Friday May 2, 2008
That hollow feeling
By AZHARIAH KAMIN
The upcoming Anugerah Industri Muzik awards is leaving out some genuine artistes.
Tomorrow sees the tussle between Malaysian music heavyweights to claim the headlines at the 15th Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM15) at Merdeka Hall, Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
Like it or not, pop queen Datuk Siti Nurhaliza is the frontrunner this year with a whopping eight nominations in five categories. She garnered three nominations in best musical arrangement in a song (Malay), two nominations for song of the year and one each in the best vocal performance in an album (female), best pop album and best album cover categories. That makes for a potentially big haul.
Following closely behind is Faizal Tahir with six nominations including best new artiste, best rock album, song of the year, best musical arrangement in a song (non-Malay), best engineered album and best vocal performance in an album (male).
The AIM represents a big comeback from Faizal after the end of his three-month ban and having been publicly vilified for taking off his shirt during a TV performance. Meanwhile, Dayang Nurfaizah and Kaer Azami received four nods each.
Other notable names with multiple nominations include Atilia (three nominations), Pop Shuvit (three), Liang (three), Karen Kong (three), Elyana (two), Spider (two), Ash Nair (two) and Melissa Indot (two).
Big names such as Liza Hanim, Hazami, Reshmonu and modern rock band Estranged received only one nomination each, while Malaysiaís most popular singer Mawi failed to get a single nomination.
In the big scheme of things, the established acts like Siti and Dayang can boast albums that exist on a different level than the rest. Both have weathered the years and can command the best local collaborations and quality musicians.
On the subject of quality, Malaysiaís most forward-minded Malay pop singer Anuar Zain did not qualify for most categories, except for best musical arrangement in a song (Malay) for Tinggalkan Aku (the arranger for the tune is Malaysian). All this due to the fact that his eponymous album, despite being a fantastic outing, features collaborations mostly with Indonesians.
The much-criticised category Ė best Indonesian album has been scrapped this year. Funnily enough, it has been replaced by best Malay song performed by a foreign artiste, which is just another award for Indonesian artistes mainly because all five nominees are from Indonesia. In some quarters, the feeling is that this category should be done away with.
Three other new categories are being introduced tomorrow: best local Chinese album, best local Indian album and best musical arrangement in a song (non-Malay).
According to Persatuan Akademi Industri Muzik Malaysia general manager Jennifer Thompson, the inclusion of these new categories are timely as the industry should recognise talents from different races and the quality of music in other languages (apart from Malay and English).
ďAIM is evolving all the time and there is a small racial unity element going on in AIM15 this year,Ē she added.
Crossover opportunities and language barriers being blurred seem to be the flavour for this yearís awards.
For instance; take Tamil hip hop outfit Boomerangx that has received two AIM nominations. The duo have a hit single (Liang Chai) which features four languages while Chinese singer Karen Kong has delivered a Malay album (Mulakan) that garnered two AIM nominations in the mainstream categories. Her Chinese album (Showtime) got a nod with a best local Chinese album nomination.
To reflect a straight contest between an indie act and a major label name, look no further than Kong, who sells her own albums at gigs, and Daniel Lee, signed to a major label (SonyBMG). Both these artistes are favourites for the best local Chinese album category.
The hip hop flame is being kept alive within the Tamil scene. At the AIM, the best local Indian album nod is dominated by Tamil hip hop acts like Yogi B & Natchatra, Boomerangx and The Villanz.
In the best local English album category, the nominations hardly capture the imagination Ė with only the Pop Shuvit album (Freak Show Vol. 1) looking a sure bet. The rest of them, including high profile names like Melissa Indot and R&B singer Liang, havenít exactly turned up with exceptional releases to make heads turn.
Last year was also a breakthrough year for rap-rock outfit Pop Shuvit and modern rock favourite Estranged Ė both English-language acts that made a name for themselves in the Malay scene. Pop Shuvitís MaraBahaya and Estrangedís Itu Kamu were crossover hits sung in Malay, but as complicated as the AIM organising committee can be, both acts wonít be on stage with their trademark tunes (except for a medley from Pop Shuvit).
Most frustrating is the absence of Ipoh-born rapper Point Blanc in the nominations. His debut Straight to the Point, easily one of last yearís independent success stories, didnít make the cut because the multi-lingual effort failed to fit into AIMís 60% single language quota. Point Blancís album couldnít make the Chinese category because it didnít meet the Mandarin quota Ė he raps in several Chinese dialects on the album.
If ever there were a reason for the AIM to show some flexibility, this would have been the case. Technicalities aside, this is a genuine artiste who released an album on his own (a good record at that) and he has been shut out of the awards for being creative.
Elsewhere, the obvious AIM absentees include punk pop act One Buck Short, indie jazz outfit Estrella and modern rockers Kiri. These are just some of the names that failed to make the final cut Ė for reasons known only to the AIM judging panel.
All these outstanding acts, including the ones that didnít register for the awards like The Times and Tempered Mental, were some of the best local artistes last year. The big question: why is quality being sidelined by the AIM? Have the awards lost so much of its credibility (and prestige) that even aspiring new acts donít bother registering for it these days?
As for the barrage of criticism after the final nominees were announced, Thompson said that it was part and parcel of AIM.
ďPeople have always criticised. We have been facing it (criticism) every year for the past 15 years. What we are doing here is to honour and recognise these talents and itís not about competition. But once you announce the final nominees, it becomes a competition (in their eyes).
ďI just hope that these critics will take time to listen to the music first before passing judgment,Ē she added.
Browse aim.com.my for the full list of nominees.
Life of the party