Are we on the cusp of a new dawn? Kota Kinabalu’s music industry is growing, along with the rest of the city’s business sectors. Music titans from KL came to KK, stayed in a hotel in 1Borneo and did recording session work in Alamesra, expressing their intention to come again.
“This is the first time I am doing a recording in KK,” Man Keedal [also spelt KIDAL] said in the music studios of Mega Boogie in Alamesra. “Actually, I didn’t expect to do any recording, but when I came to Haji (Barrie’s) studio and saw all this, I just made a decision to record now. I had to call all my musicians and fly them to KK. Even my family, they are all here at Grand Borneo Hotel, in 1Borneo.”
Man said he loves being in Sabah and plans to spend more time here in the future.
Man came to KK to perform at UMS for Pesta Gambus. “I came here because I had a show with the University – Pesta Gambus. I know Haji from when I was in the show Stompin’ Sabah, and he recommended me to see the studio.”
We sat in a plush room in this four storey building, and this guitar legend of Malaysia spoke against a backdrop of vibrant music and movie art, signature guitars displayed in uplit glass cabinets, and the finest recording and audio equipment available.
“I have always wanted to record in Sabah. In Sabah and Sarawak I have good sales. It’s a big market for us, for selling albums. Then I see this studio, it’s really a world standard studio. I’ve been in many studios. The equipment here is very, very good. And playing in Stompin’ Sabah, I was very impressed with that stage and the set up [by Mega Boogie].
“There are some big studios in KL also, but this one – to me it’s something special – the people, it’s a different atmosphere. I have a lot of friends in Sabah, so I’m very happy to now be able to record here!”
Man is producing an album for a new artist under his own labels Keedal Entertainment and Keedal Records.
“I’ve been recording here for three days now. I will continue later because I’m going to Jakarta tomorrow – I have to do a video clip first. After that, I have to go back to KL, and after that I can come back. Now here we just record first.
“The recording is a new pop artist. One male and one female singer. I asked to get a Sabah musician to record with me, and so the bass player is a Sabahan.”
The bassist is Roger, from the band Laserbeam. He’s one of the twins. Johnny Toft [who was also there] said his full name is Suro Ahmadi.
“Also, the orchestra in UMS,” Man said, “I want to make my own album with them. I would really like to do that here in Haji’s studio.”
Producing other artists is a relatively new adventure for Man Keedal. He started out just planning to record his own albums.
“When I started, it was supposed to be recording my own artists, like last time I had my own band. So this is a new position for me, being a producer of other people!”
Man is from Johor, but he and his family have been based KL for about 50 years now. “I started playing the guitar when I was 9 years old, I’m self taught. My family, they all are musical.”
Man Keedal is so, so modest! I asked him when he realised that he had a special gift to play.
“That is given to me. Actually, I just think that I love guitar. I don’t really think whether I have something special. Certain people, they might think like that. But to me, I think that music is nothing at all, lah.” Man Keedal.
Man has toured Malaysia four times and has over ten recordings.
“My recordings are mostly with bands. I started with ‘Search’, next was my own band, ‘Lefthanded’. And I’ve been a session musician all the way.”
I asked Man about Dicken, the young guitarist from Ranau, who had a famous guitar showdown with Man at Stompin’ Sabah last year. His eyes lit up. “Ya, Dicken, that guy! Of course I liked playing with him! This kid is young and talented.” He smiled.
“I really love coming to Sabah for jamming. It’s really cool, lah! Everything is here: makan is very nice, the place is beautiful, the people also. To me, it’s an honour to know the musicians in Sabah. Even in KL, a lot of my friends are from Sabah. They play in the clubs in KL. I think in the future this will be a good place for me. A lot of things can be here.
“This studio, all this, I think it’s good for Sabah, good for industry, music industry.”
MOHD MORDIN ANUAR AKA TOM
Meet KL drummer Mohd Mordin Anuar, aka Tom. This guy is as cool as a cuke and clearly a guru in his field.
“Among musicians in KL, we’ve been around the longest, myself and Man Keedal, lah. We go back together, I think almost 25 years. Before, when we started as musicians, we played in the clubs. For 10-15 years, we played in clubs like the Hard Rock Cafe, backing everybody. That is like our university.
“I was playing with Headwinds for a couple of years, then Revolver. Then after that, rojak lah! All kinds of bands! Play jazz for 3 months, play pop for 3 months…
“I’m from KL, from Kg Baru. After Revolver I left for Germany for two years, 1982-84. To get some experience over in Europe. It’s good to see the world. When I got back, I joined Sheila Majid for a couple of years, at that time Sheila still new in the industry. Then after that, around working with the top artists in Malaysia. Lately I travel a lot with Raihan, of the Nasyid group.
“You know, in KL we have a lot of musicians; it’s just come, go. Just like that. But me and Man Keedal, we are very close, we like brothers. We’re going back from before, in his band Lefthanded, we work together in session work, so very, very close.
“Man Keedal just called me to come over here. He knows my style of playing, which songs will suit me, to play in the album. It depends on what kind of music he wants to produce. This week we’ve been working on a more pop album, producing a new artist. He’s very interesting, this boy is 18 years old, quite talented. He came from a family of musicians.
“As a session player the most important thing is you have to work with the producer. Have discipline, be on time, and you must be a fast musician. So everything, lah. We ask the producer what type of playing he wants, you have to take the direction from him. The producer might give you freedom to do what you want to do, but it depends on the song. Maybe the producer says, ‘This song I’d like to feature you as a drummer, so whatever ideas you can come out with, it’s ok.’ Or, ‘This song I need you to play as simple as possible because we don’t want to kill the melody. So don’t play all the power, just communicate together.’
“However good you are, you have to have discipline. You must think how to improve the song, how to play the song. Not overdo, not overplay. Simple and interesting. You must listen to the producer, must listen to the artists.” Drummer Tom.
Tom taught at the Aswara (Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan ) for two years. “Just to share your knowledge and experience with the younger generation. We have to pass our experience, that’s the most important thing. For me it’s like being a big brother to all the young musicians. They call me a sifu for all the young musicians. Everybody knows Tom!
“You know where I got that name, Tom?” He asked. “I was 16 or 17, I don’t know if that’s too young or too old. My first band was in Kg Pandan, somewhere in KL. So my first band is playing for the wedding function. During that time the instruments were not so fantastic. So I got one small tom, my snare and my other tom. I got two toms. Then when I’m playing, suddenly my first tom went off. Fall. So I call it, ‘Tom, tom, hey my tom is falling!’ From that day onwards, my friends call me, ‘Hey, Tom tom! I call you Tom.’
“Working this week at Mega Boogie has been fantastic. It’s been a dream studio for the musicians. Everything is like a dream: the instruments, the place, the boss. It’s like, it’s an honour to work here. We really want to work here together as much as we can. Look at this place! Love it.”