Thursday, 23 August 2012

Keroncong concert to mark Merdeka

By Nur Aqidah Azizi

Datuk Yusni Hamid and Datin Paduka Julie Sudiro will share the stage with young keroncong singer Jamilah Abu Bakar on Aug 31, writes Nur Aqidah Azizi

THE quiet ambience quickly gives way to a cheery one when Datuk Yusni Hamid and Datin Paduka Julie Sudiro, step into the New Straits Times studio. The two singers, in their 60s, are in good spirits and full of energy.

Their presence can still turn heads and several times, they stop to speak to fans who greet them as they make their way to the studio.

“I am humbled by the fact that they (fans) still recognise us. It’s a pleasure to receive these warm gestures from them,” says Julie, as she prepares herself for the photo shoot.

Once in a while, she hums her favourite evergreen tune and, before long, Yusni follows suit with her soft and smooth voice.

“I like all kind of songs. Although I’m an old-timer, I don’t restrict myself to songs from yesteryear. As a performer, I always try to keep myself updated with modern songs and I don’t have any problem singing these if there’s a request,” says the soft-spoken Yusni, admitting that she is currently hooked to Adele’s Someone Like You.

“I love singing that song. Besides Adele, I also like to listen to songs from Aizat and Yuna. They are very talented and I believe they will go far,” says Yusni.

This sentiment is echoed by Julie, who started her career as a child singer in a traditional Malay opera troupe.

“Hard work, persistence and luck will go a long way if a singer wants to survive in this industry. They must also be versatile,” says Julie with a smile.

“In the old days we had to sing whatever song was thrown at us and we had to learn it from scratch. We didn’t only sing traditional songs but we also had to learn songs from other genres — jazz, pop, ballads and the rest. It was good exposure and it helped make us versatile performers,” says Julie.

When keroncong came to our shores (it is said that keroncong was brought into the country by Javanese merchants), both Julie and Yusni embraced it.

“It’s beautiful, with a distinctive style of music. But you need lots of practice if you want to master the art of performing keroncong songs,” says Yusni.

Julie, who recently performed at Keroncong Gala at The Esplanade Singapore, says a singer should try to perform keroncong numbers if she or he wants to understand the beauty of the music.

“I fell in love with keroncong from the first day I heard it. It gives one a soothing feeling to sing or listen to it,” she says.

The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) will perform keroncong in a special concert to commemorate Merdeka Day. Both Julie and Yusni will perform at the concert on Aug 31 at 8.30pm.

Part of the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas Seni Festival, the concert will be conducted by Ahmad Muriz Che Rose. There will be various keroncong tunes specially arranged for orchestral music by Mohd Shique Fazreekh, Nik Shareena Rosny, Rozainie Hashim, Syed Sharir Faisal, Luqman Aziz, Yuzaifullah Yusof and Khor Chin Yang.

Themed Keroncong Merdeka, the show will also include Jamilah Abu Bakar, a talented keroncong singer.

“I was 10 years old when I first listened to a keroncong song. I fell in love with it and my curiosity about the music drove me to learn more,” says the 17-year-old who was mentored by keroncong maestros such as Wawang Wijaya, Abdullah Safri and Mahzan Manan.

Jamilah has represented the country at the International Children’s Festival in Turkey in 2007 and has performed at various official functions.

But nothing beats her excitement to work with her idols, Yusni and Julie. “When I received the offer to perform at the concert, I couldn’t believe it. And when I was told that I’d be sharing the stage with Yusni and Julie, I was lost for words,” she says, smiling.

“This opportunity doesn’t come everyday. I know I have to deliver my best. I want to learn from Yusni and Julie as I want to be a better keroncong singer.”

Yusni says: “I have performed with Jamilah before in a different keroncong performance. She is very talented and it is rare for a girl her age to show a deep interest in keroncong and brave the crowd to perform it.

“I’m looking forward to performing with her again.”

The repertoire includes Jangan Ditanya Ke Mana Aku Pergi, Tinggallah Mustika Hati, Sayang Di Sayang, Madah Dan Kerenah, Kucupan Azimat and Merdeka-inspired songs such as Putera Puteri, Pahlawanku, Perwira, Tanah Pusaka and Sejahtera Malaysia.

Other concerts for the festival include An Oriental Journey (Aug 30), MPO Goes Retro (Sept 1) and MPO & Friends (Sept 2).

Julie says today’s performers should be grateful to be able to work in a peaceful and conducive environment.

“Things were different in the old days. We had to struggle. But I had fun and it was among the best times of my life,” says Yusni.

Jamilah adds: “I consider myself lucky because not only am I free to do what I love but I also have plenty of opportunity to develop myself.”

Keroncong Merdeka
When Aug 31, 8.30pm
Venue Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, Petronas Twin Towers, KLCC
Tickets From RM100 to RM300.

Box office hours Tues–Sat (10.30am-6.30pm, 9pm on performance nights), Sun (noon to performance time)

Tel 03-2051 7007 Fax 03-2051 7077
Details at and

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