I talked with Moses De Silva, head of Kombo RTM Sabah, about some of the issues surrounding local music radio these days. It made a very informative interview.
Issue 1. Does RTM Sabah still support local musicians?
“Some people say RTM Sabah does not support local musicians anymore,” said Moses. “Some say people like Bro Langau and DJ Othoe are filling a gap left by RTM Sabah, while others say DBKK is taking over the role of RTM.”
DBKK recently held an award show to honour Sabah’s veteran artists and some local stars were given lifetime achievement awards, he said. “The DBKK event was a very good thing to do. But having one good event doesn’t mean the whole role of RTM is taken away. At RTM, we look for NEW artists almost every month. Every show looks for new artists to bring in.
“Take for example, Joanna Sue Henley-Rampas. She just made a duet with Alif; he’s really big now in KL. Now, she was discovered by RTM. Not by AF, or other talent searches. Other local artists such as Zizi & Rubisa – BEFORE they went to AF7, it was RTM who discovered them.
“It’s like what I have said in the back of Bandwidth magazine,” Moses said. “We always welcome new singers, please come to RTM and audition.
“Local artists can just come to HIBURAN at RTM Sabah. Just come and turn up, you don’t have to make an appointment with anybody. There are 12 of us who are entitled to give an audition. All the Kombo members are here.
“The process is:
• They come here to sing and usually they bring a cd with them. If they don’t have a cd, someone will play a guitar.
• They sing an audition.
• We will evaluate them. If they are good, we get their contact numbers.
• We look at what programmes we have soon, and then ask them to join us.
• Every show we make normally requires about six singers. We try and balance it with three guys and three girls.
• Sometimes the singer picks the song, sometimes we suggest the song.
• We can also feature them in some of the other radio programmes, not only programmes with Kombo.”
Moses acknowledged that RTM does not play everything which local artists send in.
“It is true that not all songs sent in by local artists are aired by RTM. It’s not that we don’t want to help our local people. But we filter what we receive, because we have to maintain a certain standard of recording.
“Some local artists send in demos, hoping it will be aired on radio.” Moses described some problems with quality. “Sometimes they don’t change the chord on the keyboard when the melody needs it, or the guitars are not tuned, or the singer is singing in a different key, or I only hear the voice coming from the left headphone speaker and there’s nothing from the right.
“Some people say we will kill the industry if we are too strict with our criteria. But what if tourists or West Malaysians come here, and they turn on the radio and hear these kind of problems? They will say, ‘Is this really the best quality of music that Sabah has to offer?’ It is important that we keep standards for what is being aired.”
Moses said local artists should use RTM as a place to get advice on their musicianship.
“I want to say to local artists who complain that we don’t play their songs, they are welcome to come to RTM to ask why their song is not being aired on the radio. Sabahans have the heart to do good recordings; they HAVE the talent, the voice, the idea. But maybe because of a tight budget, they cannot always make a recording properly. They might just use a keyboard. But there ARE ways to make the music sound good, if you don’t have the money to pay a big company. They can always come here and ask, and we can suggest to them, tell them what they need to fix.”
Issue 2. Does RTM Sabah’s local stations — Sabah FM and Sabah V FM — play as many local songs as they play West Malaysian songs?
Moses said, “Local artists listen to well-known DJs’ shows on independent stations. These shows last maybe 3-4 hours, and in that time they will probably hear their song and be happy about it. The difference at RTM, is that we schedule our output across a whole week.
“We have a whole segment of Kadazan programmes. We have Dusun, Bajau and Murut segments also. We don’t stack everything into one show. We keep a balance between everything. Of course we also have local English programmes, but not many bands send in their songs to us in English.
“We hold awards every two years for the chart show winners in the four languages: Kadazan, Murut, Dusun, Bajau. We also have the local Bahasa Malaysia chart shows, which are done every year. It’s called CLAS! Carta Lagu Artis Sabah. Only locals are accepted. Felix Agus won last year. So when we hear people say that RTM Sabah does not help local musicians, that is hurtful for us. All the musicians hired in Kombo RTM Sabah are local. None of us here are from West Malaysia.”
Issue 3. Are local musicians getting royalties from their songs?
“In Sabah, people write songs, play them and make an album,” Moses said. “Then they sell it by themselves. They think if their song has been played on a radio station, the station will pay them royalties.”
“When a DJ plays a song on RTM, everything is in the computer system,” Moses said. “The playlist comes out and it will be sent to KL. BUT you can only claim royalties if you are a member of the MALAYSIAN AUTHORS’ COPYRIGHT PROTECTION organisation. This is a non-profit organisation, and a FREE service.”
Moses explained that you must post in your registration.
You need to write FIVE songs. MACP wants:
• Name of the composer.
• Name of the lyricist.
• Name of the song.
• A letter from the radio station, stating that your songs are played on the radio.
• They want to see your CD cover. It’s very important to have a cover WITH the government hologram to state that you have your Copyright Reserved. It means you hold the rights to your song(s).
• Lastly, you need a publisher.
Not many people know the importance of having a publisher.
“If you want to sell your book, you must publish your book, right?” Moses said. “It’s the same thing with songs. You need a company to actually publish your songs. There are lots of publishing houses now. A recent one which opened is Jiaja. Jiaja really wanted to be registered under MACP. Ji (Nazri) found out he needed a publishing house. So he went and opened a company, got a trading license and opened a publishing house. From there, he published his songs. His OWN songs.
“Publishers get a percentage of whatever the royalties are. The publisher will get some, the composer gets some, the lyricist gets some, the musicians get some.
“This is important!” said Moses. “I say to the local artists, please stop making music like it’s worth nothing, and then expect everything back from it. You need to hold the intellectual properties of your song. You need the ‘c’ copyright and the ‘p’ for virtual copyright.
“What if somebody else took your song? Look what has been happening to Jambatan Tamparuli. It’s being played in China, it’s being played in Taiwan, in Indonesia. What about the composer? Yes, RTM will play your songs, but you’ll only get royalties for it, if you do your part.”
Thank you Moses, for some very valuable information. Sabah’s music scene has variety, and this is reflected in its different radio offerings. Sabah boleh!