Keemo Rahman – Tunes of quarantine

Keemo Rahman’s ‘Quarantune’ debut LP.

Sarawakian Keemo Rahman was once a modern dancer and choreographer for theatres. Evolving into music, Keemo released his debut LP ‘Quarantune’ in July, and was well-received, garnering a buzz and a solid following abroad. 

Creative, rare and unique sounds

Abdul Hakim Abdul Rahman

According to Abdul Hakim Abdul Rahman, his interest in creative arts is influenced by his paternal side. His father often told him stories about his late great grandfather, Suhaili Nassar, and the tales sparked the talented Sarawakian’s journey today.

“My great grandfather was one of the main actors in theatres —known locally as ‘bangsawan’ — back in the 1950s. I never had the chance to see it but I really wish I could’ve,” said the 42-year-old.

As for Hakim, better known as Keemo Rahman in the local entertainment industry, he first fiddled with creative art in the 90s, when he became a dancer and choreographer for various theatres and shows.

Apart from gaining experiences in remixing and choosing music scores for his dance troupes, Keemo was also a part-time DJ for local music clubs. His love for music and dancing was further magnified as he reinvented himself into a producer.

“I have a passion for music and I love making it as much as I love dancing. Furthermore, watching people enjoying and dancing to my music gives me a huge sense of satisfaction,” he adde. Keeping the thought in mind, Keemo released his debut LP which was timely as the theme was set around the current pandemic.

He named the LP ‘Quarantune’, and he titled his tracks to things related to Covid-19 and even produced a tribute song to those who worked hard during the pandemic. ‘The Frontliners’, ‘Sanitiser’, ‘Social Distancing’, and ‘Mask Up’ were among the highlights of his debut album released last July.

List of songs in Keemo Rahman’s ‘Quarantune’ debut LP.

With hints of precautions and awareness, ‘Quarantune’ also contained his signature reggaeton hit called ‘Delicious Borneo’ where listeners will be immersed with the beautiful exotic sounds of Borneo. The song also ranks among the top trending tracks on music platform JOOX when it was first released.

Sharing on his inspiration for the album, Keemo said that it was influenced by the pandemic, “The whole world is experiencing it at the moment. And being under the movement control order (MCO) also inspired me to be creative, hence the release was timely.”

Keemo, the youngest of three siblings, also revealed that several numbers were done before the Covid-19 outbreak.

But why the name? Keemo explained that ‘Quarantune’ is a juxtaposition between being in strict isolation and the freedom of a piece of music.

He also added that, “Being in strict isolation drives us crazy but my definition of crazy during the pandemic is to be creative. I love to be creative, rare and unique.”

Nonetheless, being an independent musician during the pandemic whas its challenges. While having mixed feelings about experiencing a pandemic, it was the anxiety in his mind that becomes a struggle.

“I kept thinking that I needed to produce dance music, and I needed to dance too,” recalled Keemo. He also explained that he needed to get rid of the anxiety and boredom by listening to dance music. This encouraged him to experiment with music production.

As the production took place, Keemo shared that he challenged himself into becoming a ‘one-man show’, “The first obstacle was that my music distributor in Brooklyn, New York took weeks to get my tracks finalised due to their minimum workforce during the US lockdown.

Keemo released his LP in July

“Besides that, there were plenty of registration/administration works that I had to do myself.” Nonetheless, Keemo revealed that ‘Quarantune’ was completed just in time and was ready for release on the planned date.

Influenced by the works of French Electronica producer, Mirwais Ahmadzai and house music producers such as William Orbits, Frankie Knuckles, and Avicii, Keemo said that his love for the 90s house dance music and eastern sounds were prominently reflected in his final product.

Alongside the advantages he had working in the airline industry, he was widely exposed to the sounds from cultures around the world. “Some of my works in ‘Quarantune’ were arranged with 90’s house beats with several tracks mixed with traditional Arabic and Indian musical tunes.”

In his opinion, music from the 1980s and 1990s were more much more ‘alive’. “The music that I created and arranged were all based on what’s happening in the past, what I currently experienced and also a glimpse of what might be in the future.”

Keemo Rahman’s ‘Delicious Borneo’ cover art.

Besides house music, Keemo also loves being experimental. From EDM to reggaeton, future pop, ambience and many others, Keemo had ears for them all. “Proactive and multi-skill are two of my favourite words and I practise those two in my daily work ethic,” he added.

As ‘Quarantune’ reaches international listeners, the 13-heavily experimental and instrumental dance-oriented tracks can be listen to at major streaming sites: iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Youtube and JOOX.

On his road to musical discovery and exploration, Keemo hopes to see more local modern dance music producers to highlight their brand of dance music to the public. “I know we have a lot of hidden talents, Don’t be afraid to release your brand of music.”

Elaborating, Keemo foresees Sarawak becoming a potential hub for entertainment as the state has organised numerous international music events. “As for myself, I will be back with an upcoming release this year. All I can say for now is that it will be a ‘down-memory-lane’ concept.

Look out for that release,” he shared.