Saturday, February 10, 2007

Beyond The Grave

Great people never really die. It was good to get a real night of sleep, though I still miss my old bed back in Toronto, the floor was just as good I guess. Before I woke up I had felt a basket bush my feet and sensed the presence of something beyond this world. Nazri and I got up had some food and headed of to Tok Guru’s gravesite. It was a smooth drive and a hot day so we talked about life, death and the speculation going on about who will be the next Tok Guru. Sometime in mid to late March the answers will be revealed when his will is read. We walked up the hill towards the grounds, behind us a beautiful view of the city. It was a reflective and quite time as we walked through the graves, I thought about my grandfather and uncle, those close to me who have passed on. I thought about my family and friends who are still alive and am thankful for that. Not really trying to get too deep here, but I think most of you have had similar experiences and almost everyone alive can relate to a loss of life of some form. I recited a verse and sent my regards to his spirit before heading off. It was gonna be a long day but somehow I felt purified and renewed, even if it didn’t look that way!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Inter Action

Let’s jump to the juicy bits… the monotony of everyday life can get a bit tedious to write about, you know, like what I ate, brushing my teeth, taking a dump… KL life doesn’t differ much from life in any other big city, it’s generally the same-shit-different-toilet scenario. So on with the show yeah? When we arrived at Maison, one of the clubs along heritage row in the downtown area, I was surprised by the size of the place. I was expecting it to be much bigger than it actually was, but it did still maintain that warm feeling of exposed brick, setting it apart from other clubs in the city. Too Phat had done their sound check so Transient Vortex set up their gear and we got to testing the mics. With the sound balanced out and in check it was straight to a couple of interviews with Hitz.TV and Channel V. Rain began pouring down outside, putting a damper on spirits in the house, but it wasn’t to last very long. In fact it helped to cool down the heat, not that it mattered inside though. HP employees began filling in as it drew closer to show-time. Free flow at the bar helped to loosen most of them up and I gathered this was probably going to be one of the company’s bigger parties of the year as Chinese New Year approaches. Sam warmed the crowd a little more, playing some downtempo joints and we indulged in the amazing buffet upstairs. As is the case, I thought I would bump into people I hadn’t seen in a while. Joey G was no exception. Since the time I met him back in 1999 at Echo in Bangsar I knew this guy was gonna eventually make some waves out here. He’s been a VJ with Channel V for the past three years now, a popular house music DJ and an overall nice guy who gave me my first ever spot on the mic in KL back when I fist rolled through in ’99.

Inter-Action, the concept was a great one. With a satellite dish set up in the back we were broadcasting together with 5 other countries; Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan. Each place featuring local/international artists with the theme of interacting with the latest HP technology – The Sputnik Laptop, the set up was pretty major. Once things got underway DJ Kentaro from Japan was first to deliver on the live feed from Singapore’s Zouk. At a loss for words, Kentaro totally tore it up and passed it on to the next spot, Taiwan. There, local production duo Haifana brought some serious live percussive grooves together with an MPC 2500 smackdown. I was again blown away. Next up was Korea. Hitting the stage was a group of local B-Boys. Long known for their dancing supremacy, the Koreans captivated the onlookers in Maison, people shaking their heads in disbelief. They then made way for Korea’s top Hip Hop act – Dynamic Duo. I wasn’t as impressed this time around, but the showmanship and quality of the music saved my opinion of the group. Local Malaysian Hip Hop heroes Too Phat were finally reunited in this event, Joe, Malik and T-Bone brought the crowd to new levels of loudness as Joey G introduced them to the other onlooker in the other 4 locations. It was Malaysia’s turn to shine. No doubt, Too Phat represented to the fullest concluding with a raucous crowd cheering them on for an encore. They obliged with their hit ‘Just a little bit’. Unfortunately, our performance was not going to be a part of the live broadcast, but that was fine by me. This was a different taste of local flavor, fusion that flew over most people’s heads. The general response was good though, I got the crowd involved on a few occasions and when Syrul joined us we just let loose on the stage and brought only the kind of vibe this type of collaboration could bring. I think it’s the start of a new branch on my tree of music, which has steadily been growing over the past few years. The boys bounced out early so I decided to check the vibe of the spot as it began to fill up way beyond capacity to a point where you could hardly move let along dance. It was crazy hot and because of the short evening rain even going outside didn’t alleviate the heat.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Visa Run & The Vortex

