Music is in the ear of him who hears, as beauty in the eyes of him who sees…

– Florence Percy, American poet and journalist

What is music and sound to many may be just noise to others. In our modern democratic world, one is free to choose his or her own brand of music – one’s favourite genre or choice of beat, songs and singers.

It is a freedom of choice in its best, an equivalent of choosing which shirts, shoes and slacks the individual prefers to wear.

For that matter, our local music lovers, especially the younger ones, are at the receiving end of this phenomenon and hence, they are very much influenced by the current or contemporary music trend. 

Internet facilities have been partly instrumental in this development, particularly with their easy access to the latest trends and the “in” things pertaining to music and songs.

One would not be surprised that a good number of young and old fans are downloading new songs – and their lyrics too – in their own homes or at some of the cyber joints in the urban centres.

Just like any artistic expression, music or song is best expressed with an ample amount of inspiration and certainly zestful courage and most of all, a rich voice. For example, we can compare the vibrato of Elvis Presley or Tom Jones and the bold strokes on canvas of Vincent van Gogh of the impressionist era and that of Willem De Kooning of post impressionism and even that of the gloomy and protruding art of futurist Salvador Dali. 

These artistes and artists send messages to the listeners and viewers by means of their song lyrics and music as well as brush strokes, colours, shapes and canvas perspectives respectively.

In the case of music, the aforesaid are the basic ingredients that can greatly enhance and boost the listening pleasure of enthusiasts.

Iban music, for instance, can make do with some facelift by having some sort of quality control through pre-screening of its recording artistes, especially the songs that they intend to record.   

According to a source from the Ministry of Home Affairs (KDN), although many of the recording artistes have been vetted by the ministry’s Censorship Board, there are still some who barely got through and consequently produce works (musical productions) that are of sub-standard.

In fact, I was lucky about more than a decade ago when I was invited by my friend Fanny Unsir Sibat (now deceased) to her office as head of KDN’s Censorship Board and witnessed for myself how she did the censorship of our Iban artistes’ recording.

Perhaps the Tusah Belaki Nguai video by a popular Sibu artiste which got through was vetted earlier – during Fanny’s era, it might not get through.

There is nothing wrong with the music. The lyrics are interesting but the video clips might not please some people though many enjoy viewing it. Nevertheless, this is just my view and who am I to question KDN’s vetting if there was one.

Just a few days ago, I was shocked to hear a recording artiste singing a purported Iban song whose lyrics were conveniently mixed with words that he mistook for Iban.

It is therefore quite worrying that our new generation of Iban singers just conveniently use non-Iban or alien words for their lyrics just because they rhyme.

In fact, the same singer also gave me a shock some years earlier for using some alien words in a few of his songs which he obviously mistook for Iban words. I don’t have anything against anybody using non-Iban words in their songs – if that is intentional.

For example, a few songs purposely feature English or Chinese words. They can use many Malay words too, provided that does not happen out of confusion.

Take for example, the Iban word pegi is not the same as pergi in Malay but most of our young singers think they are the same. They use the former to mean the latter thereby committing a total lingual crime.

In Iban, we use Serega to mean Heavens but one of two recording artistes use Malay word Syurga instead of Serega as Heavens. This is perhaps due to ignorance or that the artiste has never attended Christian mass in Iban or read the Iban version of the New Testament Penyanggup Baru.

There are other Malay words mistaken for Iban but lack or space limits my examples. If this trend of language blunder continues, it does not augur well for the development of Iban music industry.

Of importance to most young music enthusiasts nowadays seems to be the beat and music rather than the songs, especially lyrics.

Reggae and hip hop, for example, are genres with their own special beats and tunes that have a large following among our youth but lack in appeal among those in their 30s and above.

Many of the song lyrics under these genres keep repeating themselves and tell no tale at all.

To me, they are lyrics of confusion and misdirection that portray the trends towards societal decadence. And yet, they are the favourite of today’s youth who are normally inclined to portray elements of rebelliousness and non-conformity to convention.

Nevertheless, these youth may ask why the older groups prefer jazz, rock n roll, country and other genres. So it’s back to the matter of preference. But as long as it is music, just play on!

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.