Monday, May 5, 2014

EMI - WHERE DREAMS CAME TRUE


DREAMS AND FAIRY TALES
Dreams are but goals in life,
Without dreams, we wander aimlessly,
Dreams without pursuit,
Can bear nothing, but a fruitless tree.

Fairy Tales
Fascination for fairy tales may continue, even as we reach puberty.  However, real life is not always a fairy tale with a happy ending.  It can sometimes turn out to be an illusion, and harsh, in this world of reality.

Touching on dreams, I remember a Malay folklore, told to me when I was young. It was about a character ‘Mat Jenin’, who was full of imagination, and visions of his future.  Sadly, he did nothing, and all day long, sat under a coconut tree, day-dreaming. One day, a coconut dropped on his head. That was how he realized his dream. I cannot remember the rest of the story, hopefully he changed after that -  if he survived.

(Below) - 'Mimpi ku' (My dream)  
from my first album. 




EMI - WHERE DREAMS CAME TRUE

My Journey
Like everything else in life,  it was not an easy ride, as nothing came easy for me. There were challenges, and I accepted these as lessons in life, and nothing could deter me from realizing my dream. I now wish to recall my happy moments shared with the people in EMI, and their impact on my life, as a recording artist.

The beginning
I could have recorded earlier under other labels if I wanted to, but I told myself that I would not settle for anything less than EMI. To be a family member of one of the biggest recording companies in the world, was a dream came true. Many have tried to find their way here, but could not succeed. Some did, and stayed on for awhile, later ventured for greener pastures, and regretted, but only a few survived for decades.

The day I walked into the EMI office in Singapore, I was this young girl taking her step to fulfil a dream. As I entered the door to reach my goal, I knew then, that this was home.

The people I met
There were prior phone discussions on the formalities involved, such as contract, payment, royalty, etc. which I was not concerned about. I did not have a manager to negotiate, like artists do today. To me, it was, and still is, embarrassing to talk about money. A contract was already prepared when I arrived, and all that was needed was just my signature, to proceed with the recording. I was not bothered about the contents. I trusted the company, grateful for the opportunity, and most of all, liked the people there. 

The late Mrs. Daisy Devan - (Artist & Recording Manager)
On that first day, as I approached Mrs. Daisy Devan's room, I could hear the same high-pitched voice that I heard before on the phone. I had imagined her as a fierce, fat, Indian lady in sari, because on the phone, she sounded somewhat authoritative. 

The moment we met, I instantly liked Daisy, and I was sure the feeling was mutual. She was different in person, and treated me as though she had known me for a long time. She was dressed in a trendy blouse and pants. (In all the years I knew her, she had never dressed differently).  


Daisy was the kind of person who generated positive energy to people around her, that put them at ease. In a profession like hers, when patience and empathy were essential qualities, EMI had done right in choosing her to fill that chair.                                                                          
Daisy was witty, always bubbly, with a sense of humour, and frequently laughing at small jokes, even at her own. She was sometimes quite excitable. I often wondered if she ever had problems in her life, because she never talked about her problems, and I presumed, she had none. I believe exposure to music has therapeutic benefits, especially in calming nerves.  I am sure she had benefited by this, from her job.

Daisy was like a big sister to all the artists, however, she had her favourites.  I was told, and, proud to say, that I was considered her favourite. To her, I was not just an artist, I became a friend. We would go out for lunch, and shopping, in between, and, after the recording sessions, frequenting the shops along Orchard Road. I also had the pleasure of visiting her home, and, as later confessed by her, this privileged was not extended to other artists.  She was very protective over me, and made sure that I was safe, and comfortable, during all my trips to Singapore.

For me, going to Singapore was not just for the recordings, but also a break, to spend time with a friend.  I respected her for her vast knowledge, on nearly every subject we touched on, not only music.  She would do most of the talking. Sometimes, in my heart, I did think that she talked a little bit too much. (Sorry Daisy, wherever you are, I just cannot resist jabbing). 


I remember, in between conversations, when I interrupted her, to inject my views, she would give me a surprised look. She said that I was good company, and matured for my age. I accepted that as a compliment, because Daisy was not generous with her praises, unless she really meant it.


We sustained our friendship for years to come. When I terminated an on-going contract with EMI, for a personal reason, she waived all legal rights EMI had over me. She knew that I was firm in my decision, and could not be swayed.  Even an attractive offer that followed from EMI (UK), that everyone thought I was crazy to turn down, could not change my mind.

In the 80s, we met several times in Singapore, after she left EMI, and started her own business.  In the mid 90s, she and her late hubby took a short break, and were guests in my home.  We had a good time together, with our husbands at Genting Highland.  This was the last time I saw Daisy, however, we did talk occasionally on the phone. As time went by, in life, we sometimes take things for granted. We both did not maintain contact.

Today, I regret my carelessness for not taking a single photo of us together. I am angered by my lack of effort in tracing her whereabouts. I am extremely saddened to hear that Daisy spent many lonely years alone, after her beloved husband departed.  I knew she would be distraught, because they were close, and deeply loved each other.  Daisy Devan was laid to rest on April 4, 2009.  May her soul rest in peace.  


The late Kassim Masdor 
Daisy did not tell me who would be involved in my first album. As 
I entered the recording studio, adjoining Daisy’s office at Mc Donald House, in Orchard Road, I could not believe my eyes. I was met by the one and only, composer, producer, Kassim Masdor.  Anyone who did not know him then, was not fit to be in the Malay music industry. Who could forget him with his dark sunglasses, as a back-up singer in ‘Panca Sitara’ with P. Ramlee, and, Saloma, singing her song ‘Bila larut malam’!