Crashing at Nazri’s place made getting into town a lot easier than if I had stayed in USJ. He dropped me off at the LRT station and I headed to Ampang Park to make my way to the Indonesian Embassy. Previously I’d dreaded going to the embassy, the long walk from the station to avoid taking a taxi, the thick lines and the general unease of consular affairs. My last experience led to a missed flight due to not having booked a return flight. I learned my lesson and this time I was well prepared and knew what to expect. I was early and killed some time at the station waiting to hop a cab. I was mad tired from last night, I didn’t sleep well and had some intense dreams and a brush with a spirit. With the lack of sleep I opted for the cab up there and went straight to the office to get things underway. Normally I would have just got my visa upon arrival, but since I am planning to spend two months in Jakarta and make these moves I’ve again resorted to the using the consulate. It didn’t take long after filling out the application until I hit my first roadblock… payment. I was kinda hoping to be able to pay when I collected, but since it was not the case I had to make the trek up the road to the bank and pull out some loot. Finally all done and in less than an hour I headed back to the station on foot and decided to bang out my ticket at the Air Asia office at KL Sentral before going home to Yi Kin’s to recover a bit. Tonight I had a rehearsal with the boys from Transient Vortex and didn’t want to be in too rough shape.

Sugs came by to pick me up and we rolled back to his place stopping to chow down on some street food along the way. Things were pretty much set for the show tomorrow, so we just went through the songs a few more times and decided on which parts will have vocals and what roll I would be playing in general. I’m pretty excited to be doing this show, not only for the $ but the fact this will be my official performance with a Drum & Bass group and doing something outside of the confinements of Hip Hop is always inspirational and stimulating. Like was saying earlier in this blogathon, one of my main musical missions this year is to dip into as many different genres as possible, create fusion and broaden my musical horizons. Plus this event will give me the chance to meet some more people in the industry here and present the possibility of future shows if all goes well. Oh I forgot to mention that Too Phat is also gonna be there and that the event is going to be a series of international broadcasts between 5 Asian countries. H-P Inter-Action.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Studio Sessions

Monday and Tuesday comprised of a couple of studio sessions with local DJ’s. First was my homie DJ Goldfish, who years ago was rated Malaysia’s top DJ taking home a number of titles and making a name for himself in the club circuit when he and DJ T-Bone ran the famous Ghetto Heaven weekly at Zouk. The day I arrived in KL I had rolled through his new studio, listened to some of his tracks and talked about working on a collabo. Today we made it happen. After listening to a selection of his production and songs he has already done we settled on a minimal beat and I began writing. Not long after I had my two verses done and we banged it out then and there, putting the rough touches on the chorus that awaits a cameo from Goldfish himself. Not following my usual themes for songs, ‘Planet Love’ ended up being inspired by my man Jugular from Toronto. I’ve really been feeling like expanding my horizons as a lyricist, touching on concepts that I wouldn’t normally. I think it sounds pretty fresh, at least once my vocals on the chorus get pushed to the back and G’Fish lays down his. I’m trying to be a lot more productive as well, pushing myself to the limit and getting as much done as I can in the short time I have here before flying off to Jakarta. We finished up the session and went to meet up with Tim and Yi Kin at Sungai Wang for dinner. In the end it turned into another late night at Asia Café sipping drinks and hanging out. Actually, in KL, everyone just hangs out at the mamak, or food court, with friends having drinks. It’s a part of the culture here I really enjoy and unlike most other places I’ve visited it seems that here the social value placed on it stimulates conversation and ideas and really build friendships in ways bars and coffee shops just cant.

