taken from Malay Mail 26 October 2005
COMPLIMENTS hardly come easily from M. Nasir. Especially when he was being ‘interrupted’ at 3am, during his precious studio time.
And yes, the clock was ticking and the deadline for the album he was working on was less than a week away.
But like a true gentleman, Nasir obliged and welcomed Buzz into his second home, the Luncai Emas studio in Sungai Buluh.
The album he was working on that early morning (or late night, whichever you prefer), was none other than the much anticipated one by Mawi, the boy wonder from Kulai, Johor.
The new project, Mawi’s first studio recording, is tentatively titled Yang Tercinta and the album is expected to be released on Nov 7 – a time when pockets of young music fans are still fat after a few days of collecting their Hari Raya packets.
Anyway, one would have thought that Nasir would come down hard on Mawi, and be even more critical of the young singer.
But Nasir had nothing but praise for Mawi in the studio. That may be hard to believe as Nasir is known as an uncompromising perfectionist who has ‘broken’ the most experienced of talents.
Nasir, however, gave Mawi a nod of approval.
"He works very hard and that will change many people’s perception of how he is, or at least how they think he’s going to sound like.
"He’s still green, but we were able to experiment sounds on him. And he absorbed them easily because he was like a clean slate and was open to new ideas.
"Given time, he’ll definitely be a force to be reckoned with. Just two months after AF3, and he’s already doing quite well. I didn’t have much direct involvement with him in the Akademi, and the only problem we have with him in the studio is his tight schedule... Though I don’t know why," Nasir mockingly snorted.
"However, he has been able to show his personal character in every song that I gave him. I think he should improve on being a live performer. He also needs a solid background in music, but I don’t have a hand in that."
Nasir sees Mawi rising fast as an artiste. At the moment, Mawi has been travelling here and there entertaining people.
"And it’s not really just about the music," Nasir said.
He did sound a bit disappointed with Mawi for being unable to spend more time in the studio.
"I have to admit, it’s been hard for me. At first, I thought it was possible to work on him and really have time to do a lot more.
"However, I don’t have the luxury because he’s working everyday... I don’t know why. That’s something his management should sort out." Apparently, the album is said to be impressive. Even Nasir spoke of it proudly.
"It’s very pop. Anyone can relate to it. We didn’t have any conflict of ideas which would have made the creative process more difficult.
"I didn’t produce all the tracks, but I supervised the production and general direction of the album.
"I had an idea of the fusion of sounds I was interested in, playing in my head. However, I also wanted to ensure that it was still a very Malay pop album."
Wouldn’t the album sound a little too M. Nasir at the end of the day?
"Well, I admit my touch will probably be obvious to those who are familiar with my sound. Like I said, discussions were held between the composers, and a general direction was agreed upon, so there would be a sense of uniformity.
"It would be hoping for too much to hear Mawi’s own sound in the album, as it’s only his first studio project. A singer takes time to develop."
Expectations, meanwhile, have been soaring especially after the phenomenal interest in Mawi. It has virtually guaranteed the debut album will sell like hot cakes.
"It’s a lot of pressure, I have to admit. But I’ve been in this position enough. Sometimes I deliver and sometimes I don’t. So we’re just attempting the best we can."
How about Nasir’s duet with Mawi on Lagu Jiwa Lagu Cinta? How did the idea come about?
"Duet? There’s a duet?" Nasir asked with a puzzled look.
Well, there’s nothing much you can hide from the Press and since Buzz got wind of the whole thing earlier, Nasir felt he might as well spill it.
"It’s like when I did a duet with Jamal Abdillah. That was not planned. We just did it and it became Ghazal Untuk Rabiah. It just sounds right, and maybe the collaboration with Mawi was something like that. A song that was meant to be."
But whose idea was it? Nasir, looking poker-faced, just answered: "It was divine..."
OK, so his early morning humour was kicking in. But seriously, wouldn’t the duet be seen as going for the kill in marketing by placing the phenomenon and the legend together?
"Well, no matter how it’s looked at, it should be accepted as a fun song, and not for the sole aim of making a killing. Even I know how to get down and have some fun," he smiled.
As for Mawi, despite his busy schedule, the apparent lack of sleep and the pressing deadline to complete the album, he seemed okay with everything.
After two plain ‘roti canai’ and a glass of ‘teh tarik’, he was more than ready to talk about the recording process before going in for last-minute vocal ‘touch-ups’.
"I have to admit, at first I thought the whole process of recording was easy... but it’s been a tough learning experience. I’m not complaining no matter how trying it gets sometimes, because I have a lot to learn – including paying attention to details in my singing."
