MonoloQue & NJWA’s song ‘Chinta’ revitalises gamelan and Mahsuri with stop motion

The story of Mahsuri. The music of gamelan. Both in danger of being swallowed by time and modernity. The new stop motion music video for the song ‘Chinta’ highlights a universal story of culture grounded by local folklore.

Chinta is a song from the album Lagu Perang (Bunyi-Bunyian Gamelan Malaysia Abad ke-21) that has gone through so many variations throughout the years ever since the days of LoQue’s Myspace, with the latest rendition featuring R&B, neo-soul singer NJWA. The music video is a short film interspersed with title cards explaining the story of Mahsuri. The tale Mahsuri is about a woman falsely accused of committing adultery and was subsequently executed by stabbing. According to legends, after she died, the blood that came from her was white, signifiying her innocence. In the music video, LoQue uses this tale as a platform to tell another story – the story of Gamelan music and the history it’s undergone.

“I like to write songs with no specific meaning. Everything I write is meant to be subjective. I want the listener to interpret for themselves what they think the song means. To me, after discussing it with Dato’ Farid, who works at the Pahang Museum, the Chinta I’m referring to is a universal one. Eventually it evolved into the love for gamelan, and other honourable musical tradition – some of which are slowly being forgotten, others already forgotten by time”, said LoQue, lead singer of MonoloQue co-composer of the song with Dato’ Farid, who crafted the lyrics. This message is made more apparent with the music video, as it ends with gamelan instruments left abandoned in a shop, as pedestrians walk past without a single glance.

LoQue with a protoype vinyl of Chinta. Chinta and other songs will be pressed into vinyl soon, with release date unconfirmed. (Photo: Emma Abdullah)
LoQue with a protoype vinyl of Chinta. Chinta and other songs will be pressed into vinyl soon, with release date unconfirmed. (Photo: Emma Abdullah)

Furthermore, according to loQue, the music video is his attempt at bringing Malay Gamelan (stressing a point that there are many different types of Gamelan depending upon the region of origin), back to relevance whether it’s through storytelling, animation and most importantly in the art of music in the 21st century.

The Chinta I’m referring to is a universal one – LoQue

The stop motion is done by artist, Zyin, who, with the help of director of photography, Ghazi Maslan, painstakingly put together 4000 frames-worth of puppetry and set design. “I wasn’t familiar with the Mahsuri story. had to do a lot of research about the Malay culture at first, and I was thankful to have Mamal (referring to Mamal Rahman, fabric designer for the music video) with me as a guide”. Zyin also expressed how she felt when loQue first approached her to do the music video. “I was shocked”, she laughed, “I thought it was crazy. There were 5 gamelan instruments and when it comes to the floral patterns the attention to detail is really important. But you learn a lot along the way”.

Zyin, Dato’ Farid, NJWA, LoQue, Darren Choy (CEO Warner Music Malaysia), Mamal Rahman (Photo: Emma Abdullah)

According to loQue, stop motion animation was used as a bridge between modern and traditional. Using a platform familiar to so many cultures to talk about a cultural heritage is not a new strategy by loQue, as he’s known to practice an eclectic philosophy to music production that incorporates traditional Nusantara elements and electronic, rock music counterpoints.

Dato’ Farid’s involvement in Chinta is significant, as he brought depth to the knowledge required in creating an innovative art form still suitable to the cultural context. When asked whether Dato’ Farid (who although is involved in museum curation at Pahang State Museum is also a Butterfingers fan) and loQue have had conversations about the limits of innovation when it comes to gamelan, he answered: “When it comes to traditional culture, a lot of people are very sensitive about maintaining its purity. However we have to understand that the world changes. People’s taste change too. If we want our music to survive we have to be open to change. At the same time we preserve the essence of tradition”.

Check out the music video for Chinta below. Tell us what you think about it!

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