In a country that prides itself on its diversity, sometimes Malaysia’s current music don’t really reflect that. By this I don’t mean the lack of colour in the soundscape; we have a healthy and thriving indie music movement despite its relatively small and limited market share in the larger local music industry. The advent of internet and social media has given unprecedented accessibility and growth to alternative genres such as metal and its many sub-genres, indie rock and pop, hip hop and even experimental.
What I meant above was cross-genre collaborations. Not just across two different musical genres but ones that cross musical boundaries into genres such as dance and visual art. And literature.
Looking at the Malay indie scene, such crossovers are nothing new. Poets like Adam Kasturi, Wani Ardy and Fazleena Hishamuddin have already broke ground in marrying their words with music. Representing the contemporary youth and pop culture that are trying to stay relevant with the times, these artists found the right blend of syllables and sounds to expand their artistic horizons and reach. These artists are the Malaysian answer to artists such as Bani Haykal and his band B-Quartet from across the causeway.
Lara Hassan & The V (LHTV) are another addition to these cross-cultural artists. Made up of self-published poet/writer Lara Hassan and ground-breaking noise pop guitarist The V, LHTV melds Lara’s lyrical poetics and reading with The V’s crunchy riotous shreds to create a gloriously noisy pop sound that begs for a live viewing.
Last Friday (17th February) saw them launch their independently produced debut album ONSET in front of a full house of adoring and supportive friends and fans at Drum-Asia, Desa Sri Hartamas. Produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by avant-garde artist Kamal Sabran of Space Gambus Experiment at the Ipoh Experimental Art School, ONSET is a 7-track album that features 6 original tracks and an alternate recording of fan favourite Bad Girl’s Apology.
Down-to-earth in their art as they are in real life, LHTV’s ONSET album release party was humble event for friends and family to celebrate a huge milestone in their lives. It was a live listening party where the band played a 40-minute set featuring songs from the album, backed up by web developer-drummer and friend Kevin Yeoh from The Hatchery Place.
LHTV was complimented by a curiously eclectic list of guest artist friends opening for them – Dhaima Parameswaran recited poetry to kick things off, actor Hasnul Rahmat channeled Latiff Mohidin via The Lost Poets with his band and upcoming coming avant-garde musician/artist Rohas Remi closed the opening set with tracks from his recent debut album Esok Masih Ide.
ONSET is available online at Spotify, iTunes, Deezer and Amazon MP3, but for those in attendance last Friday, they were able to purchase the ONSET CD for RM20. Also on sale were two t-shirts, one a simple yet stylish LHTV typeface design and another featuring retro comic art quoting lyrics from Bad Girl’s Apology that I feel would see more prints in the not too distant future given its catchy humour.
The night kicked off a little later than anticipated due to the notorious Friday traffic and Malaysian timing. Despite the low-key promotion (most of them were just word-of-mouth and friends’ social media blasts), the small yet cosy mini-concert hall of Drum-Asia were filled up quickly as soon as Dhaima came on stage to start the night. More crowd slowly trickled in and by the time LHTV were ready to rock, there were spill over crowd listening in from the adjacent Drum-Asia lounge.
The crowd reflected ONSET’s music – poets, writers, musicians, actors, arts community activists and indiepreneurs make up what was a truly welcomed sight in the local arts scene. As much as their music (and art) may be an acquired taste, Lara Hassan & The V honours their craft with a tight performance deserving of the crowds’ (and your) loyalty and support. So much so that the encore saw them playing Bad Girl’s Apology again to the crowd’s adoring chants of “BGA! BGA!”
When your crowd requests for an encore by calling a song from your debut album by its acronym, you know you’re doing something right.
The night ended with a quiet promise that was – in hindsight – a perfect counterpoint to their catchy noise. As close friends and family gathered on stage to take the customary photo, the chatter centered not on the anxieties that they had before the launch, but the anticipation of their next performance. With the announcement of a small tour to promote their art around Peninsula Malaysia in the coming months, I’m certain that the rest of us will be as eager (as they are) to see Lara Hassan & The V on stage again soon.