johor, Selangor and Perak.

From there on the folk music style became popular with the locals who sought to create their own compositions and add to the development of keroncong.

In an effort to preserve and showcase the beautiful music style that has endured through the ages, The Petronas Performing Arts Group performed a special concert, Keroncong Kasih: Menyusur Masa, to the delight of keroncong lovers.

Opening number Keroncong Kuala Lumpur, penned by the late great P. Ramlee which was featured in his 1968 film Anak Bapak, was a blast from the past that evoked romantic nostalgia and dreamy imagery of a bygone era. Sung by Adilla Idris, a keroncong advocate who has been singing for close to two decades, her mellifluous voice gently wove itself into the wistful music performed by a seven-man keroncong ensemble.

Led by conductor, music director and arranger Ahmad Muriz Che Rose on flute, the rest consisted of Syed Sharir Faisal Syed Hussain on bass, Abdullah Omar Abdul Wahid (cello), M Rashid Dahari (guitar) and Muhammad Radzi Abdul Wahid on violin.

The secret ingredient to the keroncong, a pair of ukulele-like instruments called the cak and the cuk, were played by Jezzriq Eddie Kismilardy Alwee Taib and Mohd Khairul Anuar Mohd Ramly respectively.
The pairing of the three- and four-stringed instruments provided the interlocking rhythmic base that kept the pace of the concert throughout the night.

Bunga Melor, another classic P. Ramlee keroncong tune, had Ismail Lassim on solo accordion to carry the instrumental in an intimate feel.

Datuk Yusni Hamid, a veteran singer with over four decades of singing experience, gave an upbeat rendition of the peppy and effervescent Ampang Pecah, which she revealed to be the original name of Kuala Kubu Baru beforehand.With a swaying voice, between a gentle drone and a sweet velvet caress, it’s no wonder that she has been rumoured to be the favourite singer of the Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Ahmad Shah, and former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was also present at the concert.

The concert also featured a thorn among roses in the form of the multi-talented Bob Yusof, who wowed the audience with his powerful voice.

Singing the M. Nasir classic from the 1980s, Keroncong Untuk Ana, the 29-year-old Sarawakian and Akademi Fantasia alumnus proved that he was comfortable with traditional Malay tunes, and delivered an impassioned declaration of love through song.

One of the highlights of the concert was 15-year-old keroncong singer Jamilah Abu Bakar. From singing the 1970s tune Senandung Lagu Lama, popularised by Kartina Dahari, to the more contemporary Semalam Di Putrajaya, her wonderful and well-polished voice seemed to belie her youthful exterior. This girl is definitely one singer to look out for in the future.

The second half of the concert saw an orchestral ensemble accompanying the keroncong musicians that gave the songs a lush, soaring feel and also featured more contemporary numbers that we’re adapted to showcase the keroncong flavour.

One good example was the Francissca Peter classic from the 1980s, Sekadar Di Pinggiran, which featured Nasir Musiff on saxophone, that was given an instrumental and jazzy touch. Keroncong Kasih featured 20 beautiful songs in the two-hour concert that had a very calming and soothing effect and as an audience member commented, the keroncong is very halus (refined) and merdu (sweet-sounding).

By Aref Omar The New Straits Times 11 Jun 2010

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