There has been some improvement in the quality of Iban music and songs over the last two years.
In fact since the start of the movement control order (MCO) in March 2019, some music enthusiasts have been busy doing their things that perhaps have brought some changes to the Dayak music fraternity.
Despite the absence of the biennial Dayak music award, namely the AMD (Anugerah Muzik Dayak), my fellow musical friends have done some homework and a few came out with new songs, including recording albums and singles.
One of them, a close friend since the 80s, teacher Isa Lee, should be lauded for recording a single Tubai Pengerindu (Poison of Love) with very well-written lyrics. A graduate in music, Isa who is nearing retirement, is also a talented guitarist – I remember first meeting him circa 1989 when he was lead guitarist backing my Elvis number It’s Now or Never at a Teachers Day function in Bintangor. He was then teaching in SMK Kai Chung, Bintangor while I was heading nearby SMK Julau.
We were reunited when both were in the main committee of the Dayak Artistes and Musicians Association (DAMA) in 2010. In the last AMD in 2016 he was one of the judges for the final event whereas I was publicity chief under DAMA chairman Datuk Snowdan Lawan.
One can never forget when the invited international star for the event, Indon diva Cita-Citatata chose Isa to dance with her on stage (to the chagrin of many a gentleman) during one of her dangdut top hits – she was perhaps most likely attracted by Isa’s hairdo (he is always bold headed).
Lately Isa has teamed up with well-known keyboardist Major (rtd) Abong Amping for a nightly busking rendezvous from Monday to Wednesday at Kedey Kamek restaurant here in Metrocity. The joint also has seen a good number of local singing enthusiasts belting Iban, Malay and English numbers as guest artistes. For that matter, Kuching is not short of singing talents. Now that the country is into endemic phase, more Kuching music outlets have started reopening their doors to satisfy music passion among patrons.
There are scores of other Iban singers who have made it to the recording studios and have added to the repertoires of both RTM’s WaiFM as well as CatsFM. Nevertheless, not all new songs are of the same standard as Isa’s in terms of lyrics. Some are just trying their best to impress listeners but the quality of their lyrics has big room for improvement.
I am sure my Bidayuh friends such as the Geres sisters, Claudia and her younger sibling Carrie, have done a lot during the last three years pertaining to their music. Both the daughters of my friend Jimmy Geres, himself a prolific guitarist, are award winners, with Carrie being the winner of the Bidayuh section of the AMD of 2016, the last of the biennial event, thanks no thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Claudia won the inaugural award in 2008, the year when Dayak music held its first accolade event – styled after the Grammy Awards – was led by the late Tan Sri Celestine Ujang Jilan.
When meeting some Dayak patrons at Kedey Kamek a week ago, some were curious and asked me about AMD. They wanted to know whether DAMA would be holding AMD this year. I told them it would be unlikely this year but promised them the prestigious event would be held in the very near future.
That in fact was a wishful thinking on my part as I was the publicity chief for events in 2010, 2014 and 2016. For that matter I have not been in contact with DAMA chief Snowdan since 2016. In 2019, just before the MCO I had a chance meeting with AMD 2016 organising chairman Brown Sang Lagan, a primary school headmaster. But we just had lunch and nothing concrete about AMD came out from that meeting.
The coronavirus has halted all possible gatherings, including the Dayak Music Awards – but no finger should be pointed to anyone regarding any failure to organise the biennial event after 2016.
As we enter the endemic and recovery phase, I do pray that we are able to hold AMD soon. We need to keep going and make amends for the halted momentum.
On my part, I consider the 2012 edition as a very successful event. For our Sri Aman roadshow, we brought budding singers such as Leezwita, Jessica Remaya, Florence Lo, Gabriel Fairuz Louis, Ranee Pat and a few more.
Now they are all successful recording artistes and award winners. AMD was certainly a launching platform for them.