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Traditional Malay instruments

  

Malaysia is a country with a rich musical history. While all genres of music are popular in the country, the traditional Malay sound continues to be popular. If you are interested in learning more about it, here are the most common instruments used in traditional Malaysian music.
Harmonium
The Harmonium was first played in Britain, though it migrated to India in the days of the Commonwealth. The Malays began to use it as part of their ghazal poetic performances.
Rebabtraditional malay instruments
If you are listening to a piece of rhythmic Malaysian trad and you hear a sweet, pulled melody running through it, chances are it comes from a rebab, which is one of the most popular bowed lute in the Malaysian trad family.
Angklung
This comprises two bamboo tubes that have been attached to a larger bamboo frame. Each one is tuned to octaves and the player strikes them in turn to create a haunting, resonant sound.
Kompang
You'll see this percussion instrument being played in large ensembles, often to accompany choral singers at traditional ceremonies such as weddings.
Gamelan
Another percussion instrument, the Gamelan is made of brass, giving a deep, metallic drum pop sound.
Seruling
The Seruling is argued by some to be the earliest known instrument in Malaysian culture. It's a bamboo flute popular amongst Malay tribes from the jungle regions.
Gong
You've probably seen these before – a huge hanging brass tray that is hit by the player to create a resounding, echoing percussion sound from its centre.
Marwas
The Zapin dance is a very popular dance you will see in both Malaysia and Indonesia. Accompanying the dancers movements is likely to be a Marwas player, who will strike the instrument with one hand while the performers move.
Serunai
This wind instrument is made out of wood with seven holes in the upper part and a single hole one the other end. It is often played to accompany dances and martial arts performances.
Gendang
The Gendang is another Malaysian drum. Made out of buffalo and cow hides, it is slapped on both ends.
Gambus
This another member of the lute family, played in both zapin and ghazal performances.

The Malaysian hip hop scene

  

Hip hop is amongst the many genres of music that is followed with great fervour in Malaysia. It is not just Western exports like 50 Cent or Kanye West, however, that Malaysian rap fans enjoy. Since the early 1990s successive generations of home-grown rap acts have been bringing their own distinctly South East Asian flavour to the music.hip hop

The scene began with acts such as 4U2C, NICO and, particularly, KRU, who went on to found one of Malaysia's most famous labels and studios. Today, everything from albums to movies to books comes out under the KRU Studios label. Though influential, none of these bands quite made the mainstream breakthrough that hip hop needed in the country.
The real breakout rap group in Malaysia was Krash Krozz, who added a more RnB-ish flavour to the mix, something akin the New Jack Swing sound spearheaded by Teddy Riley and Bernard Belle in late-80s America. Krash Krozz had some success with their debut LP but fell away and disbanded soon after.
Though they were successful and very influential, Krash Krozz's fate speaks volumes about Malaysian hip hop in the 90s. In a country in love with rock, pop and traditional music, trying to convince people to dig rap was not an easy task.
The game-changing moment came in 1995 when an album called It's a Nice Day to be Alive hit the shelves. The debut LP from a young underground hip hop collective called Poetic Ammo, it packed a raw, hard edged sound that was the polar opposite of the more poppy attempts at rap that had proceeded it. It was a runaway success, making superstars of the groups four members: Yogi B, Point Blanc, Landslyde and C Loco.
Poetic Ammo's success paved the way for more Malaysian hip hop artists to get mainstream attention. Perhaps the most notable of all was Too Phat, the Kuala Lumpur duo whose first single Lil Fingaz was put on steady rotation on Malaysian radio throughout 1999.
Thanks to Too Phat, Poetic Ammo, KRU and Krash Krozz, rap music is now a part of Malaysia's pop music scene. Things have certainly come a long way since the early 90s.

 

The dazzling career of Malay jazzman Aubrey Suwito

  

Aubrey Suwito

A Malaysian pianist, songwriter and producer, Aubrey Suwito has been involved in the music industry since the tender age of six. That was when he first put his hands on a piano's keyboards and thoughts himself a few chords. It was the beginning of an extraordinary journey that would see Suwito rise right to the top of the South East Asian music scene, becoming musical director of Malaysian Idol and being awarded multiple times for his incredible contribution.

