by Geetha K
2018 has taken Malaysians to an exciting, tumultuous high, with history being made and hope for a New Malaysia reaching an all-time high.
In recent weeks, however, the euphoria appears to have hit a bump and we are once again on the edge, asking ourselves what’s going on Malaysia?
Level headed Malaysians have been troubled by disturbing events that took place at a temple recently leading to raging tempers, accusations and counter-accusations that reached vitriolic proportions. And then… there was a major ‘Oh Dear’ moment when the potentially explosive ‘Deyyy video’ was released.
Fortunately, Malaysians reached out to their funny bones, turned the debacle on its head and made it arguably the most momentous comic relief incident in the nation’s modern history!
Nevertheless, the ugly episode did leave many Malaysians disappointed and disillusioned enough to want to do something about it, lest it is forgotten just like that.
“I’m a temple-going Indian brought up on singing religious songs and I must say when I saw the behaviours of all parties involved, unable to control their emotions and behave rationally, I was really upset. I mean, as a Melawati boy I grew up with non-Indian friends, many of them Malays with whom I can hang out casually without any qualms. So, it was disturbing to see the whole temple fiasco unfolding the way it did on social media,” says Arvind Raj, an independent musician who enjoys performing a wide range of genres, and the brainchild behind the timely music video.
It was Arvind’s instinctive reaction to counter the damage with a piece on unity that got the ball rolling. It only took a few phone calls to friends in the same field and a few days to release ‘Melayu, Cina, India’, their song video on Youtube, by Plastic Entertainments under BLQ Productions, which has raced to more than 50,000 views and 5,000 likes in just four days and remains counting.
The first call from Aravind was to Prem D, who with his cousin Sidhartha, makes up Music Kitchen. “The moment I heard Aravind’s idea I was quite thrilled because I had been thinking along the same lines and really wanted to do something about it too. It all came together so fluidly as if it was meant to be. Sometimes you just know that a project would take off well and at other times you know it is going nowhere. With this project it was adrenaline from the point go,” explains Prem D, who with Sidhartha happened to have a ready-made composition that only required lyrics.
Aravind then reached out to his childhood buddy and schoolmate since standard one, Pele [strangely, not inspired by the great Brazilian], also a solo artist, who was equally pumped up about the idea. In measured, soft-spoken manner Pele explains, “As a Malay, I was also angry and confused by all that was going on. It was embarrassing to see how low people could go. I mean, where’s the basic ethics of respecting other people’s cultures and customs? Isn’t that what being Malaysian is all about? Can’t we look beyond race, religion and differences…this is why I never encourage any talk within my people if it involves putting down another community. We don’t need that.”
With Pele came the musician duo of Touche, comprising Jay and Aye, and along with Aravind and Pele, it is this foursome that represents the ‘Melawati Boys’ tag that they are so proud of. To complete the group, Aravind roped in the exuberant entertainer cum content creator, Blake Yap.
The young men, all aged between 20-25, quickly got down to writing and creating their video. Blake Yap was brought into the scene, not just to choreograph and edit the entire four and a half minute engaging video but also to perform in it, which he has done with a lot of gusto, even dancing like a Tamil movie hero complete with a veshti. “Well, my audience is largely Tamil speaking, even from Tamil Nadu, as I work on a lot of Tamil videos, so dancing like an Indian in the Indian veshti was a walk in the park,” laughs Blake who also says he was impressed by not just the music and lyrics, but also the cause, which was the backbone of the project. “I’m selective about my projects but when I heard Aravind’s motivation for the video, I knew right away I wanted to be part of the act. This is for the nation.”
Aravind can’t agree more with his friend, “I’ve worked on a lot of projects but in all honesty, this is the one that gives me most satisfaction and fulfillment,” says the affable artist, with pride in his husky baritone.
Prem D goes on to explain, “The way everyone just pooled our resources and started working on the lyrics and idea, so focused on the message of unity, just felt like it was destiny at work! Personally, I don’t even look at people as Malays, Chinese, Indians – it’s just people to me and I believe we just need to spread the love. Music has the power to cut across everything and is a powerful uniting factor. It’s somewhat like other entertainment media such as television serials that know no language barrier but I feel music goes even further.”
20-year-old Sidhartha, the youngest member of the team, quips, “I wasn’t even aware of what was going on initially until I starting seeing all these deeply divisive, racist material on social media. This collaboration has been a real eye-opener for me mainly because I’m amazed at the way we all bonded so quickly despite some of us having just met each other. It was like we’ve known each other forever. Another thing I want to mention here is, and I say this as a temple going boy raised on singing religious songs too… we all are aware that all religions teach the values of peace and love, but that isn’t what we saw in this episode. All I saw was anger and hatred. Where was the love and peace?”
Like Sidhartha, Jay, one of his new-found Malay friends, sports impressive Rastafarian dreadlocks and is also full of questions. In fact, Jay has used the questioning style to write his portion of the lyrics. “I’ve not been interested in the politics of things but I’m aware of the number of racist comments being put out on social media. I’m really proud to be associated with this project as it is in line with my belief in unity. My writing comes from the heart and I’m a genuine believer in unity, which is why I chose to write in questions…Why the constant bickering? How much more blood to spill? When will it stop? My belief is simple…like I say in our song ‘We have each other and don’t need any drama’,” says Jay, with quiet conviction.
Jay’s partner in music Aye is most forthright in voicing his views on the matter. “If we want to achieve our visions, be it vision 2020 or anything progressive, all Malaysians need to come together, work in unison and stop building boundaries along racial lines. It is as simple as understanding that progress can only come when we stop seeing our differences and start focusing instead on our strengths. If we continue with this kind of regressive actions, we cannot move forward as a progressive society. For me, it’s embarrassing to see Malaysians putting down each other. Let’s not go any lower, please.”
As fractured as our nation sometimes appears to be, it is the spunk and spirit shown by younger Malaysians such as these boys, and there are many more out there (a shout out to all), that continue to give us hope. These young men, it’s clear to see, embody the peace, love, and beliefs woven in their lyrics, music, performance and easy camaraderie.
When they sing ‘Melayu, Cina, India tiada berbeza. Satu sama satu, kami warga Malaysia’, it definitely tugs the heartstrings of true Malaysians.