Images Your Meal
“I was told by someone who used to be close to me that I was living in her shadow.”
That was the explanation that Fikri Fadzil gave us when we asked him about the moniker of his solo musical project Bayangan. One can still feel the residual devastation that he suffered from that sentence of brutal honesty. The circumstance that led to that being uttered had sent Fikri into a tumultuous state. He frequently described the state as a limbo or a whirlpool – a dark helix in which he eventually freed himself of after finding some clarity and discovered a few epiphanies.
“When you’re in a whirlpool, it’s difficult to get out, so music was the light at the end of the tunnel [for me].”
The unfortunate incident clearly had a profound effect on him as he solemnly referred to the event a number of times during our talk, occasional stifling a brimming gloom in his throat. Nevertheless, it was also evident that he is not a wallowing man. “It’s either I become aggressive about it like, ‘Fuck you, that’s not me,’ or accept it and turn it around. So, that’s what I’m trying to do.” So, don’t expect unsophisticated break up songs – morose or indignant – from him because he has a more purposeful intention for his music.
Fikri has an omnivorous diet when it comes to the music he consumes for work (aka The Wknd), but he confessed that his personal taste revolves around a small selection, for instance, indie rock bands The Walkmen and Wolf Parade as well as legends Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. Though he cautioned us, “I’m not like Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie where their songs are about fighting the man, I’m not like that.” But just like Dylan, he wasn’t shy about being vocal about his ideals and his adamant stance on the importance of celebrating our culture.
“I’m brave enough and stupid enough to say things in public.”
Among the many rants he shared were, for example, about the lack of a national identity as a consequence of globalisation, the shameful fact that our only internationally known cultural export is merely food, and the totalitarian thinking of which cause or opinion should be held in greater importance. Even so, his songs are much easier to digest as they revolve around resonating human themes of overcoming what’s thought as impossible, a search for one’s true identity, and more. But instead of making the songs insular and potentially self-indulgent, he related these personal stories within the context of the aforementioned societal, cultural, and even political issues that pollute the country. “For me, life is not as linear as we think. I always try to solve what I’m going through personally by looking at the bigger picture,” he offered sagely. Take for instance single ‘Kuala Lumpur’ – a simple, optimistic song that sounds almost triumphant; it also acts as a reminder to both himself and the inhabitants of the city to remain hopeful in spite of the loom of trouble.
Most people reading this article would surely know of Fikri as the man who has always championed local musical talents. He’s probably even given you advice on your fledgling music career, such as the importance of being an artist – or plainly speaking, to be original. Being this voice of guidance for local musicians, however, became a form of pressure for him to get his own music right. He initially wanted to share his songs to a few friends; it was his brother who coerced him to create a Facebook and SoundCloud page for Bayangan. But to his relief, the response has been favourable so far. The profile picture that served as the identity of Bayangan was found when his soul-searching quest brought him to the National History Museum. The image is a black and white photograph of the first wave of UM students. Fikri pointed out a particular bespectacled student in the top left corner of the photo; “When I saw it, I was like, ‘Holy fuck, he looks like me!’” Vanity and coincidence aside, it also reminded him of the necessity of looking into our past.
With Bayangan, it seems to be a platform for exorcising his inner turmoil, which he added, “I don’t think the demon is angry, I think the nice guy is angry because the demon won.” Fikri hoped his anger would dissipate with the release of his EP, of which all four songs on it are written in Malay because as he said, “I think I want to sing to Malaysians first.” Although he plans to include more people into the Bayangan project in the future, this debut release is recorded entirely on his own out of a need that he’d likened to the minang culture of merantau; where every son of a certain age will venture out into the world independently – a rite of passage.
Bayangan will play his first show at PAT.PEND #1 at No Black Tie on Sunday 3 April ’16.