Suwito's gifts were apparent from early on in his life and so it was no surprise that he crossed the Atlantic and enrolled in the Berkeley School of Music in Boston in 1991. The most formative part of his education was his first exposure to the rich history of American jazz music, which would inform his song writing from that time on. He took a job at a recording studio after graduation and, quite quickly, his talents were noticed.

He began writing and producing songs for a diverse string of popular musicians, most notably Jaclyn Victor for whom he wrote the award winning smash Gemilang. As well as the work he has done for others, Suwito also boasts an impressive discography of his own LPs. His first album, One Busy Street was originally released in 2000 and fused his own Malay musical heritage with his love of Jazz and other American styles. It is a real treat for anybody interested in world music, as it brings together diverse elements of sound from different cultures to create a new and enticing audio palette. His second album, Christmas with Friends from 2010 was the sister recording for a fundraising concert he and his wife put on to help musicians in need of medical assistance. A jaunty though captivating collection of traditional Christmas hits given a jazzy spin, it packs some truly spectacular moments, including a superb rendition of O Holy Night.

A recent album is Home, released in 2011 and this is perhaps Suwito's most clear attempt to make a fuse Malaysian and American music to form a new sound yet. Typically, Malaysian rhythms play below jazz riffs before, occasionally, breaking into Asian pop melody. For anybody interested in Malay music, Aubrey Suwito is a must-listen. More on crankymusic.

SingleTrackMind: a star of sport and music

  
Though you might not know the name Alex Wong, if you have any interest in Malaysian music you will most certainly have heard of SingleTrackMind, Wong's stage name. Under this guise her has a released a string of very successful independent rock hits, plus two acclaimed albums.single track mind alex wong
Before taking to the stage as SingleTrackMind, however, Wong first established himself as one of Malaysia's most successful jet skiers. After debuting as a professional jet skier under the Wong's Way Racing banner in 1987, he went on to take numerous championships including the Dhanabalan Cup in Singapore in 1991, the 1994 Phillipine Championship, three Malaysian Championships in 1995, 1996 and 1998, a Korean title in 1995, an Australian championship in 1996 and the coveted Asia Pacific King's Cup in 1998.
Though he had an extraordinary and acclaimed career as a jet skier, Wong felt distracted by music and wanted to expand his brand into independent pop. Taking the name SingleTrackMind, he made his first live performance at the Rock the World 3 festival in Kuala Lumpur in 2002, before releasing his first album the following year. Titled No Reason, it instantly grabbed critical acclaim from the local critics, earning Wong three nominations at the 2004 AIM music awards, including Best Music Video, Best Engineered Album and Best New Local English Artist.
At this time, Wong was still signed to Jet Ski banner Petronas Jet Sport but quit jet skiing for good after the World King's Cup Watercross in Thailand in 2006. Throughout this period, Wong was hitting the stages across Asia, performing to crowds in China, Thailand, Phillipines and Singapore.
SingleTrackMind's second album was 2007's [hey.], most famous for containing Wong's recording of One Day, a popular Indonesian song re-interpreted in English. It also featured Seventeen (God at the Beach), which was a heartfelt ode to a friend of Wong's who had recently passed away suddenly. The album was recorded in LA.
Alex Wong has certainly had an amazing career. Few people could possibly make a successful move from professional sports to pop music, but he did it with remarkable confidence and certainty.

