Entertainment

Here’s What Local Musicians Have To Say About The Music Industry In Malaysia

While we’re busy planning events and discovering venues around the Klang Valley, we came across many homegrown talents from various industries. We’ve seen our nation’s best event spaces, photographers, event stylists and decorators, as well as, the people who make events THAT much more livelierthe entertainment. We got down to business and asked these musicians what they thought about the music industry in Malaysia and here’s what these local musicians have to say:

Blister

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“For the English market, there is no music industry in Malaysia. There used to be. But right now, there isn’t anymore. Artistes and musicians are all doing it themselves, promoting themselves through social media.

Even our local radio stations don’t do much for the artistes as they prefer to promote/highlight international artistes. Malaysian record labels are just interested in what they can sell out of you, sometimes even surpassing art and putting out crap just to sell.

With that being said, there are independent outlets and labels out there that are assisting and looking out for the artistes. These guys keep the industry healthy. They might not be up there with the big guys but they are doing their part well for the underground scene.” 

Meet Blister, the ultimate IDGAF rock band in Malaysia. These boys from the Portuguese Settlement in Malacca stay true to the Rock and Roll ways. Blister is all about adopting rock as it is, a lifestyle. What you see is what you get with these guys and their music is a reflection of their lifestyle.

Their earliest inspiration came from Os Pombos, a country/western rock n’ roll Malaysian band, which consists of their Uncles and Aunt. They’ve had their dreams materialise by opening for Slash in Kuala Lumpur, twice! Look out for the debut album, written and composed by them.

You may get in touch with them here.

Sounds Of Jane

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“The industry itself in terms of talents is booming. In the last decade itself, you can see the movement toward self-produced music from all sorts of genres. There has also been an increase in music related events, festivals and gigs in all major cities in Malaysia.

The opportunity for exposure is aplenty. Almost any night of the week there are places where a musician can go for an open mic.

However, the industry is still not an economically viable option for musicians. Most English musicians are concentrated in towns and their fans and listeners are limited to the urban folk.

Although with the advent of online media platforms, it’s relatively easy to put your own music up for sale online, Malaysia just doesn’t seem to have sufficient following from the public for the musicians to make a living off their art.”

Sounds of Jane plays blues, rock, funk, soul and everything in between. They gained inspiration from Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, BB King and many other great musicians. A chilled out band, they play a variety of cover songs depending on the audience. They’ve played in local pubs, island festivals, as well as in Thailand and Myanmar.

You may get in touch with them here.

The MASH

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“It’s quite divided to be honest. If everyone in the music industry unites (both mainstream and underground) then there is hope for the music industry here to get better. Sometimes people want to hear fresh music from new and upcoming acts.”

These guys play Pop Punk music and try to make their music as acceptable as possible for everyone to listen to, including moms and dads. Their energy levels speak volumes when they’re on stage.

They’ve been inspired by bands like McFly, McBusted, Artic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and Tegan & Sara to name a few. To them, music has shaped their lives and made them who they are today. Check out their EP titled “Put Up, Or Shut Up!” available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and many more music stores.

You may get in touch with them here.

Raggy Project

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“It seems like there are parallel streams in the music industry in Malaysia…the youngsters are on a completely different track from the older established musicians. The youngsters tend to be innovative and constantly trying out new ideas while the older musicians are stuck doing the same songs in the same style.

There is also a terrible commercialisation of the mainstream music scene…you can hardly find any bands where members stick together trying to be different.

Nowadays, the norm is for musicians to belong to multiple bands, playing for different bands in different styles on different days of the same week, the primary concern is to get a paying gig immediately, which is sad because even good musicians need to spend some time together before they can become a good band.

The youngsters, on the other hand, are totally refreshing. Unfortunately they don’t get gigs where the adult listeners go, so their scene passes unnoticed by the adults.”

Meet Raggy Project, veterans of the Malaysian music scene. Collectively, they have over 100 years’ performing experience. Based in Penang, Raggy Project plays mostly classic rock, Blues, and Country, these guys have performed for Penang World Music Festival 2015 and quite recently for IndiePG 2016 among many other shows.

“Great Music and Some Mayhem” is how their performances are, with a combination of wacky humour and hard work to deliver quality music.