I got up with Yi Kin and caught a ride to his office in Kelana Jaya, close to the LRT. I was meeting DJ Uno in the morning and heading to Universiti Station from KJ was a lot easier than taking the bus to Sentral and going backwards from there. It was also a Silat night, so I brought along all my gear and was ready to go. I had written this song about a month a go, before I left Salt Spring, called ‘Dance Floor Fetish’. It’s a dedication to the women you see blazing up the clubs looking fine and enjoying themselves to the fullest. I had selected a beat and wanted to get Saer Ze on the hook, we had it all worked out until I spoke to Uno and he told me the beat had been given to another artist just a day before I asked him! So, today I was going to go through some more of his beats and select a new one for the track. I decided on an up-tempo number and since we still had some time I dropped a rough vocal take. AJ, Uno’s housemate and fellow Pop Shuvit member (Bassist) felt the urge to sing a chorus part, even though the plan was to have Saer Ze on the track. All in all the rough version sounds ok so far, another potential single to go along with the Goldfish track according to Nazri. It turned out to be a more interesting day than I thought, following Uno and Sam Su from Ali Fiqir to town for a press conference they were having I planned to meet with Mo at Sungai Wang and have some lunch. When we reached the Regent Hotel I saw Damian there. It’s been ages since we last linked and it was nice to catch up with him in the short time we had before he left. Seems like everyone is now living up in the Palm Springs condos near The Curve these days. That makes Nazri, Kelvin, Damian and Joe Flizzow near by… I linked with Mo and we headed into Ampang for a drink and some food. Memories came flooding back, we were in the some area that Sairupa’s family used to live in, where I stayed many times while I was in KL. Catching up with Mo was great. It seems that whenever we see each other we have deep conversations, usually lasting for hours on end over some Teh Tarik or a Limau Ice. Today was no different. A lot has happened over the past year and for both of us there was much to share. It had also been years since I’d seen Jacyntha who was working next door at the animal shelter since her return to KL from 2 years in Guangzhou. Mo dropped me off at Silat later on and I was all ready to go. In the past I had this aversion to heading to Silat, like it was something of great difficulty. But this time it’s been different. I know I’m going work up a sweat, I’m going to be sitting a lot, meditating and even doing some sparring and I now really look forward to it. Even though I never know how I’m going to get all the way back out to USJ… Tonight was no exception either. The one thing though, was that tonight Nazri told me the story of how Tok Guru passed away. I’d been waiting to find out, but I didn’t want to ask when the time wasn’t right. A month of fighting in the hospital against a case of full-blown diabetes had him lose his leg as well as his life. Nazri told me they went to visit him a few times before he requested to be left alone with his family. During those visits he spoke as if he knew he wasn’t going to be around much longer. He asked us all to keep doing what we’ve been doing, pushing forward and helping people. He would always and is always, around us in spirit, a spirit that will never die. Nazri also said he spoke of me, saying that I will never stray far from South East Asia and that I will accomplish a lot and be successful. I will truly and dearly miss the man that was Tok Guru. So we all await the announcement of the next Tok Guru. After the 100th day following death his family will open and read his Will, which will kill all the speculation going around. All this should happen before my return to KL at the end of April. I followed Nazri back to his place and decided that Wednesday would be the day I submit my application for my Indonesian Visa.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Weekend Update

Friday, Had a meeting with Petrina at Laundry about the planning for the series of shows in May, looks like things are pretty much confirmed now so it’s a matter of organizing and getting the sponsors on board, More writing to do. So much for having time, the schedule’s been filling up fast but it’s all good cause I’ve been able to link with a lot of people in the week that I’ve been here. I hung out at Laundry for a little while before linking with Brian, one of our Silat brothers. Brian’s runs a tattoo studio just around the corner from The Curve called Exodus with his cousin Aaron. Ayi, a longtime Silat brother had planned to get one done, so we met up at the mamak (food shop) for a drink. It was the first time since I’ve been back I had the chance to see Nazri, as I missed him the night before cause he was in JB helping his mother-in-law. After a few drinks with the crew and we headed to the studio to get busy on Ayi. Lydia, Ayi’s girlfriend, sat with us as we tried to figure out a design that would fit Ayi’s personality, finally located a nice tribal design. Going through the books brought back memories of when I got my tattoo done in Bali just over 10 years ago. It also made me think about doing another one, I think it’s about time… so with the stencil pasted on his arm, Ayi got seated and prepared for his first tat. Less than a moment away from the ink and needle he changed his mind, deciding that a tattoo was just not for him. So as Ayi thought about it Lydia got hers touched up and we teased Ayi about being scared. As the wee hours arrived and no tattoo for Ayi I headed back to Brian’s to crash out there because there was no way to be getting back to USJ. Yi Kin was working early and it wouldn’t be right to roll through at like 3am waking him up. As far as ideas go, Brian and I discussed the possibility of shooting a video clip to help promo the shop and do up a song relating to tattooing. Would be cool to shoot it while I get my next one!

