The Very Best Way To Spend Five Ringgit: Mini Merdeka Concert, Detecke Sabah Institute of Art

Macdeline Masidah as Lady Gaga! Marc Elvin on guitar. Photo by Leon Coma


Mike and I don’t operate on Sabah Time.  So we were at Detecke Sabah Institute of Art in KK Times Square ten minutes before the concert was officially due to start  (7pm). That meant we had a choice of almost all the seats. An hour later, when the concert was really about to begin, I looked around,  and it was almost “Standing Room” only.  Another thirty minutes later, after the music had started, it was packed: wall-to-wall, shoulder-to-shoulder. People still wanted to pay to come in, even though the tickets were all sold out. It then became “Sit-on-Floor Room” only, and soon the aisle and front floor space was a dense carpet of people.  What a turn-out!

Detecke Head of Music Yvonne Chung was overseeing the students. “They mixed all the years – the senior and juniors together,” she said. “We just give them our own opinions, whether this is good or bad. ALL the work is theirs, the song arrangements, everything. They worked very hard.”

Jessel Yansalang, Director cum Head of Academic at Detecke said, “It’s an annual concert, but this is the first time the students are using this new equipment. They came up with the [Merdeka] theme themselves, we just helped them with the lighting, and technical things like that.”

The first time I interviewed Jessel was in the old SIA building in Towering. He sat in his office surrounded by cardboard boxes because they were in the process of moving to KK Times Square.  The next time I saw him was in this new place, where he was getting electricians to put wall sockets into the practise rooms. So Detecke SIA has settled into its own now.

Keen young photographers were crouched around on the floors and bobbing up and down throughout the night.  Professional photographer Glory Yew, who is also Interior Design Department Coordinator cum Lecturer at Detecke, said. “It’s an assignment for my new students, they’re just three weeks into their studies. There’s a fashion show tonight too, so they are excited, lah.”


The show was opened by guitarists Marc Elvin, Ben Oswin Gidung and Aaron Richard, with some very “Steely Dan”-esque sounding fusion.  I was immediately struck by the extraordinary number of exceptional guitarists there are in Sabah.  I mean, every local performance I attend, someone picks up guitar, closes their eyes, make a whimsical face and just plays like there is no connecting process between their mind and the sound,  it’s all just one.

So ALL these guys were like that, and it was only the sound check…..

Jessel took the mic, and explained that there would be 12 performances by Detecke SIA students and the UMS students who work closely with them.

Then coloured lights washed over us and smoke filled the stage. The first numbers were Dream Theatre’s “Overture 1928” and Steve Vai’s “Liberty Story” played by the guitarists mentioned above. No quiet opening for them, then!  The guitarists turned to face the audience, closed their eyes and flew away on their awesome solos. Geez.

DETECKE G3. Photo by Leon Coma

They were then joined by singer Charles Khoo, and I saw Gavin Lawrence Nicholas get behind the keyboards at the back.  One of the emcees, Aldo Fedoser Majanil [very snappy in a jacket and tie] took up the bass and they sang a reggae funk version of Malaysia Satu,  as part of the Merdeka concert theme.

Anticipation bristled through the audience – some students clearly knew what was coming up next. Music student Macdeline Masidah appeared with her lovely long legs in killer heels, was made-up with glitter to the max, and wore the sexiest, silver lamé short dress (or was it just a top?)  as she pumped out a Lady Gaga medley which began and finished with “Poker Face”. Macdeline blossomed when she hit the chorus, which is in a higher range than the verse. She came into her own and her confident voice was backed by a powerful bass pulse which had the room throbbing. It was a great performance, and she had a lot of supporters!

