I was at RTM Sabah for two nights, after producer Sonny Bahari invited me to watch “Pertandingan Akhir Bintang Kecil 2011” [Little Star Competition Finals 2011] and “Pertandingan Akhir Bintang Remaja 2011” [Youth Star Competition Final 2011].
The staff were very kind. On the first night, someone moved my ‘Media’ chair to a spot right behind the judges, so I had a really clear view of the stage.
RTM Kombo Leader Moses de Silva said, “Jo, you look like a tv producer, where you’re sitting.” I asked him for a comment about the show, but he just smiled and said, “Aiya, I can’t think right now,” before rushing off. Very understandable!
Walking around, I had a quick chat with the producer for “Bintang Kecil”, Lailah Elok, who looked exhausted but relieved that the show was going smoothly. She was previously in Scotland, taking a course at SHMU – Station House Media Unit. [Geez, those Scots have such strong accents, how did she manage?] Sabah V FM manager Parini Pawiro was also very friendly, as was her RTM colleague Ellie.
Sonny sat with me when he had time. He pointed out a guy wearing a yellow batik shirt. “That’s Ali Ngasio. He’s Acting Head of RTM, and the original bassist for Laserbeam!” Right!
“These talent show competitions are kind of RTM Sabah’s baby,” he said.
Indeed, Datuk Peter Pragas had initiated the first talent competitions here, in the 1960s, called the ‘Radio Talentime Competitions’. Fifty years later we were watching the modern version. Sabah has a wealth of musical talent; even Datuk Peter said that he moved to Sabah because of the beauty of the native music1.
So, does RTM Sabah have a special role because of its very musical population? Is part of its remit to find new ways to interact with its listeners, and nurture and raise the music skill level in Sabah?
Carta Lagu Artis Sabah [CLAS] is another talent competition run by RTM Sabah. The overall winner this year was Esther Applonius, and she performed here too.
Sonny spoke with pride when he talked about this boy or that girl, who has “come up through RTM”. But sometimes, if they become more famous through other competitions, people forget it was RTM Sabah who first groomed them, he added.
The judges for each night were notable figures in the local music industry. There were also impressive performances by dance troupes who are taking the “Sabah” brand onto the international stage. More about them later.
So here we go…
[Drum roll…] Introducing Kombo RTM!
- Moses De Silva – Kombo Leader
- Nadia Hong Siang Ting – keyboards
- Mohd Nizam Dzulkifli – keyboards
- Roland Francis – guitar
- Jelius Stephanus – bass
- Abdulrasik Mado – drum
- Romeo Jaibet – guitar
- Mohd Suhaimi Jamli – percussion
- Ampuan Adzlizan Awang Kahar – alto sax
- Frankie Laudi – trombone
- Khairul Azree Roslee – tenor sax
- Suria Indera Zulfahmie Mohd Jani – trumpet
The judges were:
Basil Frank Lazaroo: former head of Kombo RTM Sabah.
Raimon Sukudat: music lecturer at UMS, former Kombo guitarist… and he’s the awesome Matlan Kidz!
Marsuadi Saiman: from DBKK, dance choreographer, in Public Relations & International Affairs, Corporate Affairs…he’s busy.
The cute Bintang Kecil finalists!
- Danial Chuer Hamasiah from Tawau
- Velerice Paimin from Ranau
- Farranisha Shazwany Mohd Faizul from Labuan
- Adza Shazniafira from Keningau
- Sofie Ezzaty Bacho from Tawau
- Samantha Boddy from Kota Kinabalu
- Valerie Natalie Jakson from Penanpang
- Nuhaa Aneesa Nazri Wong from Kota Kinabalu
- Shahrul Ruddin from Kota Kinabalu
- Syarweena Yajit from Sandakan
There were some very passionate performances, some ballads and a lot of powerful voices!
A few stuck in my mind: Adza Shazniafira from Keningau and Sofie Ezzaty Bacho from Tawau.