Punk rock in Malaysia

  
For much of the last 30 years, Malaysia has been crazy about rock music. A country where the kids like it loud, it is one of the big global powerhouses of the hardcore punk rock scene. Of all Malaysian cities, Terengganu is known as the heart of Malay rock. Though known as a socially conservative little town, Terengganu has been the home of many of the most extreme and revolutionary voices in Malaysian punk.punk rock malaysia oag
In 1986, a band called Malaria formed in Terengganu. They played rapid, rabid crossover trash music. They recorded one single demo, with just four songs on it, and then disbanded but the influence of that roughhewn demo and their fearsome reputation as a cut throat live act permeated across the country, from coast to coast.
Throughout the early 90s punk continued to buzz along as an underground scene, though by this time it had migrated to Kuala Lumpur. While punk was still miles from the mainstream, many bands who would go on to large-scale success were forming and playing in KL at this time: Carburetor Dung, Formation Bee, Stoink and Mechanical Baby amongst them.
At the same time, other bands began adopting the style of the British Oi-scene, like ACAB, The Official and Roots n Boots.
In the mid-90s the punk finally began to make inroads into the popular Malaysian culture. Many of those aforementioned acts became well known at this time as the sheer popularity of the scene amongst the urban youth forced it into the reluctant mainstream.
One major recent trend is for bands to sing in their native Malaysian tongue, as opposed to the English of their British and American influences. Nowadays the scene thrives, with hugely successful acts such as OAG, Estranged, Pop Shuvit and Bunkface. These acts adopted a style that was both more poppy and more Malaysian.
As well as being successful in their home country, these acts have also made international splashes, in countries like Japan, Indonesia and Singapore. In Indonesia, particularly, Malay punk rock is considered to be a huge influence on the local scene and local youth culture.

Malaysian pop-punk rebels: Bunkface

  

Sam, Youk and Paan are the three young men that make up Bunkface, one of the most successful groups ever to come out of Malaysia. Since 2005 they have been lashing out high energy pop punk riffs to dizzy teenage fans across the continent.bunkface pop punk rebels
After initially finding success with their English language Lesson of the Season EP in 2007, Bunkface's big break came with the release of their first Malay single Situasi in 2008. Though they had initially intended to record the track in English, in order to ape their American heroes such as Sum 41, The Offspring and Green Day, bassist Youk suggested a Malay recording at the last minute. It was an inspired decision, and the song went on to hit the number one spot on FLY FM.
After blitzing the first ever Shout! Awards and taking home three gongs, Bunkface released their debut album, Phobia Phoney, in 2010. A mixture of six English songs and 4 Malay songs it produced several more hits of the band, including Revolusi, Prom Queen, Soldier and Dunia.
Their second LP Bunk Not Dead followed in 2012, produced on their own Bunkface Productions label. This time they decided to add 9 English songs and 4 Malay songs. The long wait between their debut album and this follow-up is attributed to an incredibly hectic touring schedule that saw Bunkface play across Asia, Europe and North America to wide acclaim.
It's a heavier piece than Phobia Phoney, with lyrics that enter stranger, more troubled areas and a less obviously poppy sound in the music. Part of the reason for this increased heaviness had to do with an increasingly hostile attitude towards Malaysian punk from the country's established music scene.
For example, the previous year, the albums lead single Panik had been banned by Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM, the government's official station).The initially cited reason for the ban was to do with the repeated usage of the word ‘Reformasi' in the lyrics, which is a term often used by opposition political leaders. Bunkface themselves reacted angrily to the ban, saying they had the right to use whatever words they wish and that they had no political message that they were trying to put across.
Despite the controversy, Bunkface remain one of Malaysia's most popular acts, with a huge following of loyal punk fans.

Jaclyn Victor: from lounge singer to national icon

  

You might know her as Jaclyn Victor or you might know her as Jac. Whatever you call her, you should know that Jaclyn Victor is one of the most powerful and popular singers in the Malaysian pop scene. After winning the inaugural Malaysian Idol and Ikon Malayisa contests, she went on release a string of hugely popular and influential albums and represented Malaysia in Asian Idol and Ikon Asean.jaclyn victor
Before Malaysian Idol, Jac had already been earning a living by singing in clubs and bars across Kuala Lumpur. She had even recorded an album, entitled Dreams, and sang on a national television show but had not come to mainstream attention.
Malaysian Idol changed all that. She auditioned on the encouragement of her mother and stormed the show, with her faultless covers of staples such as Sweet Child O Mine, Lady Marmalade and If I Ain't Got you. In the final, she won an incredible 76% of the audience's vote, before singing Gemilang, the song written for the winner that would eventually become her signature tune.
She quickly released an album of the same name, which went gold almost instantly. Jac picked up award after award across the next few years, playing in various huge events across Asia. Her second album, entitled Inilah Jac, dropped in 2006. Supported by her first proper music video Ceritera Cinta with Rio Febrian, it was another critical and commercial success.
At the AIM awards in 2007 she was nominated for a four awards and took home one for Best Female Vocal Performance in an Album. She also sang on a special edition of the hugely successful High School Musical 2 soundtrack, helping to promote it across Malaysia.
Jac was also a very big part of the 50 Years of Malaysian Independence celebrations, headlining the Live and Loud KL concerts that ran across 10 days in the capital. This was followed by more touring concerts in Europe and Asia.
Since then Jac has released two more acclaimed albums and begun a successful acting career. She starred in Talentime, directed by Yasmin Ahmad in 2009, bagging an award for Best Promising Actress at the Malaysian Film Festival.
Jaclyn Victor is one of the most brilliant vocal talents in Asia. Her extraordinary career continues to be one of the most exciting things in Malaysian pop.