I was speechless for a few seconds.  He then stretched his hand, and gave me the firmest handshake I ever had. I flinched, and thought that my flimsy fingers would break.  The reception I received was overwhelming.  Apparently, I was his favourite in the ‘3 Juita’ TV musical. 

Kassim co-produced 2 of my recordings, alongside Reggie Verghese. The one time he produced my album on his own, it somehow did not turn out well for me. This was the song  'Ku datang lagi' composed by him, with lyrics by Yusnor Ef.  It became obscured by other songs, and the review for his song was not too favourable.  


Several months later, when I arrived for my next recording, Kassim was no longer with EMI.  He had left to start his own recording business, and released his first album with Sanisah Huri, under Warnada Record.

One evening, in October, 2011, at a family function we hosted at Selangor Club, Kuala Lumpur, an unexpected guest arrived with former veteran actor, Mustafa Maarof. I could not recognize who the man was, walking alongside, wearing a cowboy hat, and dark glasses. It was none other than, Kassim Masdor. I almost screamed with joy when I realized who he was. We chatted for one minute, and I managed to tease him, and made him cackle. This attracted the attention of his former colleagues, Rosnani, Maria Menado, Umi Kalthom, Aziz Satar, Salmah Ahmad, and he was immediately whisked away.   

As often, regrets come after someone passes away.  I regret that I was unable to talk to him a little longer, or even said goodbye.  He was too engrossed with his reunion with old friends. He had not met them for a long time, and had flown specially to Kuala Lumpur, to attend our function. I believe, that was also the last time his friends saw him. 

Kassim Masdor is fondly remembered for his support, before I was firmly entrenched in EMI. I am forever grateful. I can never forget his coy smiles, and his responses to the little jokes I used to crack, to ease tensions, during stressed situations (when recordings were delayed, due to unforeseen circumstances).   Kassim Masdor departed on 21 January, 2014.

Reggie Verghese
The Quest was discovered by Daisy Devan. This group was specifically remembered for having toppled a hit song by the Beatles from the hit chart in the late 60s. Reggie Verghese was then the guitarist, and composer, of the group.  

I was happy, and extremely privileged, when Daisy assigned Reggie to work on my music, and to co-produce the album.


When we first met, I did not expect Reggie to know me, because he was not into Malay music. Kassim gave him a lengthy introduction of me, while Reggie grinned, and nodded politely.

Reggie that I knew, was a man of few words, quite shy I would say. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to know him personally.

Professionally, he was the best music producer that I ever worked with.  He knew what was suitable for my voice, and was very receptive to suggestions I made.  “Kalong Emas” was his composition that he happily gave, when I requested for a song from him.    

Reggie was very dedicated to his work, but there were moments when I noticed that he was withdrawn.  As years went by, he loosened a little, and became more relaxed. He seemed to enjoy his work, very focused, and never distracted.

It amazed me, there were times when he would create the whole music track, all by himself. He would play the guitar, keyboard, even supervised the recording.  He once loaned his voice when he wanted to add a chorus to my song, and could not get back-up singers, at the last minute. 

Reggie was a truly talented, and amazing person to work with. I am very proud to have worked with him through all my albums.  He had never abandoned me, because he knew that his presence was needed to give me extra confidence.  He stayed on to oversee every recording session, to ensure that even the mixing of the tracks were done well.  On one occasion when Reggie was not involved in the recording, the production quality and music arrangement, did not turn out well. 

My last contact with Reggie was a call that I received, after I announced my exit. He heard the news from Daisy, and called to inquire my reasons. I could hear his disappointment, when he heard that I would not be coming back. After that day, I did not hear from him again.  I often wondered where he is now, especially lately when my old songs were re-released on the market.  I hope that he is well, and fine. I was told that he is still in Singapore.  

Reggie, wherever you are, I hope that you will read this, otherwise, you will never know how I feel. I never had the chance to thank you personally, for everything. 

A recent update: Several persons who read my blog, mentioned that they would convey my message to him. I never heard from him - it was just not meant to be. The last news I heard was that, Reggie had passed away on 17th June, 2015. May his soul rest in peace.

My first record
EMI released two of my songs, 'Mimpi ku' and 'Panggil-lah daku' in this first single. Instrumentation and production, were the creative works of Reggie Verghese. 

This record became an instant hit-seller, and both songs stayed on the hit charts in Malaysia, and Singapore for weeks,  and remained evergreen.

(Right) ‘Panggil lah daku' 
composed by Akbar Nawab.

The cover
I was embarrassed by this ridiculous hairstyle - I still am!

Stars in the Galaxy
On days when the sky was clear, I could see stars scattered far beyond, until my eyes could no longer behold. Some were shining, while some were hardly visible. I often wondered, who actually started referring to celebrities as ‘stars’, and why?  Is it because stars do not shine forever, as they fade away, and diminish in time?
  
Muzikarama
On this joyous night, the crowd at Stadium Negara, Kuala Lumpur were enthralled when they saw their favourites on stage.  I was proud to see Sugiman singing the song 'Kisah Cinta' with the Malay lyrics, I wrote for him.

On that eventful night, all EMI's stars deserved the glory they received. Like everything else that shine in life, this glory did not last forever. Many have long gone, and given way for new stars to take their place.  Some have gone forever.

There is one, whose dreams have been fulfilled.  As she reflects her days, then, she too will fade away, into oblivion!




(Right) Frankie Cheah singing 'love story' and Sugiman Jahuri with 'Kisah cinta
















In their order of appearance - Mike Ibrahim, Sarena Hashim, S. Rossley, Sanisah Huri, Sugiman Jahuri, Frankie Cheah, Stray Dogs, Clicque Fantastique, Sharifah Aini,
X’periment, Rafeah Buang,  P. Ramlee, Saloma.

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