Charles Khoo and Quadro Forte. Photo by Leon Coma

Following that was the man who I think has the most powerful set of lungs in Borneo. Up till now, Emmanuel Christo Mojikon was co-emcee, but now he was up on stage with his band Quadro Forte, and this normally acoustic band was going electric for the occasion. I’ve written about this band before,  and hesitate to say too much again, in case I am repeating myself.  But this singer Emmanuel really has so much going for him:  he’s a big guy and his voice is so powerful, his stage presence is fantastic, and absolutely all the instrumentalists in this band are wonderful. There’s no getting around it. I saw their bass player properly for the first time, he was at the back with the red guitar – Aldoreo Marunsai – he had several fabulous solos throughout the night, even jumping on the amp at one point. Emmanuel sang Ne-Yo’s “Closer”, and took the audience with him, everyone grooving and morphed into one.

Charles Khoo came back on and the two of them sang Michael Jackson’s “Black Or White”, with Charles adding some MJ moves into the mix.

Five bucks, remember! We are watching all this for five ringgit!

What was happening now?  A cello, a couple of violinists, keyboardist, flautist and ooh.. a couple of clarinets!  Led by lovely young singer Juliet Onna, this ensemble performed an original arrangement of “Mencintaimu.”  In the background I could see bass and lead guitars playing too. It made for a full sound to a pretty song.

Music Studies Department perform "Mencintaimu". Photo by Leon Coma

Acoustic Quadro Forte came back after the intermission. Jessel reminded those who didn’t know that this band won the Prima Akustika competition in 2009,  and these musicians [who are from SIA and UMS] are playing professionally now. Kevin Coma’s fingers shimmied down his Cajon beat box for the percussive opening, then it was full-on Gypsy Kings for two numbers, “Volare” and “Vamos A Baillar”.  Doesn’t matter how many times you hear these songs, they are always fresh and full of heart and musical brilliance. It can only reflect how the band feels about the music.

Cock & Bull manager Jin Kai turned up in time to hear the band,  which was good since they have been playing there recently. Leon Coma told me who he was. I had been bugging Leon all night for help with spellings of Malay songs and people’s names.

Aaron Richard and Ben Oswin Gidung. Photo by Leon Coma

DETECKE G3, the awesome guitarists from earlier, Marc, Ben and Aaron, took us from Franco-Spain to the MidWest United States, with some country rock. They played renditions of, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”  by Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”, and were even wearing checked shirts  🙂  Great music.

Had enough yet?  This was only about RM3.50 worth, because there was still so much more to come!

Fashion show, model Juliet Onna. Photo by Leon Coma

Detecke SIA has a Department of Fashion Design, and its students put on a fashion and model show, using fabrics with the colours of the Malaysian flag: red, white, blue and yellow. After this first visual feast, there was another one: modern dance. Dance team F2G, performed an impressive bit of choreography: those guys had a LOT of sequences to remember.

F2G. Photo by Leon Coma

Then we were into a long finale; first DETECKE G3 and Charles performed “Sayap Kecil”, then the whole Music Studies Department jammed out a 70’s and 80’s medley of Earth, Wind & Fire songs, Stevie Wonder, and winding up with “Play That Funky Music”.  Marc let his guitar fingers fly, and Aaron and Ben became vocal sidemen, doing that disco thang and pointing their fingers in the air everywhere, and generally jumping about, along with everyone else.

All the musicians performed the “Tanggal 31 Finale” to wrap up the night,  and our money finally ran out.

You could not have made a better purchase with RM5.00 in a million years. Well done, Detecke SIA.

Participating musicians *if you are missing, please tell us!
Marc Elvin
Ben Oswin Gidung
Aaron Richard
Charles Khoo
Gavin Lawrence Nicholas
Aldo Fedoser Majanil
Emmanuel Christo Mojikon
Aldoreo Marunsai
Boly George
Delbert Tiu
Kevin Coma
Juliet Onna
Macdeline Masidah
Nina Syafiqah
Nur Atiqah
Ben Oswin
Oscar Chew
Bryan Dennis
Peter Leong

Click here to learn about Detecke Sabah Institute of Art

Lot 66, Block K, KK Times Square, Off Coastal Highway,
Kota Kinabalu

Kevin Coma and Aldoreo Marunsai of Quadro Forte. Photo by Leon Coma

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