taken from Sunday People NST 7 February 2009
He seems immersed in the world of performing arts but HAFIDAH SAMAT does get most of the goods on the very talented M. Nasir.
WHEN you talk to M. Nasir, he sits at the opposite end of the room, paying attention only while talking and tuning out when the other speaks.
At other times, he turns monosyllabic, giving only answers when he wishes. Difficult. So unlike many other A-listers who love being the centre of attention.
That was the setting for our interview at his office and studio at Luncai Emas Sdn Bhd located in Sungai Buluh, Selangor. It was like a monologue.
Arguably, it is a mannerism indicative of his artistic style. This singer-musician-composer-producer-actor-film director writes and composes his songs the old-school way – on the spur of the moment.
After 30 years in the industry, the award-winning Nasir has established himself as a composer of infectious and sophisticated neo-ethnic compositions – powerful, expressive, chromatic, contemporary melodies soaked with traditional Asian influences.
His songs are largely world music beat which can easily transport into a variety of moods.
For the 52-year-old, his music is the kind that filtered into his life by osmosis.
“My songs are inspired by the rich indigenous sounds of world beat. As a singer, I’ve experienced a natural progression. I start by singing folk rock with Kembara (the now-defunct rock outfit established in Singapore back in the 1970s).
“The post-Kembara period was challenging for me. That was when I embarked on a solo journey in search of my own sound.
“I’ve discovered and learnt a lot and realised that as a musician, one has his or her own needs and purpose. I’ve experienced the multiple phases in music.
“A singer needs to ask – at some point – if he’s at the wrong place or should he opt to be at a different place. Also bear in mind that there are the different aspects of music that can’t be compromised in order for a singer to hit the right notes.
Nasir’s tale is an intriguing one. He has wilfully chosen to pursue composing music that pretty much eliminates the chance of scoring in local charts.
So, what makes for a killer song?
“The formula is simple. Yet, it’s debatable as to me, all songs are similar. What differentiates one song to the other is how it touches one’s soul. And only a certain combination of melodies can touch us,” said Nasir.
He envisions that a song should act a catalyst for some sort of a music revival for whatever reasons like the underlying tone to showcase the subtle and beauty of a certain composition.
“It’s just like in a film where the sequence is determined by a certain juxtaposition. To achieve this, a singer needs to incorporate the various music elements in their sounds – both the rhythm and melody.
“Having said that, compositions placement needs to precise or the results will turn out awful,” said Nasir who was bestowed the prestigious Anugerah Wirama award for his achievement and contribution in showbusiness at the Anugerah Industri Muzik in 2002.
Between 1979 and 2006, Nasir has released seven solo albums including Solo (1988), Saudagar Mimpi (1992), Canggung Mendonan (1993), Srikandi Cintaku (1999). Two compilation albums, Best of Kembara and Best of M. Nasir Dengan Kembara, hit the market in 2001.
These albums, said Nasir, came about “as there was a lull in my career and “masa ni, buatlah apa nak buat...” (“during this time, you can do la what you want...”).
Phoenix Bangkit, his fifth effort, was released in 2001 and has been dubbed his best work.
By now, Nasir’s fans are familiar with his style. His solo compositions are chiefly about the blurring of belief systems, cultural lines and ethnicity.
“My compositions are largely influenced by my surroundings and the goings-on in the world. This was the situation even when I started… back during the Kembara days.
“As I progressed in my solo career, I noticed that my music and the sound are always that. My albums you will either hate or love. Period,” said Nasir, who has composed award-winning songs for Alleycats, Anita Sarawak, Awie, Search, Ziana Zain and Wings.
“When people listen to my album, they go, ‘oh, it’s just another world music record’. Wrong.
“World music is not a word invented by musicians or by record companies. When I write my songs, I do them the way I want, according to my taste and knowledge.”
Asked if world beat still finds favour with local audiences, Nasir winced:
“Leave my music alone, and what does world music mean to you?” he asked.
“To me, it is an amalgamation of the cultural elements in music – it may be good or bad – depending on who is playing it.
“Unfortunately, it has become an overused word, and it has been marketed around the world as if it is a commodity.”
But isn’t music today more about record labels and using established icons or figures to drive them?
“Who says? That’s a myth. From my observation, our artistes today have no immaculate taste in music. It is a dog-eat-dog world out there. If you’re in it, it’s really up to the individual.
