Jumaat, 18 April 2014

The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Anything is possible: A homemaker joins Japan's biggest girl group, AKB48

Posted: 18 Apr 2014 11:50 PM PDT

A mother of two kids has been chosen from a pool of over 5,000 applicants to join the young musical group.

Japanese commercial music juggernaut AKB48 has added a 37-year-old mother of two to the wildly popular all-girl group as it looks to broaden the appeal of its teen-dominated line-up.

The collective, whose 90-plus singers and dancers are rotated in and out of the limelight according to their waxing and waning popularity, regularly pump out songs that sell more than a million copies.

But the management behind one of the most successful brands in showbiz put out advertisements last month seeking older members to branch out of its teen and early-20s demographic.

Enter homemaker Mariko Tsukamoto, a mother of two, who was picked from a pool of over 5,000 applicants including an 82-year-old lady, according to local media. Tsukamoto will take part in live concerts and promotional events through August.

"I want to cheer up all the mums out there who are busy raising kids, like me," she said in a statement Thursday.

AKB48, one of the most lucrative groups of all time, is part pop act, part talent show, where a member's time on the front line is determined by how much adoration they inspire from fans.

The most popular girls or young women remain a part of the core group that sings and dances their way through formulaic bubblegum tunes. Those who fall out of public favour are demoted to a sub-group in an organisation structured somewhat like a football league.

Much of the group's appeal lies in frequent opportunities for fans to meet them, chat with them or befriend them on social networking sites. — AFP Relaxnews

Malaysian singer Najwa Mahiaddin and her New York state of mind

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Najwa Mahiaddin is making her mark as a musician abroad but the singer reveals life in the Big Apple is not all glitz and glam.

A warm summer day at the back of a building in the thriving art and music district of Brooklyn in New York, the exhaust fans whirred without relent while the stench from a nearby dumpster hung faintly in the air.

"What are we doing here?" singer-songwriter Najwa Mahiaddin thought to herself as she arrived at the venue – the venue of her performance, that is. Mostacho Xprmnt, a R&B fusion band which comprises four Berkelee graduates including Najwa, had landed a gig at the, well, less-than-conventional setting.

"It sounded like a great idea at first. It was summer and we thought it would be cool for people to sit outside on a patio, and just hang out and listen to live music," said the 28-year-old artiste and daughter of the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

"But there was a heat wave going on at the time. It was so hot. And it didn't help that we were playing near where the exhaust fans were. We didn't look good on stage at all, we were all sweating," Najwa continued, seeming to recall the moment with both distress and fondness at the same time.

"It was an experience I will never forget."

Najwa was speaking to Star2 in a Skype interview from New York, recalling the ups and downs of her musical career so far.

Najwa Mahiaddin is actively pursuing her music career in New York, booking a show at Ella Lounge recently.

Najwa is actively pursuing her music career in New York, booking a show at Ella Lounge recently.


The Johor native left for the Big Apple last year after completing her degree in contemporary writing and production at the Berklee College Of Music in Boston.

"Music is everywhere here. Just riding the subway, you see so many musicians in the stations and they're really good. Surrounded by all these talented people, it makes you more inspired to write music," said the performer, who is both a solo artiste and the vocalist of Mostacho Xprmnt, on her decision to move to Manhattan.

But of course, launching a music career, perhaps even an international one, is foremost in her mind.

The raven-haired songstress plans to "go all out" this year, revealing she has hired a booking agent to help her land new gigs and will even start actively shopping for a record deal.

"I'm not gonna sit and wait around. I've been trying to push my music out there, planning for more shows, getting the word out," said Najwa who plans to pursue a music career both in New York and Malaysia, devoting her time equally at both places.

The singer said she also met up with fellow Malaysian export Yuna in New York for tips and advice on breaking into the industry.

But it isn't as glamorous as it sounds (if her backyard performance is any indication).

"You can't expect to perform at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden straight away. You've got to experience performing at different venues to different audiences and see whether they are receptive," said the singer who also earns extra pocket money giving vocal lessons at a music school on a weekly basis.