Saturday…Yi Kin was working again and I had a rehearsal set with the boys from Transient Vortex, a drum and bass outfit from KL, so I ended up just chilling with Brian and watching Babel. It had been a late night and sleeping on the floor with the cushions wasn’t as comfortable as I thought it could be. Sugs rolled through to pick me up just after 2pm and we headed to Pantai Hill Park to his place to go through the set for Thursday. Years ago when I first arrived in KL to spend a bit of time I stayed with friends in Pantai Hill Park. While Sugs lives in Phase 2, I was up the road in Phase 5 with Huda and David. Memories came flooding back, making beats in the closet for Da Joint and the beginnings of my Milo addiction. Not long after, Sam came by and we were ready to check out the beats and see how flows would sound on the parts they wanted me in on. I’ve only had minimal experience rapping over D&B, so I’m really looking forward to this event next Thursday at Maison! The session went really good, we listened to more tunes, talked about manufacturing in Malaysia and talked music. I’m trying to make a point of expanding my musical horizons this year, branching out to do more collaborations and experiment with other genres and styles, some of which may even be in the commercial sounding realm of things. It’s good to get out of your comfort zone a little. As we got into the evening Petrina invited me to crash at her place to make it easier for us to do Sunday brunch. We met at Laundry and I chilled with Nesh by the DJ consol for most of the night. Kim, a Danish rock musician has been visiting Malaysia and staying at Trina’s place for the two weeks he’s been in town. We had a drink and once Nesh had finished, headed back to catch some sleep before an early start to brunch creation. Finally a bed all to myself!

Sunday… Don’t you just love it when you go a day and only eat home cooked food! Especially when it’s delicious Malaysian delicacies. Trina went all out with her stuffed squid, garden pasta, sliced Chinese style beef and sweet potato curry shrimp. There was plenty to go around, and by the end of it, we were all nicely stuffed. Adding to the food was wireless Internet, another luxury I forget to really appreciate while I was in Canada. At least we got Starbucks out here, where you can you can buy overpriced coffee, plug in and get online. Speaking of which, this blog is being uploaded right now from the Starbucks at The Curve! I was supposed to meet Kelvin down by Laundry but in the end he didn’t make it in time before I had to head across town to Taman Melawati to meet Dr. Wan and his family for dinner. By the time I got there it was after 8pm and it had taken well over 2 hours… from one side of KL to the other then all the way back to USJ again! Salleh had taken it on him to cook up some Kampung style dishes and things were ready to go when I got in the door. The food was so good! I filled my plate a second time and enjoyed the variety of food that was there. I felt kinda bad that I had to leave so soon after arriving, Nesh was waiting to pick me up to go to the studio for one of his projects. One of the boys dropped me of at the LRT station and I headed all the way back across town to Taman Jaya where Nesh came to get me. It turned out the session was postponed and instead we were going to hang out with some of his friends at a BBQ they were having by the pool of their condo, where I stuck to the home cooked food and indulged in sweet tasting potato salad. It turned into a pretty late night actually, so Nesh thought it best I crash at his place cause we were going to meet Jake Man Monday to talk about a few things bubbling on the horizon, but in the end he left me at Yi Kin’s place so he could make it in time to pick up his friend who was arriving at Pudu. I guess all in all it was a good weekend and I was looking forward to the coming week and all the things planned out.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Jet Lagged...

I don’t seem to have the time every night to write, I’ve been getting back really late and still adjusting to the heat and the new time zone. I’m happy I’m keeping this journal, it’s an exercise mainly designed to help me keep track of all the things that have been happening in my life and one that has mainly been while abroad. Whether people read my blog or not doesn’t really matter to me, it’s more about putting it down, collecting the data and using it in the future for my book. But if you are reading, and I don’t really expect anyone to read everything here, please do leave me a comment and let me know who you are and how you’re doing. This is my way of keeping my friends and family updated on my life, send me a line and let me know how you are doing.

Yesterday was mostly in anticipation. I haven’t been to Silat in a while now and since the death of Tok Guru I wasn’t sure what to expect. Not that much would really change amongst our brother and sisters, but I imagined it would be a topic of conversation. I was feeling lazy as I sat around the house with Yi Kin. He had the day off and we planned to do some music, but sleeping in and going for lunch killed most of the time we had. We did go through some beats and I’ve got one sitting in front of my waiting until I finish this entry for some lyrical love. Finally got to dig in to some Chinese mixed rice. It’s one of my favorite things to eat, all the choices or toppings on your rice and the price is usually just right too. Here in KL you don’t normally pay more than 5RM ($1.80CAD) for a meal. My mixed rice was about 4.50. Oh I wish food was this economic in Toronto! Back at the house I did some writing, catching up on the journal entries. Yi Kin put on a movie, while I complained that we were supposed to work on a track, but the movie was pretty good. 13 Tzameti was a story of murder for money, a game where the players risk their lives in a high-stakes roulette game with loaded pistols. In black and white it the effect was similar to a Hitchcock film, the blood was not visible but the texture remained rich. Time had run out, I got ready to bounce out to Dato Keramat for Silat. I’m really loving the new bus system, getting all the way there in just over an hour and in more comfort than the usual metro bus. Jake had asked us all to arrive early to tidy the house and when I arrived I joined in cleaning up the yard. The house is looking as good as it probably could, being old and falling apart it’s changed a lot over the years since I started my Silat there in 2004. Nazri couldn’t make it, he was still in JB helping with his family. Sometimes I’m lazy to go to Silat, knowing that I’m going to be worked hard, doing Kuda Kuda, Tepang and the buka tutup. But I always know once I get there everything is great. Today was no exception, we had a great work out with Jake leading us through. It’s been a while since I’d done any sparring, so it was good to get into the fray again and get the adrenaline bubbling. Catching up with everyone again was great. Ayi and his students came all the way up from Melaka and although I was hoping to see Shah and Iz I was happy all the same. I’d planned to go out to Maison to see DJ Goldfish and T-Bone but nearing the end of the night and after eating I felt myself beginning to fade away. It was getting late anyways and I was wondering how I was going to get all the way back out to USJ. I caught a ride with Rajdesh and Brain to Kelana Jaya and Yi Kin came through to pick me up. We quickly met with Tim, Lestat, April and a few others for a drink, some chit chat and much to my delight drove home to sleep.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Reshmonu's Laundry

