Sunday, January 29, 2012


I like tradition and Anugerah Juara Lagu (AJL) has been consistently organized by TV3 since 1986 and that is a good 26 years mind you. This consistency is something RTM has overlooked and subsequently lost out to the other commercially minded TV stations in such contests. I myself was on the jury of AJL in 1993 and hence a special nostalgic interest in AJL competitions ever since.

Of the AJL, Wikipedia says “Anugerah Juara Lagu “ (AJL, Malay for "Champion of Songs Awards") is a popular annual music competition in Malaysia, organized by TV3. It features the best musical and lyrical compositions of each year it is held. Nominees are derived from a list of mostly-Malay songs which have garnered the most public votes in Muzik Muzik throughout the year, and then progress into the semifinals, from which twelve songs — four songs from each of three categories (Pop/Rock, Balada, and Irama Malaysia & Etnik Kreatif) will be nominated by a panel of judges to enter the Juara Lagu. AJL honours the composers and lyricists of the songs rather than the performing artistes.”

The last line highlighted above is, to me, the key and/or punch line often missed by most people. I hope, and I am sure, the jury that normally comprises of able and eminent musicians would always bear this in mind. It’s the song and not the peripheral theatrics that should matter in the end. It is the song and not the singer would be a good axiom that should be borne in mind, never mind the fans’ and general public’s perceptions.

The other factor often talked about is the “commercial” value of the song. This should not be the sole criterion in the minds of the jury. A good song still means a good tune with appreciable lyrics to my mind. While each of us is conditioned by an assortment of various personal and conditioned musical tastes the jury member is not entitled to this “luxury” and has to remain strictly objective as any judge should be, however difficult that is. My musical tastes have evolved over more than 50 years but they have no place in the judging process. Over this period, I have been exposed to a complicated assortment of music and musical styles besides having formally learnt some of these styles as an academic too. It’s still back to the basics. A good song must have a good tune generally speaking. The tune or melody should, to be popular at least, be catchy and also easy to sing or replicate. It includes such things as melodic direction and flow coupled with unpredictability in melodic and/or harmonic schemes. However, it is possible to color a simple or weak melody with good arrangement. Those of us who are familiar with the compositions of Carlos Jobim, for instance, know that the harmonic schemes and arrangement cover up very simple or even melodies that can be perceived as weak. The “One Note Samba” is a good example in which it is the harmonic scheme that had made this song popular till today. I will not touch on melody in European classical music which is another dimension by itself.

Having said the above, I listened to all the 12 songs nominated to the finals and “judged” them as objectively as possible. I am truly sorry to say this but they all sounded bane. Let’s see how all the hard work of hundreds turns out to be tonight at the finals. All I know for a fact is that extensive audio visual effects have been planned and possibly some great “distractions” in the form of dancers, props and gimmicks to entertain Malaysian audiences. Good luck to all the composers and also the singers who still have to deliver the songs. .

1 comment:

curiousgeorge said...

hi Joe. first off I think you are an awesome musician (i've read about you in the papers a while ago and googled your stuff).

however, i have to comment on that cinta muka buku song being your pick. i listened to it about a million times (it's unavoidable) and have to say it sounds remarkably like Lenka's song..i forget what the title is. Kudos because the kid wrote it herself, but she could've just been trying to play that Lenka tune on the guitar, and then put some of her own lyrics and before she realised it she had her "own" song.

the rest of the songs nominated are not to my liking at all. maybe i just don't like anything anymore. maybe i'm too jaded. kalau berpacaran is the most OK.

now that they've announced awan nano as the winner, i have to say in order for one to win the AJL, one has to write a sappy, soggy song (it must have something to do with someone dying tragically) to pander to the jiwangness of the cerekarama-loving public. oh we love a bit of a cry.

great blog :)