"You have sound engineers insisting on doing sound for you but don't know how to. There was one guy who was turning the knobs while I was singing and by the end of the show, I felt like my mic was completely off," she shared with a laugh, recalling another memorable experience.

"Every musician has to start somewhere."

A new direction

Najwa got her big break in 2011 when she released her debut album, Innocent Soul, while pursuing the Berklee transfer programme at the International College Of Music, Kuala Lumpur.

Immediately, she took the local industry by storm, clinching the Best English Song (for Got To Go) and Best New Artiste title at the Anugerah Industri Muzik the same year. The singer became known for her sultry vocals, her soul and R&B stylings and empowering lyrics.

But it seems the chilly winds of New York has brought about a change to her latest work, Aurora, a digitally released five-track EP.

"I wrote a lot of girl power songs like Got To Go but with this one, it's more mellow and there's this healing type thing. In New York, it's always cold and concrete and when it snows, it gets muddy and slushy. I'm influenced by the things I see and feel," she explained.

Najwa Mahiaddin's EP Aurora

Arguably more quiet and contemplative, Najwa sings about escaping with her lover to an alternate reality in the Alice In Wonderland-inspired Wonderland and offering a shoulder to cry on for a friend who had just broken up in Before.

But the most drastic change of all takes place musically. Listeners will be surprised to hear a strong electronic influence on Aurora, a huge departure from her vintage R&B roots.

"I have been listening to a lot of songwriters who have an electronic influence – not EDM or dance. That's the direction I want to go. I still enjoy performing with a four-piece band but it's important to present something new to listeners," shared Najwa, who also credits her electronic flair to Berklee mate and the EP's producer Harsya Wahono.

Despite the change in musical direction, the singer assured she hasn't lost her "soul": "If you strip the music off and have me on the piano, I would still be able to play it, it will still have me in it. There's still that soulfulness there because the songs were written organically - me sitting in front of the piano, the same way I write my other songs, and taking that and putting it into an electronic setting."

A clear indication that Najwa is still clinging tightly to her sense of self is the contemporary rendition of Seri Mersing in the EP. Released locally as a single, the popular ghazal folk song has been performed by seasoned artistes like Sharifah Aini and Siti Nurhaliza.

"When I was in Berklee, people always asked me, 'what is the music of your country?' And I recalled ghazal bands playing at family gatherings and the singers singing Seri Mersing," shared Najwa who first decided to rearrange the song for a class assignment.

Besides promoting her cultural heritage Stateside, Najwa hopes the song will inspire Malaysians themselves: "In Malaysia, some youngsters may be taken with the western culture. Through this song, I want to let them know we have such a rich heritage and we should be proud of it."

A family affair

Seri Mersing undoubtedly serves as a passage back home for Najwa, sparking memories that envelope her like a warm, familiar blanket against New York's unforgiving breeze. "I'm constantly in contact with my family, we have a Whatsapp group where we keep in touch. I also hang out with them a lot when I get back," she said, believing in the importance of staying connected with her loved ones.

Asked on which side of the family does her musical talent comes from, Najwa deduced: "My mum would say this as well. It would make sense for it to be from my dad's side. He's naturally talented. He can play the piano by ear. It's innate, he never studied or anything.

"He does sing sometimes but I don't think it'll be to the point where he's going to switch careers," she said with a chuckle, adding that behind her father's serious facade, people would be surprised to find him very relaxed and laidback at home.

The singer also shed light on what it felt like growing up in a high profile household: "We try to be as normal as possible. I would do whatever anyone else was doing. I followed my mum and grandmother to the pasar malam. There's no such thing as we don't do this or that."

Najwa didn't feel there was any added pressure either to carry herself in a certain way because of her famous father: "The pressure isn't because of who my dad is. When I make decisions, just like any other children, I don't want to embarrass my parents. I want to make them proud. Like I want to do well in school to make them proud."

