Saturday, June 19, 2010


By Joe Chelliah

I am often amused by advertisements that proclaim “live” band performances in hotels, clubs or lounges with pictures of the band members posing admirably. What I get to see most often is a band that comprises of three lady singers as front liners and another male or female behind a keyboard with a laptop at the side. Except for the vocals and the dancing, there is absolutely nothing live about the music though. The music tracks played are produced through pre-programmed MIDI files that are easily downloaded from the internet and reproduced through laptops. The keyboardist usually pretends to play but probably would not know where the Middle C note is. This is what live music has become in Malaysia today.

Live music in the strictest sense of the word is music that is actually performed live and in real time by real musicians and singers. Even the rhythms must be produced live on the drums. Live music is all that is opposed to any music reproduction of sound recordings from a CD, a DVD or any other electronic means. Live bands were performing from kampong weddings to five star hotels till quite recent times. There was a bubbly live band culture in the past in Malaysia. Even commercial recordings had live musicians performing unlike today. Such a true live band culture still prevails in the Philippines, Indonesia and India while it is dying out in Malaysia. Except for a couple of clubs, traditional music and the few orchestras including the “infamous” dangdut scene, live music in Malaysia is a thing of the past and dying if not already dead. What a pity and what a shame?

1 comment:

AA said...

Totally agree with you, sir. Things are getting from bad to worse for live musicians. Most of the blame should be borne by the owners of certain establishments offering "live music," who are only concerned about maximizing profits, and not the quality of music offered. They would much rather pay less for a so-called "band" consisting of a keyboardist (usually 99% MIDI-dependent) and some scantily-dressed female singer, than considerably more for a full band; although they would be worth every cent. At an establishment in Kuantan earlier this year, I even came across a keyboardist who actually used an MD player to back up his vocalist while he "played" his instrument.

It's up to the paying customers, then, to demand that a truly live band be onstage to entertain them. Understandably, some venues may not be suitable for a live drum kit. That being the case, perhaps a well-programmed drum machine such as the R8 or 626 could be used. However, the rest of the band should be human. No keyboard bass line can match the impact, feel and groove of a live bassist. Likewise, there is nothing more exciting than seeing a good guitarist put his heart and soul into a gut-wrenching solo.