 

How Raihan conquered the world

  
Any recent history of Malaysian music simply has to include a large section devoted to Raihan, the Nasheed group that took the country by storm in the mid-90s. Their debut album, entitled Puji-Puijan, hit the charts in late 1996, selling over 750,000 units in Malaysia and many more worldwide. As of this date, it has sold a grand total of 3.5 million copies across the globe, making it the most successful Malaysian album of all time.raihan band malaysia
So what is it that made Raihan so successful?
A Nasheed band made up of five members, Raihan have a reputation for creating deep, soulful vocal music that instantly resonates with the listener's sense of spirituality and emotion. The singing from core members Nazrey Johani, Che Amran Idris, Abu Bakar Md Yatim, Amran Ibrahim and Azhari Ahmad was backed up by driving insistent percussion and their adoption of instrumentation differentiated them from the Nasheed music of the past. Theirs was a truly new take on an old formula, and it instantly clicked with a world music audience.
The year after Puji-Puijan, Raihan sang in front of Queen Elizabeth 2nd at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh. Soon after, they received an honorary letter from Prince Charles for their performance at Commonwealth in Concert and then performed at the Commonwealth Games 1998 in Kuala Lumpur.
Tragedy struck on 29 August 2001 when Azhari Ahmad suffered a fatal heart attack at the Era music Awards in Pahang. The other four members decided to keep working in his wake, releasing 10 more albums since Ahmad's passing, all of them massively successful and critically acclaimed.
Raihan has been showered with awards over the years. They have won numerous AIM awards in various categories, including best album, best group, best nasyid album and best nasyid song.
Raihan's success has taken them across the world, playing to packed crowds in famous venues. As well as being only the third Malaysian artist to perform at London's renowned Royal Albert Hall, they also became the first to perform their for a second time in 2008. They have also toured extensively across France, the UK, Austria, Canada and the United States.
Perhaps Raihan's success is best summed up by their motto: Pray Hard, Work Smart.

Butterfingers - kings of Malaysian rock music

  
In Malaysia, a country obsessed with rock music, Butterfingers are almost certainly the biggest home-grown rock band. Formed by a group of students in Malay College in 1993, the band quickly gained a fearsome reputation in the local underground rock scene. Grunge was breaking and the raw energy of their sound, plus the charisma of front man Emmett, caught the young audience's eye.butterfingers malaysian rock music
Their first demo tape, entitled 1 Goat, 2 Apples and 16 Oranges, caught widespread attention, with many people thinking it was an upcoming, unreleased Nirvana album that had been leaked. Their first album hit in 1996. Entitled 1.2 mg, it was critically acclaimed and it resonated with the grunge-loving young Malays. The follow up, Butter Worth Pushful was similarly well received, but it was their third LP, Transcendence, which hit in 1999 that truly made the mainstream breakthrough.
While it retained the grungy anger of their earlier albums and contained much of the ferocity of their live shows, it was a more intricate affair, with some terrifically sophisticated song-writing. It sold more than 50,000 units, which was then considered unprecedented for a Malaysian artist in a marketplace dominated by foreign groups.
The band followed Transcendence with one of the most critically acclaimed rock albums in the history of the country. An epic departure into complex rock music, it was seen as a true tour de force by Malaysia's music press. Unfortunately then fans did not agree: it sold disappointingly. Though Butterfingers had developed, it seemed their audience had not, as they still called out for the three chord rock that made Transcendence such a hit.
The next major project was a Malay-language album called Selamat Tinggal Dunia. While many other big name bands were recording in their native language around this time, Butterfinger's effort felt unique as it continued their exploration of new musical ideas and strange lyrical ideas.
Butterfingers released another album in 2008, named Kembali, before taking a sabbatical while members of the band studied for various different degrees. At this time, they have not officially broken up but have not released any new material as a group in five years. Their legions of fans across South East Asia, however, still hold out hope for more.