Najwa also spoke openly on accusations suggesting the singer is using her father's influence to expand her music career: "I've gotten that a lot, I try not to read up on what people say. I work just as hard and I have never asked my dad for anything.

"I'm in music, he knows nothing about music. I have to sit down and explain to him about the music industry and what record labels do. Yes he is very supportive, and I have my whole family behind me. But there's no, 'I'll get you that record deal.'

She added candidly: "If that were the case, I wouldn't be a struggling musician in New York and doing that backyard show."

> Aurora is available for sale on iTunes, Amazon mp3, as well as via streaming on Spotify.

Hail to the Chiefs: British band Kaiser Chiefs scores big with new album

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Kaiser Chiefs brushes off the loss of a founding member to score its first number one album since 2007.

Despite predicting a riot and proclaiming that every day they love us less and less, British band Kaiser Chiefs has never missed a beat in the 13 years it has been together.

In fact, fans seem to be loving the band more and more these days, thanks to frontman Ricky Wilson's high-profile gig as judge and mentor on Britain's version of The Voice. Shortly after the final of the show aired, the band scored its first British number one album since 2007 with fifth album, Education, Education, Education & War.

What's even more remarkable about Kaiser Chiefs' return to the top is the fact that it has had to get over the departure of one of the band's co-founders and key songwriters, drummer Nick Hodgson, who left the band in 2012.

Hodgson, together with childhood friends Simon Rix (bass guitar) and Nick "Peanut" Baines (keyboards), formed the band Parva with Wilson and guitarist Andrew White in 2000, which was renamed Kaiser Chiefs (after the South African football team Kaizer Chiefs) in 2003 in an attempt to recover from the ignomity of being dropped by their then record label.

The band's debut album, Employment (2005), hit number two on Britain's album charts, and included British top 10 singles Everyday I Love You Less And Less and I Predict a Riot. It then went one better with 2007's Yours Truly, Angry Mob, which not only became its first ever British No. 1 album, but also scored its, and so far, only number one British hit single, Ruby.

While subsequent albums Off With Their Heads (2008) and The Future Is Medieval (2011) were also equally successful, the band was dealt a blow when Hodgson announced on Twitter that he was leaving after 15 years to concentrate on "other projects".

During a phone interview from Britain, Rix explained that the loss of Hodgson – who was not just an integral part of the band but also their lyricist – initially left a big hole in the band, but it also helped bring the remaining members together.

"It's funny, but Nick leaving actually made our band more ... 'band-y'. We're doing more things as a band now, not as individuals," he said. "Nick was the leader and was leading the way, making decisions, and all sorts of things. When he left there was a big hole, so now, we have to do things together. I kind of like the idea of us being a gang again."

Education, Education, Education & War is also the first album involving the band's new drummer Vijay Mistry (formerly of Club Smith), who joined the band as Hodgson's replacement in 2013, and has been a positive influence on the rest of them.

"Vijay's a great drummer, and he comes from a different place (than us). He's got more of a rock background, and is a good, positive person," said Rix. "Some of us can be quite negative at times, and always look at the worst of things; he is the opposite of that."

According to Rix, the new album is a return to the formula that made their first two albums such huge successes.

"It's like our third album again – we're continuing (from where we left off) from the first two," he said. "We went a different direction with the third and fourth albums, so this feels like we're returning to the form of the first two."

First single Coming Home does seem more melancholy than most of the songs on those two albums though, which Rix puts down to the fact that they've pretty much grown up since the release of Yours Truly, Angry Mob.

"We've changed a lot actually – back then, we listened to a lot of new wave and The Clash, but today we're older and wiser and have listened to more music. We're more sonically educated now," he explained. "Our music is wider now, and songs like Coming Home, Up In Heaven and Roses are songs where we explore sonically – yes, there's melancholy, but there's always hope in the end.

"But the big choruses are still there, and a lot of the songs (on the new album) are classic Kaiser Chiefs songs that could have been on any album we made," he concluded.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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