Letter to the Ed

We at JUICE champion worthy causes, be it for the ethical treatment of animals or the environment, but what really lies close to our warm, fuzzy hearts is our support for the local music industry. We recently received an e-mail expressing how our local opening acts were treated at a recent concert, we though we would share it with you.

‘The Plight of Local Opening Acts at a recent International Concert’
As normal practice for any international concerts organized in Malaysia, local Malaysian artists would be given the opportunity to showcase their talents as opening acts. This is a great initiative by the Malaysian government body PUSPAL to provide a platform for local talents to perform in front of a big international audience. In fact, some artists are even recommended to concert organizers by the government to perform for these concerts.

While this initiative is highly commendable, the execution of the matter is a separate issue as it rests on the hands of the individual concert organizer. The way in which our local singers were being treated especially at Wednesday’s Usher concert organized by Galaxy Group calls for immediate
attention. Below are some important incidents that need to be highlighted which were based on personal experience, interviews and feedback from various people including friends, media and the audience.

‘Refusal of Rehearsal Time’
The only rehearsal time promised and scheduled at 5pm by the organizer was not given in any way to the singers despite them arriving earlier at 4pm. Iz, Alif and Mizz Nina were made to wait until around 7.30pm only to be notified that each of them will be given only 5 minutes to do sound checks and microphone testing. Every singer would by large take longer than a mere 5 minutes to complete proper sound/audio checks, considering their rhythm, melody and vocals. It can be more complicated if there was more than one artist performing, though we won’t go into the technical details of a sound
check here. But cramming every important detail that requires checking in such a short period of time will no doubt result in poor sound quality that the audience will eventually hear and endure.

This ‘5 minutes’ was also the only time dancers from each team could really have a feel of the stage, (i.e. the surface of a stage floor is important to know in order to execute certain dance moves, and for safety purposes), estimating the amount of space allocated on stage to coordinate their dance
choreography what with all the different unique sets being placed around for Usher’s upcoming performance. Without the proper rehearsal, dancers had to spontaneously readjust their movements and styles according to theavailability of space around them, risking looking awkward during their actual performances and jeopardizing their image as professional dancers.

‘Empty Seats, Empty Audiences’
After the sound check has ended at about 7.45pm (5 minutes each singer), the first performer Iz and his dancers were instructed to run back to the changing room, located quite a far distance away from the stage, change into their performing gear, hurry back to the stage and perform immediately; all
these to be done in just 5 minutes! During Iz’s performances, there was very little or no audience present within the stadium. Why? Could it be because of the prior heavy rain that’s causing the fans to run late? It was later discovered that fans were in fact ready and waiting outside the stadium. But
what were they waiting for?

Audiences waiting outside were not allowed to come into the stadium by the organizing staff even when the first opening act has taken place. This was later clarified by friends, audiences, fans and members of the media queuing outside who could only hear Iz’s singing from outside the stadium, well
throughout his second song ‘Jauh’ and followed by Alif Satar’s solo act. Alif’s performance was also entirely missed by the audience, especially when he only performed one song. Almost no one had a glimpse of their actual performances on stage, i.e. Iz’s dramatic intro into his first song
‘ALONE’ using a customized avant garde costume and a head mask along with the whole dance routines.

MSNbuzz even tweeted “Oh my gosh are they skipping the opening acts Mizz Nina and Iz because the Queen is here! Usher is out now!”, never realizing that Mizz Nina’s and IZ’s performances were well over and done with a little too soon. This was tweeted at about 9.15pm.

The only artist who received somewhat of leverage was Mizz Nina who came in as the third opening act. By this time, audiences were already allowed into the stadium albeit at a slow pace. Halfway through her performance, the number of people had developed into a small crowd here and there. These crowds were clearly enjoying and jumping to Mizz Nina’s latest hit ‘What You Waiting For?’ Audio was just average and there was simply no effort by the organizer for any great stage lighting, even for Mizz Nina. Or is it that no time was made? Still white lights were the only ‘lighting effects’ that memory could recall.

Mizz Nina’s whole performance lasted until about 8.10pm. Between 8.10pm and 9.15pm (when Usher made his appearance), wasn’t there ample time enough for these opening acts to happen, instead of rushing them at 7.40pm with no one to watch as stated before? There was no running activity on stage during this time after all. It was made clear by more than one of the organizing staff that the opening acts needed to finish before the royal family (referring to Terengganu’s Royal Family) arrives, hence the need to rush. One could not help but to speculate what this means and the relevance of
this fact. Let’s hope it wasn’t because the organizer thought our local acts are in any way undeserving.

The most, if not the only memorable performance at the end of the night was of course Usher’s. Everything from audio to lighting to smoke machine, to electric fans and to everything else imaginable was great. The fans were screaming and everyone was on their feet dancing to Usher’s beats in spite
of the disrespectful security officers flashing their torch lights at the eyes of standing audiences, ordering them to sit down even at the VIP area. This is hardly a courteous and respectable way by the organizer to control a crowd made of VIPs and renowned guests who paid so much money to enjoy a good time.

While Usher had the pleasure to introduce his dancers/team on stage one by one and to be acknowledged by the entire populace, unfortunately the same could not be said for the opening acts. Not many would remember the names of Mizz Nina’s dancers or perhaps her clothes sponsors. Same goes with IZ’s dancers, sponsors and everyone else who had put a lot of effort in making their opening acts a success, from wardrobe to make-up to styling to pre-concert publicity and performing. They could not be memorable because they were not given the right chance by the organizer to be seen or heard and ultimately to be recognized by the audience. This is a sad and unfortunate dilemma when too much emphasis and priority is given to an international act and it’s our local ones who are made to suffer. And for what? For trying to do their part in the Malaysian music industry?

Addressing the above issues is one thing but taking a course of action is another. It is highly recommended for PUSPAL and the Malaysian government to form a regulatory committee that can look into the feedback of such singers and performers in Malaysia in order to get a clearer insight and
understanding on this issue and employ a code of conduct and certain guidelines that these organizers are required to abide by.

If the above examples are considered as standard practice by concert organizers in the way they treat our local talents, their licenses should be revoked or suspended. No form of explanation or excuses should be tolerated when international acts are being glorified at the expense of Malaysia’s own local talents. This is especially imperative at a time when western
entertainers are more and more recognizing Malaysia as an important performing venue in Asia.

– Inside Observer