Getting around Kuala Lumpur

  

By railKL Central railway kuala lumpur
The thriving capital city of Malaysia is well-served by transport – principally railways, taxis and buses. Around one kilometre to the south of its historic old train station lies KL Central. This hub lies at the hreart of the city's sophisticated urban transport network.
Within this hub various systems congregate - KTM Komuter, KLIA Transit, KLIA Ekspres, LRT and Monorail systems. The one less satisfactory aspect of travelling across Kuala Lumpur is the fact that these systems were all built separately, and to this day remain largely un-integrated. This means different tickets have to be purchased for each stage of a journey. However, it remains perfectly feasible to get right round the city using the hub services, and a combination of monorail and railway.
Another factor which aims to make travelling as convenient as possible are rechargeable ‘Touch & Go' stored value cards, which are available at all LRT stations. These cards can be used to access the electronic gates at any of the LRT, train and monorail systems.
By bus and tram
Sightseeing around the city has been considerably streamlined in recent years. There are information booths on street corners where you are able to access route maps, as well as information on season tickets. Local buses leave from many of the city's bus terminals, including the vast Puduraya bus station and the Klang bus station. Your single fare for most destinations within Kuala Lumpur city limits is covered by one MYR. A two MYR ticket will allow you to take unlimited travel for one day on any of Rapid KL's 15 routes.
Local transport
Many travellers opt for taxis or the LRT systems. Not only are these modes of transport more efficient, they are air-conditioned. The city's local buses depart from half a dozen stands around the city. The zip around Kuala Lumpur's thoroughfares and are ideal if your destinations are Central Market, the Kota Raya department store, and many other locations.
There are numerous taxis in the city, queuing at designated stops. You are also able to flag-down taxis in transit, although drivers will only stop if it is safe and convenient for them to pull over. Fares commence at two MYR for the first two minutes, and proceed to charge at an additional 10 cents for every 45 seconds. From midnight until 6am you'll be automatically surcharged an extra 50%. Extra passengers (that is, more than two) are charged 20 cents each.
A note of caution is that not all drivers use a meter, even although it is a legal requirement for them to do so. Also, not every taxi driver possesses a complete geographical knowledge of the city. It is therefore recommended that you familiarize yourself with all possible routes by consulting a Kuala Lumpur street plan. While it will be impossible for you to take into account localized factors, such as roadworks or accidents, at least having armed yourself with some basic knowledge of the street layout will help you to correct the driver on the off-chance he is straying drastically!
 
By air
KL International Airport (KLIA) is one of Asia's major aviation hubs and is a destination in itself. It is located at the top of the southern corridor of Peninsular Malaysia, bordering the states of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. Situated in the Sepang district, it is approximately 50km from the capital city, Kuala Lumpur.

KLIA is a unique airport that offers something for everyone whether it is for business, entertainment or relaxation. The airport is part of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) where new technology is actively pursued.

Surrounded by four main cities - Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam, Seremban and Malacca - the airport is a catchment area that offers exciting opportunities for businesses. As modern as it sounds, KLIA still strives to create a homely airport with a serene environment.

The airport was designed using the 'Airport in the Forest, Forest in the Airport' concept, in which it is surrounded by green space. With the co-operation of the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia, an entire section of the rain forest was transplanted in the Satellite Building.

Since its inauguration in year 1998, KLIA has won numerous awards from international organisations such as Skytrax and International Air Transport Association. With its continuous effort to provide excellent services to passengers, the airport has emerged as one of the top five airports in the world.
  
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