“While some artistes struggle to ensure their longevity in the current volatile state of music, others are fortunate for they are gifted,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“Every kind of music has to have a force to drive it. There will always be a magnetic personality to promote it, to inspire listeners and other musicians.”
It was as though Nasir could sense what was on my mind when I asked him if his songs only appeal to selective and discerning listeners. Some critics have claimed that his lyrics and melody are way “too inaccessible” and “sophisticated”.
“I agree if people say that my music only appeals to the male audience. If you want to sustain your longevity in the music business, produce songs that can make “perempuan cair” (melt the hearts of women ...),” he said, laughingly.
When we met for the interview recently, Nasir seemed happy. When the NSTP photographer Surianie Mohd Hanif proposed to conduct the photo shoot outdoor - at a lake nearby his double-storey office - Nasir agreed almost immediately.
“Sure, I know the place. That’s near my daughter’s kindergarten. Is my shirt okay?” he asked smiling, as he ushered us out of his office.
Clad in a simple dark shirt and jeans, Nasir oozes the enviable alpha male charisma and je ne sais quoi you adore in a man.
His trademark brooding looks, deep-set brown eyes, charm and that oddly-angelic charm can make you swoon.
Laughter punctuates his every sentence alternating between poker-face sarcasm and genuine comedic charm and friendly jibes, thrown ever so often. The whole package makes this father of six still a hot number.
Talking to the philosophical music genius, you may think he’s led a charmed life, though that would belie the extraordinary hard work and struggle he has put into his creative works.
These days, the father of four boys and two girls spends most of his time in the studio working and nurturing new talents.
His latest collaboration with the award-winning rapper-composer Malique (one-half of the award-winning rap duo, Too Phat) titled, Mantera Beradu, is currently enjoying regular airplay.
“That song is a reminiscent of my song, Gong Impian taken from the album, Saudagar Mimpi. The soul is different while the essence of the mood and melody similar,” said the graduate of Western painting from Nanyang University, Singapore.
What about his film ventures?
“No, I’m not about to commit in any film project at the moment. The opportunities are there but in terms of quality and commendable scripts they are rather scarce. I noticed some film-makers do make films just to layan kepala (fulfil their needs).
“As far as my career is concerned, I’m starting on a new journey. Don’t ask me about it yet because I can’t tell you what for sure,” he said smiling, as he stared pensively into the wall.
We quietly take our leave.
Konsert Akar M.Nasir will be staged at Panggung Sari, Istana Budaya from Feb 27 to March 1. Showtime: 8.30pm. Tickets: RM150, RM200 and RM250. For details, call 03-4149-8600 or go to www.ticket2u.biz.
Full name: Mohamad Nasir Mohamad
Date of birth: July 4, 1957
Place of birth: Singapore
Status: Married to actress-lecturer Marlia Musa
1985: Madya Cipta Award for Best Song (Azura)
1990: Best Song and Best Original Film Music at the Malaysian Film Festival (Istana Menanti and Fenomena) (1990)
1991: Best Lyric Of The Year in TV3 for Tiara;
1994: Won four awards at Anugerah Industri Muzik (AIM) including Song of the Year for Tanya Sama Itu Hud Hud
1995: Most Popular Artiste at Berita Harian Anugerah Bintang Popular (ABPBH);
1997: Best Film at Anugerah Skrin TV3 for Merah
1999: Best Song in Irama Malaysia and Best Song for Ghazal Untuk Rabiah at TV3’s Anugerah Juara Lagu (AJL);
2000: Best Song (Pop Rock category) and Best Song for Andalusia at AJL;
2001: Anugerah Pencipta Terunggul MACP from 1999 till 2007;
2001: Most Popular Male Singer at ABPBH; Anugerah Planet Muzik in Singapore for Popular Male Artiste, Best Male Artiste and Best Album for Phoenix Bangkit;
2002: Received the prestigious Anugerah Wirama for his contribution in music at AIM;
2007: Best Pop Rock Album for Sang Pencinta and Best Song for Juwita Citra Terindah at AIM
1979: Untuk Pencinta Seni
1991: Saudagar Mimpi 1993: Canggung Mendonan
1999 Srikandi Cintaku 2001: Phoenix Bangkit
2006: Sang Pencinta
Kembara Seniman Jalanan, Selubung, Fenomena, Balada, Simfoni Duniaku, Putih (featuring the voice of M. Nasir), Merah, Puteri Gunung Ledang
Hambali Seorang Jeneral, Ilhamku and Salam Taj Mahal