My second night back in KL was a little overwhelming. The jetlag is still kicking my ass, I try to expect more of myself but time to adjust is important if I don’t want to wear myself out. Taking the afternoon off to snooze and watch a movie at Yi Kin’s place I thought it would help me re-energize for the night ahead. I made a move to the bus stop and wondered exactly how I would get to The Curve. KL isn’t the easiest city to get around, but over the years I’ve learned how to navigate it quite well. I know the city better than some of my friends here even, which surprises me sometimes. USJ is a suburb of KL, it sits off the highway that leads to airport, KLIA. I would say it’s about 30KM from the city centre and not very much goes on out there. The T63 Rapid KL is a new bus and I was happy it finally started running since the last time I was here. I had planned to go all the way to KL Sentral to see if I could meet with Yaniz and get a ride up to Damansara Perdana where The Curve is. While I was on the bus I had to make a quick decision and bounced out at a stop where I could hop on the LRT at Asia Jaya station and move three stops over to Kelana Jaya. From that point Yi Kin had told me there was a shuttle bus direct to One Utama mall from where I could easily get to The Curve. Taking public transit in this city is a job for the patient. Waiting for buses, dealing with crowds and of course the evening traffic. From where the bus dropped me off at One Utama I could see The Curve and it was definitely within walking distance. I’d finally made it, one and a half hours after I’d left Yi Kin’s in USJ.

It was Reshmonu’s CD release party and the atmosphere was growing as the sun left my sight. The stage was immaculate, was there and had cameras set up all around along with a crane for those swooping pan shots. The stage was set up for a 12piece band, full horn section and the works. I was excited to see the outcome of all the hard work Resh and Rodney had put in. This is Resh’s 2nd album and doing a free launch along with a delayed broadcast on Hitv was a big move for the local R&B singer. I came just as he was giving his press release inside Laundry Bar. Decked out in costume that reminded me of something outta Star Trek Resh’s hair was even further out of this world. His colourful extensions were wired and sticking up in all direction, I was worried if he had to walk through a doorway.

I’ve been coming to Malaysia now for over 8 years, mainly for doing music related projects and visiting the good friends I’ve made here. So whenever I come back there’s always a lot of catching up to do and most often it occurs the way it did last night, at an event. I had a meeting lined up with the boys from the drum and bass crew Transient Vortex, we had talked online about doing something together and they invited me to perform with them on the 8th of February. We flushed out some details, they passed me a CD and locked down a rehearsal for next Saturday. A lot of ideas have been flowing recently, as I sat with Murat and the boys from IGC I thought it would be great to have a backing band for the album launch in May, partly inspired by the set up Resh had that evening I guess. Yi Kin didn’t want to come, but said he would roll through to pick me up. Just as the night started getting live I get the call from him that he was almost at The Curve. I’d been chilling with Pop Shuvit talking about ideas for collaborating, spoke to Mizz Nina and Jeevan as well as Ashwin about the same thing and I also ran into MC Size, Balan and Nav. I was hoping to see Joe to talk about album related things, I still haven’t heard back from him yet. Bex, Shannan and Joanne surprised me and it was also great to see Nesh, who pulled me up on the mic to drop a little rhyme for the people. Just after I was done the freestyle Yi Kin arrived so I had to bounce out even though I wanted to stick around for a while longer. Ah, there will be other times I’m sure, and although it was overwhelming, it’s those situations on which I thrive. We headed back up to USJ with a pitstop at the internet café, lots of online work has been put off since I’ve got no steady internet access. Still more to do!