Talking about details, it seems that his management and label have been pushing the envelope to ensure that Mawi delivers.
"Well, Aduh Saliha took more than 10 hours of vocal recording and re-recording. Perempuan took up to six hours... After all that, you could say that I’ve learnt to appreciate the work that goes into the making of a song," he said.
"Before this, whenever I heard a song on radio, I thought it was an easy job to record. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to be in the studio for recording, I know that it’s not so."
Most importantly, Mawi now finally understands the full impact of piracy.
"I used to wonder why singers go to the extent of shedding tears over piracy. Now I understand why piracy is such an issue. I know how hurtful it is for one’s hard work to be ripped off and peddled by unscrupulous folk."
For someone who only bought original albums of his favourite artistes – Raihan and Rabbani – that’s a turnaround.
"I would buy the original if it was my favourite act and the album was something I wanted to keep through the years."
With his first studio album hitting the shelves amidst heavy expectations, Mawi said it was up to his fans to determine its success.
"People have the right to choose, but I hope they would buy the original to appreciate our hard work."
Mawi can be proud and grateful that M. Nasir oversaw the production of his album. Nasir also contributed four songs.
"Nasir is very meticulous, a perfectionist who always wants the best. He’d force you to do it over and over again until you achieve exactly what he wants. Almost ruthless at times!" Mawi laughed.
Mawi said the other producers were as strict.
"Working with Nasir has been an invaluable experience. Then there’s Ajai, who likes you to be in the mood, to have the right feel. If you don’t, he won’t proceed. By hook or by crook, he makes sure you’re in the right frame of mind to deliver what’s expected.
"Fauzi Marzuki is great at motivating people and knows how to push you to deliver.
"Yasin? He’s cool, and ‘steady lah’, and just a lot of fun to work with. I’ve always loved his songs, and his Arabic take on nasyid has always been one of my favourites. So it was hardly like working throughout the session with him."
After all the talk, Mawi proudly played a selection of tunes from Mawi... Yang Tercinta exclusively for Buzz.
"I’m satisfied with the final product, as much time was spent analysing every detail, combing the whole project with a fine tooth comb.
"It’s been an honour working with such big names."
Mawi’s next task is to convince listeners that his album is quality stuff.
"We’ve delivered the best. It would be great if people listen to the album with an open mind."
While Nasir ironed out the kinks in the studio, Mawi, though looking overworked with bags under his eyes, was still ‘hyper’ especially when parts of his new song Perempuan was played.
"Best kan?!" he asked proudly. Admittedly, it is.
MAWI... YANG TERCINTA: A sneak preview
A track by track guide by Mawi himself.
KIAN (Fauzi Marzuki/Lukhman S.):
‘Kian is classic Fauzi material and is full of swirling melodic sounds that manages to unify words and music to create a potential classic. It tells of the problems of the material world that holds much promise but there’s an underlying reality that many people don’t see.’
LAGU JIWA LAGU CINTA (M.Nasir/Loloq):
It’s an ago-go song, very upbeat and a great tune to duet with Nasir. It’s a beauty of a song and will definitely be a treat to fans. It’s already one of my favourite songs.’
KURNIAAN TUHAN (Ajai/Loloq):
‘This takes a different approach to world music. Kurniaan Tuhan is about the gifts of God to all of us. The song revolves around a warrior who preaches the many blessings given by God. It’s accessible, devotional music.’
DI PINTUMU (M. Nasir):
‘A simple ballad with lots of heart.’
CINTA HAKIKI (Yasin):
"This is mainstream pop that’s toe-tappingly groovy. Fusing Arab elements with conventional rock-funk and heavy nasyid overtones, Cinta Hakiki is a song of love and adoration to God. It’s a modern rock-funky track that gives nasyid a twist.
YANG TERCINTA (M. Nasir/Sheikh Qalam):
‘Very Arabic sound, it’s another ballad that I just love to croon to.’
PEREMPUAN (M. Nasir/Loloq)
This is quite upbeat. A potpourri of sounds, it’s about one man’s hopes for a woman to be good and be what he wishes her to be be. A rock-ish tune that has Nasir written all over it.’
ADUH SALIHA (M. Nasir/Loloq):
‘By now, everyone knows this is a love story between two different people. Saliha is rich and her admirer is way out of her league but he longs to be with her each second of the day. It’s very dancy, Arabic-influenced pop.’
MAWI... Yang Tercinta is expected to be in all music stores from Nov 7. It’s produced and released by Maestro Records.