They’ve been inspired by Tina Turner as she refuses to let age and personal troubles stand in the way of her artistry. Mark Knopfler, Carlos Santana, BB King, Ray Charles, and Elvis have played a huge role in influencing the music they play today.

They have released 2 albums and have been preparing their whole lives to be on stage as that’s where they are most comfortable and relaxed. Keep an eye out on their Facebook page to stay informed on their gigs.

You may get in touch with them here.

Thirteen Hundred

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“Malaysia’s got talent. Period. Over the years, we’ve seen some serious mad skills in the local music scene, we have such  a wealth of great performers and acts.

The challenge is always to get them out there, get them noticed, get them a platform to showcase themselves instead of diverting the bulk of our attention (and resources) to international acts primarily.

It’s almost a trend these days that you need to be somebody outside of Malaysia first before you get local recognition.

Take a look at regional music scenes to draw a paradigm—Thailand is a great example. Their burgeoning rock scene would make ours pale in comparison, with phenomenal bands like Bodyslam, Retrospect, SDF, Getsunova and many other generating quality music and strong entertainment value.

Theirs is a thriving network that not only channels talent to demand through media conduits and touring circuits, but it’s also a strong commercial generator that is capable of harnessing their local masses and trigger demand for merchandise and products. It’s the cold, hard fact of life that all this boils down to dollars and cents, but it can be made to work.”

Formed in 2007, Thirteen Hundred plays a variety of modern rock and hard rock. This Penang-based rock and roll quartet draws inspiration from many sources but to quote Ariff, ‘If you put a gun to my head and say “just one”, I’d say Metallica.’

Thirteen Hundred has had the pleasure of opening for well-known local acts such as Oh Chenta Ku, Pop Shuvit, and Carburetor Dung back in 2009/2010. Check out “The Nigh Near EP”—a CD-format release that is available for purchase. If interested, drop them a line here to purchase. Stay tuned for their full-length album, “On Darker Shores” which will be out at the end of 2016.

You may get in touch with them here.

Balan Kashmir

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“I love the talent. There’s a pool of talent, so many artistes who are taking charge of their brand and their music, because many of us didn’t.

We used to put out records and think it was going to make it, we never used to put work into it. Now, you see many artistes grinding, even big artistes – you can see them on social media, doing their thing every day.

These are the people who give me hope, these are the people that let me know Malaysian music is still alive. The Chinese, Malay and Tamil scene is blooming – the support system is mad because local radio stations play their music.

However, the English scene is a little slow because it is very clustered as there are so many things happening and it is still very dependent on acts that are pushed by brands and record labels.”

Balan Kashmir  is no stranger to the Malaysian Hip Hop scene as this rapper has created headlines with his latest collaboration, Hola Amigo with Anirudh for the movie Rum.

He was also the opening act and the host for Anirudh Live in Kuala Lumpur 2016. A proud macha by birth, Balan founded and is the creative head of his brand, Macha Magic, a clothing line. We can expect more great stuff from this rapper/songwriter.

You may get in touch with him here.

Crinkle Cut

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“The music scene in Malaysia is getting more creative and diverse. There are more platforms offering to showcase new music from new musicians, which is beneficial and easier to connect with people.

However, the music education in Malaysia is too exam oriented and thus people are being judged based on exam levels rather than performances.

We could still use more support from the government to create more opportunities for both classical and contemporary musicians.”

These four ladies formed their electro-acoustic group playing music that is more geared toward the indie scene incorporating a fusion of styles including folk, pop, and R&B.

What started out as a band playing for extra pocket money, Crinkle Cut came about five years ago. The support from the music scene encouraged them to make their own music and eventually brought them to where they are today.

You  may get in touch with them here.

S.I.C.K.

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“The Malaysian music industry is really evolving and growing. Recently, big major labels have started scouting for new artistes to sign, and even in the media, Malaysian music entertainment is definitely developing and growing.

I believe in about 4 years time, it’ll be time to bloom and hopefully the music scene will hit its growth spurt and become internationally known because Malaysians ARE that talented, Malaysians ARE that good and Malaysians have this uniqueness that no one in the world has. It’s time to REALLY showcase that to the world.”

S.I.C.K. is a rap rock/nu metal band from the beautiful island of Penang. Initially a cover band, S.I.C.K. started writing their own songs and released their first single “Away From You” in 2011.

Their debut album was released in April 2014. They play a mixture of Hip Hop, Metal, and Alternative sonic riffs. In case you were wondering, S.I.C.K actually stands for So I Can Kick!