Adza wore a gorgeous lime green outfit, sang a traditional song and swayed in a traditional dance to lots of cheers from the crowd. Sofie was tiny and so confident! She was bold and energetic, performing rock all the way. She even did an air guitar solo! All the finalists gave great performances.
While the judges were making their decisions, we heard songs by Nurul Hirah Dzulfikri [winner of Bintang Kecil 2009] and her sister, and Presley Petrus [winner of Bintang Kecil 2010]. All confident kids who have come up with RTM Sabah, Sonny said.
The overall winner — Syarweena Yajit from Sandakan — was so gorgeous. When she sang her song again at the end, she cried so much her mum had to stand with her and sing half the lines! So sweet!
There were two dance troupes. I had seen one a few weeks ago at the Padang Merdeka, called ‘Art Collection’. The other one, ‘Sabah Tagaps Dance Theatre’ won the Dance World Cup 2011 in Paris, France for the categories ‘Traditional’ and ‘Contemporary Duo’. Sonny said that Tagaps is made up of 13-18 year old students from Sabah College Secondary School. These dancers bring Sabah’s music out to the international stage, and it’s a great advert for Sabah dance and Sabah music.
- The dance is beautiful. They mix traditional and modern, the costumes are so vibrant, it’s a visual feast. The dancers are lean and fit and the men really move in a warrior style; the women sway, and twist their wrists in that uniquely Asian way which is so demure. No-one else can do it.
- Sabahan music is really catchy. Like reggae but with a difference. I can imagine people all over the world stopping the moment they hear Jimmy Palikat’s “Tanak Kampung”, spreading out their arms and doing the Sumazau. How not to?
So, back to the competition.
Judges for the night:
Asmin Mudin: very well known song writer, lyricist and producer, and secondary school teacher.
Jessel Yansalang: guitarist, trumpeter, and music educationalist at institutions including UMS, SIA and Open University Malaysia.
Annabel Tiu: former Kombo cellist, singer and music lecturer at UMS.
Bintang Remaja finalists:
- Nurnikman Yusof from Sandakan
- Santiana Ramli from Keningau
- Noorizuranie abd Mudar from Kota Kinabalu
- Mohd War Al Haffiz Linggam from Sandakan
- Nur Mimi Fadzlyenda Abd Azan from Kota Marudu
- Siti Rozianah Mahmud from Sandakan
- Affezal Fahut Amir from Keningau
- Zuana Zulmat from Sandakan
- Celestina Juli from Kota Kinabalu
- Eusebius Bin Patrict from Keningau
Now, this was a completely different show! Every act was backed by teams of dancers who worked really hard. It was rock and pop all the way, except for one finalist — Mohd War Al Haffiz Linggam from Sandakan — who sang and danced a joget. It was good! Lots of glitter and rock chicks, hip dancers, and plenty of powerful singing. Not many ballads.
During the intervals, Heidi Vanessa Maruning sang two songs, including a ballad. Sonny said she was winner of a national competition a few years ago, and she’s come up with RTM over the years.
Then a powerhouse singer, Carta Lagu Artis Sabah [CLAS] winner Esther Applonius, totally blew me away with a growling Motown number. Her diction was excellent, and I thought, “Wah, Aretha Franklin is a Sabahan!” Sonny said she loves Etta James. It shows! What a fabulous woman. [Come on Esther, get in touch with Sonny and let’s write a story about you.]
The judges came back. In third place was Siti Rozianah Mahmud from Sandakan, a kind of young Tina Turner. In second place was Noorizuranie abd Mudar from Kota Kinabalu.
In first place, with a very warm smile, nice vibrato in his voice and green colour in his hair, was Affezal Fahut Amir from Keningau.
Some trophies were given out, prize money varying from RM500 – RM2000, photo opportunities, more dance performances, music from the Kombo, and it was a wrap. I left RTM Sabah watching Affezal Fahut Amir singing his song with a big smile on his face. That was one happy guy, and it was one big night for a bunch of worn out and very talented youngsters.