SabahSongs is becoming a book

Okay. It’s time to let you know that this blog is about to become a book entitled “SabahSongs: Excerpts from a blog about people in music in Sabah”.

This is because I am moving to Australia, and the blog as we know it will have to come to an end.

“You should make a book,” Yap Keng Vui said. “This is like a part of Sabah history.”

Roger Wang said the blog had the Agnes Keith effect. “Someone who is from somewhere else, came here and discovered this special world of musicians, and was invited in, to dig deeper.”

The book will be the best of conversations with musicians, sound engineers, stage crew and event managers; plus accounts of music events, and favourite reviews of CDs recorded by local musicians. Yes, we plan for the book to include a compilation CD.

I can’t tell you how enjoyable it has been to write SabahSongs. Here is the dinky old mp3 player I used to interview some of my biggest and most detailed interviews in 2009: Moses de Silva, Jessel Yansalang, and even Datuk Peter Pragas!

Can you believe it? Even the back had dropped off and the battery was showing. Later on I used a laptop webcam, then the voice recorders in mobile phones.

But regardless of my gadgets or lack of, your stories rang true and I loved them.

So why do we need a book? The blog is still here.

Yes it is. But I don’t know what happens when a blog becomes inactive. Maybe it just stays there, or maybe the blog platform moves it after a few quiet years.

Your stories are original material: 95 per cent of the information in this blog does not exist anywhere else in the world in English, online or offline.

The digital age is great but there are hazards, and there is much to be said for hard copies. My laptop died earlier this year and I lost a whole bunch of documents which I hadn’t backed up elsewhere or printed out.

But below, the Chopin piece I was learning in 1976 is in a book and is still with me, 36 years later.

The book publisher is Natural History Publications (Borneo). NHP (Borneo) plans a 250-page hardback coffee-table book, with high-quality glossy pages. We aim for a late-October/early November launch. This is very fast, but possible because the main material is already written.

YB Datuk Masidi Manjun, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, said he is going to use the SabahSongs book as a gift or souvenir to give to dignitaries who visit Sabah.

The Sabah State Library is buying 40 copies of the book. I’m really happy about that.

Why would you buy a book?

  • So that your parents [who are probably not as online as you are] can enjoy reading about you
  • Dicken Ranau guitarist Stompin' Sabah battle with Man Keedal Kidal

    16-year-old Dicken from Ranau.

    “I learned to play music from the internet, and a little bit from the radio. My parents don’t play instruments, but my aunty gave me a guitar for my 13th birthday…When I was 14, I realised I had something different. I played my guitar all day and all night, and yes – I also went to sleep holding my guitar [smiles].

    “One of my influences was Alexi Laiho [Finnish melodic metal guitarist, ranked among the fastest guitarists in the world by a few guitar authorities, according to Wikipedia].

  • To remember what you sounded like
  • Momain Blues, Bella restaurant, Jesselton Hotel, Gaya Street, Kota Kinabalu

    Momain Blues played my favourite: Nda Sengaja. Think Steely Dan: so cool you never need to raise your voice.

    Momain Blues doesn’t sing Nda Sengaja with a big smile; it’s an understated song with minor harmonies that are just right. You need to close your eyes and hear its perfect casualness.

  • To show your children what Mummy used to do
  • Obsqure singer Janice is a modern rock chick: short hair, big-framed effect glasses hiding a pretty face, a long-sleeved shirt and trousers on her petite frame. It’s all about the music: it’s raw and she’s letting rip her vocals, jumping, turning and punching out hard on the air to drive that music home. She was music in a Molotov cocktail. Fantastic.

  • To re-live where you were, what you looked like, and what you listened to
  • Then – from his debut album My Tribal Roots, Atama did Can’t Stop The Sumazau, and the whole place erupted. Everyone stood up, doing the Sumazau, mating calls filled the air. I turned round and saw Jon Tse’s young videoman, Sam Vun, in the middle of a happy, rowdy crowd, arms outstretched like the wings of a bird. It was completely awesome.

    This is what you did during the time of SabahSongs. Your stories, your reality, your history. More than just a file to be deleted.


  1. David Tann, thanks for reading the blog!
    Bob Teoh, yes you are right. There’s something very special about Sabah.
    Genie – I’m glad you want a book – all your mates are in it!
    CleverMunkey – thanks for taking interest in Sabahan musicians!

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