An agreeable surprise

2010/04/29
BIBI NURSHUHADA RAMLI
bibiramli@nst.com.my

Disagree, despite its five-year hiatus, and Prema Yin, the new kid on the block, received the most Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM) nominations this year to their utter shock. BIBI NURSHUHADA RAMLI speaks to AIM’s elect Prema knew she wanted to sing and make it big in the music world as a 13-year-old

(Prema is wearing a collection from Nisa Mazbar. Her make-up and hair were done by Fahmy)

INDIE band Disagree and young rocker Prema Yin have the honour of having the most nominations in the upcoming 17th Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM). Even though Prema is new to the industry and Disagree (one of the first indie bands in the country) has just returned from a five-year break from the music scene, they both managed to obtain more nominations than their seniors. After just launching her debut album, Eyo Eyo, last August, it is definitely an achievement for Prema to be able to grab four nominations: Best Musical Arrangement in a Song, Best Music Video, Best Engineered Album and most importantly, Best New Artiste. “It feels great to be given this opportunity,” says Prema. “This is so surreal and such a big deal for me and those who have been involved in the making of my album.” Despite the nominations, Prema says she’s not having high expectations on awards night, being new to the industry. She says she was ecstatic at just being invited for the press conference to announce the AIM17 nominees, assuming that she had received only one or two nominations. Needless to say, she was besides herself when she found out that she was nominated for four.

While Prema had learnt of her nominations first-hand, Disagree only found out that it was at the top spot with six nominations at this interview. “Really? We honestly didn’t know. Wow, that’s amazing!” was Disagree vocalist Zahid’s reaction. “This is so unexpected because we were quite nervous about how people would react to our new album, To Prevent the Earth from Moving with You, after our hiatus.” Disagree bagged the Best New English Artiste award at the 12th AIM in 2005.

The categories this time are Best Album Cover, Best Music Video (two nominations, for both Osaka and Haley), Best Local English Album and Best Local English Song (for both Osaka and Haley). Disagree, comprising Zahid, Hamka, Aziz and David, first burst into showbiz in 2004 with their modern-rock hit Crumbs. At that time the members were young and indie bands were an alien concept. With the release of its second album To Prevent the Earth from Moving with You last year, Disagree hopes to reflect its growth and maturity in its music. “The song Haley was created in three versions: the first has a jazzy sound to it, the second is more acid pop, while the third is what it is today: a rock ballad,” David explains. The reason behind the versions is that the first two did not quite sound like one of the band’s own. Although the band grew to like the first version eventually, it was given a suggestion to try a different version. Again it did not possess Disagree’s sound, so the band met up with Luke Mason, who co-produced the song and came up with the third version. Haley holds a special place in Zahid’s heart as Haley is the name of his daughter. “I am glad the other guys are as enthusiastic about the song as I am,” he says. Zahid wrote the song when his wife was pregnant with Haley. He said that he was extremely anxious at that time, and the song was his way of expressing his feelings. Osaka, on the other hand, was written by Zahid about a boy-girl relationship. “The closer the boy tries to get to her, the further she moves away, so it is a never-ending circle,” he says. Disagree’s high standards in making their music videos is perhaps one of the reasons two of their videos are nominated for the Best Music Video Award.

Disagree comes back with a bang “Most bands in Malaysia do not really spend much on their music videos, but we do. We feel that it is important to keep the quality of the music and visuals on par with each other,” Zahid. Haley’s music video director, Barney Chua, got the idea for the video from a type of camera that captures your aura and he also knew what the song meant to Zahid. There were two videos made for Haley. The first was unsatisfactory, and costs RM35,000 — more than the second video. Meanwhile, Osaka’s music video cost RM25,000 but proved to be a totally different experience for Disagree. “The best part was that we didn’t have to do anything,” Hamka jokes, as the entire video is an animation directed by Razz Kazz. The video’s concept came from the To Prevent the Earth from Moving with You album artwork drawn by young artist Sarah Joan Mokhtar. “We brought it to life and it shows our journey in music and the experiences that we’ve gone through,” says Zahid. Disagree is also up for the award for Best Album Cover and apart from the cute drawing of a whale with a boy sitting on top of it, Sarah is also responsible for the drawings in the album jacket. She would sketch an artwork to suit each song. “Sarah had put a lot of energy and time into this, and the whole process took three months to complete. The end result had the pictures linked together with a storyline behind them,” says Zahid. Disagree members are currently planning a nationwide tour and producing songs for their next album. With many more indie bands making it big recently, Disagree still holds to its original style of music and does not follow any trend just to be like everyone else. There have been questions on why the band is against making commercial music. “That is not who we are,” Zahid says. “As long as our fans are happy and AIM keeps recognising our music, that’s more than enough for us.”

Prema may seem like a hard rocker with her strong vocals and bold look in her music video, but off screen and off stage, she is the sweetest thing ever. She was a solo artiste when she approached album producer Greg Henderson for her debut album. Prema says that she and her band will be making music together as Prema Yin And MON9 from now.

Prema is up against Tomok, Yuna, Bunkface and Lan & The Typewriter for AIM’s Best New Artist award. Even though the other four are popular with their own type of music, Prema has her own style, a Latin touch to her rock music. “I try to give my best, but it all depends on how people perceive my music. It’s very subjective, so I hope for the best.” Most of the songs in her album were written and composed by Prema herself, including the English version of Eyo Eyo which did not make the cut in her album. The song that is up for the Best Musical Arrangement in a Song award is the Malay version of Eyo Eyo, written by Tinta.

Prema was offered a recording contract after winning a singing competition as a teenager, but she turned it down. “I felt I was too young at that time, and I didn’t want to rush into things. I needed to broaden my knowledge in music first, in terms of vocals and song-writing.” That was when she decided to perform in pubs to learn the different genres of music, and get a feel for music. “I have never regretted that decision and it was a boon to have my family supporting me all the way as well.” The 24-year-old of Chinese-Indian parentage and sister to national hockey players Keevan and Logan Raj may seem comfortable and confident performing on stage, but she has never conquered her nerves. “I think that is always a good thing because it gives you the adrenaline rush when you get on stage. I need that drive plus the energy from the crowd in order to give my all to my performance.”

She draws inspiration for her song-writing from her experiences and from watching movies and other musicians. “It’s all in the way you interpret the message into your own words,” she says. She names numerous artistes as her idols including Chaka Khan, Janis Joplin, Aerosmith and Alicia Keys, but it’s Sandra Nasic, the lead singer of a German alternative rock band Guano Apes, that she really admires. She feels that the group’s music and style of writing is in sync with her own. “Incorporating musical influences into music is part of growing up as a musician,” she comments. “You learn from others and then try to develop your style.”

Prema’s interest in singing began since she was three years old, but it was as at 13 that her passion for singing took hold. After completing her degree in accountancy, she decided to follow her dreams. Prema is currently recording the first track for Prema Yin And MON9’s first album. The album will be similar to Eyo Eyo, but with the participation of the band, the songs tend to the rock side. “My first album consisted of songs I wrote as I was growing up. My latest album will reflect my new music influences.”

The 17th Anugerah Industri Muzik will be telecast live over ntv7 this Sunday at 9pm. •

Note: Listen to Prema Yin’s music at www.premayin.com.

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