You may get in touch with them here.

Tonal Alchemy

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“We do welcome other Jazz acts from Malaysia and fact some are good friends like Julian Chan etc. Jazz has a very small audience and it’s very niche so the musicians are a handful. Sometimes when they come visiting we hold a jam session!”

The band started performing in 1996 and used to be known as Wilson Quah Quartet which featured the late Ruby Rozells. Now with a different line up they are known as Tonal Alchemy, reflecting the different contributions of the newer musicians who joined thereafter.

This jazz trio features Colleen Read, veteran Jazz singer and strictly plays traditional Jazz including Bossa Nova, Swing, Bebop, Blues, Samba & original Fusion instrumentals. Tonal Alchemy lives and breathes jazz and successfully hosted the UNESCO’s International Jazz Day in Penang where they gather musicians from Penang for a round of jam session. Catch them live at 32 Mansion!

You may get in touch with them here.

Black Velvets

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“The music industry in Malaysia has been growing slowly through the years with more and more acts coming out and pushing the boundaries of music.

Good to know that Malaysia has produced international ground-breaking artistes like Yuna, Dasha Logan and many more who are paving the way for local artistes to step up their game and realize that being international is not merely a dream.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a singer/songwriter, in a metal or jazz band, or play covers in a bar to make ends meet. The love for music is the binding force in our community and we respect each others craft and constantly learn from one another.

Being in Malaysia, a melting pot of diverse culture and people, you are never short of being amazed with great musicians who play at low key cafes, open mic nights, or busking around town—we do it for the love of playing and performing.”

Very aptly named, Black Velvets play a wide range of songs mainly soul and blues rock. Their individual styles come together and complement one another and on stage, this strange dynamic work wonders. This bizarre combination of musicians will take you on a journey fusing funky basslines, filthy solos and meaty riffs, phenomenal stick work, tickling ivories, and powerhouse vocals.

You may get in touch with them here.

Acidic Bunch

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“We do care for good quality local bands who make music for non-commercial gains.”

Having met through a gig in Penang in 2010, they noticed there was great chemistry between the 6 of them which accelerated the birth of Acidic Bunch. This high energy 6 piece band plays a unique blend of different music styles from rock, pop, blues to hip-hop, R&B, and oldies. They have performed for White Canvas Music Festival and perform weekly at various venues in Penang.

You may get in touch with them here.

Volatile

Image Credit: Venuescape
Image Credit: Venuescape

“We all agree that the music industry, particularly for Indie bands, has taken off since we just started. The number of things to get involved in has increased tenfold. There are so many platforms and people who are actively looking for Indie music. It’s great.

There is still room for improvement—to be able to penetrate a different market and show people local music is great!”

Volatile first came together in 2011 as a feel-good rock band fronted by 13-year-old creative genius and vocal powerhouse, Sean Choon.  Their music incorporates the 80s and 90s rock and their early inspirations came from Foo Fighters, Toto, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd.

They have performed at IndiePG, Penang Island Jazz Festival and White Canvas festival to name a few. They have released an EP and an album titled “Last Calls” and “Taking Flight” available on iTunes, and Spotify. They perform regularly at local Penang venues and occasionally in Kuala Lumpur.

You may get in touch with them here.

And it’s reasons like these talented, home-grown musicians that make us fall in love with Malaysia over and over again. We have so much to offer and it’s time we as Malaysians start supporting local acts as it is important to have an outlet and utmost support to succeed in any field or industry. Music is one of the few things that everyone can enjoy without any reservations and society needs more people who are doing and pursuing what they love. 

If you are an aspiring musician looking for venues to jam in Penang, check out our list here. Those in KL, you WANT to head to Drum Asia where you can play, practise, and perform all in one venue! For an amazing jam session with top notch equipment, Drum Asia is fully equipped and comes with a performing area where you can have your very own show!

Finally, if you are a budding musician, a little advice from all these musicians – do not give up, always chase your dream and most importantly, do it with passion.

This article first appeared on The Venuescaper’s Guide, a blog by Venuescape, which is a Malaysian venue sourcing platform. It was written by the Venuescape team, with the original title of “Here’s What Local Musicians Have To Say About The Music Industry in Malaysia”.

Feature Image Credit: FHM Malaysia